SS: Your career began earlier than most starting with a period as a ballerina with the Royal Ballet. Can you tell us a bit about this and how you went from centre stage with them to teaching yoga.
NA: I left home to train as a ballet dancer when I was twelve and I can honestly say that this was when I began to meditate. It was a huge upheaval leaving my life in Leicestershire and arriving in a very competitive and unique environment of the Royal Ballet School but this is where I learnt about stillness and breath, and non-attachment. I then joined the Royal Ballet Company aged seventeen and retired four years later with numerous injuries. I was devastated to have my career curtailed but in retrospect it was such a gift. It gave me the freedom to explore the world and dive deep into yoga and by the end of that year I was teaching full time and haven’t looked back since.
SS: What figure or figures have inspired you most in your career?
NA: I see yoga teaching as an exercise of compassion and teaching people a moving prayer. I’ve had some incredible teachers and friends along the way. I was part of a movement in Canada exploring ways of teaching hot yoga safely and a real pioneer Ted Grand (founder of Moksha yoga) was a huge inspiration. I loved being part of the first rebel hot yoga gang and met some incredible teachers and friends in this process. During this period (early noughties) I did a few workshops with Dharma Mittra and had a beautiful experience in his presence, I felt my internal lights switch on in such a profound way. This really inspired me to stay on this path. I don’t subscribe to a guru and believe strongly in the guru in everyone. I quietly keep practicing in my small community and by myself and find myself learning so much everyday. Saying that I’ve had some wonderful guidance from Bo Forbes and she’s the only person I’ve ever assisted in workshops. I love what she does and her passion to understand the neuroscience in yoga. She’s a real scientist but such a kind person and teaches self care in a clever and compassionate way. I am so grateful to all the yoga teachers at YOTL for sharing their teaching, I am so inspired by each one for their unique way of teaching.
SS: And in life?
NA: It’s all the same to me. My husband is the most wonderful, humble, generous, loving person and inspires me every day. My toddler is courageous, terrified, energising, exhausting and is ultimate zen master, she teaches me so much and I feel lucky to be on this life journey with them both.
SS: Wife, mother, teacher, studio director: how do you keep everything together and balanced in your life?
NA: I have a wonderful supportive partner. That’s huge. He’s always there championing me, inspiring me to fulfil my dreams. I practice yoga and meditate every day (even if it’s only 30 minutes) and that always gives me what I need. I also know how to turn the radio up and do some serious kitchen disco dancing to let off some steam.
SS: What are the non-negotiables for a happy you?
NA: I’m a simple creature really. A hot bath, good food, enough love. That’s all I need.
SS: Your favourite place in London?
NA: If I have a day for me I want to head to one of the many London parks. I recently went to Hyde Park and saw the fantastic Hilma af Klint: Painting the Unseen exhibition at the Serpentine. That’s my perfect combination; green space and culture!
SS: The world?
NA: I love the New Forest with its Wild Ponies. I also adore Cornwall. David and I ran our first retreats together nearby and we always go after to wind down. It’s a place I associate with us coming together, being a team, making things happen. It makes me feel so spacious, calm but also inspired. I find myself making great plans when walking on Watergate Bay beach.
SS: When are you at your happiest / happiest memory?
When we opened the studio and people came. That felt pretty amazing. Our wedding day though would have to be the happiest day. Looking out to a room full of love. Magical, just so special. I am just home from a week in Formentera with my family and I was so surprised but it was the most relaxing week a trois. Beach time, reading, lots of delicious Spanish food and early nights. Bliss.
SS: Where do you go / what do you do when you are in need of inspiration?
NA: We live near Springfield park and I love it there. I walk down the Lea valley a lot and find the diversity of the marshes and inspiring place to be and feel wild. I also love galleries, a favourite trip for me is Borough market then walk along the river to the Tate modern and then I can while away an afternoon. I still love dance and although I don’t see as much as I used to I still always feel so inspired whenever I’m around live art. I am very lucky to know some very talented people.
SS: Favourite song?
Time After Time, Cyndi Lauper.
SS: And finally what is your idea of the perfect Shanti Sunday?
NA: I teach on Sundays. I do love them. For me teaching is such a gift so I’d have to say my classes and then a gorgeous picnic in the sunshine with friends.