Claire spent over 18 years in advertising and marketing before swapping the boardroom for the Yoga studio in 2012. Now she’s a devoted yoga teacher and President of Yoga Australia.
Claire, what inspired you to start yoga?
Back in 2007 I was working overseas and sharing an apartment with a fellow employee who had an Iyengar Yoga DVD. We were stuck in the middle of nowhere and finding a gym or somewhere to exercise was near impossible. Every morning I would get up and do the DVD. I had no idea what I was doing but something clicked for me. It was the pace of the movement, the quiet, the peacefulness and having time for myself every morning.
When was the ‘aha’ moment when you knew yoga was going to be a part of your journey through life?
It was about 5 years ago and a combination of things that led to one moment of absolute clarity. I’d experienced some Ashram and retreat time (both in Australia and India) since coming back from overseas and wanted to deepen my understanding of the practice and make it a part of my everyday life. To do that, I felt I needed to study but I was also considering doing a Masters in Marketing and couldn’t decide which path to go down. Looking back, I think I was nervous about making the leap so I went to a Clairvoyant in the end to try and get some clarity. At one stage she asked me whether I practiced Yoga and then later went on to say “you know you’re meant to be a teacher”. That was the turning point.
What do you love about yoga?
I hear so many people say it but Yoga really has turned my life around. It’s made my life richer, deeper and far far easier to navigate. I take much better care of myself, my confidence has improved dramatically, my body is healthier and I feel better overall but more importantly, it’s made me more ‘me’. I’m less afraid to be myself. The practice of Yoga has led to me becoming my own best friend. It’s a lifelong journey, an everyday practice and it’s not always easy but if you let it, if you embrace it and work at it, it will change your life in unimaginable ways.
Why is being your own best friend so important to you?
I spent a large part of my life being a people pleaser. Doing what I thought others wanted or expected of me and worrying about what everyone thought of me. I over-worked and overdid pretty much every area of my life! I said yes to everyone and everything and regularly burned out. I was incredibly hard on myself and nothing was ever really quite ‘right’ or enough. I was always looking for the next thing. I spent a lot of time exhausted and it reflected in my state of mind and body through a chronic bad back and pelvic instability. I’m naturally pretty driven but now take far better care of myself although I don’t always get it right. It’s a lifelong practice!
Which style of yoga do you practice and teach?
I teach a hybrid style based around Hatha that incorporates human developmental patterns and Somatics exercises/principles. I’ve found they have worked for me and my body. I teach a gentle, slow style and deliver really solid foundations for students that may want to move into a stronger practice in addition. As someone who tended to live their life at a million miles an hour, it was important that my Yoga practice provide a counter-balance and slowed me down. After injuring myself through a much stronger practice, I had to strip back to basics and re-build. This was an incredibly challenging time but, as they say – what we do on the mat, we do in life. I learned to become more conscious, slow down, breathe and move properly and that’s what I teach essentially – tuning in and learning how to take the practices and apply them to your life. For me, that’s an advanced practice.
What are your favourite yoga poses and why?
Savasana. It’s the one I need the most!
Who inspires you and why?
I’m lucky to have a wonderful network of teachers and mentors who all inspire me; but in almost every case, it’s everyday people who have grounded their spiritual practice in everyday life.
As President of Yoga Australia, tell us about the yoga industry and community in Australia.
It’s not difficult to see that the Yoga industry here is thriving. As a result, it’s essential that we maintain strong standards of teaching and professionalism. At Yoga Australia, part of our mission is to educate and inform the public about Yoga, appropriate standards and conduct of teachers. We’re proud to have the highest teaching standards anywhere in the world and offer regular professional development opportunities and other benefits to our members from all styles and traditions. It is our hope that Yoga, mindfulness and meditation practices will become part of every Australian’s health and wellbeing regime.
There are over 2000 studios and 9-10,000 teachers in Australia with approximately 2,500 currently registered with Yoga Australia. Over 300,000 people are estimated to be practicing Yoga in Australia and I don’t doubt that will continue to rise in the coming years. It’s an incredibly exciting time for our industry and a wonderful thing to be a part of.
Top 5 tips for those starting a business in the health and wellbeing industry?
- Know your audience – if you don’t know who they are, how can you communicate with them? Tip for teachers: it’s not ‘anyone who practices Yoga’
- Plan plan plan and equally importantly – then get on with it!
- Get help. In the long run it will save you a huge amount of time & money
- Start slowly & build up. It will take much longer than you think.
- Get a part-time job to ease the financial pressure when you’re starting out. It will take the immediate pressure and stress off you.
I always remember my teacher’s words “evolution Claire, not revolution!”
Recommended yoga resources?
Some of my favourite reads and resources that I come back to often are:
- Donna Farhi, Bringing Yoga to Life
- Donna Farhi, Mind, Body, Spirit
- Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
- BKS Iyengar, Light on Life
- Stephen Cope, Yoga and the quest for the True Self
- Patajanli Yoga Sutras – Mukunda Stiles
- Bhagavad Gita – Stephen Mitchell
- iRest Yoga Nidra – Richard Miller
- Leslie Kaminoff – Yoga Anatomy
How do you maintain a balance and commitment to your own wellbeing whilst juggling your professional commitments?
My health and wellbeing has to come first and I’ve learned to listen to my body – it lets me know when I’m doing too much. As a result, I decided to pull back from the consulting business to focus on my teaching and work with Yoga Australia. I practice every morning for at least an hour. I eat well, get plenty of sleep, move regularly and get regular body work done (chiropractic, needle therapy and massage etc). I journal, I now say ‘no’ a lot and I let my hair down occasionally too!