Kayleigh Flannery is a English Literature Student at the University of Leeds, pursuing her love for Yoga Instructing whilst studying. She's been involved in BabyStep right from the off, always being the first to offer advice and support. Last year Kayleigh held the first ever BabyStep Event, aptly named 'BabyStep Does Yoga'. It was a massive deal for us, to actually see the BabyStep community finally come together for the first time, it really gave us the confidence to start putting on events. Kayleigh has a unique ability to always put a smile on your face, whether your an old friend or you've literally just met her. Such positivity shines through in her yoga teaching, which is always as equally inclusive as it is engaging. We caught up with her about her work with BabyStep and all the amazing stuff she does around it.
Please tell us your name, age, role in the magazine and what you currently do?
Ok so I’m Kayleigh, 22, I’m the yoga teacher and all round good mate of BabyStep. Right now I’m about 2 weeks away from finishing my English Lit degree which gives me butterflies in my stomach because it will be the first time I can do whatever I want since I was like 4 years old.
Tell us about some other projects your involved in
Well right now it’s all about Project Graduate (doing nothing but uni work until I finish my last essay) and then it’ll be time for Project Do Nothing But Read Books and Practise Yoga. Seriously.
What does BabyStep mean to you?
For me, it’s a group of talented people who are really passionate about what they do, working incredibly hard to produce something that is mega unique and pretty exciting. It’s creating connection between creatives and about taking those baby steps (:P) to build something from nothing. And definitely something we all need at the moment.
Where did your love of Yoga first start?
Honestly, it started because my shit mental health was ruining my life and I eventually realised I was the only one who could do something about that. I can’t remember who suggested yoga but I’m eternally grateful that someone did. Yoga teaches us to find the support from within, rather from the world around us. When a practice teaches you something like that, you’re bound to fall in love with it.
What was it like to go to India and gain your qualification as a teacher?
Just the best experience of my life. Obviously I’m going to say that, but it really, truly was. It was physically tough and the days were long; the bell would ring at 5am and we would be in class from 6am-7pm. But it was all just so magical, we’d be practicing yoga in the hall with monkeys watching us through the window, everyone was so friendly and strangers wanted selfies and invited us over for dinner, I swam in the river Ganges. My sight-seeing highlight was definitely visiting the so-called Beatles Ashram, where they lived for several months in ’68 to learn Transcendental Meditation from Maharishi Mahesh. I was able to wander round this incredibly beautiful, peaceful place amongst the base of the Himalayas where they were inspired to write many of the songs on the White album.
You’re an avid reader. What was the last thing that you read that really inspired you?
Good question. I’ve been really interested in J.G. Ballard. He completely reinvented sci-fi fiction, turning his attention away from outer space and towards inner space. This question of what makes us us, fascinates me, and Ballard reflects the human psyche in a surrealist external landscape. Start with some of his short stories, or the novel The Drowned World if you’re interested. My all-time favourite author, though, is Haruki Murakami. If you like the weird and unexplained you will LOVE his books.
What is your best memory so far from being part of BabyStep?
Hmmmm, it’s gotta be the first event at Royal Park Cellars! The turnout was insane and everyone was just so happy all night – I was very proud. And when all the t-shirts arrived. I felt part of something very special.
Well done on all the fundraising you've been part of. What made you get involved and how have the sessions been going?
Thank you! Yeah so I’m taking part in an organised fundraiser to raise money for Peace Direct. I’m one of tons of yoga teachers and practitioners who have challenged ourselves to complete 500 sun salutations before the end of May, which is pretty hard. I decided to make a head start on May 1st by practicing 108 in one go on a live stream. You honestly would not believe how sweaty I was by the end of it. It’s for a great cause though so the challenge is well worth it!
What advice would you give to any aspiring yoga instructors who are still studying, how do they manage the balance?
IT’S HARD BUT DO IT ANYWAY. This applies to anything really, not just teaching yoga. I think the main thing I would say is take every opportunity to teach the practice that you can find. Don’t worry about being perfect, just share what you love with someone else (that’s basically all teaching is anyway). Whether it’s teaching someone some calming breathwork or meditations to someone with anxiety, or hosting a yoga class for your pals, it all counts. BabyStep gave me one of these opportunities to teach a class before I’d completed my training, at our BabyStep Yoga event. I was nervous as heck but it was so fun and felt empowering, and I am very grateful for that.
What are you plans for the future with your Yoga Teaching? How far are you hoping to take it?
The dream is to have my own yoga studio. I’ve got a long way to go from here to there but I have it all planned out in my head: huge, light studio space, get some poles in there (I also love pole dance), a cosy book shop next door and a cute lil’ vegan café. I realise this is unrealistic but a gal can dream! What I would really love to do though, is use my practice to be of service in the world. I think one of the best ways I can do this is to share these tools I’ve learnt through yoga with others. I definitely want to do a Kids Yoga Teacher Training. I always wonder how different my life would have been if I had been introduced to things like yoga, meditation and mindfulness when I was in school. I believe getting kids involved with some form of yoga practice from a young age could literally change the world.
What has been your favourite Album during lockdown?
I’ve been going back to some old faves actually, my number 1, Velvet Underground’s Loaded has sound-tracked my studying and yoga practices a lot recently. Also a fair bit of Beatles too – I’ve been watching some baby blackbirds grow up in my garden (I don’t know about anyone else, but lockdown has turned me into a professional bird watcher) and I can’t get the Blackbird tune out of my head.
Do you have anything exciting coming up that you can tell our readers about?
YES! I’m really super mega excited to launch my own yoga business. It’s been a little seed in my mind for a year now and I finally have the time and energy to grow it into something real. It’s going to be called fire&flourish – the name encapsulates the balance between effort and ease, action and passivity, which is, for me, what yoga is all about. Of course with the current situation all my classes will be online for now, but the silver lining is that literally anyone can join in from their home. I’ll hopefully get a bit of a blog going about the different aspects of yoga and how they have enriched my life, and my MH. I can’t wait.