1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? What did you study at school? Etc.
Born in London, Bred in Bristol. My little sister was born and shortly after we left the busy city and moved to the gorgeous countryside in the south of the city. Here my sister and I grew up eating veg from the garden, running through fields barefoot, climbing up and falling out of trees, and just enjoying all that nature had to offer. We were lucky enough to have horses, sheep and dogs so lots of furry friends. My parents were busy doctors so my granny looked after us most of the time, letting us wear ourselves out outside, then in for tea. Working hard mum & dad liked to take us on adventure holidays, so my sister and I have been fortunate enough to visit all sorts of beautiful places; much of Europe, Africa, Caribbean, North America, Costa Rica, Australia, New Zealand where we fell in love with the natural world even more. At school, I was always sporty, with field hockey probably being my favourite and something I kept playing all through university up until I was 25. I learnt to scuba dive at 13, and this probably led to my decision to study Marine Biology at Uni. I also took further diving qualifications whilst there, and my boyfriend (now husband) and I managed a Botanical Garden and Marine Park in the Antilles for almost a year. This passion coupled with the general lack of jobs when we graduated led us to finish our Scuba Instructors training and head off to live and work in the British West Indies for 4 years. This was a fantastic time in my life, I thrived in, on and under the ocean, teaching others about the natural world, as well as how being brave can really make all the difference to your enjoyment in life. So many amazing encounters with both native and visiting wildlife, I really feel like the ocean rewarded me for caring, some of the stories you wouldn’t believe. I set up and ran the summer programme for the local kids and along with all sorts of arts and crafts, we spent so much time in and around the ocean learning all about the island’s wildlife. It was so much fun. We also became heavily involved in the local stray dog shelter, fostering and taking in 15 sets of puppies for weeks at a time, all ages, all absolutely gorgeous, who then would get taken home to the States or Canada by holidaymakers. After 4 years of hard graft (really it was freaking hard work!) during which time we got engaged, we decided to move back to the lush greenery of the South West UK. Within two months of being home, we had our own gorgeous dog, got married and now nearly 4 years later we have a baby on the way. I felt a natural progression from teaching scuba would be school teaching. Well, I as much as the kids enjoyed me it wasn’t right, it didn’t tick the passion boxes, so after a summer of being my sister Ecological Surveyor Assistant I had enough money saved to give myself 3 months to try and see if being a Yoga Teacher could be a real job. 2 years later I am so grateful I took that risk as I LOVE sharing yoga daily with so many people in and around Bristol.
2. Tell us about your journey to yoga. When and how did you get into it?
I got into Yoga through a free class at Sweaty Betty. I was already playing hockey three times a week, riding lots and training for my first marathon, it seemed like the perfect compliment – somebody else encouraging me to do the necessary stretching my body needed. I can’t honestly say I loved it from the get-go, being 21, fit and strong meant I pushed myself waaaaaay too hard and the day after I was so sore all over. But that got me to come back. I was like hang on this is doing something different to my body! So I stuck at it and actually got more comfortable in many of the postures, not savasana that was still a struggle. My natural strength and enthusiasm led me to finding crow pose and tripod headstand (all shoulders no core!!) and as I travelled around the world I took my practice with me. Other than the odd arm balance and inversion I didn’t really know about other yoga than sun salutations. While we were living/working in the BWI I took my daily yoga practice quite seriously, completing several rounds of sun sals and then a little play, no guidance, no teacher, just me learning to listen to my body. Then once we got engaged I discovered Pinterest and the whole world of yoga that comes with that, then finally in 2014, I got Instagram. It was a whole new world. My practice became filled with mad ideas and crazy shapes, some of which I found myself in, many if which I couldn’t even figure out where to start. When we moved home again I continued with my yoga explorations taking as many classes I could, then I got into CrossFit so my Yoga practice became home-based (I didn’t have time or money for both), and so I decided I wanted to know more about this Yoga thing. I signed up to an online YTT and completed it. Then got cold feet . . . for 6 months I worried I wasn’t flexible enough, didn’t Ohm, couldn’t meditate, how on earth could I teach Yoga. Then a stroke of luck, a new studio opened on my side of town. After much encouragement from my husband I took the plunge, bought a weeks pass, tried a bunch of classes and then asked if they needed any new teachers. As luck would have it they had a lunchtime slot. . . and that was the beginning of this beautiful 2-year adventure into teaching my passion. I now teach in several offices, various gyms and have 6 classes at the wonderful Trika Yoga. Last summer I took a further TT in Rocket Yoga and this has completed my world. I have learnt to LOVE savasana as much as sirsasana (headstand) and I’m glad that happened before pregnancy coz boy did I do a lot of savassing in the first few months!! I embraced and connected to my spiritual side which through pressures of society an embarrassment I had shunned for so long and now Ohm quite happily on my own or leading the those who want to join me. This really feels like my soul’s calling, my purpose. To share the joy and magic of this ancient practice and lifestyle that’s had such a positive impact on my life, watching others discover and realise their own potential on and off the mat is such a blessing.
