My Career: Yoga? It’s my life mission!

Today we feature Katie Ahern, Yoga Teacher and Studio Owner, Cork Lotus Yoga. She is doing yoga sessions on Facebook Live currently, due to the Coronavirus
My Career: Yoga? It’s my life mission!
Katie Ahern of Yoga teacher and studio owner, Cork Lotus Yoga, Academy Street.

Name: Katie Ahern

Age: 33

Lives: In Cork city

Job title: Yoga teacher and studio owner, Cork Lotus Yoga, Academy Street

Salary bracket: €20,000-€30,000

Education background: BA Hons Degree in Criminal Justice, 200hr ryt 300 hr ytt (both yoga teacher trainings) FRC (Functional Range Conditioning) and more recently I have been training under my mentor Yoga Detour, who blends a more scientific approach to movement and the body with traditional yoga.

Hobbies: Anything that involves moving really, I like strength training and movement classes and I still consider yoga to be a hobby, so I try and dedicate time to that, whether it is my own personal practice or going on retreats as a student. It can be hard to take my teacher’s hat off sometimes but it’s important that I continue to nurture the element of the practice that I fell in love with in the first place.

I love being out in nature and try and get out into the hills whenever I can or to the forest. In the last year, I have taken to a weekly sunrise ocean dip, the winter has been a challenge for sure, but I’m waiting on the morning light to push past 7am and I’ll be back with numb toes and chattering teeth.

Describe your job in five words: Vocational, community-orientated, supportive, rewarding, consuming.

Describe yourself in five words: Warm, kind, humorous, compassionate, indecisive!

How long are you doing this job? I am teaching five years since September 1.

How did you get this job? After a brief stint in UCC studying politics, I enrolled in Criminal Justice in Co. Waterford. This was when I started yoga. I had quite a bit of anxiety and a lot of presentations to give, which amounted to a very tense feeling in your gut all the time. This was over 13 years ago, with very little options around yoga, I found a class that focused on relaxation, which was want I needed at the time, but I remember finding it a bit too slow.

When I left college, I always knew I’d take a bit of time out before doing a masters to travel. I was trying to decide between more of a social care roll, as I wanted to work within youth justice or criminology. Waitressing was a job that has always supported me and I worked in a restaurant in Cork to save money for about a year. During that time, I started hill walking and I had a notion I wanted to climb the Himalayas, so off I went to Nepal for three months on my own.

After weeks of trekking through the mountains, I decided to go on a three-day yoga and meditation retreat, I stayed for three weeks. I think what I did not understand before was that yoga was more than just moving your body, as it was a way to live your life.

I remember leaving and feeling very different in myself, calmer, clearer, stronger, and definitely more grounded in who I was as a person.

Katie Ahern of Yoga teacher and studio owner, Cork Lotus Yoga, Academy Street.
Katie Ahern of Yoga teacher and studio owner, Cork Lotus Yoga, Academy Street.

I came back to Ireland and started taking classes two/three times a week, I became increasingly more and more curious to go deeper and learn the philosophical aspect to it because the classes I was attending were very different to the experience I had in Nepal, but I did love those too.

Six months later I had a one way ticket to India. Over the course of the next two years I divided my time between India and south-east Asia, parts of these countries have ‘spiritual communities’ where you can find all things yoga, retreats, workshops, etc.

Some places I adored and some I ran a mile from, but I learned a huge about myself, yoga and Buddhism.

I came back to Ireland when my money ran out, waitressing again, unsure of my next step. What held me back from the idea of becoming a teacher was the anxiety of putting myself out in front of people, but there I was six months later back on a plane to India with my first teacher training booked, in ashtanga yoga.

I started my first teaching job in a place called New Life Foundation in northern Thailand, six months after my training, a place I had previously visited on my travels. It was a community for people who had suffered stress, burnout, addiction issues, depression, a place to get support through a Buddhist-based philosophy to healing. I spent nearly a year as a volunteer, teaching yoga six mornings a week and two afternoons. My own personal practice and training was in a very physical dynamic form of yoga and I remember my first class, I had from 20 to 70 year olds, I really had to learn how to adapt. It was challenging being a new teacher without having a mentor but the community were incredible supportive and really helped me gain confidence in my teaching and to help me find my own voice, but also, thank god for YouTube!

I came back to Ireland to try and get some money together and my intention was to go back out. I remember before I left behind the Quay Coop was a yoga space so I went to take a class. I spoke with the teacher Jen, a month later I received a phone call asking me did I want to take a slot, which then turned into two and then three. I had to market myself for the classes as the space was really quiet and Cork Lotus Yoga was born. The previous space had the word lotus in it, I thought people would make the association. I hadn’t a clue what I was up to really, I knew nothing about marketing, creating a brand or running a business (I still don’t). I remember trying to make a poster and logo, off my sister’s computer, it was a disaster.

I then enrolled in a 300-hour teacher training that was in Navan over the next 15 months, so I wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The other teacher that was in the space with me stopped teaching, so I was left to take on her slots too, I was now running the space in Cove Street on my own.

I spent the next two years here, it grew but it was slow, I remember days coming out, especially in the summer time, crying after having no-one show up, thinking I should just give up, but there was something in me that really trusted I was supposed to be doing this, I believe that it is my life mission, I have since the beginning. Knowing this has always helped to quieten the inner critic, the self-doubt whenever it stirred. Trust is an important thing.

I had to leave that space and I moved to a place just off Barrack Street, where I rented a room in a similar capacity for the next two years. Four evenings a week and one morning, it felt safe to do it that way but financially it wasn’t worth it, my overheads were huge. Seeing my business and community grow, I decided to take a leap of faith and since the first of January I am in my new space, on Academy Street, it gives me more freedom for growth and it is mine full time.

I am taking my time with creating changes because I want to make sure they are the right ones. One of my biggest intentions with my new space is education and learning, to offer the people of Cork ways in which they can connect better with themselves and live a healthier and happier life. I believe there are many branches to the tree of wellness, so my space will incorporate not just yoga but other practices to support our ways in this world.

Do you need particular qualifications or experience? Unfortunately, the yoga world is not very well regulated and just about anyone can do a training, regardless of your experience. I believe one of the most important parts of being a teacher is your experience as a practioner first.

Describe a day at work: I tend to do a lot of my emails and class planning at home in the mornings and try and get my own practice in here too. I head down to the studio around 3.30pm/4pm to put the heating on and set up the mats, I might read, do a short meditation or get a bit of food before my classes start at 6pm. Students normally arrive around 5.40pm so I get people signed in. I teach two back to back with 15 minutes in between.

I finish around 9pm and then close up the studio, lights, heating, etc, leaving around 9.20pm to walk home.

How many hours do you work a week? I teach 10 classes, which amounts to about one and a half hours each, but then there is the admin, the social media, the class prep, time for study. This is where I am struggling a bit at the moment, trying to find the right balance and actually take space in the day that’s not work- related.

Best bits: Supporting people, teaching tools to people so they can move and breathe better, understand their bodies, feel less stressed and overwhelmed and more compassionate towards themselves.

Worst bits: It can be physically demanding, there are periods like Christmas and the summer when it slows down, so finically it is not that consistent.

It is hard to do all the marketing, teaching and administrate work yourself.

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