You can practice with Isabel Lankester in our Yoga at Home sequence each month. Here, she tells OM a little more about her own yoga backstory and how the practice reminds us how we are all perfectly imperfect!
How did you first get into yoga?
I first found yoga whilst living in London. A great friend of mine had just qualified as a teacher and she was giving a small group of us 1-2-1 sessions. I became completely hooked after feeling the mental benefits of the practice; it made me stronger in body and mind. It has also helped to provide a strong sense of balance in my life. I often rely on my practice to find my centre, gain perspective and feel gratitude for my own body.
What does yoga give you personally?
A strong connection to my body. I struggled with an eating disorder during my early teens and 20s. Yoga helped me mend a. Rather broken relationship I was having with my body. I am now more nourishing, more compassionate, more loving to my own self when I practice. This, in turn, helps me to teach with the same compassion to my students…we are all walking each other home.
How do you feel before and after a practice?
After I practice – whether it is my physical asana or meditation practice – there is a huge amount of relief associated with how I feel afterwards. My husband can often tell if I have had time on my mat! I can broaden my perspective, rather than rushing; I can yield my body and mind into day-to-day activities. Now, with two small children at home, I often feel grateful for any time on my mat, whether it’s five minutes or 60 minutes.
Any favourite yoga teachers or studios?
I used to practice a lot at triyoga and The Power Yoga Co. In London. This was mainly due to the fact that I was teaching there. My favourite teachers are Mona Godfrey, Naomi Absalom, Jean Hall and Tiffany Cruikshank. However, I have recently moved to the countryside so I now rely on my own self-practice in my own farmhouse studio.
How would you describe your own teaching style?
My practice and teaching integrates movement practices and philosophical teachings. I am often engrossed in non-dualistic, tantric and other modern spiritual texts, and these feed into my own practice and teaching. I focus on leaning into intuition to guide and nourish the body; we look at the journey of the self, over destination. I often remind students that ‘what we are looking for’ lives within us, that we are made inherently whole, in an imperfectly-perfect body, mind and spirit. I believe that through repetition, love and belief we can keep working towards peace and ultimately an essence of freedom. Not only to cherish what we have, but to see the connected relationship between all.
Yoga career highs so far?
Working all around the world, leading retreats and workshops. Teaching philosophy for a yoga studio in south London, and establishing a large on-demand platform and community called ILY (isabellankesteryoga.com) – this is where I now pour my joy, knowledge and continued learning.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started out as a teacher?
That the number of students in your class doesn’t matter; it’s staying true to your own core beliefs that is the key to how you express yourself genuinely on the mat. That burning out and saying ‘yes’ to every offer will not feed your teaching in the long-term. It’s all about quality over quantity.
Any tips for students new to yoga?
Try to keep your eyes and heart on your own mat. There is nothing more soul destroying than comparison. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses – it’s what makes us human. Take your time to digest, find a good teacher that you love, and stick with them. When I first started practicing I used to go to so many teachers, this can muddy your journey. Notice the teachers that make you feel whole and nourished, that encourage non-ego and a non-dogmatic approach to practice.
What do you say to people who feel they can’t do yoga because they’re not in shape, too old or inflexible?
That’s like saying you’re too hungry to eat!
What do you do when you’re not doing yoga?
A little design work. I make bespoke furniture for clients around the UK. My background before getting into yoga was interior design and since moving to Shropshire I now work freelance for a handful of designers in London. So I am either teaching, reading, practicing yoga, or sketching out furniture, revitalising our new Georgian home, cuddling Fynn, my seven-month-old baby, or having a full on family day with my husband and daughter, Isla. We love scurrying around the local salvage yard or taking our red Labrador for long dog walks through the fields.
Any tips for incorporating yoga into mundane activities?
Just carve out a small portion of the day to yourself, to be with yourself, your mind, your heart. We often spend a huge proportion of the day looking after others, but we cannot give from an empty cup. Sometimes five minutes, eyes closed, in a comfortable seat, is all you need to feel your breath dilate, your heart beat, to remember you are whole.
Favourite yoga book?
Bringing Yoga to Life by Donna Farhi
Go-to health food or drink?
Water and strawberries
Most inspiring quote?
”What you think, you become” – Buddha
If you could take a class as a student with any teacher from anywhere and from any time (now or in the distant past) who would it be with and why?
A class by BKS Iyengar in his younger years, in the 1970s!
First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.