3. How has yoga affected your mental health? Your day-to-day life?
I am lucky enough to have never really struggled with a mental health illness but I have had several people close to me have terrible times, which when you care for somebody can cause all kinds of worry and stress in your life to. Yoga has helped me stay sane so I can be the support they need, it has helped me process and understand my own emotions and then allowed me to share that understanding with others. I wouldn’t say yoga saved my life but it has certainly helped me live my best life. Might sound cliché but I am for the most part body confident, emotionally stable and generally a very happy person. I have always been upbeat but now I actively seek the sunshine in a situation before I complain about the rain, I enjoy challenges, I am grateful to be given the chance to prove myself and believe that I am only tested with what higher powers believe I can handle – maybe I didn’t know I was that tough yet but that’s what the lesson is there for, to help me learn and grow into my full potential.
4. What are your yoga classes like? As a yoga teacher, what advice would you give to people who may be interested in trying yoga but don’t know where to begin?
My advice to starting Yoga is JUST START! Despite being a yoga teacher I am still not the most flexible in the room, I can’t always make the smoothest transitions or hold the hardest postures, but I have come along way n the last 10 years. My body is strong and supple and my mind is at ease. Has it been a rocky road? Yep. Am I anywhere near the end…NOPE! There is no end point to yoga. It isn’t a workout, it isn’t about being able to DO all the postures, there will always be more advanced variations, it’s about showing up for yourself only. Being present with yourself. Learning to be ok with what you find. Over time it all becomes easier and more comfortable, both the movement and the stillness. You become kinder and softer towards yourself and then that floods out into the world. Most of my classes are what some might call ‘dynamic’ or ‘challenging’. A BIG emphasis on PLAY and EXPLORATION and then really allowing yourself to REST at the end. I believe that everyone is capable of so much more than they know if you don’t try how on earth will you ever find out just how badass you really are. I teach the same style to all my students, all ages, all ‘abilities’. I offer many modifications, but strongly encourage people not to give up before they’ve even started. The places my students find themselves now with big grins on their faces amazes them and fills me with pride.
My advice to starting Yoga is JUST START!
With my support and encouragement, they’ve gone beyond what they thought they could achieve whether it is a brave inversion, the intimidating splits, a scary backbend or the most frightening of all a 15-minute session of just them are their minds in savasana. I teach what I practice and I practice what I teach. As my practice develops so too does my teaching. I see myself more as a guide or sharer, a facilitator for personal growth on a physical and mental level. Might sound grand but that’s what this magical thing called yoga does baby! If you haven’t found a class yet that you love, keep looking. I am not here to teach everybody, you will find a teacher that clicks with you, and then you will learn that actually at the end of the day you are own best teacher, you just need to take a moment to listen.
