Interview with your Yoga Teacher – Sunny Soleil

Can you tell us what to expect in your yoga class?
My Slow Yoga Coaching class for third agers [55+] and people who like to go slow is a blend of chi kung warm-ups – gentle slow movement to lubricate the joints and calm the mind, energy yoga to stimulate the lymph system and a variety of yoga asanas/poses to work all parts of the body.  I am constantly researching and practising and incorporating new moves in the class.  The class is longer than most and we take time to feel into the asanas. You will be encouraged to do what works for you and I offer plenty of coaching and modifications for people with physical injuries, ailments and conditions. I also include yin yoga poses [long and deep] and yoga nidra body scans.
In my 5-week Yoga Confidence for Beginners workshop series, which I run 3 times a year, as well as learning how to practice basic asanas with lots of personal coaching to find your own way of doing yoga, I will also explain how a yoga class works and what to expect. The workshop is designed for people who want some background information and practice before they join a regular class.  You will also learn about yoga breathing and practise basic methods.  The class is small, maximum 8 attendees and each week we build on the last session, revising and learning new poses. There is time for questions and  I send out a weekly  comprehensive handout.
When did you first realise that you wanted to teach yoga? What was the wow moment if any?
I have been facilitating and teaching personal growth workshops for 15 years and including movement and some yoga in those courses.  I’d had an on off love affair with yoga for 30 years and the last time when I was intensely engaged, daily practice, I found yoga permeating the way I moved in my life. This was extremely calming and beneficial.

After a traumatic experience and losing everything I returned to the UK.  I had to care for my dying parents so I started practising yoga more regularly again, realising how important it was to my own state of mind.  I realised I wanted to work with people again, to help them make more of their lives. I didn’t have a plan but  I took a foundation course with a British Wheel of Yoga teacher in Newhaven because I wanted to go deeper into how yoga worked, and this led me to take a teacher training course. There was no wow moment, just a natural progression.  I wanted to revive my workshops and include yoga.  I started teaching the minute I began my teacher training specialising in classes for older people, like me and those who had ailments that made a regular yoga class challenging for them.

Where is your favourite place to practice? Whenever the moment takes me, spontaneously and in particular, outdoors in the sunshine.
Any advice for new students?
Practising Yoga isn’t about making perfect shapes or doing the ultimate upside down pose. If you are a striver, and goal oriented, you may tend to overdo it. This will diminish the benefits of the practise of yoga.   The purpose of yoga is to unite body and mind meaning your mind calms down and you are more present to the here and now.
That is achieved when you spend the time to feel your own body during an asana, and keep your mind focused on that and when you practise breathing in synch with movement. Practise slow breathing every day, and when you walk, make a point of feeling your feet on the ground so that you can be more present to the physical aspect of your bodymind.  Ignore what everyone else in the class is doing, and don’t criticise yourself.
Being good at yoga is not making the perfect shape. Being good at yoga is feeling into your body and staying present and absorbed even if you’re only bending an inch or so when others are folding flat.
Some exercises teach ‘no pain no gain’. In the practise of yoga PAIN = NO GAIN.. That is why you have to pay attention to your body when you’re moving so you pick up those pre-pain ‘if I go any further I’ll pull or strain something’ messages.
Our body feels different every day. Take modifications, rest if you need which is much easier when you don’t compare your activity to someone else or feel bad because you have to rest. This is the hardest thing to instil in students.. You may have to try several classes before you find one that resonates with you.
Don’t rely on classes alone. Resolve to yoga a part of your everyday life. . Develop your own yoga practise by watching videos, trying out simple move at home. Buy a yoga mat and leave it somewhere you can pull it out and practise, if only for five minutes.  Buying your own yoga mat is a kicker to becoming more invested in practising yoga.
Learn, practise and use the breathing exercises to calm yourself when you feel stressed or to energise you when you’re feeling a bit tired.
Bodies are very different and there may be poses you can never do because of the structure of your bones, length, size etc.  There are always other asanas that give you as much benefit.
You love yoga because…
It engages the mindbody and calms the thought processes. My body feels good, I am more mobile, supple, stronger. I love it even more because, over the years, I have learned how to take yoga off the mat and into my daily life.  It leaves me feeling calmly energised. I know what my body needs and have developed my own practise.
What is your favourite yoga posture or practice and why?
Whilst there are postures that my body can do easily, I have learned that the asanas that challenge me are the ones I need to practise, so if you don’t like a pose, that’s the one to work with. You may not enjoy a pose because your body might not be formed to do it the way it’s displayed in the photos..  I love a varied practice learning unusual moves and taking time to feel into my body.. that for me is the most precious thing about yoga, feeling the body, becoming more aware of how I move in space, and what’s going on in the physical aspect.   It helps develop body wisdom so that we can begin to receive messages and act on them.
My favourite postures, are those that work on areas of my body that need it.. and the ones that calm me down, Child’s Pose and anything that frees my lower back. I don’t do any long held poses that raise my heart above my head because I have glaucoma and they put pressure on the optic nerve. So I can’t indulge in downward dog, which was one of my favourites because of the back stretch.
Can you share 3 interesting facts about yourself?
I was the UK’s first Flirt Coach running Flirting Weekends for 10 years and have been the topic of a Channel 4 Documentary, School for Seduction.
I lived a simple homestead life in the deep south Appalachian mountains for four years
I nearly drowned in Egypt when I was 19. After being carried far from shore and struggling to swim back, a ‘voice’ told me to let go and I was carried back to shore
What is your personal motto or favourite quote?
The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are. Follow your bliss, do what you love and the money will follow Joseph Campbell
sunny sukhasana beach egypt


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