I’m Shirley, a semi-retired former Art teacher, mother of four lovely sons and wife to a very understanding and endlessly patient, Steve. I embarked on my Art teaching career at the Grange School in sunny Runcorn and as I was moving back to the North from Brighton, accommodation in Runcorn Brookvale came with the post. In the late 70’s Runcorn was just emerging and to be in a New Town, with a new husband and a new job was a bit of a shock to the system. We were living in the middle of nowhere, teaching was harder than I expected, especially year eights!! Steve and I were getting used to living with each other and we needed to widen our experiences, so we decided to join some evening classes. He chose Shotokan and I headed towards a Yoga Adult Education class. I had always enjoyed sports, but as with most people, was unsure about this new form of exercise where you laid down at the end – what was that all about? I just wanted the adrenaline to flow, get a buzz and feel like I had tired myself out. What I expected was aerobics, what I got was an experience which, over the last 40 years, has shaped my life.
Over the next few years I moved back over the river to Tarbock, left the Grange, started teaching at Widnes Sixth Form College and had my first son. I continued going to Yoga classes and enjoyed many different teachers, workshops and yoga retreats, but my actual teaching journey began in 1982 with the wonderful Pam and Gordon Smith. Their teacher training course was really inspiring, but the birth of my second son meant that I had to put it on hold for a while. Little did I know then that “while” would be 20 years! I did however, teach yoga to my students at Widnes Sixth Form College on Wednesday afternoons and Yoga at Night School.
The BWY Teacher Training course with Rosemary Bennet finally happened in the next millennium and several years later, a Foundation Course with Marilyn Heginbotham. The wrong way round I know, but it gave me an opportunity to learn, work and spend some wonderful yoga time with Stephen, my eldest son, who was just embarking on his journey to become a Yoga Teacher.
Understanding yoga, beyond just the physical practise, has been truly inspirational and encouraged me to do a training course for teaching yoga to people living with cancer. Julie Freiderberger was an exacting teacher, but one that truly prepared me for the task. The armchair yoga group was set up and I worked from a prefab hut at Whiston Hospital for twelve months before moving into the lovely new Lilac centre in St Helens Hospital. We now meet in St John’s Centre in St Helens every Tuesday.
Yoga has brought some wonderful friends into my life, whether from courses I have attended or students I have taught and thankfully, still teach. I love my Monday groups, who have been with me for more years than I dare to admit – we are like a happy family, and I hope to continue widening this friendship group with the new Thursday Hatha class.
My Yoga practise has taken many forms over the years, beginning with Hatha, including a bit of Yoga Ballet, moving onto Iyengar, Ashtanga and eventually the beautiful Yin. New students often ask what type of yoga I teach. I find this hard to give an exact answer to, as I believe that Yoga, like Art is an eclectic experience. I am constantly learning and adapting my Yoga, as I am my Art: so, just as I try to keep the artist side of me evolving from the experiences I have had, to make “Shirley” art, I would like to think that my Yoga teaching is an amalgamation of all the teachings/workshops and classes I have experienced to form “Shirley Yoga” – often melding into “Smiley Yoga”, as I believe Yoga is a wonderfully uplifting and enjoyable experience.
During my time teaching yoga I have taught in school halls, village halls, gyms, upstairs in pubs, downstairs in pubs, in a living room, prefab and a dance studio – none of which were really conducive to the total yoga experience. So, to have the fabulous Yoga Bank to share yoga in, is joy beyond words-it feels like my Yoga has finally come home.