5. What are some choices you make in your day to day life to live more sustainably?
I take my refillable water bottle EVERYWHERE, I always have a re-usable shopper in my bag and I avoid plastic wrapped food as much as possible. Sadly I have to drive quite a lot due to the remoteness of where I live, but I combine trips to my best ability, and my husband has an electric car so we use that for everything we can. We literally never use the central heating we just snuggle each other and the dog and get more blankets, and I always light candles first before electric lights! As a family, we do travel quite a bit both for work and adventure but over the last 30 years, we have planted hundreds of trees which now not only support a vast array of wildlife but also help to offset some of our carbon footprints. We are not a no-meat family but we are a minimal meat family and we buy locally from butchers we trust. I have my bamboo toothbrush, toothy tabs from Lush, refillable shampoos & conditioners and various other household cleaning products, shop at the local greengrocers as much as I can and take my jars and tubs to the re-fill shop bulk groceries. I am a proud supporter of several brands pioneering recycled textile active-wear with Yoga-cycled being one of them. As consumers, we do have a choice, as demand goes up items no longer need to be a premium product and can become more available to everyone. I shop for basically all other items (including baby clothes) at charity shops, not only is it a real bargain and basically guaranteed nobody else will be wearing it, but it also helps reduce waste from the fashion industry which is one of the largest polluters of the planet. I actually dot remember the last non-yoga thing I brought new . . . The important thing to remember is to start small. Don’t let yourself be so overwhelmed by all the things you could do to help that you end up doing none of them as you can’t manage all of them. Just make a couple of small changes you can really commit to, not only will you be saving the planet but also saving yourself money in the long run. Then as you have a little spare change maybe you can invest in some of the other changes that seemed too expensive at first, or you may just find yourself naturally gravitating to them. As you make headway with your sustainable living you will, in turn, inspire others to join you, doing their bit. This is our responsibility TO JUST DO SOMETHING, and if we all do some small things they will add up to big changes globally.
6. If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?
My husband is the adventure planner and before we got pregnant this year we were planning a trip to New Zealand. I think the baby will be keeping us local for now but hoping for a trip to somewhere sunny in Europe for our baby-moon. We are also currently renovating a van into a camper which is super exciting as well be able to do a lot more exploring of the UK and beyond. SO exciting. We went to Bali 2 years ago and I would love to go back, it really was as wonderful as I hoped it would be. Hopefully, our little boy will be an adventure addict like we are and we will continue to explore the world together, teaching him to enjoy and respect the wonderful world we live in.
7. Who is a woman in your life that you are inspired by?
It might sound like a cop-out answer but I have to say, my mum. We haven’t always seen eye-to-eye. I am the oldest (as was she) and so I was the guinea pig while my little sister just slid on through as I cleared the path for her. I used to think that I could only please my mum if I was high-achieving, high-earning etc. as that is where she has ended up through many years of hard work. As I am not hugely academic, I am more of a creative, free-spirit, gets distracted easily I was worried I’d disappoint her. But actually, I see now she only pushed me at school and always encouraged me to give things my all to make sure I had opportunities and choices. She just wanted to make sure I could stand on my own two feet, that I could find my way confidently, independently, happily and healthily. I adore our adult relationship and can’t wait for her to be the most wonderful grandmother to my son. We do yoga with the dogs at least once a week and her strength and mobility, but more importantly, her patience with herself has improved incredibly. With a high stress-job predominantly male-led job and having high expectations of herself, she struggled to be kind with herself, to appreciate that some days are stronger than others, and that the simple of joy of being able to move, to have the free time to enjoy your body and take tie out for your head, that should be the focus. I don’t know if she really knows how far she’s come in that respect, perhaps that is the joy of being the teacher, we see things in our students they didn’t even know they were showing. This has not only helped mum be calmer and healthier in her body and mind, but also dad is quite pleased as he doesn’t get in trouble quite so much! Trying to get him to join me for yoga. . . still a work in progress. I will be eternally grateful for all the things my mum has taught me both directly and indirectly and just hope I can be half the mother she has been.
Hang out with Lizzie at @yogawithlizziehiggins
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