Last week, we had the pleasure of meeting the wonderful Aisling Vesque Ryan at Yoga Dublin in Dun Laoghaire. Aisling was there to teach a level 2 class that was fun-filled, challenging and invigorating. We left feeling amazing, mentally and physically, but also inspired by Aisling’s decision to pursue what makes her happy. Having thrown in the towel on her 9-5 job in real estate in favour of a life spent teaching others about her passion, we were awoken by her drive, her bravery and her determination to make that change. We couldn’t resist the opportunity to find out more about a career change that many of us have long pondered. If you’ve ever found yourself gazing out the window, dreaming of deep breaths and downward dogs, this might be the encouragement you need.
When did you realise a career in yoga was for you?
It took me a long to time figure out that I wanted to make yoga my career. I had been practicing for some years, and it was really just something I loved to do. My practice really began developing while I was in my final year at college; I found yoga really helped me deal with stress and anxiety. When I graduated, I got a job in real estate, and while I loved working there, I just felt like something was missing. About a year later I was sitting in my office, trying to figure out what it is that really makes me happy. I realised I was most happy when surrounded with yoga and wanted to make this my career. I was going to yoga between five and six times a week, I was teaching two of my friends on Tuesday evenings for fun, and I was constantly reading yoga articles. Once I had made that decision, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before! I felt like my life finally had direction, and it was something I was really excited about!
What was the first step towards this career?
I began researching teacher training schools almost instantly. I spoke to one of my friends who is a yoga teacher, and she told me all about yoga teacher training. I applied for a course in Thailand as the teachers there had great reputations, and I was really hoping I would get a place. I already had a daily yoga practice, but I began doing self-study on anatomy, yoga philosophy and attending workshops with both national and international practitioners to develop my skills. When I was accepted into the course, I was so excited (and scared!). Over the next few days I booked flights, left my job, gave up my lease on my apartment and sold my car. Ready for life’s adventure.
Tell us more about the training course in Thailand.
I trained in the Absolute Yoga Academy in Thailand, and it was the best experience of my life. The teachers were phenomenal, and I was completely immersed in the yoga lifestyle. I completed a one-month intensive 200hr Ashtanga Vinyasa Teacher Training course under Michel Besnard and Roslyn Ying. Not only were they my teachers, but they also became my mentors and my friends. I cannot recommend this training centre enough as we were taught at such a high standard. I was surprised by this, but I can honestly say that after just one month, I felt ready to teach. The training center was complete paradise, but it was full on. We were in the studio at 6.45am every morning and finished classes around 7 pm, then came study. The hard work was worth every second, though.
It must have been pretty scary, making that leap…
Honestly, it was really scary, change always is. But deep down I knew this was the right decision for me and I was also really excited.
Did you ever think you were making a mistake?
Sometimes I questioned myself but I think that’s normal and important when you are making decisions in life. Through questioning myself, I also found who I really was and realised how much I wanted to make the change.
While it’s great to do something you love every day, we’re curious to know; is there good money to be made if you work hard as a yoga instructor?
It’s like with anything, if you work hard, gain experience and grow in what you do, you will do well. It is slow at the start, as you need to get your foot in the door and build up a reputation as a teacher. But I have found the more you teach, and if you continue to love what you do, you will build up your classes.
Take it one step at a time! Since returning from traveling it has been slow settling back in. But reflecting on the past three weeks a lot has happened. I have registered myself with #yogaallience, sorted my insurance, taught some private vinyasa classes, taught a beautiful group of people at #darteyhealthcentre and am feeling inspired by me yoga practice. I am excited to see what will come and delighted to be following my dream. I have always had tight hamstrings and this pose is really difficult for me but we have to keep working at the difficult things in life! Slow and steady. Breathing in and breathing out. #yogaireland #yogaeverydamnday #sunshineyoga #breath #vinyasaflow
What advice do you have for people who want to follow a similar path?
