Ethanie is a yoga teacher, freelance writer, and the director of a Special Needs company called The Inclusion Project, which focuses on community inclusion for all. But her most important role came in 2020 when, during the pandemic, she became a mother to her son.
Ethanie has been practising yoga for over 20 years, teaching since 2019, and was a mentor on Anna Ashby and Tony Watson’s Triyoga Teacher Training in 2022/23. Her teaching has evolved just as much as her practice, with her focus being on sharing Yoga for Special Needs, Yoga for BackCare and Restorative Yoga.
Tell us about your yoga journey
I was 14 when I first tried postural yoga. My mum had bought Penny Smith’s Power Yoga on VHS and I remember enjoying the synergy between breath and movement within sun salutations, and the rhythmic and expansive sensation of ujjayi breathing. It was something new, it was something different and I loved it. The only negative was forgetting to rewind the tape ready for the next time I would practise!
It took me a few years to experience an in-person class. But I remember that feeling of being in a room (school hall) full of people, all there sharing space but very much on individual paths.
But it was during my final year of university that I truly found my yoga practice. My mental health was suffering and yoga helped me find a stillness – an inner quiet I so desperately needed. The ‘fluctuations of the mind’ would pause, I would get respite even for just that hour.
In 2019 I trained with Triyoga in London and had the pleasure and good fortune to study with Anna Ashby and Tony Watson for the 350 hour Teacher Training. I continued studying with Anna on her Restorative Teacher Training, then went on to study with Anji Gopal on her Yoga for BackCare Teacher Training, and am continuing my studies in Special Needs Yoga with Jyoti Jo Manuel.
I will forever be a student of yoga.
I always say yoga goes beyond the mat, but it’s a great place to start.
What kind of yoga teacher would you say you are?
Inclusive. I always turn up with an intention to bring loving kindness, humility, and the openness to trust in whatever shows up on the mat (or in some cases, the blanket).
When I first started teaching I was offering weekly Hatha classes and a monthly Restorative extended practice. That balance shifted to being more weighted towards a Restorative offering.
This year, my teaching has completely changed, as has my own practice. I went through 2 traumatic experiences at the beginning of the year and so I reduced my offerings so that I could heal. I needed to be able to show-up for myself just as I do for those trusting me to hold space for them.
Many of my students are vulnerable, with varying and complex needs, so I aim to lead with an abiding sense of calm; to self-regulate through the breath, so that others may follow my lead.
How has your yoga evolved?
Over the years my own practice has gone through an evolution, a reflection of what I’ve needed at the time. From Vinyasa and Ashtanga to Iyengar, Hatha and Restorative.
I like to explore; I’m inquisitive, and love learning and unearthing new pathways in my practice.
I also suffer from lower back pain, something which started in 2018 after an awkward fall whilst playing basketball (probably my body telling me to stick to netball). So, my practice is gentle and nourishing. Often there’s more stillness than movement, especially this year.
Has your own practice changed as a result of any additional teacher training?
In short, yes. In fact all of my trainings have impacted me beyond ‘Ethanie the teacher’:
Restorative Yoga Teacher Training 1 with Anna Ashby and Chris Swain. A 33 hour programme. I also highly recommend Anna’s book if you’ve not already got that in your collection. (https://www.mission-e1.com/laying-foundation-rtt)
Yoga for BackCare with Anji Gopal (https://www.yogacampus.com/courses/specialist-training-courses/yoga-for-back-care-4-day-teacher-training-1)
Special Yoga with Jyoti Jo Manuel https://www.specialyoga.co.uk/
What has been your biggest challenge as a yoga teacher?
When I was interviewed for the Triyoga Teacher Training I was asked if I was ready to potentially fall out of love with yoga. I was told that there’s a real difference between being a student of yoga and being a teacher of yoga. It has forever stuck with me.
Though I’ve never fallen out of love with yoga, I fully understand the question. Yoga can bring many things to the surface, and some things that you might not be ready for. And when you’re the teacher, you are saying to people that they are safe in your presence, that’s quite the weight.
When I first started teaching I felt like I needed to teach as much as possible. My own practice took a back seat, and I felt it. I had to find a balance, and I often need to re-evaluate that balance.
I also think there’s still work to be done to make sure yoga is inclusive and accessible to all people. Still, on many occasions I can be the only Black person in a class.
Yoga is for everyone, and yet we (practitioners, teachers, holders of yoga spaces) have work to do in ensuring it’s presented as such.
What a joy it would be to have yoga reaching those that don’t feel like they can enjoy a class due to their race, physical, learning or mental ability, how they identify, sexual preference, orientation, their financial means and more, so much more. To be able to experience a practice that feels welcoming and safe no matter where you are in your life, or who you are, or your background. What. A. Joy.
How do you go about recommending yoga?
Would it shock you if I say I don’t, or at least not to the extent I used to. When my husband would be under a lot of stress I would say, “hey, you need yoga.” When my mum was suffering from frozen shoulder I would say, “hey, yoga will help with that.” When my cousin, who is an avid reader, was talking to me about wanting to learn more about Sanskrit I would say, “hey, come to yoga with me.”
But, after a while – many years in fact – I stopped recommending yoga. I now just talk of my yoga experience; how yoga has helped me physically, mentally and emotionally. Yoga will be there when people are ready. It’s my job to let people know that yoga is so much more than the shapes they so often see presented in those little square boxes on social.
What does a day in the life of Ethanie look like?
No two days are alike. There’s some routine, especially when it comes to my son. But my days can vary; meetings, looking after the day-to-day running of The Inclusion Project, teaching, studying, writing content, going to the gym – I’ve recently got into weight training, which has helped to build muscle and strength in my back and supported my yoga practice.
My husband, Simon, and I both work from home, directing the company he started in 2016. On some days we work very closely together, meeting with parents who are looking for a service for their son or daughter, as well as liaising with Local Authorities, colleges and businesses.
On other days we are focusing on very different aspects of the business. My background is in marketing and Simon’s is as Grade 1 SEN Teacher. So, we bring different expertise to the service.
What is your favourite quote or life motto?
“Your crown has been bought and paid for. Put it on your head and wear it.” – Maya Angelou.
I come from a long line of brilliant, courageous and inspiring women. I have this quote printed and framed, it acts as a powerful reminder that many people have paved the way for me; enabling me to be who I am and where I am today. It also reminds me that I too am to pave the way for those that come after me.
What’s coming up for you in 2023 / 24?
I’m excited to be joining the Yogamatters community, and feel fortunate that I can continue studying. I recently moved house so I’m keen to grow my own veg, and enjoy spending time with my family making our house a home.
Teaches in Hertfordshire as well as online.