All this running leaves my legs a little worse for ware, especially during the lead up to a big race. And yes, I know I may be a little late to the party, but I’ve recently started falling in love with yoga. It helps me to restore my tight muscles, become mindful of any injury prone areas, and best of all it helps me to slow down and restore my mental clarity, giving myself a little love. If you know me well, you’ll know that slowing down is something I find incredibly challenging.
In celebration of International Yoga Day, I thought this would be a lovely opportunity to learn a little bit more about the yogi friends who have inspired my journey so far.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to visit many beautiful yoga studios as part of my job, but my absolute favourite has to be Inspire. The girls here add a real spiritual quality to their hot yoga practice, something which before visiting Inspire, I had never been able to connect with.
And so, without further ado, let me introduce you to their glowing team.
Claire Stewart – Co Founder of Inspire
Lucy Jackson – Yoga teacher and freelance writer with a wicked Instagram
and last but most certainly not least, Claire McNab – Yoga teacher.
So girls, tell us a little bit about what sparked your love for yoga!
Claire S – For years people said that yoga would be perfect for me but I was having none of it. I just didn’t think I was a suitable yogi! It wasn’t until 4 years ago when I started dating my husband, and business partner Alan, that I gave hot yoga a try. Being an exercise avoider, it sounded like my absolute worst nightmare. In fact, I hated my first class! I was too hot, it was too hard, I was soaked through with sweat, and my face was purple. As I got in the shower I vowed never to do it again. However by the time I got home I felt amazing! Restored, relaxed, goddess like. I slept better than I had in years, and in the morning I decided to give it another go. By my 4th session I was hooked. I had found ‘my thing’. It had such a profound effect on me I knew I would practice yoga always.
Lucy – For me, the love affair was sparked by YouTube videos! Believe it or not I was a closet yogi for many years. Despite being flexible and strong from my sporty younger years, I just didn’t have the confidence to attend an actual class, and thought everyone would be better than me…(how naïve, there is no “better” in yoga, I wish I’d realised this sooner!). But on moving to London after uni I joined a Hot Yoga studio and this really helped both my practice and my confidence. Just like Claire, I became hooked!
Claire M – While living in Nova Scotia, Canada, I tried my first Hot Yoga Class in 2006. Initially it was just to keep warm during the winter months (At that time I lived in a part of Canada where -35 was the norm for 6 months of the year!!) It was also a good way to build my social circle and I gradually fell in love with the mental clarity the practice gave me.
Who or what inspired you to turn your passion into a career?
Lucy – I was inspired by two things. A) My best friend became a yoga teacher and it really intrigued me, but separate to that was B) my life journey up until that point. A) is obvious, but B) will take some explaining…
The first side to B) is that I had lived and worked in London in a 9-5 job for over 2 years and I just had this uncontrollable urge to live life differently. The mindless commutes, the long hours slumped over a desk, the lifelessness of my fellow commuters…I just thought there had to be another way, and yoga was what made me come alive. The second side is much more personal. For years, I was in an emotionally abusive and controlling relationship. I am 100% certain that it is through yoga that I managed to save myself from that situation. For years I really believed I was the most awful and disgusting person in the world, but through yoga I realised this wasn’t true. A small spark within me grew and grew into a strong fire that could not be put out any longer. I found my strength and happiness and freedom through yoga. I just knew I had to share this with others. We are 100% responsible for our path in life, and it was through yoga that I got mine onto a track I was happy with, if I can inspire just one person to do the same then I’ll be happy.
I completed my training at Kranti Yoga Village in Goa, India. I lived barefoot for two months, most of which was spent in a hut on the beach, with our yoga shala right outside my front door. I was completely immersed in my training. My teachers were so inspiring, and it was on the course that I decided to try and make teaching a full time thing!
Claire M – Upon returning home to the UK in early 2012, it was yoga that kept me calm and grounded during a time of massive personal development. I was back working in the corporate world, commuting to London on a daily basis and working very hard. A bit like Lucy! Something was missing…. I was fascinated by the positive transformations this ancient philosophy could bring, for both mind and body, and I wanted to share that with people. So while still working full time, I embarked on an intensive 3 month Yoga teacher training course. I completed the 200 hour Vinyasa Flow teacher training with YogaLondon in 2014 and haven’t looked back since.
