A Yogi's Journey with Rachel Manns

A Yogi's Journey with Rachel Manns

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Yoga has become extremely popular over the last few years or so, but can you tell us when you discovered the practice and what attracted you to it

Four years ago when I was travelling to visit an old friend, they took me to a yoga studio for a beginner’s class and it was a really wonderful experience. I stepped into this world where movement, breath, mental health and spirituality all kind of intersected – and I knew it was something so much more powerful than a standard exercise class. I didn’t fully grasp the full meaning of yoga at that point, but I absolutely realised how special it was and that I needed to do it again! We attended a few more sessions, and when I came home I sought out more classes and subscribed to an online yoga platform – I was hooked!

The last twelve months have been crazy, to say the least. Why do you think yoga has appealed to so many of us?

For a lot of people, when experiencing crisis mode, our brains don’t only speed up, but they also get louder as well. Having little to do and lots to worry about, it can quickly escalate to a state of us feeling overwhelmed and helpless. When something so massive is happening all around you – and with no control to change the outcome – I think many people benefit from at least attempting to control the mind, breath and movement of the body. When I practise yoga, something sort of magical happens – I go quiet. Literally, I’m not speaking (which is rare!), but more than that, my mind quietens down as well. For that 10, 30 or even 60 minutes of yoga, wonderful changes happen mentally. Perspective shifts, resolutions are arrived at, and self-belief grows. I think it’s that process that people are drawn to when they practise yoga!

Your tattoos are beautiful and so detailed! I can also see that you collect a lot of artwork. Is there any link between the art on your walls and the pieces on your skin?

Oh, thank you! Yes, there is. I have always been drawn to the tattoo aesthetic, whether on paper or on skin, and I began collecting artwork in my early twenties. I have so much that needs framing! I’m really drawn to tattoo interpretations of the natural world and I really appreciate a bold black line – I mean, who doesn’t?! I actually have artwork from some of the tattoo artists who have tattooed me over the years, huge shout out to my lovely pal Alexis Camburn from Two Snakes Tattoo down here in Hastings. She’s tattooed me three times and we have a piece of hers taking pride of place in our lounge!

Yoga is known to benefit the mind as well as the body. Can you tell us a bit about your own experience with this?

Like a lot of humans out there, I suffer with mental health issues and have done since my mid-teens. I have been diagnosed with GAD (general anxiety disorder) and PTSD, and my symptoms come in waves. Since regularly practising yoga, I’ve noticed that I’m a bit more resilient during my lower/more anxious periods and they tend to pass more swiftly. It’s given me some tricks to manage my symptoms, and it’s also made me more compassionate towards myself – which was desperately needed! Don’t get me wrong, yoga won’t ‘fix’ your brain, erase your trauma and it certainly isn’t a substitute for professional mental health support; but it is an extremely powerful tool in the toolbox to reach for when things start to get murky. Incredible things happen when we focus on our breath, mind and body!  

Your online platform is growing day by day which is amazing! Where do you see yourself in five year’s time?

Thank you! Yes, it’s so great to see that all my hard work building the platform has paid off. It’s such a great feeling to know that people are enjoying using it and are coming regularly to the live classes too! In five years time I’ll have lots more training, so would love to be offering yoga for people with restricted mobility, or neuro-diverse clients — or yoga for kids! It’s really important to me to keep the price point low to ensure it remains accessible for everyone who wants it.

I’d also love the platform to expand into a bigger studio with more teachers offering different styles and specialities. I’d love to work with teachers that are different to me as well. Different races, ages, genders, body abilities. I think a yoga studio list of teachers should look as diverse as the community it serves, and when teaching online, that audience is extremely broad. So that’s my five-year aim: to build a truly diverse, representative online studio that serves as a safe space for people from all walks of life. I truly believe that yoga is for everyone and I can’t wait to keep sharing it with the world.  

Thanks, Rachel. It's been great to talk to you. Anything you'd like to add?

Being aware that I am a white, Western woman making money teaching a deeply spiritual, ancient practice that came from India thousands of years ago (with Buddhist influences as well); I think it’s really important to honour yoga’s traditional roots and to share that knowledge in the classes. I want to be teaching and offering yoga that is respectful, and culturally appreciative, not appropriative. I'm in the process of doing the work of learning (and unlearning!) lots about this, and it’s been such an eye-opening journey for me. I have tonnes of info on my blog about this, and lots of incredible teachers to point people to as well!