Standing 6 foot 4 inches tall, and weighing in at 20 stone, Enrico Tambellini is possibly the biggest yoga teacher in the UK — literally! But this gentle giant remains humble and thankful for every student he has the opportunity to teach
What’s the one thing OM readers need to know about you?
I am arguably one of the ‘biggest’ yoga teachers in the UK — literally! No, not ‘Shiva Rea big’….I mean I am actually 6 foot 4 inches tall, weighing in at 20 stone! Yes, you have read that correctly! As a former firefighter, paramedic and semi-professional triathlete, I understand how life can creep up on you and how your body shape, flexibility and fitness can change over the years. This hasn’t stopped me from teaching a range of yoga classes suitable for people of all abilities, shapes, sizes and levels of flexibility and fitness. I have over 35 years of training and teaching experience in a wide variety of fields from training emergency medical and rescue personnel to teaching yoga and SUP yoga.
What first inspired you to get into yoga?
Yoga has been a part of my life on and off for many years. As well as inspiring me to live more mindfully and in the present, it has helped me grow stronger, more flexible and confident — both on and off the mat. I came back to yoga whilst completing a PhD where my research into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) confirmed that yoga rated highly as a go-to therapy for those suffering from this condition.
What has yoga brought to your life?
For me, yoga is really about the art of opening, peeling away all the layers and getting back to the true self. It brings a calmness into my crazy world. I can forget about problems, I’m better able to deal with life’s challenges. Yoga offers up a way for us to see a world that is working for us instead of against us and reminds us that everything is connected so we must live, act, dance, breathe with awareness. It means I can be more present in my home life; I now honour and listen to my needs.
What can students expect in your classes?
I pride myself on my classic style of teaching, focusing on the breath, with a relaxed and open approach that ensures a lot of enjoyment. My classes, workshops and courses are specifically designed with the ‘average student’ in mind.
In my Yoga for Men classes I prepare students for the scary world of Sweaty Betty and Lululemon. I teach them yoga class etiquette, what to wear (no, guys, some of those shorts are just not appropriate!), perspiration, hand towels, personal hygiene and that it’s okay not to be able to get into Pincha Mayurasana. In the words of T.K.V. Desikachar: “The success of yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships.”
How have you navigated the past year of lockdowns?
With the pandemic, I seamlessly went online and between lockdowns I continued with studio and water classes. As I had been teaching and coaching online, I already had the equipment and tech know-how, so it was an easy transition. It has been an incredible experience to have students join us from around the world from as far as Madeira, Canada and Australia.
I am fortunate to have a fiancé who is also a yoga teacher, so we teach together allowing students a front and side view with feedback from our students saying this is very helpful.
It also allows me to stop and demo as required. I must also give special thanks to all the students who I have taught and who have challenged me during every class they have attended.
What are your plans going forward?
My future classes and workshops are all planned around the pandemic. I will reopen my studio as soon as we are permitted to do so and with summer looming, we will be back on the water running our SUP yoga classes. I am scheduled to run three SUP yoga teacher training courses over the summer that are Yoga Alliance and International SUP Yoga Academy accredited. My Yoga for Men and Healthy Lower Backs classes and workshops have grown from strength to strength and will continue. I will continue with my personal crusade to get more men on the mat and to have yoga recognised as a prescribed form of treatment for patients suffering from a variety of conditions like PTSD and generalised back pain.
Any good life hacks for the rest of us during these strange times?
If I can offer any advice to readers it is firstly to be kind to themselves and others. To take some quiet time, mindfully sitting still, focusing on the breath, reflecting on the day ahead or the day just gone, not being critical of themselves and observing their thoughts.
Quick Q & A
Favourite yoga book?
My favourite spiritual book is Blue Mind by marine biologist Dr Wallace Nichols. As an SUP Yoga teacher I am drawn to the water and its many healing powers. My students say that I have a ‘spiritual connection’ with the water. This book resonates with me on many levels which confirms to me that when I am near water I am in the right place.
Favourite yoga quote?
As a firm believer that yoga is for everybody I love this quote from T.K.V. Desikachar: “The success of yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships.”
Go-to health food?
I am fond of raw vegetables, so when I feel like a snack I enjoy raw carrots or cauliflower. However, when I need something more substantial on the go I resort to Pea Protein as a go to health shake or put it in a smoothie.
If you had to take a yoga class, as a student, with any teacher ever, from any time or place, who would it be with and why?
David Sye. He is by no means a traditional yogi and considered the ‘bad boy’ of yoga by some. As a keen dancer, particularly of Salsa, I enjoy the movement and rhythms of dance which links into David’s Yoga Beats style.