The admiration I have for Helen is immense. Not only is she is a great mum, but whilst also working full time she has trained to become a yoga teacher, of which she now teaches as her side hustle Snugg Yoga (give her a follow of Insta at @snuggyoga). She has a very calm, yet witty, character and is such great company to be around. But it’s her incredible strength, resilience and desire to give back which I admire the most.
Helen story is emotional, but also extremely heartwarming. She’s truly an inspirational woman and has been helping people through lockdown relieve anxiety and build community though free, or PWYC (Pay What You Can) classes through lockdown. I was so happy when she kindly agreed to take part in the LOMIE ‘A Woman’s Work Q&A’ to share her journey.
Hi Helen! Please tell me a little about yourself and the motivation behind training to become a yoga instructor.
My bio says I am a mummy, yoga and meditation teacher and I love being with my family, disco music, baking and the great outdoors, but there is much more to it than that. In the first couple of months of me giving birth, my mum, hero and best friend was diagnosed with cancer. Even though she suffered for a further six months, it was the day she told me that she had cancer that I lost her, her mind sort of went and it was only by teaching her meditation and gentle yoga, mindfulness and Qi Gong techniques that I was able to calm her and get her back for a few minutes. The meditation would include beautiful memories that we had from my childhood, such as a beach in Cornwall and gardens.
The yoga helped her to move at a time when she was confined to her bed, and sometimes she would call me in the middle of the night asking for me to meditate with her, and, although I had been practicing yoga for twenty years it was this that gave me the drive to become a teacher. I wanted to use this skill to work with others and their families going through what my mum and our family went through. As always my mum was my inspiration and now my daughter is my inspiration.
As a mother, how are you finding balancing motherhood, work and yoga teaching?
Haha, I love it but I am exhausted. I give myself little treats - an afternoon nap when my little one is asleep, and an evening glass of red wine with my husband when she has gone to bed! We also love going on adventures in the countryside and mummy-daughter baking to disco dj sets - we are both a big fan of Nile Rodgers and Chic and the kitchen is slowly starting to turn into our disco space - neon lights, diner chairs and a disco ball are planned! A lot of what we bake is foraged from our garden - raspberries, grapes, elderflowers, rosemary, mint, lavender, blueberries, strawberries - you name it we have grown it, picked it and baked and discoed with it.
Whilst everyone is still asleep, I get up at 5am, go for a run, take part in a pre-recorded online yoga class - usually with a Yoga space in Bali, and plan my own yoga or meditation class - I always bring something new into each class and take inspiration from everything from Power Yoga, Yin Yoga and meditation to Capoeira, Qi Gong and mindfulness.
I schedule my own classes at a time when my husband isn’t working so he can take the fort or when my daughter is asleep (so lots of evening or pre-recorded classes). Work entails liaising with charities, fundraising, designing and putting out marketing and my website and creating more classes - all of that fits into the gaps!
Does ethics and sustainability come into play at all with what you do?
Absolutely. Yoga has unfortunately gained a reputation of being expensive, exclusive and physically unattainable (“I can’t put my legs behind my head!”). When I set out to become a yoga and meditation teacher my primary goal was to provide free classes for people in palliative care. I am excited to be talking to a Refugee charity and a hospice about putting together free one to one classes for their service users. Teaching classes outside of that has just been a sweet bonus.
The message behind Snugg Yoga is that it is:
- Affordable - free or PWYC (Pay What You Can) with donations going to a diverse range of charities.
- Inclusive - everyone is welcome, working with charities has not only allowed me to raise much needed funds for charities in need, particularly during lockdown (Stonebridge City Farm, When You Wish Upon A Star, PASIC, Forever Stars, ) but it has also enabled me to invite the service users and staff of those charities to attend the classes free of charge (Refugee Roots, The Black LGBTQIA+ Therapy Fund, Nottingham Women’s Centre, Nottinghamshire Hospice, Macmillan Cancer, Notts Hospitals Charity and PANDAS) this has really helped Snugg Yoga to achieve a more diverse audience - this is something that will persist and I won’t rest until I have a class that has true representation.
- Attainable, fun and soothing - I have always said that in a Snugg Yoga class it is highly likely that I’ll be one of the first to topple and that I am learning right alongside my students and will never stop learning, I offer modifications for those who want to go more or less challenging, the classes are great fun and not too serious and they offer a sense of calming and community to help to relieve anxiety.
Sustainability is an interesting one, and a message that I want to focus on once I go back to teaching again in real life - in parks or a sustainable space with ethically sourced equipment and refreshments. I’m on it!
Tell me about a particular highlight you’ve had with Snugg Yoga? What are you most proud of?
I have been really fortunate and had some incredible opportunities since being in isolation including working with Asylum seekers and refugees and providing lessons for charity festivals, a particular highlight was receiving a letter from someone who said that their Snugg Yoga class was a lifeline, offering them something to look forward to at a time when they felt highly anxious, upset and stressed. I also felt privileged to be able to offer free yoga and meditation for NHS staff and other key workers - they have given so much and just being able to help them in any way has been rewarding.
Has COVID-19 impacted on your business / your way of working at all?
Completely, I have gone from teaching in studios and to businesses in their workspaces to teaching wholly online. The people attending my classes have changed too. At the start the goal was fitness and general wellbeing, but once COVID-19 hit a lot of people wanted to join to not only ease their anxiety but also to be a part of a community at a time when many felt isolated. That is why it was important for me to offer classes for free for the first three months of lockdown and then on a PWYCan basis (with 10% going to a nominated charity each week) after those first three months.
All the charities I have worked with have been affected during lockdown and the charity classes, which in the first three months, delivered free yoga with a donation encouraged to a different charity each week, have been really popular - my biggest class had 33 people sign up! It is through these charities that I have taken part in online festivals (Forever Stars) Refugee Week (Refugee Roots), delivered chair yoga and mindfulness for carehomes and private one to one online classes.
As lockdown extends I'm continuing to offer classes on a PWYC basis as I cannot justify charging regular prices when so many people have been furloughed or let go and I wouldn’t want to. It is so much more important that people attend the classes than be missed because they couldn’t afford the class. Everyone is welcome regardless.
Credit: Angela Shepherd (@angela_luci_shepherd)
What advice would you give for other mothers who are considering starting their own business?
I haven’t met a mother yet who doesn’t realise how special she really is. So I would say value yourself. This is advice that is, of course, easier said than done, but there are ways in which you may be able do this:
- Find free courses to enhance your education, to give you the confidence to speak up (Open University has lots of great online courses such as starting your own business).
- Don’t apologise for wanting to speak up, try and avoid starting an email with ‘no worries if not but…’, and don’t undersell yourself for fear of asking seeming too cheeky.
- Make diversity a value for your company, don’t be afraid to change your opinion when faced with new information and finally value and support community. When I first started to grow, my outreach goal was growing my social media channels, but my most loyal customers are those on my own doorstep, people from local businesses and charities that I have worked with who now join my classes every week.