“My studio is nature: beaches, desert, mountains, gardens.”
Well-travelled Amelia has gradually taken her interest in yoga to new heights and is presently teaching to small to large groups in the Middle East. Her desire is to see yoga entwined into our normal everyday lives. She see the importance of using the natural world as her canvas to bring yoga closer to our cores.
Can you introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Amelia, a yoga teacher and I spend most of my time in Bahrain and Oman. I’m originally from the U.K., but my mother is Dutch, and my father is half Welsh and half Jamaican. I have lived in England, Scotland, Wales, Spain, Ecuador, South Korea, Bahrain and Oman. I love travelling, learning, teaching, exploring, nature, outdoors and adventure.
Tell us about your Education
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Bangor University in Wales, and a Master’s degree in Ecology and Environmental Sustainability from Aberdeen University in Scotland. I wanted to study these subjects because I was always fascinated by life, nature, and the environment, and also wanted to do something to help conserve the environment. I worked as a Biologist and Ecologist, mostly doing research outside in nature about wildlife, then I moved towards Education after getting a job as a wildlife tour guide. I studied for a Postgraduate Teaching Degree in Secondary School Biology and Chemistry, and at the same time, I completed my Yoga Teacher Training. Now I teach Yoga as well as Biology and Chemistry.
When and how did you first get interested in Yoga?
When I was 21 at University, my friend asked me if I wanted to join her on a 6-week beginner’s Yoga course. I agreed, and I still remember the first class and the feeling of peace and relaxation that came with doing a few simple yoga poses while focusing on the breath. I was quite stressed at University as many students are, and Yoga helped me to feel more relaxed and able to control my stress, even after a few classes.
What do you love most about practicing Yoga and Yoga itself?
The feeling of calm and contentment during and after the class that cannot be gained from any other sport or activity! When I used to attend classes twice a week regularly, I remember feeling very disappointed when I used to miss the class, because I would miss this feeling! When you start to practice Yoga daily, this feeling stays with you all the time. So you always have complete control over yourself, even in the most challenging situations. Having this feeling of peace and self-control in your daily life is something that makes your life much easier and more enjoyable!
How and when did you move to the Middle East?
I moved to Bahrain in August 2016. I was a teacher of Biology and Chemistry, and that’s how I first came here. I stayed for two years in Bahrain, and in the past year, I have been exploring Oman.
How did you get into teaching yoga? How many years have you been teaching?
I wanted to be a teacher for a long time before I took the teaching qualification! I followed a few teachers and saw that Yoga isn’t just an exercise or sport, it’s a whole lifestyle, and I wanted it too! I took my Yoga Teacher Training course in Spain in July 2016 with Gerry Rixen, a German yoga teacher who specializes in Yoga and the Japanese therapy Shitsu. At the time of doing the course, I couldn’t imagine teaching a class myself – I felt very nervous about making mistakes and forgetting things. My first students were school children when I was a teacher at the school – I used to run an after-school club twice a week and had some dedicated kids coming to every session. They were great fun to teach. After this, I had some classes in different yoga studios in Bahrain, at the Bahrain Petroleum Company (BAPCO) for the employees as part of their wellness program, and some private classes for groups of friends and family. I also made lots of special events – like Full Moon Yoga, Hot Yoga in the Desert, and Beach Yoga.
What do you love most about teaching yoga?
I love to share my knowledge of Yoga with people and see them transform after only a few classes. Their posture, their energy and even their face become different. I try to make it very simple for beginners, and always add something a little challenging so they will keep moving forward with their practice.
What makes your classes different?
99% of my classes are outside! Even in the Middle East in the summer, it’s important to get out, away from the A.C., get into nature, have some Vitamin D from the sunshine, breathe fresh air, and feel the breeze on your face! I believe it’s good for the body to have some challenges with different temperatures, hot and cold, it makes our bodies stronger than always being in the carefully controlled indoor environment. I find different beautiful places to do Yoga – in Bahrain I’ve taught classes at the Tree of Life in the desert (which has a powerful energy and is beautiful at sunset and in the full moon) by the sea on Nurana Island and Amwaj, even ON the sea on Stand Up Paddleboards (SUP yoga). I also love combining Yoga with other activities – I worked with a few horseriding stables to do a Yoga and Horseriding day – this is especially good for people who are nervous of horses to help them relax before riding the horses – and I’m currently working with Kashta Tours to do a Cycling and Yoga tour of the North coast of Bahrain – through forests and gardens in an area that most people in Bahrain don’t get to see!
