Meet Harriet McAtee and Theo Wildcroft

Meet Harriet McAtee and Theo Wildcroft

Tell us a bit about yourself… 

Harriet: I’m a yoga teacher, yoga educator and writer based in Oxford, UK. I’ve been practicing yoga for around 20 years and teaching for 10 years this year! I run Nourish Yoga Training, an online training and CPD school which focuses on delivering inclusive, joyful and person-centred courses. I currently teach a 300 hour program, Pregnancy & Postnatal Yoga teacher training, plus various CPDs and workshops. My teaching emphasises empowering students to embrace and nourish their bodies and minds, with a focus on embodied movement, cultivating intuition and fun. I relish the opportunity to make practice matter in everyday life through social justice & making yoga accessible and inclusive.

Theo: Theo Wildcroft, PhD a teacher, writer and scholar working for a more sustainable relationship between our many selves, the communities that hold us, and the world that nourishes us. Her research considers the democratization of yoga post-lineage, and meaning-making in grassroots communities of practice. She’s a lover of vulnerable people, of wild things and wild places, and of the simple miracle of life itself. Countless people have downloaded her yoga nidras, which are profound but gentle, take you on unexpected journeys, and are always spontaneously created. Drop in and listen for real. 

What does a typical day look like for you? 

Harriet: With my partner I have a 3 year old border collie called Loki, so my days are usually bookended by a long walk to give him exercise and enjoy some fresh air. Aside from my standing appointments with Loki, every day looks a little bit different – I usually find some time for reading, various bits of admin or course preparation/writing, or supporting students. I try to connect with colleagues and friends in the industry wherever I can, even if it’s just a 5 minute chat or a longer coffee (Theo and I are in touch most days!). I usually practice or teach towards the late afternoon/evening, even if that practice is just a five minute pause, or rolling around on my floor. I’m expecting my first baby in June 2024, so my days are about to look very different indeed!!

Theo: My days are also bookended by walks with our rescue greyhound, Storm. He’s a sociable boy, so how long we walk for depends on how many friends he bumps into. Then mostly he, my partner and I all work from home, so it’s back to my desk for writing, planning, admin and teaching, mostly for the Open University. Most of my yoga-related events and tutorials are in the evenings or weekends, so a couple of times a month you’ll also find me dropping in online or in person for training courses of some kind. Like Harriet, I also have a lot of meetings, conversations and catch ups, although as I also try only to work with people I like, that’s nowhere near as boring as it might sound! After so many years of feeling like I had to stick to a formal, regular discipline, I am a lot more relaxed about when and how I practice these days. But most days involve some form of self-care and play, whether that’s a swim, 15 minutes of pranayama or standing on one leg while brushing my teeth. I’m working with the most amazing Ayurvedic doctor at the moment, and there’s always something new she wants me to try. 

How did your yoga journey begin and what inspired you to become a yoga teacher

Harriet: I first found yoga as a 13 year old, drawn to the form of the postures and how they all came together. I practiced on-and-off throughout high school, before cementing my practice at university. I distinctly remember when I decided to embark on my yoga teacher training. It was halfway through the first year of my Masters dissertation, and from the outside, I could have easily been stressed up to my eyeballs balancing all the coursework, research, writing and teaching to which I was committed. Instead, I remember a feeling of serenity, ability and calm. I felt entirely competent and able to juggle the various workloads and deadlines that had been set. I just wasn’t stressed. Sure there was a lot going on (that was obvious to anyone) but I was present, in control and able to handle it. There was (and still is) no doubt in my mind that this was because of my yoga practice. That was my moment of clarity. When I realised that the personal practice I had cultivated throughout the years was something I wanted to share with other people. Because that feeling I had — of calm, centred, self-assurance — that feeling was worth sharing. 

Theo: Yoga was just the thing I kept coming back to, throughout my twenties. For a long time it was just one of a range of practices I was exploring, from dream work to martial arts to dance. Then I dropped into a local Anusara Yoga class and I knew within a month that firstly, this was the most fun I had ever had on a mat and secondly, I wanted to share it with others. The love affair with Anusara was short-lived, but that led me to more and more questions not just about what it means to move, breathe and sit well, but also how innate those capacities are, how we can best cultivate those qualities in others, and how much our wellbeing is a result of luck, good genes, discipline or attitude. These days I’m pretty sure that luck, genetic heritage and privilege largely dictate how far we are able to thrive, but those things are mostly out of our control, and our commitment to yoga – if we define yoga as living consciously and with self-reflection – can still make a lot of difference. I think this is why people from marginalised groups have found their way to what are traditionally elite practices pretty much forever.

