Over the past year, I’ve immersed myself in the transformative world of yoga at Shimi’s Yoga in Al Serkal – renowned for its incredible ensemble of talented and dedicated yoga instructors. As part of my personal commitment to my wellness, I made a personal pledge to incorporate yoga prominently into my daily life, and I’m proud to say that I’ve consistently practised at least three times a week for over a year. This unwavering commitment was fueled by the nurturing and supportive instructors I’ve had the privilege of learning from.
Among them, Lauren Anne stands out as a source of inspiration. Her comforting and motivational words at the beginning and conclusion of every yoga session have served as my guiding light, especially during trying times. Whether grappling with work challenges, personal dilemmas, or family concerns, her sessions provided the sanctuary I sought. On countless occasions, I entered the studio burdened with overwhelming thoughts, only to depart feeling revitalized, equipped with solutions, and invigorated to face the day ahead.
As the months rolled on, Lauren transitioned from being merely my yoga instructor to a cherished friend instrumental in my personal growth. My inaugural yoga retreat experience, under her watchful eye, was nothing less than enchanting. This retreat wasn’t just a pursuit of yoga and tranquillity; it doubled as a splendid celebration of my sister Zeina’s milestone 40th birthday. Amidst the camaraderie of dear friends and sisters, and under Lauren’s compassionate guidance, this journey encapsulated moments of pause, introspection, personal evolution, and pure joy. Every second was infused with Lauren’s magic touch, making it indelibly memorable. Such experiences have solidified my resolve to integrate these retreats into my annual self-care routine.
It is with great pleasure that I introduce Lauren Anne! xxx
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and share with us how your journey as a yoga instructor began? What inspired you to embark on this path?
It was a little unexpected but when I look back the dots connect and I feel like I’m where I should be now. Back in 2016, I was Director of a private members’ club and felt myself unraveling so I left that role and decided to recharge at a fitness camp in Thailand. It just so happened there was yoga at the end of every day and no matter how I felt going into the class I always left feeling better; feeling like I could do anything. When I got back I tried teaching but was quickly pulled back into corporate only to find myself back in a Director role at a private members’ club a few years later in 2020. Once again, the downward spiral began and I didn’t like that version of myself. At the time, the ending of that role felt like my rock bottom but I see now, it was my push into doing what I’m great at and that’s teaching and sharing that feeling at the end of the class I like to call the “magic of yoga.”
Can you share a transformative moment or realisation you had during your journey that helped shape your teaching philosophy?
It was about 18 months into my full time journey of teaching and after class a student said something along the lines of “if this doesn’t work out for you, you could be a motivational speaker” and something clicked. Up until that point when people asked what I did I would respond with “I’m not just a yoga teacher” not seeing quite how detrimental that statement was. When the click happened, I realized not only am I a yoga teacher, I love being one and the fact that I was inspiring people to be the best versions of themselves led me to redefine the word success and what that looked like to me. This has been pivotal in my success and has brought me to a more authentic and powerful version of myself.
Yoga often provides a serene and immersive environment for introspection. How do you encourage your students to connect with themselves on a deeper level through yoga practice?
I am constantly asking my students to check in with themselves, to listen to their bodies and respond in a way that honours what they are doing. Our bodies know so much more and much more quickly than our minds do and when we really start to listen, we connect on a deeper level and act in alignment with what works for us. This often means setting our egos and our judgements aside and even allowing our inner child to shine through so we can practise with more freedom and have fun while doing it.
I have recently been on a retreat with you, which BTW was an amazing experience. What made you decide to organize and lead yoga retreats? How do you believe they enhance the practice and experience for both yourself and your students?
It was such an honour to have you there and I am so grateful for you and the others who put their trust in me when choosing to spend a significant amount of their time and resources to immerse themselves into an experience like this with me. After my moment of realisation we discussed a moment ago, it came with a feeling of confidence that I was ready for the next level. I had done a local retreat before that alongside another yoga teacher and close friend of mine but doing one on my own let alone abroad seemed like a huge feat but the timing felt right and I took the plunge. I saw an interesting retreat on Instagram being done in Socotra by quite a few operators and thought, how easy yet impactful it would be to add yoga to their itinerary. I got in touch with a few of them and eventually decided to go ahead. Let’s just say, if you can pull off a yoga retreat in Yemen with no showers or toilets in most places while the group sleeps in tents, you can pull one off anywhere.
