This past month we’ve seen a stream of blogs about a unique challenge from Charlotte Walker, who openly talks about her mental health challenges and how Yoga has helped calm her moods (you can read about her experiences here). Charlotte’s blogs not only gave insight into her experiences, but also into the Level 1 classes at The Power Yoga Company, notably commenting on a particular teacher of ours, Léa Barbier.
We know our teachers are great, but it’s always wonderful to hear just how much they make an impact on other people’s lives. You can find Léa upstairs in the shanti room, teaching a welcoming and friendly style Level 1 class to all at PYC. Here, we share a face to face interview with Léa where we discuss her thoughts and feelings about teaching yoga to beginners.
Léa completed her teacher training at The Power Yoga Company under the guidance of the amazing Erin Prichard. She teaches vinyasa flow classes, that focus focusing on breath and alignment to strengthen and lengthen the body, while releasing tension and stilling the mind. Her motto? “It’s your body, your practice, your choice”.
Everyone has a unique yoga story, so please, tell us what led you to where you are today?
I discovered yoga in Paris, where I’m from, but it wasn’t until I moved to London, in 2013, that it became such a big part of my life. New country, new home, new job… I needed something to keep me grounded, and yoga did just that. After a while, your practice becomes a safe place, where you can completely switch off. It’s addictive.
I trained as a yoga teacher in 2014 and quit my full time job shortly after. Now, when I’m not teaching, I work as part-time localisation specialist for lululemon. My life is all about yoga and fancy yoga pants – le dream.
What’s your favourite part about teaching at PYC?
TPYC is a home away from home. It’s where I practice, where I did my teacher training, where I taught my first class, where I met some of my closest friends… It’s a beautiful studio with a great vibe, and the people are lovely.
What’s your favourite yoga jam?
Lately, I’ve been playing a lot of Gramatik and Jungle for sun salutations. Oh, and there is… Hang on. She grabs her phone and starts scrolling through Spotify. Yes, Låpsley! Can’t get enough. It’s the perfect music to transition from the warrior sequence to the slower part of the practice. And for savasana, Some by Nils Frahm or Immunity by John Hopkins.
What’s your most embarrassing teaching moment?
The time my phone rang during savasana. I use it to play music during class, and I normally put it on airplane mode. Of course the time I forgot, it rang. Really loudly. At the worst possible time.
How did you react?
I said “oh, f***!” – which isn’t very yoga either – and then apologized to the class. We all laughed, and carried on. It happens, right?
If you could choose one yoga pose to start your day, everyday, and another one to finish it, what would they be?
Balasana (child’s pose) and a big cat stretch to start the day – no need to get out of bed. After a long day, I like to spend a few minutes upside down. Shoulder stand and supported bridge are my favourites.
How do you help people if they can’t get into a pose?
“What? she laughs. I would be a pretty shit teacher if I did, wouldn’t I?I don’t expect them to. When a student can’t get into a pose, I give them another pose or variation. It’s not a competition.
How do you feel about adjusting people? If we’re sweaty, is it gross?
Walking around, talking, demonstrating, adjusting… I get sweaty too. And no, it’s not gross. She pauses. I mean, as long as you shower afterwards.
As a student, how can I tell the difference between pain and discomfort?
Yoga isn’t always comfortable, but it should never be painful. Trust your instinct and listen to your body. In doubt: back off immediately. If you’re practicing with an injury, talk to your teacher about it.
Any tips for first-timers?
1. Breathe, breathe, breathe.
2. Seriously, don’t hold your breath.
2. Bring a mate! It’s more fun à deux.
How does a Level 1 student know they’re ready to try an All-level class?
All-levels classes are usually faster. If you feel ready for a challenge, go for it! I have experienced students who come to Level 1 classes because they like to be in a smaller group. There’s no set rule, but as it’s good to start with a few Level 1 classes to cover all the basics first.