What inspired you to specialize in your practice?

Harriet: Whilst I’ve loved guiding over 200 teachers through their 200 hour yoga teacher training over the years, my niche is really in supporting teachers who are already qualified to expand, redefine and reframe their teaching and personal practice of yoga. As I’m known to say, teaching yoga is a weird and wonderful profession, with many potential pitfalls but also some real opportunities for growth, satisfaction and joy. I get most excited by helping teachers consider ways to offer yoga that are inclusive, grounded in community and truly empowering. 

Theo: I think you have to teach what you know, and what makes the difference for you and for the people you care for. Many of us, when we do that, find that there are particular communities we want to work with, and specific offerings we want to make for them. These are the niches in which we shine, and feel most rewarded. Goodness knows, the work can be isolating and exhausting at times, so to really do it long term, it has to be sustainable and make a real difference. For a long time, my main niche was teaching yoga to disabled students, but I began to realise how vital the skills I had were to a much wider population of yoga teachers, which is one way I started to get involved in teacher training. Then I wanted to tell the stories of the yoga teachers I knew, and through a complicated series of events, that led to a PhD project. When I lifted my head at the end of that, it turned out that I knew quite a lot of things that it was useful for yoga teachers to hear, but also I knew a lot of other people I wanted to introduce them to. This book is the next stage in that journey.

How have you seen yoga benefit your students?

Harriet: The feedback and stories that consistently bring me the most joy is when my students tell me they’ve felt able to say no, felt able to adapt or modify, or opt out of a practice entirely because of something we’ve talked about. For me there really aren’t many practices that really enable that journey of self-knowledge or have the potential to promote agency quite like yoga. 

Theo: Like Harriet, it’s always the stories where students are learning agency that really stand out. I had a non-verbal student one day lean forwards, kiss me on the cheek and walk out. To be fair he was full of a cold and he was clearly saying ‘I love doing yoga with you, but not today please’. The other story that fills me with delight is a friend who was at another teacher’s class, and that teacher didn’t really approve of using props, and suggested he do the pose ‘properly’. So my friend went and got more props. I like to ask trainees: ‘When was the last time you walked out of a yoga class?’ We need to get so much better at politely walking away when a practice isn’t serving us.

What is your favorite quote or life motto?

Theo: You can’t ask a writer that! Okay today it would be ‘Fais que ta langue te reste etrangere’, from Helene Cixous, the French philosopher. I’ll let Harriet translate that one!

Harriet: Ha! Well, Theo’s favourite quote is literally translated as “Let your tongue be foreign to you” but it’s about your native language always being something you approach with a sense of curiosity and discernment, which I love. I am similarly having a hard time with this one! But perhaps I can share a snippet of one of moments in poetry, by the Scottish poet Robin Robertson (from The Long Take):

Where has kindness gone,

and tenderness

and gentle hands

inside this fire,

among these many blades?

A reminder that even when it feels like we’re surrounded by the flames and blades of the world, there is still always space for kindness, tenderness, gentleness – still a part of ourselves calling out for softness.

What’s coming up for you in 2024?

Harriet: Aside from the book coming out, I’m also getting married and having a baby this year! So there’s lots to be excited about and focus on. I’m hoping to return to teaching in late 2024, and co-teaching a few online courses with Theo will actually be my first foray back into teaching postpartum! If you’d like to stay in the loop you can check back in with my website/instagram. 

Theo: There’s some nice big things this year: there’s this book coming out, and then preparing to release the next one, which Barbora Sojkova and I just submitted. I’ll be at a few good events this year, including the next YDYS conference in Hamburg and the Brighton Yoga festival. I’ve got a couple of small research projects brewing. I’m giving a lecture for the BWY in March, and running a couple of courses on yoga nidra for Yoga Reading and on neurodiversity for Barefoot Body. Then it’s back with Harriet in the Autumn for some more courses for Nourish. There’s still space in the diary though!

Find out more about Harriet and Theo:


Harriet – @harrietmcatee

Theo – @theodorawildcroft

The post Meet Harriet McAtee and Theo Wildcroft appeared first on Blog – Yogamatters.

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