I describe myself as a lover of what is, an explorer of inner and outer worlds and a dear friend to my body and mind.
I have been practicing Yoga sporadically since I was ten and tried most of the styles including Bikram, Hot Power, Ashtanga, Acro, Vinyasa and Hatha but I always felt out of place in group classes and tended towards the 'non-doing' styles of Restorative, Yin or Meditation practice, where the teacher was simply holding a space for me to go within. My first taste of Buddhism was while living in Thailand in my early 20's, the Buddhist 'Land of Smiles'. I was working as a fundraiser/environmental activist (for Greenpeace, the UN and other charities) and thought I had found my dream job. But the reality was, I was spending my time outside of work mindlessly consuming (through food, alcohol, sex, shopping) in an attempt to ignore my own suffering.
Eventually, on the verge of complete burnout, I did what any soul-seeking 25 year old would do - went to India for three months to find myself. I traveled in the footsteps of the Buddha, went to sacred sites, trekked the Himalayas, worked on organic farms but what I found was actually a depressed, scared and lonely young woman who was very uncertain about the world and her place in it. Shortly after that my best friend invited me to ride for six months through Malaysia, Thailand, Laos and China with him as part of his bicycle journey around the world. Without a moment of hesitation I said 'Yes!' even though I had never done anything like this before. I knew that wherever this journey would lead me would be better than in the dark hole I found myself. We stayed in many Buddhist temples and I started to learn about the teachings of the Buddha (The Dharma) from monks and nuns. We rode through tropical floods, coconut plantations, hill tribe villages, snow covered mountain passes, small farms. While on that journey I sat in silence for 15 days on a meditation retreat and started to notice how crazy and neurotic my mind really was. On the ninth day (after many times of wanting to run away) I experienced for the first time ever the pure luminescent light within me, a state of indescribable bliss and the absolute knowing that 'I am love'.
Once I had tasted that knowing, I knew I could never go back to an office job working in the big city and that my role in the world would be to teach in some way or another. Since then I have been practicing meditation (almost daily) since 2010 and my practice has definitely helped me to navigate some intense life challenges, including being diagnosed with/treated for cancer at age 29, several break ups and living with anxiety and chronic pain. When I was well enough I started a weekly group meditation circle called The Sit In, which is still running, and completed my training to become a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Facilitator.
Meditation provided a gateway for self inquiry and learning about my inner world, but at some point I realised that I was becoming quite aversive to my body and felt like it was an unsafe place to inhabit. I was mostly using meditation to sit down and 'check out' and to grasp for states of elation and joy more than as an opportunity to investigate the life inside of me. I knew I needed to incorporate some body-based practice into my healing journey.
When I found out about Sri T. Krishnamacharya's classical Hatha style of 'Yoga for the Individual', I knew I had found my Yoga. I was already a qualified meditation facilitator and public speaker so becoming a Yoga teacher was simply a natural progression.
As someone who has faced their own mortality and lives daily the uncertainty of anxiety and chronic pain, the daily practice of mindful Yoga has helped me to remain present and curious to the unpleasant sensations when they arise instead of fighting and resisting them. I am slowly learning to inhabit my body more fully and, rather than see it as a problem needing to be fixed, experience it more as a conduit of energy (flowing in, out and all through me) and bodily sensations as the language of my soul lovingly trying to communicate with me.
When I slow down enough and listen deeply I can hear these messages and respond to them, rather than override the body with the habits of my mind. Yoga to me means being in alignment with the truth that 'I am not my mind, I am love'.
“Don't meditate [or do any other spiritual practice] to fix yourself, to heal yourself, to improve yourself, to redeem yourself; rather do it as an act of love,
of deep warm friendship to yourself”
- Bob Sharples
"I have thoroughly enjoyed practicing with Hannah and plan to continue doing so in the future. I believe that anyone would benefit from attending one of Hannah’s courses, as she can tailor her content to suit people from all walks of life.”
- M.B, Healthcare Professional