Meet Fire Angel aka Ginny Moffett – my inspiring yoga teacher

Ginny, also known as Fire Angel, is my yoga teacher and she has been teaching and practicing Classical Hatha Yoga for over 30 years. On our recent yoga retreat in Greece, I had the chance to interview Ginny.

When did you start yoga and what got you into it?

The week I finished my finals at Kings College London, I was looking for an exercise class, not having done any for a while. I found an aerobics class but the teacher decided to teach Classical Hath Yoga that day instead. I loved it. It surprised me. I had no idea what yoga was but I started to go every day at Dance Works in London. I never thought I would teach yoga but I just loved it. I then started to visit the Sivananda Ashram which was based in Nottinghill Gate at the time (they’re now in Putney). It became my passion. I had a strong dance background and knew that I had to exercise or I would get depressed.

When did you decide you wanted to teach?

I’d been practicing yoga for about 3 years when a fellow student went to California to study how to teach it. That was unusual in those days, yoga was still a grass roots movement, very fringe. My fellow student came back raving about it so I decided to go out and study their 14 day intensive course with a teacher called Ganga White from the White Lotus Foundation. He called his course ‘14 days that last a lifetime’ and it was in an ashram setting – a dedicated yoga centre so we were immersed in yoga. At the time I went to deepen my practice and I didn’t know if I’d use the qualification but Ganga White was very inspiring so I thought why not? At that time, I got married and moved to Kenya, East Africa where I started to teach the general public, the Red Cross, the US Peace Corps and quite a few one-to-ones (for example therapeutic yoga with cancer patients). We then moved to the Sudan for a year where I ran regular classes. We returned to England in 2002 and I started teaching in Kingston-Upon-Thames and I linked up with the David Lloyd Centre there. However, Kingston was too urban for me and I got a job selling advertising space just outside Thame in Oxfordshire. One day I went into Thame for lunch and really liked the town so I moved there. I started teaching regular classes in the local villages and a few workshops but I had it in the back of my mind to set up a yoga studio. I knew Thame would be the place so I put my name down with an estate agent but nothing came up that was suitable until 2009, when I’d almost forgotten all about it. I had built up a regular customer base but knew I would need investment and surprisingly just after the financial crash, the bank gave me a loan. I was discouraged from setting up my own business at this time but I knew it was something I had to do. Yoga is a calling and you’re called onto the path, certainly the teaching of it, so we opened The Space Healing Studio in January 2009. The idea was to offer lots of different styles of yoga to mixed ability groups. Everyone and anyone is welcome at The Space. All our teachers are hand picked and our mission statement is at the centre of what we do and the spiritual practice of yoga is at the heart of it. We’ve been growing ever since and now have 13 teachers.

Because The Space is a dedicated yoga and meditation space, and only been used for that, there’s a special sacred energy in that room that has built up over the years. You can do yoga anywhere but I was curious to see if the dedicated space made a difference and I’m convinced it does, because of all the meditation practiced there. It’s not too big, we only have 15 places, it’s a great location, very accessible and we don’t have big intimidating classes which might put beginners off.

What would you say to a 50 year old woman who had never tired yoga?

It’s never too late to start yoga. Age has nothing to do with it. The physical benefits you will feel will be tremendous in a short space of time. It’s intelligent exercise. It works on all aspects of the body. It has a healing effect so if you’re carrying injuries it can have a therapeutic effect but it’s also about preventing injuries and preventing you from stiffing up. It slows down the ageing process significantly. Look at people who’ve done a lot of yoga in their later years and you will see that that is true. It’s also true from my own experience. I will be 55 this year and I’m doing better yoga now than I did in my 20s. My physical practice is more advanced than it was in my 20s yet my body is that much older. So that says something.

Also for women in their 50s, it gives them a chance to switch off mentally. Often we have families, responsibilities, busy working lives so that’s an important thing too – that you can come somewhere and do something for yourself. Women tend to be the givers so this is a chance for them to give back to themselves. It’s very good for stress, acute anxiety, depression. It’s also very helpful through the menopause, it’s a big change mentally as well as physically.

The practice will always make you feel better than before you started it. I have never felt worse after a practice. It might bring things up to the surface emotionally, things that have been deeply buried, embedded, from way back, maybe even as far back as early childhood (and as the yogis would say, past lifetimes) but it’s a healing practice. It’s only coming to the surface so that it can be released and cleared out.

We’re a studio that is predominately women so they will find like minded people. We’re a friendly studio, a welcoming studio which is important as it’s a big step to put on a pair of leggings and do something you’ve never done before. Yoga has a lot of misconceptions, misunderstandings about what it really is. There’s no judgement or competition and that comes from the teachers. I look for teachers who are teaching the true message of yoga – there’s no competition, it’s an inclusive, loving, welcoming environment and we’re just there to have fun together really.

Tell me about your teaching training

For me as a teacher, the next big step has been for me to teach yoga teachers so it’s been a wonderful year for me. I’ve written a 200 hour yoga teaching training programme which has been accredited by the Yoga Alliance. We’re coming towards the end of the first teacher training programme with 6 trainees who will qualify, if they’re good enough, in November and hopefully they will start teaching at The Space. I love the idea that we have attracted students to The Space who have then gone on to learn to teach and will spread the message. Some might set up The Space elsewhere in the country with my support in the background. The training is one weekend a month at The Space, Thame, for 12 months (we don’t train in August) from 8am – 6pm. There is course work to do between the weekends and within a year you can qualify as a yoga teacher. It’s a very intense course, it has a very strong spiritual direction to it as it’s based on the classical 8 limb path of Patanjali.

Thanks for reading and if you’ve never tried yoga, we hope this has convinced you to do so!

Visit The Space, Yoga and Healing Studio, 4 Upper High Street, Thame OX9 3ES Tel: 01844 202398

For teacher training information, visit Fire Angel Yoga

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