It was late 2018 and I was feeling restless at work. I wanted to expand my business, I was ready to move out of my comfort zone in order to grow.
I put the kettle on and called upon my rock, Mr C – which went something like this … “What to do, where to go next?”
As a successful lifestyle coach and award-winning personal stylist, I’d developed a methodology that combined my skill set with a holistic approach that helped people to live and dress authentically. But I felt that I wanted to grow and challenge myself.
At the point that Mr C said the words “Yoga Studio”, I also had a vision of a space for yoga. And so it began.
Beachyjax in the beginning
The business plan evolved to offer coaching, meditation, mindfulness, workshops, retreats and I’d still incorporate my personal styling. I contacted the yoga teachers who’d taught me in the past and shared my ideas and my desire to have them on board. I’d managed to secure teachers for the most popular styles Hatha, Dru and Ashtanga. Just a Kundalini teacher to find now.
I’d come across Kundalini whilst I was on holiday in Spain. Whenever I could I’d get to a class run by Sharron Fitzpatrick, a fellow Brit who followed her passion and opened a retreat in the foothills of Mojacar. There was something so different about Kundalini that I aligned to fully. I’d often find myself smiling intently throughout the class. Back in the UK in yoga class (with the exception of Dru yoga) I’d often find myself looking intently at the clock!
The more people I shared the idea with the more I felt fully aligned to it. I knew at a deep level this is what I am meant to do. The practice of Kundalini is about movement, meditation, mantra and breath-work along with great music. Underpinned by science, it’s far from just exercise, it can literally change matter creating new neural pathways. A complete defrag if you like.
As a Reiki practitioner for around 15 years, I find working with energy fascinating. With Kundalini, the focus is on awakening the energy that lays dormant at the bottom of the spine. Kundalini focusses on unblocking the 7 energy centres of the human body called Chakras resulting in living a more joyful and authentic life.
Kundalini is traditionally practised in white attire with turbans, the turban isn’t compulsory, nor is walking barefoot and living and meditating in a cave. For me, the current daily practice is an essential set of tools to live a less stressful and less chaotic life with the additional benefit of learning how to switch on the body’s self-healing mechanisms.
It was me!
I continued my search for a teacher but the nearest was Leeds or Manchester. Then one day I let out a little giggle when I had the sudden realisation that the teacher was to be me! Ok, so if the studio is going to be converted and opening around the beginning of July I need to get a plan together.
I Googled teacher training courses for 2019. Mmmmm, May, India, for a month. Exciting and daunting at the same time. In the nearly 30 years I’d been with Mr C we’d only been apart for 10 days at a time and I’d only actually done about a dozen classes at that point. It was going to cost a lot of money, in addition, the flights too. So much to learn, exams, going away for a month on my own.
There were lots of reasons to talk myself out of it. But actually, because it felt out of my comfort zone it felt soooo right, and of course, my ‘intentional word’ for 2019 is GROWTH – I had to do it.
Five months prior I had no inclination the next part of my journey would take me to India on a teacher training course, of all things yoga. Whilst I’d practised a variety of styles for the past 12 years I’d never felt inspired to teach. For me, it was a form of exercise, one that I actually got to have a lie-down and relax at the end – perfect.
What am I doing??
I talked with excitement and a little nervousness with Mr C and as per usual he fully supported my intention. With my 55th birthday looming I decided to cash in my private pension, which would cover all the set-up costs including the studio refit and an additional structure to be erected in our neighbouring woodland area. I booked the course, my flights and of course I had quite a few moments where I thought “what the hell am I doing???”
The tasks ahead seemed enormous – from a studio re-fit, re-training, phone lines, websites, branding, logos, marketing, a whole new identity – post-it after post-it of task ‘to do notes’ appeared on my studio wall.
Work started in April in between client appointments. May was fast approaching and already a very busy time in the Cooper household as our eldest son was about to open his first restaurant in our local village.
I stocked up on DVDs for home practice and my regular exercise classes dropped off. I loved each session and although some of the positions were really weird, the music was great, I began to really enjoy the chanting and without exception felt elevated at the end of each class.
I connected with a lady called Beth who’d confirmed my booking by email only to find out she was based in Manchester AND she would also be teaching on the course. I liked her instantly and managed to book in 6 classes and a workshop with her before the training.
My big adventure
The day to start my adventure came around so quickly, saying bye to my loved ones, as you can imagine, was tough, to say the least. However, I set off on my big adventure with excitement and an inner knowledge that regardless of all the challenges that lay ahead I would, without doubt, share this practice with many.
