We’d like to introduce you to one of our newest teachers, Catherine Annis. She tells us how she fell in love with yoga and her top tip for creating the habit of practice.
How you fell in love with (yoga):
My mum introduced me to it in my teens. As a dance student, I was less interested in the poses, because they seemed fairly easy, and had similarities to the dance training, but the meditation was another thing – it was very moving.
Our teacher used to talk about Śūnyatā – the emptying of the mind. It affected me deeply, and remains a key element in my practice.
Top tip for creating a habit:
Remind yourself of the benefits and try to make it something you actively enjoy and look forward to. Otherwise changing behaviour becomes like medicine – and that’s not very attractive or motivating.
What do you wear when you practice at home?
Sloppy old trackie bottoms and slouchy t-shirts or sweaters, the older and softer the better. If it’s cold and dry, I practice outside, swaddled in as many layers of thermals and blankets as necessary, together with my woolly hat (my “yoga beanie”) to keep warm.
Asana of today and why?
I don’t tend to focus on a specific asana – it’s more about whatever movement quality or muscle group is drawing my attention. Currently I’m working with the diaphragm. There are so many different approaches you can take.
I love the feeling of stretching it up and back, widening it strongly, or asking it to lengthen up behind the breastbone, creating a strong, deliberate breath.
And then it’s also good to focus on softening, allowing the breath to be very quiet and delicate, imagining the breath dissolving through the skin.
The possibilities are endless.
Essential yoga accessory (scented candle/eye bag/sand bag/music) – and where did you get yours?
No, none of those, I’m generally not attached to any accessory, and happy with any old mat, or no mat at all. Oh, having said that, I do have a favourite blue blanket. It’s boiled wool, from India, and just seems to get softer as it ages.
Pringle, my cat, loves it too. As soon as I lie down for savasana, she’s there too, snuggling down into it.
Places to practice – your top five places you have or would?
Quiet places with natural floors are my favourite. If it’s dry enough, I love practicing in my garden. It’s beautiful to look up and see the clouds drifting through the sky and to feel the cool of the open air on my skin.
Last year there were goldfinches nesting in the bamboo, above. Watching them fledge reminded me that even in the heart of London, there are always surprises – we just need to keep our eyes open.
Catherine Annis is well known for her imaginative and practical approach to yoga. Catherine’s practice and teaching focuses on deepening physical awareness and alignment to reveal the natural freedom of the body, particularly the spine. She is an attentive and thoughtful teacher, and highly skilled at adapting poses to accommodate all levels and types of students, so that everyone leaves class feeling that they have made a fresh discovery about their yoga practice.