Connecting in a group of people who tend to have an underlying similarity leading them to be there can be life changing. We walk into these retreats with more openness and with an intention to be on a yoga retreat and I think that is what makes it different than just taking a class every day. Here you’re truly and wholeheartedly with the group and with yourself and with an open heart there is so much more room for growth.
As a yoga instructor, what do you hope to achieve through your retreats? Is there a specific intention or message you want to convey to participants?
It’s really about that connection to your heart. To go thinking we need or want one thing and come out the otherside realising it’s something totally different is the most awakening experience and seeing it is an immense honour.
Retreats take a massive amount of confidence and when you see people go on them it’s actually something to be proud of and to admire. These people are putting themselves out there, they are becoming part of a group they don’t fully know and just seeing where the experience leads them, essentially they are being vulnerable and that is a true sign of strength.
How do you go about choosing the location and setting for your yoga retreats? What factors do you consider to create a serene and nourishing environment for your participants?
I like to think I offer a little of the undiscovered with a mix of the more well-known locations. From Socotra, to Nepal to Thailand, for me, who I partner with whether it be a travel operator or a hotel, that is the most integral part to consider. When the hosts have the best interests of the participants at the forefront and are grateful for them being there, the nourishment not only comes from great food but from the energy that surrounds the group and holds them in the highest regard.
Could you describe a transformative experience you witnessed during one of your yoga retreats? How did it impact the individual or group, and what lessons did you take away from that experience?
It was my first experience with someone unsure they wanted to be there and who was thinking of going home early. I really didn’t know how to handle it but that’s where I realised I was going wrong. It wasn’t for me to handle, it was actually for me to hand over to their intuition and so like I do in classes where I ask people to check in, we walked through this process together and discovered the surface was full of fear but that the fear was full of potential and when they decided to stay, they blossomed over the final 2 days and the release of emotion not only from them but the outpouring of love from a group they had originally isolated themselves from was almost overwhelming but in the most beautiful way… I’ll never forget this and it reinforces that you are the ones who have the answers and that only you can make the best decisions for yourselves. It’s all a learning experience and it’s much more beautiful to watch someone empowered to grow from within then someone be pushed to grow from external forces.
As a yoga instructor, you have the opportunity to guide students on their own unique journeys. Is there a particular student or interaction that stands out to you as especially impactful or memorable? How did it inspire you?
Actually, one of my most impactful experiences was with you. I will never forget when you walked out of class with a face full of tears and you told me you weren’t crying because you were sad but because you realised how unbelievably strong you were and in that moment, I cried too. I always see that strength in my students, I see their beauty and I speak with passion because I want them to see it too and when they do… wow, it can be so life changing.
We all have our unique rituals and practices that help us stay grounded. Are there any personal rituals or habits you engage in to maintain balance and inner peace, especially during busy periods or after leading retreats?
Starting my day with gratitude and an intention to ending my day with remembering the highlights and what I learned has made me feel a sense of groundedness I didn’t know I was missing. In class, I always finish with gratitude having everyone take a moment to remind themselves of what they are so very thankful for. I like to say that if you practise anything each day, let it be gratitude… reminding yourself of everything you have and letting go of the have nots.
Yoga often goes hand in hand with mindful eating. How has your personal relationship with food evolved throughout your journey as a yoga instructor?
This has been an intuitive experience for me. Back when I took my yoga teacher training I was restricted from eating things like meat and actually what happened is that I gained weight and lost energy. I don’t believe it was because of meat per se but I do think it was actually because of the stress I felt around food and it was my body’s way of saying it wasn’t right for me at that time. Everybody is different and I really feel our relationship with food is what can shape us. Personally, I love snacks and I don’t always choose the healthiest options but I do find balance in my diet and I enjoy and even crave the nutrients my body requires – again, it’s about listening in and giving my body what it asks for.
Can you share one of your favorite recipes and tell us a little bit about why it’s special to you?
Tacos are nostalgic to me. It was one of my favourite family meals when I was little and I think that’s because there was an element of fun in making them and connection in passing the bowls around to each other. It was a real experience. Today, I absolutely love fish tacos and salmon is definitely my fish of choice so I’m excited to make roasted salmon tacos with you!
Now, full disclosure and I know something many of your viewers may drop their jaws at, but for me, coriander is out. It’s just a flavour I haven’t learned to love and interestingly they say it may actually be genetic where a whopping 10% of the world appears to share this dislike!