Yoga Guide and Entrepreneur

As the 9.03 to Leeds clips through Grantham, a notification that a Rhodia Dotpad is being put to good use pops up. I’m on my way to meet Helena Byles, Yoga enthusiast and independant business woman, and the post shows how indispensable the No. 16 Rhodia pad is to her. We have arranged to meet a short walk from the station in Bundobust, an appropriately Indian street food bar where, over a craft beer and a couple of delicious Bel Phuri, Helena and I chat about the contents of her Rhodia notebook and the journey she is on.

Now a full time Hot Yoga Guide, Helena’s career began in the corporate world of spreadsheets and meetings as a project manager in London, however, unhappy with a ‘busy and exhausting’ London, and feeling like her life needed a new direction, a meal with a university friend proved to be pivotal moment for Helena.

  • No. 16

    From the No.16 line of pads

  • SIZE

    A5 (14.8 x 21cm)

  • DOT

    Rhodia’s innovative style using feint dots on a 5x5mm grid

  • BLACK

    Black coloured cover

“I was having a meal in London with one of my best friends from University Clare, who was visiting from Yorkshire, and explaining to her how unhappy I was, she just said ‘Helena, why don’t you move up to Leeds?’ and I though ‘Yeah, all right!’ and within a couple of months I living in Leeds and working as an area manager for a charity called the Royal Voluntary Service that supports older people to live independent lives. Very often the elderly people who we helped had no children or only distant family who couldn’t or wouldn’t visit. The charity is all about encouraging the community to help these older people stay in their own homes and feel a part of the community. I’d say the most fun I’ve had in my life were the days driving someone, who had been maybe feeling a little lonely, out to Scarborough or the like for a day trip, they would love it, and we would have the most fascinating conversations. We can forget that older people have lived full lives, and are so interesting with so much to say, and I feel the younger generations often don’t give them the time they deserve. In fact since I left RVS I’ve been back and run special Yoga sessions for the charity.

How would you describe yourself now? A Yoga teacher, instructor?

Someone asked me this the other day and I like to say ‘I’m a Yoga Guide’, as what I try and do is not ’teach’ or ‘preach’ telling someone ’This is what you must do, and you must use this posture’ I encourage people to find a way for them to safely move, if something doesn’t feel nice, you’re in control of your body to change it, so you’re not feeling forced into something that’s uncomfortable.

Working as a project manager and then a manager in a charity, how did you end up in Yoga?

I’ve always been interested in keeping fit and loved Yoga, so when I arrived in Leeds and realised there wasn’t much Yoga, I decided this was my opportunity to do what I loved, get somewhere with it. So I enrolled into a Yoga teacher training course and went for it!

So the course you completed, who was it who taught you?

I trained with a company called Absolute Hot Yoga, who are over in Thailand. I spent a month in Ko-Samui on their beautiful Yoga retreat, learning my craft and enjoying the surroundings! Now I’ve been a Hot Yoga guide full time for just over a year, and have worked at it part time for a year or so before that, so in total about two and a half years.

You specialise in ‘Hot’ Yoga how is that different from Yoga?

Hot Yoga is just one of the types I teach at my Sweat Yoga Fit, it is Yoga in a room that is heated to between 30-40 degrees celcius. So you are hot! Yoga comes from India (hence the choice of BUNDOBUS) and it’s pretty hot there,  so the idea is to get the classes bodies experiencing conditions similar to where Yoga was first practiced. With the heat you feel much more limber, your muscles are softer and stretch more easily. It also turns the Yoga session into more of a cardio workout, which is no bad thing, but the main benefit is it really allows you to stretch safely.

I’ve never been to a Yoga session so it’s a bit of a mystery to me, what would you say are the benefits?

There are so many, it will definitely help you become more flexible and stronger. I’m much stronger now than when I was running and cycling. It gives all your muscles an even strength throughout the body. Also I’d say in brings focus, making you concentrate on one thing. I’m generally hyperactive so could never sit down and ‘meditate’ I can’t keep my mind still for two minutes! But doing a Yoga class for an hour, that’s the one time  I’m focussed on one thing. Your mind doesn’t wander onto anything else, all you are thinking about is the Yoga and your body. If you think about something else, that’s when you lose track and can’t balance, so I see it as active meditation. And what’s great is different styles can achieve different things, you can use Yoga to relax or energise you.

I know you are a big Rhodia Dot Pad fan, how does that fit into your life?

The way that I plan classes and draw pictures , it gives some direction on the page, but I’m still free be creative. I’m always planning out my blogs and mind maps and designs for my clothing range. The reason I use notepads is, I don’t feel it’s ever suitable to have your class plan on an iPad or some electronic device in a Yoga session. You just need a little notebook, with your little notes on and that will always the case, Yoga teachers will always need a notebook.

What are the kind people who come to your Yoga sessions? Is it all men, women?

I have all sorts, lots of men seem to come to the hot yoga classes as they are more of a cardio workout. I also have had footballers, kick boxers, lots of couples and all age groups from teenagers right up to pensioners. I also do sessions for kids at a couple of local primary schools! No matter who you are I have a Yoga session that you will enjoy.

Yoga guiding has become your full time career, do you ambitions to build on your obvious love for it?

Yes, yes, definitely yes! The Yoga is going somewhere, I’ve just recorded the first episode of my Yoga TV show for Made in Leeds. I’m also developing a line of Yoga clothing, that’s aiming to be completely environmentally friendly using material made from recycled plastic bottles and all made in the U.K.

It’s obvious that Yoga has become a large part of your life, are there things that you do when not Yoga’ing?

To be honest it’s become all consuming! I do do other sorts of exercise as I don’t feel you can’t be fully fit just from Yoga. So I do a bit of running some high intensity work-outs, otherwise you’re not getting your heart rate up enough. But outside of exercise I really enjoy drawing and creating mixed media art. Recently I used my sewing machine and textiles to create wall hanging for my mum of a scene from her summer garden. I’d say I’m an expressive artist, I’m not very good at ‘fine art’ but try and create expression and colour, which I’m using in the creation of my Yoga clothing!

Are there any inspirational people or heroines out there that have inspired you?

In Yoga Tara Stiles, she’s a super cool New York based Yoga teacher, and she is definitely an inspiration to me, she is all about moving the body in a way that feels good and has influenced my teaching a lot. And in other areas of life my Mum!

Thanks Helena.