Teacher profile: Tara Fraser

Tara Fraser is co-founder of East London studio Yoga Junction, author of five books on yoga and one of the UK's leading teachers. So what led her down the yoga path?

 

 

How did you become interested in yoga?

I went to my first yoga classes with my mum when I was about six years old. It was the "summer of love" and a lot of people were doing yoga!

 

tara fraserArthur Balaskas and John Stirk were experimenting with yoga at this time. I was at school with Nina Balaskas who was the daughter of Arthur and Janet (childbirth and yoga guru).

 

I saw them all standing on their heads at their flat on Parliament Hill Fields and that got me to thinking yoga seemed fun. I carried on with an Iyengar teacher and then went on to train to be a dancer.

 

How long were you practising before you trained as a teacher?

For about 15 years.

 

Which training course did you do and why?

I started teaching because my teacher's car broke down and she was late for the class one evening.

 

People wouldn't dare do that kind of thing nowadays, but at the time it seemed natural, senior students just cover for the teacher when needed!

 

I was teaching for about six years before I took a British Wheel of Yoga Diploma Course.

 

I chose the course because it seemed the longest, most serious one I could find and it included a study of philosophy from a non-sectarian perspective, which was a particular interest of mine. I met some great people on the course and I still work with them today.

 

What type of yoga do you teach and what drew you to this style?

I can't say I teach a particular style of yoga, it has just evolved gradually and I am grateful to the wonderful teachers I have had who have each made their mark on what I do.

 

I guess I am most heavily influenced by the teaching tradition of TKV Desikachar, but I can't say I tow a strict line in any school.

 

I like the approach of adapting yoga to the individual, and the encouragement to students in the West to find a yoga that works I their own cultural context.

 

How do you fit your own practice around your teaching?

This is potentially difficult - I have been helped enormously by a lovely teacher called Sylviane Gianina who helped me evolve yoga as a whole life practice and move from a ‘90 minutes on the mat' mentality to a broader use of yoga in my daily life.

 

I have two children, a partner, a busy yoga centre and a home to run - the opportunities for sitting in isolated splendour practicing asana are very limited!

 

I have learned to practice with children, pets and household chaos around. Two or three 15 minute sessions a day is where I am now and it works for me.

 

I have a teacher who helps me guide my practice and these days I am more interested in pranayama and meditation than major gymnastics.

 

It still feels good to do a full scale asana session from time to time, and no doubt there will be a time in the future where this can be a bigger element in my life - I have to be patient and wait!

 

What do you enjoy about teaching?

It is just a tremendous privilege to be with other people in such an intimate and open space.

 

Teaching yoga allows you to experience being human every day - it is a way of going back to your own source through contact with others. I simply cannot think of a nicer job!

 

What makes a good yoga teacher?

Really good observation skills coupled with empathy, compassion and humour.

 

To you, what are the most important elements of yoga - and what are the challenging elements?

For me, yoga is a way to access a deeper level of self than we are normally taught to recognise.

 

I can see that some people come to this place through bhakti practices and others through the use of their minds and still others through the use of their bodies with asana and pranayama.

 

I am a kinetic type of person; my intelligence lies primarily in my body and this was an easy way for me to start to experience self through asana. The method is not important in itself.

 

The challenge is to use these insights not just in our isolated experience of practice but to integrate them into our daily lives.

 

This is the ultimate challenge - to live life without avidya in the supermarket, on the school run and down the pub!

 

Do you think we give enough time and attention to meditation in the UK?

No, but that is ok. You have to start where you are at. You can't run before you can walk and you can't meditate easily if you come from a materialistic culture obsessed with youth and the body beautiful. You just have to start somewhere and see where it takes you.

 

The boom in yoga asana will eventually lead to a lot more meditation going on in the West, but it has to grow from the roots up, not be slapped on top like makeup to hide a bad complexion!

 

Do you think yoga will continue to grow in the West?

I am amazed that yoga has really become so integrated in the UK, it is wonderful.

 

It is so normal and unremarkable that it will be like cycling or walking - accepted as part and parcel of a good lifestyle. Much in the same way that the British attitude to food has changed beyond recognition since the 1950's.

 

I think the big boom in yoga has probably levelled off and it is now down to the steady work of good teachers all over the country to help people develop and grow through yoga.

 

There is still some way to go in helping everybody who wants to do it gain access to yoga. More for children, more in healthcare, more for the elderly, more to help people with mental health problems.

 

Is it feasible to earn a reasonable salary as a yoga teacher in the UK?

Well, that depends what you think of as reasonable! Despite being a reasonably ‘successful' yoga teacher I have only ever earned a very modest income.

 

I have to say that this has not been a priority for me and I have made choices that were not financially beneficial but that I have found very rewarding in other ways.

 

If you are considering giving up your full time job to teach yoga I think you have to realise that you will be dropping to a very basic level of income - but that you will also have a wonderful lifestyle, simple and uncluttered.

 

What advice do you have for someone currently training, or considering it as a future career?

Let it grow organically for you. You don't have to drop everything and teach 15 classes a week. Do one or two and see how you like it.

 

Enjoy your work. Always maintain your own practice and your own teacher - you are always a student, no matter how much you teach.

 

 

Tara Fraser is founder of www.yogajunction.co.uk and author of five books on yoga: Yoga for You, Easy Yoga Workbook, Astanga Yoga for You, Live Better: Yoga and Yoga Bliss.

 

The picture shows Tara with her son, Milo.

 

 

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