Alice and James have recently realised a long-held ambition to open their own yoga studio. Yoga Torquay, located in the seaside town of Torquay, Devon, is a new space dedicated to a traditional and all encompassing practice of yoga.
We spoke to the couple and asked them about the challenges they have encountered along the way, and about how yoga is a practice for life; no matter what your current situation, or experience is.
1. You have studied yogic traditions in its birthplace of India, can you draw some comparisons to the practice as taught there to how it is portrayed in Western society?
"Yoga has been practiced in India for many centuries and many people have a very different understanding and relationship to yoga. For a great many people from a young age yoga is a devotional, spiritual and meditative practice. Within an Indian context, the purpose of yoga is to achieve Mosha or liberation from suffering and the cycle of life, death and rebirth.
"In our culture yoga is presented as a fitness regime and so the only real side of yoga that is popularly represented are the postures which are modelled by young, thin, white, affluent women. The yoga that is being taught here comes from Hatha yoga, but even Hatha is presented very differently in India. Of course there are people in India doing Asana Pranayama in the morning but they don't necessarily have a yoga mat and they have an intrinsic understanding of the root and heart of their practice. Yoga is even part of the curriculum and taught to children in schools.
"Yoga in our culture has been diluted and becomes yet another facile attempt to become fitter and more beautiful, yet another stick to beat yourself with. The part of yoga that generally speaking is missing is the core, which is the spiritual practice."
2. Yoga holds the potential for powerful transformation. Could you explain it as a lifelong practice and how it benefits the major stages of life?
"Yoga can be practiced by anyone, no matter how much money they have or how fit or flexible they are. There are such a multitude of branches of yogic practice that there is certainly something for everyone.
"For the young and fit there is Vinyasa flow type classes keeping the body moving to stop the mind of becoming distracted, as one ages your practice can deepen also, maybe slowing down as the mind doesn't require so much physical movement to stop it becoming distracted, practice develops towards meditation incorporating more Pranayama (breathing) and stillness."
3. Can you talk about the process of starting up your own studio?
"James has dreamt of having a studio since 2006, he wasn't even a teacher (which took much longer than he thought, one month plus 2 years plus another 2 years). We've talked about it since we met in 2008 and finally after 10 years of teaching felt confident enough, ready and able with our family and had an opportunity to do it. Torquay is a great place as there isn't a yoga studio in Torquay and we live down the road."
4. What has been the most challenging part?
"Decorating the 200 year old building, working 10 plus hours a day all through the summer, no days off for months, juggling kids on holiday and school runs whilst still keeping up our usual class teaching schedule. It was tough and continues to keep us busy but we believe it will all be worth it."
5. What is your vision for the space?
"A quality, dedicated yoga studio offering high quality yoga education for everybody regardless of previous experience, age, gender, everyone. Providing for teachers who have an established yoga practice and have been practicing yoga for decades. A space where people can come and find out about the true heart of yoga and go away feeling lighter and more peaceful."
6. What would your advice be to anyone contemplating yoga, but feeling nervous that they might not fit in or be ‘good enough’?
"Give it a go, it's not something you are good or bad at we are all working on ourselves, its all about calming the mind. Even the most flexible person in the world can still work on calming the mind, or the least flexible.
"We have classes for beginners and therapeutic classes for those who are less physically able. We have a weekly relaxation class where all you have to do is turn up and lie down!"
7. What can people expect to gain from attending regular yoga classes?
"Great question! You can expect to become stronger, fitter, calmer, more self confident, more disciplined, more focused, with improved breathing and graceful movements. You can expect the benefits to spread into your relationships with family and friends making your life more fulfilled and peaceful.
"I remember when I first discovered yoga in the form of meditation in 2003, coming home I went to visit a dear friend who commented that I was still 'Alice' but I'd been in for an upgrade."