Do you conduct private classes, or do you have a center?
Because I love to teach Yoga in natural environments and combine it with different activities, I haven’t needed a centre until now! My studio is nature – beaches, desert, mountains, gardens. However, it’s my dream to open a centre where people can come to learn about Yoga, health, nature and the environment and see how it’s all connected!
What is the greatest challenge you have overcome because of Yoga?
I remember the first time that I felt how powerful the self-control that Yoga can give: when I left University, I went to spend six months living in the rainforest in Ecuador, South America. There was one rope ladder leading to the top of a tree 30 metres high. Previously I would not have even entertained the idea of climbing it; I would have waited at the bottom for everyone else to finish. However, because of learning to control the breath and the mind from my Yoga classes, I was able to reach the top of the ladder (of course, we had a harness and safety devices). I remember being fully conscious of my breathing and just controlling my breath, and then getting to the top was easy!
What in your opinion, are the greatest health benefits of doing Yoga?
The improvement of posture (how you hold your body) and the improvement of breathing, and how these impact your mental and physical wellbeing.
What advice do you have for people who have never tried Yoga?
Most people who would love to try Yoga but didn’t yet, feel embarrassed because they imagine that everyone else in the class will be “better” than them at Yoga. However, in the yoga class, you will find that most people are focusing on themselves and not thinking about other people! I also really believe that getting yourself out of your “comfort” zone makes you a stronger and more resilient person. So even if you do feel uncomfortable, know that it’s ok to feel this way, and imagine yourself in 3 months or six months or one year, when you have been practising Yoga every week, and you are getting good at it!
Can you discuss the proudest moments in your career or your biggest achievements?
One of my biggest achievements happened recently. I was invited to Jordan to work as a Consultant for the Adventure and Challenge Forest Camp in Jerash. I will be working there for a month to recommend to the company how to integrate Yoga in their activities, and training the Adventure Activity Trainers in some basic yoga so they can include it with their other activities such as hiking, climbing and team-building. I was thrilled to have been invited by the owner, Thair, who had been watching my Instagram posts and saw that I was combining my yoga teaching with appreciation and awareness of the environment. I’m also excited to be travelling to Jordan for the first time, and I’m sure I will learn a lot in my three weeks there!
Can you walk us through a typical class or session?
First imagine the scene – surrounded by beautiful nature, the wind on your face, the rising or setting sun in the background. I always say a few words to settle everyone in and make them feel comfortable, and then we get into a comfortable seated position, the most important thing here being a good posture with a straight back. We then take a few moments with closed eyes to feel our surroundings, and imagine ourselves as part of our surroundings and not separate from them. We then start with some very simple breathing exercises, to energize the body, and then we will do some postures for around 40 minutes. How challenging or relaxing postures depend on the energy level of the group. Usually, I include Surya Namaskar, which is a simple sequence that stretches and opens up all parts of the body. I always emphasize back, and shoulder stretches too because most people spend a lot of their time in an unhealthy posture with shoulders hunched forward and back rounded. At the end of the class will do some passive stretches like a lying side-twist, and then finally relaxation meditation for the last ten or so minutes.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
There isn’t a typical day! My work is very varied, and I organize different events, travel a lot, and teach in different places. I always spend as much time as I can outside, whatever the weather, and of course yoga is a part of my day. Sometimes I have students for English, Maths and Science, depending on their exams, I am also currently learning dance, so I spend an hour or more every day rehearsing for a dance performance with my two amazing teachers Andrhaya and Gazelle.
Your message for us at CiiN
Thank you so much for interviewing me, and allowing the opportunity to spread the word about my work and my yoga teaching. I hope to inspire people to make Yoga a part of their lives, and if anyone is interested in following up, please find me on Instagram @ameliayoga.om.