I was soon to learn what an amazing group of women I was going to share this life experience with. With a diverse range of backgrounds from an author to a cannabis grower and so many others in between – what a powerhouse of interesting and inspiring souls. Not only was I going to be on a huge learning curve for new information, skills and knowledge but each of these women would teach me something too along the way.
On day one as I stood in the dojo* anticipating absorbing myself fully for the month ahead of Kundalini yoga teacher training, I had a sudden recall of my early childhood. My Kundalini dress style was akin to the white ‘gi’ I wore for Shotokan karate my dad taught. I felt I had come full circle.
From a young age, myself and brothers were known as the karate kids. Dad was a 10th Dan (that’s 10 black belts) and Mum and Dad set up a Karate Centre in Leeds back in the 70s called Leeds Karate Centre.
I remembered an idea I’d shared with my dad around the age of 12 about doing kata (a set of karate moves) to music. I remember ‘seeing’ myself doing it.
Kriya, in Kundalini, is exactly that. A set of movements to music. So much synergy.
The days started early, up around 5am and ready for Sadhana at 6am. This is a personal practice of meditation and chanting for an hour. Seated, mostly in easy pose (crossed legged on the floor) and not that easy when you are sat in it for an hour!
Mantra is a sound we make repeatedly such as ‘Har’. It creates a vibration in the roof of the mouth that stimulates the 48 reflex points that directs a variety of glands to produce hormones that balance and harmonise our entire body. The mantras I learned are coded in our DNA!
With an achy hip and a bony previously fractured ankle, I found the first few days of Sadhana so challenging I constantly fidgeted. The daily structure consisted of morning Sadhana followed by yoga teachings then self-study.
I noticed how emotional I became during Sadhana. Things would ‘come up’ for me, I’d ‘see’ a memory, lots around my late dad in particular. Every day came with tears. Which, I see as a positive thing as it releases emotion. Then one day I remember I had an awareness that my dad was actually with me on this journey, the synergy between his passion for karate and Kundalini Yoga brought us together. The awareness that he was ‘present’ gave me an inner peace.
And in addition to early morning Sadhana, I even adopted the practice of urotherapy – yep, drinking my own pee! This might sound a bit ‘woo’, but the practice of urine therapy goes back thousands of years and has been used to treat ailments and illnesses as diverse as acne and cancer.
Challenges and temptations
I found most days challenging at some point, whether it was to remain in a position for the given amount of time, to try and absorb some part of the theory, to concentrate, to write at speed whilst the teacher was talking or just resist the temptation of another dessert at mealtimes. Curry, naan bread and rice followed by dessert, every day. I expected to lose a few pounds whilst I was there but I actually put weight on!
The move on to Pokhara after two weeks changed the energy of the group. With a really good vibe, Pokhara offered us options to enjoy an afternoon stroll into many of its organic cafes, shopping opportunities and engaging with locals. A chance meeting with a girl called Yummi who worked in a cafe set up a charity to feed 100 homeless children per day inspired me to set up a monthly payment contribution when I got home. Kundalini yoga can change lives in more ways than one!
The final week was an emotional roller coaster for many of the group who became fearful of presenting. Myself included but less fearful of the presentation as I knew I would enjoy it; the retention of knowledge was for me the biggest challenge. Committing theory to memory was harder than it had been in previous years. My time came and went, within an hour I was formally assessed and positively encouraged to go out in the world and teach this wonderful healing practice of Kundalini.
No left nostril breathing required
Our time at Pokhara came to an end and I decided to complete the experience with a paraglide. Fortunately, having had a group ‘Release Fear’ class with Beth just before, I realised that I’d spent the whole journey in the car up to Mount Sarokot surprisingly very calm and relaxed. No left nostril breathing required (calming breath) until the very last moment when I needed to jump. It was an amazing experience, one never to forget, especially when the instructor decided to do acrobatics on the way down over a lake. I revelled in excitement and giggled all the way down.
An eight hour coach journey returned us to our initial venue in Kathmandu for the latter three days, which comprised quiet contemplation, relaxation and a healing Chi Nei Tsang massage – which I have to say is the most painful treatment I have ever experienced! Organ manipulation in the stomach area to release trapped emotions – trauma. Post-treatment I felt exhausted, and a week after my return to the UK I was still feeling a little jaded. I did learn from Warren the healer that the pain in my rib area was due to an old fractured/broken rib!
This whole experience has been one never to forget, I reflect with fond memories and self-pride that I undertook this training and can’t wait to have my yoga studio up and running from July 2019.
Interestingly, as I am writing this I have just had a conversation with one of my friends who said: “your dad was with you in India and immensely proud of what you are doing.”
- A dojo is a hall or space for immersive learning or meditation most commonly used for martial art training. The term literally means “place of the way” in Japanese.