Meet our Community: Yoga Teacher Helena Lavery
Blick is all about community, our creative residents and the wider creative community, but also the people who use our facilities for various different activities. Activities that help support Blick financially so that we can provide affordable workspace and run different events and activities for the creative community in Belfast. We thought it would be nice for people to find out more about the community of people who use our facilities at Blick starting with yoga teacher Helena Lavery. Helena teaches regular yoga classes in our Malone studios on Monday and Wednesday evenings, you can find out more about Helena and her yoga practice in the interview below.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work as a yoga teacher?
I’ve been teaching almost 20 years. I’ve taught in community centres; churches; corporate groups; festivals; all kinds of schools, and various studios. The youngest I’ve taught are 3 year olds and the oldest was a lady who was 88 – and she could still to a good practice! When I first started teaching, I said yes to everything – football teams; rugby players and even inmates in prison; I did draw the line when I was asked to teach a nudist group – not my jive really!! I’m a graduate of several schools of yoga, but the one that resonates with me the most (for the last 7 years) has been Katonah Yoga. Now, I like to teach it and the Andean tradition in my classes and workshops.
What inspired you to start teaching yoga?
I always like to go to the root of things. When I was practicing yoga for several years, my teacher kept encouraging me to do the teacher training. I would never have aspired to be a teacher, the thoughts of standing in front of a group of people and instructing them freaked me out – in fact sometimes I still get that fear, but do it anyway. It was more about wanting to learn more, the trainings were an avenue in to a more in-depth study of a hobby that I loved.
What do you love most about yoga?
There is always something new to learn. Having my own practice makes me explore more ways to move efficiently.
Why do you think people should take up yoga?
Well I know yoga isn’t for everyone, the most common thing people say to me is “I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible.” – Yet this is the very reason to do yoga, so that you can increase flexibility, gain strength and ultimately better health and longevity. Yoga is also great for mental health. I’m seeing more and more students who suffer from some form of mental issues – whether it’s stress, anxiety or depression (to name a few). Breathing exercises and meditations provide tools to manage stress.
What are the benefits of taking yoga classes in person rather than online?
Online yoga has been great, especially during the pandemic, but there’s nothing like the real thing in a class. I can see my students and give them verbal and physical adjustments online, and they do work to a point, but to get a good adjustment by your teacher in a studio just doesn’t compare really.
Can you tell us about Katonah yoga and what makes it special?
I first came across it in 2015, in New York. I was interested in Sacred Geometry – how everything in the universe is mirrored in nature. I came across a guy who was using the principles of SG in his yoga practice, so I took a trip to NY to learn from him. He kept talking about Katonah Yoga and his teacher – Nevine Michaan. She lived in Katonah in upstate NY – hence the name. She had been self studying yoga alongside Taoism and has been developing this method over 45 years. Here’s what she says about it:
“Katonah Yoga incorporates classical Hatha yoga with Taoist theory, sacred geometry, magic, mythology, metaphor and imagination in a practical framework designed to potentiate personal and communal well-being. Framing the practice with maps of time and personal space are defined and refined. Incorporating themes using asana as origami, manipulating form for function, and developing a sense of personal measure.”
Can you tell us a bit more about the bodywork and energy healing you do?
The Bodywork is a one to one private session, using the principles of Katonah to personalise a practice with adjustments to best suit my clients. It varies greatly depending on what the student is looking for – sometimes people come to get a clearer direction on whether they’re doing certain poses correctly; and others come because they have a particular injury or recurring strain that’s impeding them. I try my best to tailor to both.
My Andean Energy Healings are from a different tradition – “Andean Spiritual Art” – which comes from the people of Q’ero and Wassau regions of the high Andes in Peru. It’s a tradition I have been studying and teaching for the last 10 years. A root cause of most of our problems in life is disconnection – be it from ourselves, community, family, colleagues or friends. With this detachment comes stress, anxiety, depression, a loss of self autonomy, lack of direction in life and so on. In the session, I engage with rituals taught to me by Andean Masters, connecting with the healing forces of nature. The aim of the Andean energy healing is to empower; awaken potential, and reset into coherence and purpose.
Apart from yoga, what are your other hobbies and interests?
I like to walk, I love bodyboarding when it comes to the summer months, and I’m a keen gardener.
What brings you joy in life?
Being a total introvert – sitting in silence or studying a good course or book.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
To build on the yoga community I’ve started in Studio 51 (Blick), and to be a place of refuge for people going through tough times.
Where can people find you online?