An Claire S, you’ve turned your passion into your very own studio! What do you girls love most about Inspire?
Claire S – I love seeing the change in people! Seeing them grow and understand themselves better. Sharing their emotional journey and helping them find their true selves. I can’t quite describe how much I love being part of this transformation in people’s lives!
Claire M – There are many things I love about Inspire but I think ultimately it‘s the people that arrive on the mat each day. All seeking something different, perhaps not even knowing what they are seeking ….It’s interesting, it’s challenging and it feels like home to me.
What’s your favourite pose and why?
Claire S – I love dancers pose. It opens my heart, focuses my mind, and strengthens my legs!
Claire M – Vrksasana, AKA Tree pose, is one of my favourites. The Tree is full of symbolic meaning. Looking at a tree we become aware of alignment and strength. There is balance between the spread of the branches and the root system that expands, connecting us with nature.
Lucy – Adho Mukha Svanasana AKA Downward facing dog. The word “asana” literally translates to steady and comfortable, and to me this is how I feel in downward facing dog.
If you weren’t a yoga teacher, what do you think you’d be up to right now?
Lucy – Travelling the world looking for my Satya (truth), until I found it and became a yoga teacher further down the line!
Where’s your favourite place in the entire world?
Claire M – It has to be Nova Scotia for me. My beautiful home for 3 years.
Lucy – It’s impossible to choose between my bed, a mountain view, or a stunning sunset. I’m a sucker for comfort and beauty and I simply couldn’t choose. I’ve been blessed to have travelled to many amazing places, and they’ve each left a different shaped imprint on my life.
Claire S – Me too! I’ve been lucky enough to visit so many amazing places, but my favourite would have to be snuggled up on the sofa watching a movie with my husband Alan, and son Jack.
One thing yoga has really helped me develop is self-love. Tell us one thing you LOVE about yourself! Don’t be shy.
Claire S – Wow that’s a tough one. I’m very driven and independent. If I want to achieve something, I am not afraid to work as hard as I must to get there.
Claire M – I take great pride in my ability to read people, to connect with people from all different walks of life.
Do you have a favourite quote or yoga motto that inspires you?
Claire S – I love Maya Angelou, she has many quotes that I think are just perfect. I think we should all “try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud”.
Claire M – “The mind is everything, what you think you become.” Buddha.
Lucy – I think my all time favourite has to be by Martin Luther King. Bring love and light at all times! “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that”.
Favourite sweet treat?
Lucy – Raw chocolate fudge!
Claire S -Scone with clotted cream and jam!
Claire, tell us a little bit about your plans for International Yoga Day. There’s rumours flying round about a very exciting event!
Claire S – This Sunday (26th of June) we are hosting a borough wide yoga event in Maidenhead’s Magnet Leisure Centre! Come along and join us for free yoga, free food, mindfulness workshops and more. We are so lucky to have a council who want to promote the health benefits of yoga and help the residents become more aware of how to improve their wellbeing. The idea of bringing all teachers together to work as one, for the good of the community, makes me so happy. To put competition to one side and just be there to help others is incredible, and here at Inspire we hope the event will be a great source of yoga inspiration for newbies and established yogis alike! And of course we can’t wait to see you ladies from Sweaty Betty Windsor there too!
Finally ladies, can you leave us with one dream goal for the future?
Lucy – To heal the wounds of the world with yoga, love and light! Ambitious and vague I know, but the world needs love right now.
Claire M – I would love to expand my practice and complete Pregnancy yoga and Restorative Yoga teacher training.
Claire S – To open more Inspires and transform more lives!
Big shout out to the girls, and Alan, from Inspire! You truly are an inspiration. Just goes to show that compassion, ambition, yoga and love are the driving forces behind a happy outlook on life!
Be kind to yourself.
Lots of love,