Being a Yoga Teacher was Not my Goal, Yet Here I Am

Originally an adrenalin junkie and hard core fitness trainer, Katy Stepto became a yoga instructor after life threw a few curveballs her way.

From a young age I have always loved any sort of sport and exercise so when it was time to go to university, it was a no brainer that I chose a degree in the science and management of health and fitness. Following university I worked in health clubs designing and managing their fitness departments. I also taught a variety of classes from body combat to spinning. These classes always gave me a huge rush. I loved the hard work involved. It was the pumping heart and adrenaline that I got from high intensity exercise that made it my favourite way to exercise and train.

After a fair few years in the health and fitness industry, I decided to make a career change. I joined the Metropolitan Police Service in London where I became a police detective. This required me to work long hours but I always relied on exercise and would hit the gym as a way of de-stressing from my day. In fact if I didn’t exercise for a few days I would feel very agitated and unable to concentrate.

It was in those years around joining the police force that I developed kidney problems. Doctors took years to diagnose but the outcome was a rare kidney disorder whereby my kidneys produced kidney stones very often and I would have to suffer the pain regularly. This did not help with my exercise regime. As the years went by, my kidney condition got worse so I decided I would try a different sort of exercise. It was approximately 10 years ago that I walked into my first yoga class in a gym at Wimbledon, London.

To say I felt out of place would be an understatement. It was slow and involved lots of breathing but then half way through the class we were told to do handstands. Yes handstands! I was one of the youngest in the class and when I looked around and saw that I was the only one struggling, I couldn’t believe it. The strength it required with balance and concentration was something I just didn’t have. I attended a few classes and met a few friends. Still, the only reason that I really attended was for the social coffee that always took place after the class.

Setting fear aside and conquering a handstand.

Setting fear aside and conquering a handstand.

Around a year later, I had my first son and gave up all exercise. I was just so tired and lacked any motivation. I said would get back into it when my eldest was sleeping through the night but by the time this happened I was on to my second son and was even more tired. I lived on sugar, was overweight and couldn’t think about exercise. When my sons were aged three and 18 months we moved to Singapore and after the first year of being there, I fell pregnant with my daughter and continued not to exercise. By the time she was born I was desperate to get back into what I had always loved and used to be an integral part of my life – exercise!

I started running and the adrenaline and affection I always had for exercise came flooding back. I was starting to feel myself again! Hitting the roads with my music, switching off and forgetting about everything else for that bit of time was exhilarating. I just wanted to keep moving. But a couple of months later, while on a family holiday to Vietnam,  I fell and ruptured the ligaments in my knee. Four full knee reconstructions later, I was advised not to run again. This was, of course, devastating because, after so many years, getting back into high intensity workouts was just what I needed. I had to find something else.

After the first 2 reconstructions I noticed that a new yoga studio in my local area had just opened. A good friend of mine had already attended a few classes there and I promised her that as soon as I could walk, I would attend a class. A few months later I was well into my physiotherapy so I decided to go and try it out. I walked into class not having a clue what I had gotten myself into or how yoga would slowly start to change my life.

I felt different. Taller would be a good way to describe a little of the feeling. I was definitely calmer in all ways, from dealing with my children and husband to general daily activities. My atress levels were a lot lower, I wasn’t worrying as much and I realised that my energy was precious. Wasting it by being angry and frustrated was just doing more harm than good. I felt different, my mood changed and in a good way.

Six months after starting, I was a regular at the yoga studio and when my teacher went to New York for a month to do some teacher training, I suddenly felt a bit lost. I decided to sign up for a 50 hour self practice course. When I embarked on my course it certainly wasn’t with the intention of becoming a qualified yoga teacher. Two days in to the course and I decided to continue my training and complete the 200hrs of teacher training.

It took me a while to tell people that I was a yoga teacher when people asked what I did. In my head, I was still a police detective and the attachment to that title was very strong. Over time and through learning about yoga and being a yoga teacher, I have learned that attachments are not a positive thing and it’s important to learn to let go. Although I’m a qualified teacher I will always be a pupil. You never stop learning through yoga and not just the physical aspects but the emotional and spiritual. You find a genuine way of living your life. The way you respond to others on a daily basis and how you feel able to help others by offering a bit of calmness and support in their busy, crazy lives puts some perspective on how important their own lives are. Sometimes the lesson is learning how to slow down a little.

 Although I am qualified teacher, for me it’s about being able to give back a little. Teaching takes passion and a commitment to help and nurture others. It is the desire to bring out the best in other people. It has nothing to do with how amazing your own asana practice is. A great teacher doesn’t have to have an awesome asana practice. A great teacher teaches you to realise that you are awesome already.

When I first walked into that first yoga class after being told that I couldn’t run, I was unable to even touch my toes. The more I practised, the more I realised that the practice is about letting go of attachments and expectations while trusting that a higher power guides my life. Now don’t be put off by my comment, it’s not religious it’s simply a way of expressing that sometimes you feel that things are out of your own hands.

Whether you believe in any sort of religion or fate doesn’t matter when it comes to yoga.

It is about taking that time for yourself, closing off everything around you and just learning to be centred and present in the moment and certainly being proud of yourself for investing that time in yourself. I’ve learned that to do yoga, you need to be flexible in body and mind. Being flexible means being adaptable, being open and vulnerable one moment while being strong and setting boundaries the next. This is only possible through complete surrender.

Since moving to Sydney I haven’t yet found a regular studio to practice at or a teacher to learn from, however, while I may be not be doing as much yoga as I would like, I know it’s a life long companion. It is something that I can truly say has changed my life in a positive way. Like all things in life until you are ready to make a change, no one can talk you into it. Until you make health and happiness a priority, no one can convince you to take care of yourself and until you truly want to find lasting peace and happiness you won’t be willing to walk the narrow path towards your true self.

Perfecting my headstand in a perfect location.

Perfecting my headstand in a perfect location.

Most of all, have fun with your practice , it doesn’t have to be perfect. Sometimes it is good to just go with the flow, breath and do what comes to mind. Watch my video here.

Images provided by Katy Stepto.

Katy Stepto is your true expat, having lived in the Middle East, Asia and now Australia. A mum of three, she became a yoga devotee and instructor after life threw her a few curveballs. Now based in Sydney, Katy continues her search for yoga bliss. Katy is passionate about yoga, coffee and spending time with her family and friends.
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