Interview: Deborah Bryant on being YogaLondon’s Oldest EVER Graduate

Anniversary Celebrations

Deborah Bryant is YogaLondon’s oldest ever graduate at a sprightly 70 years old. She talks to us about why she decided to go for it after many years of thinking about it, why she would recommend the course to anyone of retirement age, and what she’s missing most about her experience. 

1. Congratulations – you’re YogaLondon’s oldest ever graduate! What made you decide to do the Yoga Teacher Training?

A variety of reasons. I live in France in a tiny village and there are no yoga teachers anywhere near. All my life I’ve wanted to do the yoga teacher training and as the big 7-0 was approaching I thought I’d better get on with it!

2. How many years had you practised yoga?

I’ve been doing yoga forever – since my 20’s. I went along to my local Adult Education classes in West London as a way to keep fit. I then went to an incredible Ashtanga yoga teacher called Marissa at Holmes Place. Really, it’s the teachers that kept me going to yoga.

3. What advantages do you think you have over younger, less experienced teachers?

Not many… I have a bit of confidence, but I was in awe of my group. I guess I could be a mother figure: you can say or do anything because I’ve been there, done that – nothing can shock me. I suppose I’m also not as supple or able as I was, which shows people that it doesn’t matter for yoga.

4. What was the most memorable part of Yoga Teacher Training for you?

All of it was very overwhelming, there wasn’t really one thing. The people in the group were just lovely. Lucinda, my Course Leader, was great. One outcome of the course was that I learnt to accept myself – and focus on what I can do, not what I can’t do.

5. What was the hardest part of Yoga Teacher Training?

I’m dyslexic  – I can’t spell English, let alone Sanskrit, so I was terrified of the written exams. I didn’t think I was ever going to able to do it. When it came to it, the Philosophy module was fine, but Anatomy was really difficult. But I did OK!

6. What did your family think of you becoming a yoga teacher?

They were unbelievably supportive, I couldn’t speak more highly of them. But then why wouldn’t they be supportive? They certainly didn’t dismiss it as being a mad idea. In fact, I now teach my son and his partner over Zoom, and even my husband does a little bit – to please me I think…

7. What are your yoga teaching plans?

My yoga teaching has changed since Lockdown. We were able to start teaching halfway through our training, so I had six to eight students (friends) in my little chalet. But since lockdown, I haven’t done any, except for teaching my son and his partner. However, hopefully, I’m starting again soon, with fewer people – we’ll see how it goes.

I have to say I don’t mind Zoom, it’s much better than I thought it would be!

8. How has the pandemic affected you and your yoga practice?

I have been much more assiduous in my yoga practice and more aware of how important it is to me. I was also jolly lucky I had the course through lockdown, it really helped and gave me a real focus, plus they were so supportive. Before lockdown I would go to the UK once a month for the training weekends, which I tied in with seeing my grandchildren.

The pandemic has also been tough personally as it’s meant we haven’t been able to see family. We’ve lived out in France since I retired 15 years ago, and, usually, they come over here but of course, that hasn’t been possible.

9. What do you do to relax?

I garden, my husband and I love cycling and walking, and we do snowy stuff in the mountains when there’s snow. My secret hobby and one that I’ve never told anyone about is painting by numbers. When it gets darker and colder, I put on Radio 4 and paint by numbers! I was also gifted with a stand-up paddle board for my 70th, which I’ve had a go on.

10. What was your previous career and how did it prepare you for being a yoga teacher?

I was a primary school teacher. Teaching is an act; you put on a show, no matter how you’re feeling, and give them the best time ever. It helped with when we worked in pairs, I was able to really focus on teaching one person – from teaching 5-year-olds how to read. I do miss it, I love helping little kids learn.

11. Is YT a good retirement career option?

Yes! I would recommend it to anyone – even if you don’t teach, it’s a wonderful thing to do.

12. What older yoga teachers inspire you?

David Swenson  – I guess he’s my kind of age – he’s an inspiration. My niece and nephew Lydia and Edgar Holmes are Iyengar yoga teachers, and they inspire me. She’s not old, but Corrie McCallum (YogaLondon Course Teacher) is great – she’s so different in her attitude, very refreshing. She lets people do their best, whatever that is.

13. What’s next?

I miss the course terribly. I think I’ll do more courses. I don’t think the 500-hour course is for me, but I might pick a few… I miss the community and focus – it’s back to painting by numbers for now! But I really feel that, since doing the course, I’ve come into my own.

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