Name: Sarah McFadden
Studio: I’m new to the Christchurch yoga scene, having only moved back here from the UK three months ago. I have a brand new online yoga video programme available, so that, and details of where I’ll eventually be teaching in-person classes can be found on my website.
Years teaching: 5.5
Years practicing: 13
Favourite yoga style: I have two that I love equally, Flow and Restorative

Favourite asana at the moment?
Supta Baddha Konasana in the restorative form – with your back resting on a partially elevated bolster and legs opening onto blankets for maximum comfort and support. It’s so delicious!

What advice would you give someone who is new to yoga?
Well, one of the most common misconceptions I hear from people is that they are not ‘flexible enough to do yoga’. It breaks my heart. We’re not doing a great job as an industry if this is the belief that stops people from trying yoga in the first place.

But it’s not that surprising many people come to believe it! If you’ve only seen yoga in the media, you’re likely to be seeing very deep expressions of postures, often shot in glamorous locations. This is not exactly the typical yoga experience! Though some of these images can offer inspiration in some aspects, they don’t portray the inclusiveness of yoga in its true sense.

So my advice is (not just to beginners but to everyone really, because often people have been practicing for a long time may still not have come to this understanding) – know that yoga is for EVERYBODY. Additionally, it really doesn’t matter what form your yoga takes, what the poses looks like, what clothes you’re wearing, or whether you have a fancy yoga mat.

And in relation to so-called flexibility …
Please know that there will always be people in class who can move their body in ways maybe you cannot, but this doesn’t matter. Nothing much useful comes from comparing yourself to others. Instead it’s the approach to your practice that is key. So practice with an open, enquiring mind. Just enjoy the feeling of being a beginner and the opportunity to embrace new experiences!

Understand that the commitment of showing up on your mat, respecting your body and its unique boundaries, paying attention to your breath and being present in each moment is far more important than whether you can hold a perfect balancing pose!

What have you been reading, watching, listening to lately that inspires you?
I love J.Brown’s – Yoga Talks podcast – it’s full of illuminating conversations about the yoga world right now.

Big shout out also, to the amazing work of Alexandria Crow. She’s doing great work challenging the mainstream yoga expectations and trying to make the practice more inclusive and approachable for everyone.

Right now I’m reading Intelligent Yoga by Pete Blackaby. It’s a truly wonderful book about yoga and life.

Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?
Yoga has taught me so much about the interconnection between everyone and everything. I now see this interconnection clearly, and it influences how I live my life, and the choices I make each day. This has gradually evolved into a little mantra I try to live by: “Compassion for all beings and care for the environment.”

What’s the most exciting thing about the yoga world right now?
I love seeing that more and more people are coming to try the practice. Mostly it’s in asana classes of course, and this can be a great starting point. Even the simple experience of being more present and aware of our bodies can be super transformative and a wonderful gift for many people.

What troubles you most about your industry?
Actually, it’s linked to the above point. Sure, it’s great that many more people are getting some yoga in their life, however, I feel we could be doing a better job in the way we teach, to make the practice more inclusive and accessible, and more accepting of variations to suit a broader audience.

In many vinyasa flow classes for example, I often see a tendency towards excessive repetition of some postures (commonly it’s the vinyasa itself – ie. chaturanga and upward facing dog) and encouragement towards extreme ranges of movement.

But awareness of the downsides to extreme ranges of movement and excessive focus on increasing flexibility in yoga is growing! So that’s encouraging! Even in just the past year, I’ve seen a lot of positive change happening and it’s great to see the message spreading more widely by many people doing incredible work in the accessibility realm.

And my approach to teaching a vinyasa flow style has changed with these new understandings too. Over the last few years I’ve refined my teaching to include more variations, more use of props, more self-inquiry as to what feels appropriate for each individual, and less of a one-right-way mentality. I believe we need to ensure we’re moving in a way that maintains the integrity of our own body structure, as it is right now, and also with consideration for the long-term.

And because we’re all different – in our skeletal and muscular systems, in our postural habits, in our lifestyles – there cannot be one version of the practice or a pose that suits us all.

What’s one thing you do on a less than awesome day to stay positive?
Ensure I get some exercise. The endorphins exercise brings, and the experience of being very present in my body during it helps me feel better.

How do you replenish your bod after a day of teaching?
One way is by ensuring my evening meal is full of vegetables! As it’s summer right now I’m enjoying this seasons selections of fruit and veg. Avocado, peppers, beans, tomatoes, corn, cucumber, summer salad leaves etc. I try as much as possible to eat seasonally, and mostly organic and locally sourced food, so that the impact I have with my food choices supports more growth in sustainable agriculture, which we need in order to feed the world in a less exploitative way.

Another, is doing a restorative yoga practice. The stillness and quiet after a day of giving away of lot of my energy helps rebalance and restore me!

Do you meditate daily?
I aim for a daily practice, but it doesn’t always happen. On average I’m a 5-day a week meditator (with my seated meditation practice at least). Some days it is a pleasure to be still and I don’t want to stop. On others it’s more a battle with my mind to stick with it. But I try to embrace the challenge as well, knowing that I’m building a habit that supports me in so many ways.

What do you love about your part of town?
I was living in London for 12 years before moving back to Christchurch (where I’m from originally), so I am appreciating the smaller population and less of that hustle vibe of the city here.

At the moment I’m living in the St Martins area of Christchurch. It’s nestled at the bottom of the Port Hills, and it’s lovely having hill walks so close and accessible. Our street is lined with trees and I love that too. Urban nature is so important for living more in harmony with our environment.

Thank you so much, Sarah!

Would you like to be a Featured Yogi? We’d love to know more about you! Or is there someone you’d like to nominate … another teacher, a stupendous student? Getting to know our fellow yogis creates connection. We like that. Get in touch here.

© The Yoga Connection 2020