I would say before you become a teacher, be confident in your own practice. The best teachers in my opinion teach what they know and what they practice themselves. I would also advise attending as many workshops and classes as possible to meet other teachers and learn from some of the best. Don’t be afraid to ask your yoga teachers for advice! Do your research before you choose a teacher training program and choose one that suits your style of yoga and also your learning style. Some people may choose to do their training over a year and others like me may feel they learn better when they are totally immersed and, therefore, a one-month training may suit them better. Once you have completed your training, my advice is to get out there and teach as soon as you can to gain both confidence and experience.
Where’s the best place to practice yoga in Ireland, in your opinion?
I love to take classes in INIT Yoga at Grand Canal Dock. It’s such a good studio; their standard of teachers are high, and the classes are fun but also challenging. We do playful things like backbends and handstands, which I love. The classes are suitable for all levels, but you always feel challenged there which helps improve your practice. Some other studios I like are My Yoga Body in Dun Laoghaire, Yoga Dublin at Vedas in Dun Laoghaire (the views alone are spectacular), Greystones Yoga Studio, and Wicklow Yoga.
In terms of choosing the best place for a teacher training, it all depends on what it is the individual is looking for. I would recommend Absolute Yoga Academy, but again that style of teaching suited me as a person.
Will you continue to do courses as you get older?
Yes, I am a teacher but I am also a student. I am constantly developing my practice and my teaching by taking courses and workshops. In the next few years, I aim to get my 500hr teaching cert, and I would also like to do training in other fields such as Yoga for Kids, Prenatal Yoga and Yin Yoga.
How has yoga improved your life?
Yoga has improved my life immensely. Having yoga in my day to day routine makes me feel so alive. After I practice, my body feels energised and strong. Yoga also helps me to be mindful and focused throughout the day. I used to suffer quite a bit from anxiety and since incorporating yoga into my routine I have found I feel much more in control of this.
How do you compare your life now to before you were a yoga, instructor?
So much has changed, but the main thing is I am a happier person as I am doing what I love.
How are your stress levels these days?
Haha, they are good! Obviously things still stress me but generally I cope with stress a lot better. Life is easier because I am doing what I enjoy.
What’s the best bit of career advice you were ever given?
Even if you are a teacher, always be a student! I think this is relevant for any career. No matter what your job title is you should always be open to learning new skills. How can you ever improve in life if you aren’t willing to learn new things? I have found even since my Yoga Teacher Training I have grown, and that is because I am constantly practicing, going to classes and learning. You can see all good yoga teachers are still students and, therefore, bring new things to class and have more to give their students.
Do you have to be brilliant at yoga before you take on a teaching course?
Being a yoga teacher doesn’t mean you have to be able to do all of the fancy moves like vrschikasana (Scorpion handstand). I think it’s more important to have your own yoga practice and have an understanding and solid knowledge of all of the fundamental poses. Before I went for my teacher training, I was practicing the Ashtanga Primary Series, and I was fairly confident with it. It’s in your teacher training that you will develop your own practice and learn how to teach what you know.
For those who are just getting in to their practice, what advice do you have for people (like me) who can’t do certain moves and get frustrated!?
Everybody is different and just because you can’t do certain poses “YET” doesn’t mean you never will. With time and constant practice you will see your body will open up, and something you thought impossible before will become easy, and you will move onto the next thing. When I started yoga, I struggled to touch my toes! But with practicing every day, even though I still feel like I have tight hamstrings, I am much more open. When you push yourself, you will cause injury. Yoga is not a competition; it is about being mindful of your body and enjoying the journey.
How do you compare your ability with yoga now and when you began to do yoga in the first place?
My practice has totally changed, as have I as a person. I am more mindful in my practice as I am more aware of alignment and am better able to listen to my body’s needs. I have also built strength, so I am now able to play around with fun things like arm balances and handstands. When I started, this seemed impossible!