In April 2014 I finally made the enormous step of giving up my part-time job, with its security of a known regular income, to become a self- employed Yoga teacher and Yoga Sports Coach™. This was not a random or spontaneous decision but one that had been in the planning for several years yet it still took a lot of courage and self -belief to get to the stage of handing in my notice.
I had been a gymnast for over 20 years, starting at the age of 3, and have spent a lifetime trying many forms of exercise and sport including dance, athletics, climbing, fitness classes and yoga. So, having also had a career as a specialist pharmacist in Orthopaedic and Trauma medicine, working for myself in a field that combined wellbeing with exercise and physiology was where my heart lay.
My Main Turning Point
I passed my yoga teaching qualification in September 2012 and set up my first class in the same month. In September 2013 I qualified as a Yoga Sports Science, (YSS) Yoga Sports Coach having completed a case study report on a veteran middle distance runner. Now as 2015 draws to a close, I run 4 yoga classes as well as teaching yoga privately. My case study athlete is now a client having continued to work with me to improve his posture and functional mobility since the study period ended. The path to this point has not been easy and has taken a lot of effort and sacrifices along the way but it is so rewarding to be working for myself and doing something that I love. Life is now a lot more flexible which, as I am also a carer, has made things so much easier. I am also healthier and happier.
The main turning point for me was undertaking the YSS Yoga Sports Coaching course. My yoga teacher qualification gave me a good foundation but I soon found the style that I had qualified with very limiting. The YSS course added so much to my knowledge and understanding of biomechanics and of yoga. Trying the YSS yoga interventions on myself was enlightening as I not only began to understand the impact that over 20 years of gymnastics had left on my body but also learnt how to deal with those issues so bringing some balance back to my body. I also took these yoga interventions to my yoga classes observing my students’ responses and movements and sharing those observations with my peers on the course. My lesson planning and classes were transformed and my students now develop their practice in a way that balances strength with flexibility. Moreover, they enjoy the new style lessons that I continue to evolve and are aware of their own progress.
The commitment to leaving my work meant that I had to have a plan for developing my business in place. After qualifying with YSS, the first part of the plan was to set up my website which covers both general yoga classes and Yoga Sports Coaching. The website has worked really well and is now one of my main sources of enquiries. Marketing always needs to use various ways of reaching potential clients and leafleting has also been important for me as well as advertising both in local magazines and for free on internet listing sites. I even wrote an article on “Yoga For Athletes” for a leading Yoga magazine! Hayley Winter also gave me sound advice by saying that I would know when the time was right to move on and, if I was courageous enough to make that move, things would start to happen. It sounds incredible that this should be the case but it is exactly what happened! No sooner had I left my job, all sorts of quite unexpected and varied enquiries came out of the blue some of which came to fruition and have broadened my spectrum of work.
Working With Talented Athletes
I was very lucky to have a case study athlete that was so impressed with the effect of YSS yoga that he continues to have lessons with me. Since February 2014, I have had the good fortune to work weekly with a young, very talented javelin thrower who is among the top juniors in the UK. He trains with some of the top UK javelin coaches including the National Coach at Loughborough. It is good to know that it was these eminent coaches who first encouraged him to practice yoga to improve his balance, mobility and flexibility and that they officially include yoga within his training programme. This teenager is a very committed athlete who is willing to work hard and try anything that will help him improve. This is in turn very motivating for me and has helped me develop as a Yoga Sports Coach™.
Personally, I have never thrown a javelin in my life so learning about the technique and the movements involved has underpinned all of the work that I have developed so far for this athlete. To add interest to the lessons, I developed some yoga and javelin-specific interventions using a broom handle as a javelin replacement - I have a tendency to say broomstick but it sounds like something from Harry Potter! A real benefit for the athlete is that he can take some of these interventions to training and practice them with his real javelin.
The Biggest Lessons I have Learnt
I think some of the biggest lessons I have learnt from working with this athlete are:
1. Working with athletes is very different to teaching a general yoga class. For my classes I will spend a long time on my lesson plans trying to add variety so that class members can develop their postures, strength and mobility yet are kept stimulated. Athletes however will generally have set training plans with exercises and movements that they will repeat over and over again to build muscle memory and hone technique. My athlete therefore prefers to work on a set programme during lessons with a gradual progression over time.
2. Developing a remote working plan that the athlete can focus on in his own time over several weeks or even months is far more effective than giving a new homework after each session. Taking photographs at the beginning, during and at the end of the period for that plan gives the athlete proof of progress which, while gratifying in itself, also gives motivation to keep practicing.
3. Less is more! When working with such a willing student it is easy to get carried away and try to cover everything in one lesson. Looking at the overwhelmed face of my athlete after a lesson one day, I immediately realised that the practice had been too intense and was too broad in its content. Since then the content of all my lessons has been pared down so that the athlete can really focus on the work that he is doing.
The Best Reward
It is important to realise and accept that completing the YSS Yoga Sports Coach™ qualification is only the beginning. Learning to understand and interpret an athlete’s physiology and movement characteristics and how to respond to these is a continuous learning process – a personal evolution. I am aware that since completing the course I have continued to grow as a person and as a Yoga Sports Coach™. There have been many “light bulb” moments when things have suddenly become much clearer and my understanding and application of that understanding progressed.
Perhaps the best reward, apart from seeing this young athlete’s progress, is to know that he has been so inspired by his sport-specific yoga that, despite all the sports he enjoys, he chose to teach yoga techniques for his teaching assignment as part of his school examinations in PE!
Above all, for me it is important to be professional in my approach to my business and my work at all times, to have belief in myself and in what I do, to aim to enthuse my clients with my own passion for yoga but at the end of the day the most important thing of all is to enjoy my work and have fun!
Take a look at Lesley's YSS student profile on our Official Register of Yoga Sports Coaches™.
If you want see Lesley's class schedule or book a 1-to-1 with her, take a look at her website.
If you want to improve performance results for yourself and for athletes, then take a look at how you can train with us:
Our next 100 Hour and 200 Hour Course start in September 2016. Limited spaces available.