Meet the instructor – Simon Michelmore
What do you find most rewarding about being a yoga instructor? And most challenging?
Teaching a class, or even just preparing to teach, challenges you to ask yourself a lot of questions – ones which are often difficult. Am I being genuine? Am I being present with the class, or simply “going through the motions?” And countless others. They can be very similar to questions that you would ask yourself during your own practise, but they now become directed outwards as you want to strive for each and every student to be able to find what it is that they need.
In the process of trying to be sincere, it also means that you have to be vulnerable in a very public way. I know that when I go to practice in a class, the last thing I want is the teacher to be placing themselves on a pedestal and preaching from on high to me. Instead I believe that we simply desire for them to relate to us as one human being to another.
In attempting to do that you end up running head first into a bunch of your insecurities and confronting someone that can be either your best friend or your worst enemy – yourself. A person who knows all of your secret fears and regrets and, given a chance, can easily use them against you. The challenge for me is to try and let go of those fears and just be open for people to read, imperfections and all.
As a teacher one of the most rewarding aspects is when you can see students directly challenging their own fears and, after the class is over, they walk out of the room as though they’re just that little bit lighter.
What is your favourite yoga pose and why?
Parivitta Trikonasana. One of the core postures that we teach, but often the most under appreciated. To really get “into” the posture, it requires you to focus on every single part of the body from the feet and legs, right through the hips and spine, and into the head and fingers.
Describe your first class?
Weirdly familiar, as it had echoes of various martial arts, but at the same time different enough that I was thrown completely out of my comfort zone. Rather than being the rather constant movement that I’d experienced with most forms of exercise, with a lot of fast action and dynamism, you were encouraged to find the pose and then be still with it. It required that I put aside every assumption I’d unknowingly made before and moved me – little by little – to be quiet.
When did your yoga journey start? And why did you start?
Late 2001. I came from a martial arts background and, after our school disbanded, I’d been looking for something along similar lines for several years. When several friends talk about their yoga practise, I become intrigued enough to go a beginners’ course at a studio in town.
After the initial eight weeks of the course were up and I realised that my weeks felt incomplete if I wasn’t attending a few classes, I was hooked and knew that I’d found what I’d been searching for!
What led you to decide to become a yoga instructor?
It was more of an evolutionary process, as opposed to a revolutionary one. I’d be practicing for over a decade, with the regularity of my practise growing each week, but I had never actually considered my practise to be anything other than “for me.” Once I started at yogafusion, Sue encouraged me to think about going to teacher training and – honestly – at first I thought she was just being supportive and telling me I was “doing okay” in a diplomatic, roundabout way.
When I realised that she was quite serious, I took about a year to think about it and decided that, at the very least, it would be a once in life experience, even if I decided to not actually move into teaching.
Once the course was over, however, there wasn’t a shred of doubt left that I wanted to be in the room and guiding people through their practise.
What is your greatest fear?
For some reason I have a quite irrational fear of deep water (I put it down to seeing Jaws to many times when I was about five years old). Despite the fact that I enjoying surfing; am a competent swimmer; and am regularly out in the ocean, I always feel uneasy when I can’t see the seafloor beneath me.
Describe where yoga has helped you overcome a challenge in life:
Everybody has their own personal hurdles in life to overcome; for me a large one has been learning to cope with depression, which I was diagnosed with in my early twenties.
I started yoga with the idea of the physical practise helping me deal with it, as it would be an excellent form of exercise. Although that was certainly important, it didn’t take me too long to discover that the real benefits came not from how deep I could go into Trikonasana or if I could do the full splits, but questioning the very assumption of why I believed I needed to be “deeper into the posture” in the first place.
What else do you do in life, aside from yoga? Eg, job, hobbies, lifestyle, creative outlets
My hobbies have a habit of starting off being casual interests and then become larger and larger parts of my life before I know it. As a result I dabbled with computer programming as a teenager, and it’s now what I do fulltime. I was interested in cinema from a fairly young age, which led to me being in the film and TV industries for several years, where I worked on various feature films, documentaries and short films.
Outside of “work,” I like finding the balance between seeing friends and family often, but also setting aside some time for myself and enjoy something quiet.
What is the yoga pose that challenges you the most and why?
One legged pigeon – Eka Pada Kapotasana. If you want to challenge yourself to find stillness amidst difficulty, this might be the pose that someone should try. If anything challenging – mentally or emotionally – is occurring in your life, then this will bring it right to the front of your conciousness. The exercise is then to stay with it, despite every instinct of the ego telling you to do otherwise, and just let it be.
Describe your lifestyle and eating habits:
I like to be active – even if it’s just a simple walk with my dog – and eat well. But I do have to make sure that my house is devoid of chocolate or anything sweet, or they generally don’t last more than a few hours.
If you were a supermarket item, what would you be? Why?
Fish oil. Nobody really knows what it does, but apparently it’s really good for you, so … why not?
If you could only instil one thing from yoga to your students, what would it be?
Take on board the essential, strip out the unnecessary and add what is uniquely your own.
What is your favourite thing in life? Besides yoga, of course!
Friends, a film and good bottle of red wine. Preferably with chocolate (type irrelevant).
How would you cure world hunger if you had the chance?
Give every world leader a conscience. Do that and the problems of the globe would be solved in a matter of days.
Do you have a life strategy or a personal philosophy that rarely fails you?
I find a lot of life seems to be dictated by the idea of ‘Thou shalt not.’ Instead, I like to approach everything with the idea of ‘Thou shalt.’
Tell me something that not many people know about you?
I’m quite the geek … actually, people probably already do know that!
Read up on our other staff members here.