This is nice. Really, really nice.
It’s a beautiful spring morning in the North East. The sun is streaming through the windows and the sky is a deep blue. A dozen of us are sitting together at a long table, passing along a huge bowl of bircher muesli and serving coffee from a large flask. There’s a natural relaxed feel. I don’t know these people. They don’t all really know each other. It doesn’t matter. We’re sharing breakfast together. We’re chatting and laughing and eating and drinking together. We’re relaxing after the yoga class we have all just attended upstairs. It’s Barbara’s birthday and she’s choosing to spend it here with us. ‘What better way to start the day!’ she says with a big smile on her face. She means it. She wouldn’t be here otherwise.
The setting is perfect. We’re in the Old Low Light on North Shields Fish Quay, which began life as a lighthouse and today is suffused with natural light. The centre has a café, gift shop, maritime heritage gallery, viewing platform and a packed programme of activities and events. Over the years, the River Tyne has sustained a whole community here. Now the Old Low Light maintains a community focus. The cafe has a wonderful warm buzz. There’s a guy on guitar outside, even at 11 in the morning.
The yoga space is in the gallery. The paintings on the wall inspire and uplift. The class was a 1 hour 45 minute Ashtanga Style class. Liz Watson is a qualified Ashtanga yoga teacher registered with Yoga Alliance UK. Her teaching has evolved into what she describes as an Ashtanga mix. Her classes are based on the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series, but she will deviate at times and include other yoga poses. She likes to focus on different areas of the body for a few weeks at a time. This session is all about hamstrings and hips.
Liz actually started out at an Iyengar yoga class 14 years ago. A couple of years later, she attended a more dynamic class and was totally hooked. She was soon practising regularly.
The strapline on her website Liz Yoga is:-
Make time for yourself; make time for yoga
This is what she did. Yoga became for her a whole mind and body workout, which kept her balanced as life rushed around her. She decided to take a Union Yoga teacher training course with Brian Cooper and Nichi Green and has been teaching classes regularly for the last seven years. In January 2013, she moved with her family from Cheshire to Tynemouth. She didn’t know anyone at all. She needed to find a yoga community – or build one – that went beyond just teaching or attending classes.
After building up some regular weekly classes, Liz decided to start this yoga breakfast once a month.
‘I found I couldn’t commit to a regular Saturday morning class, so instead I put on a once a month class. I wanted to make it a bit different so I decided to combine two of my passions – yoga and baking – and give people an opportunity to chat after class.’
Liz prepares all the breads and energy balls and muesli herself. It’s all healthy and delicious. She’s built lasting relationships with those that attend. Friendships are forged over breakfast.
Lucy and James have been attending Liz’s classes on a Monday night for the last three years. They were already running and were looking for something a bit aerobic and strengthening. They appreciate how Liz mixes it up a bit and never delivers exactly the same class twice. And they like this opportunity to meet with others and share with others on a Saturday morning. It’s becoming a family affair too as Liz’s daughter Louise, who is just starting her own yoga teacher training, regularly helps out with the breakfast.
It’s all about creating connections. Lasting connections. Many yoga classes are fairly anonymous. You can walk in, do your practice and walk out again without speaking to a single person. Some people like that. That’s what some people are looking for. But for many of us, it’s good to connect with others who appreciate the benefits of yoga. To chat with like-minded people for a while before we each return to our separate lives. Liz values this opportunity to connect with her students once a month over breakfast. It’s a precious time of sharing food and sharing lives.
‘I really like the fact that I know more about my students and can ask how their wedding plans/house renovation/recent trips/family are going and I think it’s important that they also know a bit more about me and my family. I love living up here, many of my students have become friends and the yoga has helped me feel grounded and settled so quickly.’
I leave feeling refreshed and content. I have met with myself on the mat and others over breakfast. I like this combination. I want to do it again.
I’m really attracted by the idea of Liz Yoga on the beach too. The beach at King Edwards Bay, Tynemouth, is stunning. Yoga on the beach there sounds amazing. It’s a short 45-minute session where Liz leads the practice. The sessions are free and you bring your own mat or towel to practise on. See Liz’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages for more details.
I may well see you there!