In this interview series I will introduce you to different Yoga teachers. Same questions, different answers! Variety is Key, isn’t it? So enjoy reading and get a peak into the perspective of these teachers. The goal is to give voice to the yoga teacher around the corner, the one who we do not read about in the fancy magazines and to inspire you to do yoga!
Francesca Sambito Pace is an Italian yoga teacher who lives in Bath, United Kingdom. She is married and has three children. She is a petite but strong woman with a good sense of humor and an honest passion about yoga. I met her in Bath and was delighted to interview her. As she lived in Germany for a couple of years and still works on improving her English (which is great considering she did not speak any English 5 years ago!), our interview was very interesting to say the least. Being a yoga teacher myself, speaking German and having French father who speaks Dutch with and accent helped me to quickly understand what she tried to express. I was taken back by her simple, pure and unvarnished approach. Apologies for any grammar or spelling mistakes, as English is my second language. Enjoy the interview!
Francesca's story: Six years ago I moved from Germany to Bath. I started with Jiu Jitsu and yoga classes. I did a little bit of Yoga in Germany but it wasn’t until I did yoga with yoga teacher Mirella Lamarina that I got really inspired. I couldn’t help doing Warrior one and two at home. I wanted to do a yoga teacher training, my husband knew a very good teacher, which was Alice Milner, and I started my course there and did yoga every from from then on. I always had problems with my back, which flared up with pain and swelling a couple of times a months and I had sciatica. After 2 months i started to manage this back problem. Alice inspired me to continue to do Yoga. I worked on my strength and my alignment. I noticed after a while this was slowly improving which inspired me to do yoga even more.
After the kids, I have a five year old twin (boys) and a 17 year old daughter, went to nursery I wanted to do a teacher training, my husband knew a good yoga teacher and I went to her classes. I started to do my teacher training and every single day I was training ashtanga yoga and vinyasa yoga and worked very hard.
Four months into the training I started teaching free classes to get experience. After finishing the course I started teaching straight away. In the past my character was a little bit shy, but I discovered that I can teach and that I like teaching very much and feel that ican express myself freely whilst teaching.
I taught Ashtanga led classes, which was great but I wanted more, something for all levels, so I gave workshops and classes for beginners. I learned that all people are different. I look at who is in front of me and check if I can do a little bit more or less. I am interested in what types of yoga there are in Bath. I go to different teachers and for example now also practice anusara yoga. I find myself always learning and yearning for more! It is a journey that never ends.
I now teach Ashtanga, dynamic flow, flow yoga for all levels and beginner classes.
1. What is yoga according to you?
FSP: Yoga to me, is discovering your inner self, learning about your body, learning how to interact with others in a respectful way and strengthening your mental attitude.
In Yoga you have time to contemplate about the important things of live. You connect to what really is important and that reflects on your relationships. You increase the respect for nature and for the small things. You stop only looking at what is straight ahead of you, but you also turn your head left and right and learn how to appreciate that what is all around you. You open up your vision to the beauty of live and nature.
2. Why do you teach yoga?
FSP: First because I like it. Second because I want to bring my experience to other people. I want to help people connect to their body. It is not about the posture, it is about learning how connect to yourself. Also, I want to help people make changes in their lifestyle. At the start of the yoga class I talk a bit about different subjects to promote the heart - mind connection and make people conscious about their lifestyle. I talk about food and Yoga philosophy topics such as non-violence (ahimsa), cleanliness (saucha), discipline (tapas) etc. This helps to bring people in a yoga context.
3. Name three of your favourite things about yoga.
FSP: I like to be fit, to warm up my body and the feeling I have after a good stretch. I take it slow as I know my body needs time to warm up.
I like to find new poses and the sense of achievement when succeeding in doing those poses, (that feeling doesn't last long so I constantly need to find something else ; ).
I use a lot of visualisation, when sitting in meditation, to focus my mind. When I am stressed my body forces me to sit down and meditate.
So what I like about yoga is that I get to know myself better and I am able to stop the accumulation of stress before it becomes to much.
4. Why do you think people should try yoga?
FSP: First because it changes your life, you start to think differently. Everything that you do, will get infused with more passion. Yoga is really good for you if you have an injury, or any problems in your body. You start to learn how to introduce yoga in your lifestyle and integrate it into your daily life. You become more attuned with your body whilst exercising, you learn when it is time to ‘stop or go’. You really get to know your body better as you isolate your movements and do singular stretches, so you might discover areas that need to be strengthened or stretched more. You also learn how to meditate which is a good thing as it helps to train your mind how to focus.
5. Have you seen your students change over time, and if so, in what way?
FSP: I started teaching in December 2015. I see the most external changes in people who come to my Ashtanga classes. There are a lot of students whom I helped go into headstand, shoulder stand or crow pose. I also helped a lot of people with back problems progressing in yoga as I draw from my own experience.
Our family business is Gracie Barra Bath, a centre for martial arts and Yoga. So I teach a lot of people who do martial arts and give special attention to opening of the chest and hamstrings stretches and hip openers. This helps them to perform better in martial arts. I practice martial arts and do other sports myself so understand the mindset and what is necessary for the body. So I get sportspeople in my classes as well as beginners and people with back problems. I see that people are improving each time!
6. Did your teaching method change over time, and if so, in what way?
FSP: It changed a lot! When I started, I was teaching too linear. Through teaching and my own practice I learned about healthy boundaries and respecting my body, I give this experience to people, I am more gentle and build things up slowly. I understand more what each individual needs and adapt my class to that. Also, through having people with back problems in my classes and having experienced a lot of back problem myself, I incorporate this knowledge in my classes.
7. Who are your inspirations in yoga?
FSP: I am very curious and driven by discovering new aspects of beautiful art of yoga. I love doing classes and workshops with different teacher. I incorporate the new knowledge, I challenge myself to do the poses and that is how I develop myself.
8. Please give 2 or 3 tips for people who want to start with yoga.
- It is nice to start a general class, discover breathing, as it is not only about stretching, if you just stretch without the proper use of breath you become more tight and could injure yourself. learn how to bring your attention to the moment and breathe properly and in that way you create the best circumstances. Learn the fundamental basic poses and then check how you are feeling.
- Talk with the teacher about how it goes during or after the class, ask questions and ask for help if you are doubting if the pose is ok
- Ask yourself: ‘Why do you want to start with yoga? Do you have a problem with your body or do you want to build up strength, or cultivate peace of mind? Being clear about this helps you find the right path and stay on it.
9. Which precautions would you give when people want to start?
- Take time.
- Stay in tune with how you are feeling, communicate and we can work together to build it up gradually. If you find a pose really difficult, for example high lunge, you can always modify, you can for example do a low lunge of go into childspose instead of a downward facing dog to recover and rest before the next things come up.
10. Would you like to share anything else?
If you are inspired by this interview, you are more then welcome to come and join one of my classes, you can choose from three classes a week. I also teach workshops. If you have kids, I help teach Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for children, (I have a blue belt and two grades). Check out my website for class times and I hope to meet you in class!
Thank you so much for this interview Francesca!
Name: Francesca Sambito Pace, Founder of GB Yoga in Bath.
Type of Yoga: Ashtanga, dynamic flow, flow yoga
Author: Vanessa Koenig, July 2017