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How a yoga teacher turned a personal crisis into an opportunity to help others.

Suzy Bolt – 360MindBodySoul

BEHIND THE TEACHER

This is the second article of our series ‘Behind the teacher’, aimed at presenting the amazing talents we have on our platform.

Today we interview Suzy Bolt, a yoga teacher with incredible experience in the discipline, and we feel very honoured that her classes are on our platform. She offers a variety of lessons with her membership, from Yoga for deep sleep every Wednesday to intensive HIIT classes, held with her business partner Ross and other two teachers, Sasha and Chloe. All together they offer 15 hours of training a week on the platform! 

Suzy teaches her yoga classes from a very pleasant studio, with great lighting and a calming atmosphere. She will guide you through the poses using her incredible, soothing voice, a crucial element in any yoga teachers tool kit. The result is a high-quality class that very much resembles the one you can get in a studio. 

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How a yoga teacher turned a personal crisis into an opportunity to help others.

What is your yoga philosophy?

I started practising Yoga as a dance student back in 1990.  It seemed to help ease my endless injuries and gave me something nurturing to do with my body, it felt good so I stuck with it!  What I started to notice after a while was that it also started to ease my anxious, busy, restless mind. I decided to train to teach in my mid 20’s and knew all along that really, the practice was of most benefit to people’s mental states, which then has a huge impact on how someone inhabits their body and approaches life in general.

After 24 years of teaching I now focus on what I feel is compassionate Yoga, a type of practice that does not encourage you to push hard, to achieve the impossible or unnecessary. I want my Yoga students to enjoy the gift of Yoga, not have it be something that leaves them feeling inadequate, injured or lacking. 

Our mental health is so vital to the health of every other cell in our bodies that finding a practice that helps promote positive mental health should be essential for everyone! People can come to Yoga to ‘make themselves thin’ or to simply ‘do the splits’ but both of these things don’t really serve the practitioner or reflect the purpose of Yoga and its different practices at all. 

Yoga can really work on multiple levels to bring equilibrium to the mind and body and it’s that principle that forms the backbone of my philosophy.  Kindness to self promotes kindness to others and we need a lot of that right now. 

You had COVID a few months ago and are still recovering.  You created a specific COVID recovery class that takes into consideration the physical limits of those who caught the virus. As a yoga teacher you take care of others –  how do you take care of yourself?

I began my COVID journey back in March with hundreds of thousands of others!  I am still in recovery and am officially what they call a Long Hauler.  I got more and more sick over a period of 9 weeks then hit rock bottom with a wide range of symptoms that affected my nervous system, my lungs, my heart, my gut, my speech…everything. 

It became very frightening around the end of May and my doctor sent me into A&E in an ambulance fearing blood clots on my lungs and a heart attack (both common elements of COVID that kill people). I was fine, they said you are fit and healthy, you can do this!  Two weeks later I set up a Facebook page for people like me with COVID and started to post classes for other people like me who couldn’t be helped by regular medicine. 

We needed to heal damage to the vagus nerve and the emotional trauma of being so unwell with so little help available.  All the systems in our bodies have been under attack and no Western medicine can help with that yet.  Yoga is so soothing and calming for the mind that my very gentle short classes quickly became widely shared and I now have around 2000 followers in the group, accessing free content to help them rebuild their badly damaged bodies. 

What they love is that I too understand that everything is a challenge, even just sitting still sometimes. I know that relapses occur regularly and that there is no ’turning a corner’ with COVID long Haul. It’s more circular and I talk about that often.  I now teach live classes on my 360mindbodysoul timetable for COVID Long Haulers (with Ross Cooper my business partner and Personal Trainer) and it’s lovely to have a group present that gets to chat at the end and offer up questions and support etc.

Setting the group up gave me purpose whilst being so unwell.  I think we thrive if we have a purpose and I was lucky to be able to pivot my teaching focus into something really relevant to me and to others.  I am a hugely driven and motivated person if you point me in the right direction, so even when I was at my most unwell, I was still thinking about how to develop my online timetable offering and what else do people need right now, etc.  I have to remind myself to rest – daily.  That’s my biggest challenge when there is so much I want to be doing.

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Going from teaching in a studio to teaching online is a big change. How does yoga help you cope with life changes?

Yoga helps me cope with life changes because it’s a constant in a sea of change.  Everything is impermanent, once we truly accept that we allow each moment to be a gift.  My practice and my teaching is always with me, even when life throws huge challenges my way I can roll out my mat and find something familiar and soothing to help me recentre myself and slow down my reactions and responses, giving me time to think. 

It also connects me to an amazing community of people who have been a bedrock of support and encouragement over the years and particularly this year, they watched me on my journey and the outpouring of love and concern was really touching. 

Is there something you prefer about teaching online vs teaching in a studio?

I love that I can now connect friends and families up in the same class.  I can reach people I used to teach when I lived in London, years ago, and they can now come back to class with me.  I teach my own mum in the North West of the UK and it just feels so special to have all these different people in the space together. 

People have recommended the 360mindbodysoul platform to their friends and they now join in classes, not just Yoga, we offer all sorts of things on the platform now including weights work, Pilates, mindfulness etc.  It’s really creative, no class size restrictions and location issues, you don’t even need to leave the warmth of your own home! Just log in and off we go.  I made it out to Turkey in August and I taught from there.  I really love it!

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Do you think this (teaching online) is the new normal?

I think it will be for some and for others maybe less so.  I think some people’s personalities are  more suited to the live interaction in a room and others thrive in the virtual space.  Personally,  I love it! I trained as a performer all those years ago and it’s an opportunity to connect with an audience and create something meaningful.

I love how safe everyone is in my class, I know they won’t catch COVID in our classes at least!  I won’t be teaching live classes in my home studio again I think – although I miss live workshops and we hope to be getting a plan for that back up and running by spring of next year fingers crossed.  People still need to meet and be physically together at some point – we need that interaction as human beings.

You are one of the teachers who use the WOFH recording feature, why do you think it’s important to give that option to your students?

It’s hugely important to have the classes available for people to do when they want.  The timetable slots don’t suit everyone and now they can access the classes when they want.  It’s great to attend live if you can but the recorded class is the next best thing.  It also means that people can try out other classes without the pressure to stay until the end if they don’t like it!  My COVID community is all over the world, so the time zone differences are smoothed over by the recorded classes feature.

What are your core values as a yoga studio owner?

At 360mindbodysoul we believe that people want  to feel good about showing up, to feel connected and acknowledged and also  to be encouraged to be the best version of themselves.  These are tricky times we are navigating and we are constantly being disconnected from others – what we offer strives to keep our focus on how it feels to be a part of our community and to have the experience be fun, uplifting even.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start teaching online

1. Make sure the space you teach from is calm, clear, and an attractive space to share with others
2. Use names, chat, be a human being with stories as well as a teacher
3. Remember to check in with those who have injuries
4. Make sure you ask people to be visible to you as well as the other way round. You need to see them teach them. (Most insurance will only cover you if teaching visible students)
5. Get good lighting. If you can buy a big screen so that you don’t need to keep checking a laptop – I have a huge monitor that I can see from the mat which links to my laptop – and a good web camera/microphone

You can join Suzy’s COVID recovery class twice a week, together with all her other amazing classes on: 360mindbodysoul

Read: How a nomadic dancer stays grounded giving Zoom dance classes online

Mar Bovi

Mar has work experience in tech, her passion is to make complex concepts easily digestible. Writer with a passion for fitness and health who wants to make the world a more peaceful place. A nomadic soul speaking 4 languages who lived in many countries around the world.

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