JOSEPH THOMAS

BIO

My yoga journey first began whilst training at The Northern School of Contemporary Dance, here in Leeds. I loved dancing, and I loved moving my body according to different styles and techniques, and this soon became something I couldn’t live without. I progressed further and deeper, with intense dance training every day. But as time went on I began to lose my desire for this type of movement. The movement which had at one point felt like an outlet, now made me feel like I was drifting further and further afield from my own health and happiness, both physically and mentally.

The yoga mat became my natural sanctuary. It became a place where I could reprogram how I perceived myself, how I connect to myself and in time how I connected to my environment. Yoga transformed who I was, for the better. As my practice progressed into a daily ritual, I began to experience movement in a much more holistic way, connected to my sensory experience, as opposed to how it looked.

My friends insisted I should try a class called Bikram Yoga. My first Bikram class was not an exhilarating experience. I remember looking around the room in Pranayama breathing thinking: “Where on earth am I, and why would anyone want to subject themselves to this intense heat? Why is this man on a high mirrored podium, and why does he have a microphone?” Funnily enough, three years later I came to Bikram Yoga Leeds, and this time I dived into the practice instantaneously. To my pleasant surprise, this time I felt a huge shift in my self-belief, knowing that it didn’t matter if I perceived my practice to be good or bad. The only important thing was that I showed up and reaped the benefits. I started practicing almost every day, and this time around I loved the Bikram series and all it had to offer. Facing myself in the mirror every day, and accepting what I saw.

In 2017 I competed in the UK Championships of Yoga Sports. Leading up to the event I had to face my practice head on, and it made me question what my practice really meant to me. Yes, within a competition there is obviously an aspect of objectification and scrutiny. However, my personal experience of the competition was that it was filled with a very enthusiastic group of people, who just wanted to share with one another the thing in life that they most love. On that stage I had to invite self-love into every breath, in a way that I had never done before in my whole life! Having the courage to be seen in all your glory can be very daunting. If I didn’t have the courage to be seen in this aspect of my life, then when would I? So when I was awarded 1st Place in the Men’s Division I was of course ecstatic, honoured and humbled. But truthfully the real reward was finding that inner power to create my own path in life, and not shying away from challenging situations.

In 2018 I was given a scholarship to complete my Teacher Training at Shakti Yoga Peeth in Rishikesh, India. The course provided training in many different yoga forms, with its basic essence derived from the Yoga Sutras. We studied Ashtanga and Hatha yoga asanas, as well as meditation, Pranayama and Mantras. I deepened my knowledge of anatomy and alignment, and studied the history and philosophy of yoga. Rishikesh is where I truly discovered my inner Guru, the teacher within. I gained ownership to guide others through their practice. I realised that many of the tools I needed to be a yoga teacher was already within myself, they only needed to be brought to the surface. India taught me many lessons in life, lessons which I try to live daily. True mindfulness being one of them. forever learning, digesting and applying.

After completing my training in Rishikesh I also trained to teach the Ghosh Lineage Intermediate Class which we offer every week at the studio. Serving as a gateway to the Bikram Advanced Series, the Intermediate class for me is very much about sharing a safe space to play, and progress on from the Bikram Beginners Class. A place to be inspired and to discover the next steps the Bikram practice has to offer.

I am eternally grateful to be teaching here at Bikram Yoga Leeds, my home studio. See you all in the studio!