Our wonderful teachers! Natalie


A modern yogi.

We meet at her studio, (the one with the baroque stucco ceiling) and I can already feel the energy the walls have soaked up from the many lessons that have been taught here. Running a studio is not easy, especially when you're your own client too.
She is a natural "plate spinner", full of energy, wired by the thrill of life, aware of her shortcomings and weaknesses, and refusing to be anything less than her best, Natalie rolls her right shoulder which has a sunburn mark from strappings telling of her injury. We talk of here and now, I think where she is mainly concerned, but occasionally we dip into ideas, and the possabilities of the future..

To teach..
Broad minded, bold and honest, she appreciates that everyone is really different, and not everyone will like her style of doing things, of running the studio, and of teaching, however how she is doing it all her way and it has not been a straightforward process…

Although her training in India was robotic and brutal, she had a break from teaching to recover. Dancing occasionally, during this break she began to absorb the importance of how different everyone is. This instinctively brought her back to the mat, and more importantly to teaching.

Coming to Totnes
London with a 5-year plan, which quickly vanished when all her cards got flipped up & she moved to Devon. Covid kicked in and she began to teach yoga to people with mental health issues on the beach as well as lots of freebies.
However she started to take herself more seriously at this point.
She then upped her game and took on a central Totnes space, which she named “Move Forward Wellness studios”, where she has been teaching Ashtanga yoga, Acro-yoga and more recently pole fitness.

As we speak I can hear in her words several references to the traditional “limbs” of Ashtanga yoga; compassion, self study, non-harm, to name a few, this almost sub-conscious way of speaking tells me of how her study & practice has sunk in to the deeper realms of her psyche, and has become an intrinsic part of her personality, her spirit and how she lives her life, albeit with her own filters.
A brief overview of Ahstanga-

Primary series, intermediate series, and four advanced series.
A modern sequence of yoga poses developed mid 20th century by Pattabi Jois, to use, bend, stretch and strengthen each of the muscle groups and test joints and fascia throughout the body. The practice subtly incorporates the eight limbs of yoga Ashta=eight anga= limbs/angles which are:

YAMA – Restraints, moral disciplines or moral vows.
NIYAMA – Positive duties or observances.
ASANA – Posture.
PRANAYAMA – Breathing Techniques.
PRATYAHARA – Sense withdrawal.
DHARANA – Focused Concentration.
DHYANA – Meditative Absorption.
SAMADHI – Bliss or Enlightenment

Acro- yoga
The avenue which takes her to the more gentle side of her character recently has been Acro-yoga, where communication between the “base” and the “flier” needs to be clear and kind, breathing together & connecting with another being with an intense level of trust and openness. This level of intimacy, which blows lockdown anxiety out of the water, gives a fresh, clear and trusting perspective on touch, on moving in response to another being, and opens the (often) rusty hinges to our tender hearts.

Her base, Adam is like a brother to Natalie, and has a way of helping her see the bigger picture:
“We are not couples counselling Natalie, just separate them” Adam.

“Acro isn’t just about being coupled up with your significant other, It‘s about practice” NT

Her latest sessions have seen huge leaps in confidence as well as big smiles at the end of session. It’s a safe, professional environment to try quite risky things!
One of her clients was incredulous of doing a “backward bird”: “I’ve just done that!” She said.

Pole Fitness
Harking from her dance era, Natalie brings this original practice from the erotic into a more holistic yoga and dance based modern take on how to get to know your body with yet another medium.
The only sessions in the area like it, Natalie has had raging success from her new classes. Bringing a clean confidence and elegance to the form of movement necessary for fitness with the pole.

Her studio
She admits that the high street doesn’t give the studio the authenticity she would ideally like, (as opposed to a Shala in the middle of nowhere). She is surrounded by a hubbub of energy, and has tried to make the most of it, whilst creating a neutral space in order to give herself and the other teachers the autonomy to be themselves in the space. Word is the teachers love the space, don't worry Natalie!

A modern approach to yoga
Natalie also brings this element of neutrality into her sessions, which has not always been an easy thing to accomplish with people at different levels of knowledge and strength coming to her sessions, but with her rigorous almost brutal training in Ashtanga, she had to adapt her style. Ultimately leading to a joy of the unknown and the occasional surprises along the way.

Natalie has observed the longer term affect of having a regimented or disciplined physical yoga practice, and how that order and form has a way of giving people the power to take that structure off the mat.

“When they feel strong and powerful on the mat, they can then take that out into other avenues of their lives” NT

She has brought with her the importance of alignment and discipline, but has adapted a modern approach of her own making which allows space for pause, for reflection, for a giggle if you mess up, but being loyal to the traditions of the form for safety and to eek out the best in the poses and sequences.
Bright spark
Not held back by chronic dyslexia, with a degree and a masters under her belt, she has to be careful how much information and recall she is capable of. What she does hold is a bullet point knowledge of the history of Ashtanga yoga, and as more of a physical yogi, as opposed to theoretical, she knows the yoga poses very well.
She has an intimacy with her self-practice that shows her why and how it makes her feel the way she feels. This enrichment she lends to her classes and uses when someone surprises her, or moves in an unexpected way.

She touches on the balance of her introversion and the extrovert (which most of us see).
What we may not see is her work with “release”. She describes it almost poetically:
I jump in the sea, and scream!
I close the curtains rip off my clothes and scream!
I play rock music, and scream!

The essence of yoga for her is always to strive to be clear and kind. Her own self practice has suffered lately due to a shoulder injury, however her approach to her own “roll out of bed” practice is gentle, almost sensual, not label-able as yoga, dance, or any particular discipline, it is perhaps a "free movement"... until the time comes to pause, to set an intention and move into the day.

A complex, energetic, instinctive and focused yogi, Natalie has the skill and foresight to thrive in the present with all its political and mental upheaval, whilst bringing the grounding essence from the yogic traditions with her into her sessions giving her a necessary “earthing” tool for her own life as well as those she shares her practice with.

No messing, she does exactly what she says she’s going to do, a realist, aware of the fragility of life and unafraid of big emotions, she will always look you in the eye and tell you how it is for her if you care to ask. Love a bit of boldness.

A modern yogini.

Katie Hancock, KYC August 2023

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