Graduate Story: Michelle Mackay

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I graduated from the CAMYOGA Teacher Training in September 2017 after what had been a really enjoyable 2 years, as I had not only completed the Teacher Training, but also the CAMYOGA Foundation Course prior to that.

My journey began a very long time before that, however. I qualified as an ‘Exercise to Music’ teacher in 1998 and began teaching many classes a week, including Aerobics, Step, Body Max, Body Conditioning at various alongside my daytime job as a cook. In my quest to offer safe and effective classes, I decided that I wanted to learn more about the human anatomy and physiology and gave up my job, went to college and later went to University to study Physiotherapy and graduated in 2006. I also qualified as a Pilates Teacher in 2007 and have taught regular classes since then.

I was very much enjoying my work, as a Physiotherapist, which over many years took place in a variety of settings, working with people with all sorts of conditions, but I always felt that I was missing something!! I didn’t know what it was, just that there was more to us than just our bodies. I studied psychology for a year, but that didn’t fulfil what I was looking for. I even attended a Christianity Explored course, and that still wasn’t what I was looking for, although educational and did inspire me to attend church for a while.

Over the years, many big changes took place in my life, but one day I was at a gym and there was a Yoga class going on, so I decided to attend. I loved it!

I can’t really explain why, but over the next weeks and months I became hooked, sometimes attending 2 classes back to back as I loved the way it made me feel; taller, stronger, calmer and more relaxed. I lived in Shelford and became aware of the CAMYOGA studio there and eventually became a Gold Member.

I then saw an advertisement for the Yoga Foundation Course and felt that I would love to attend, mainly to find out about the different types of yoga and what they entailed, but I was to learn much much more about how Yoga can actually become a way of life and how it can teach you to become to know more about the pathways to finding your inner self, and the many layers of our being, which was what I had been looking for, for so many years! When the foundation course ended, I decided to enrol on the Teacher Training, not necessarily because I wanted to teach Yoga classes, but to continue my learning journey and connecting with our deeper self as this had become so fascinating and exciting for me.

The course was amazing, run by incredible teachers – Rachael, Carol and Emma, who were all truly inspiring.

I was amongst a cohort of 22 great people, and we all became really supportive and helpful to each other whilst we were on our journey. Learning correct asana techniques and alignment was fun and this also made attending mainstream classes more fun and effective as you could concentrate on your postures and adjust yourself accordingly. Carol’s history and philosophy classes were really enlightening and for me, more inspiring as we learnt about the 8 limbs of yoga and how they guide you towards your inner landscape and your deeper self. I really did learn and appreciate how Yoga is the connection of your mind, body and spirit and it all made real sense.

At the time I qualified as a Yoga Teacher, I was working as a manager in community health care services and had been for a couple of years. I used to take a class after work one day a week with my team who loved it - it helped them unwind and destress after a difficult day with their patients. I also taught Yoga at corporate away days, conferences and Macmillan support groups. I soon realised that I did not want to be working at a desk and I was really missing my patients. I also wanted to do a job that I could incorporate my new skills into.

Since qualifying, Michelle has taken courses in restorative yoga, yoga anatomy and many more.

Since qualifying, Michelle has taken courses in restorative yoga, yoga anatomy and many more.

I have attended many courses since graduating with renowned teachers from around the world namely, Alexandra Crow, Lesley Kaminoff, Sarah Powers and Judy Hirsch-Sampath and have attended 2 5-day intensives with Donna Farhi and Jude Murray, with whom I am still completing a 6 month online internship which will give me a qualification for teaching Yoga to people with cancer and long-term conditions. I have also trained and gained a qualification in teaching restorative yoga with Beverley Nolan and Tiffany Thorne.

Having attended many courses, and workshops, myself and another graduate, Sam, also had a go at running some workshops of our own. We called them ‘flowing into stillness’ and they incorporated flow sequences and restorative yoga, offering the message that ‘the being is just as important as the doing’ and our narrative was aimed at getting the message across that it is important to bring that balance into life.

I gave up my job as a manager in the NHS and returned to Physiotherapy working at the Arthur Rank Hospice Charity in Palliative Care.  It is such a privilege to able to work in this setting with people coping with palliative conditions and end of life. I am able to incorporate many of the practical skills that I learnt on the course; I teach chair- based Yoga to some of our day therapy patients and I am soon to start a weekly outpatient class. I now incorporate a lot of breathing, relaxation and mindfulness techniques into my treatment of people with a wide variety of palliative conditions, and it is incredibly effective for those with respiratory conditions and patients struggling with fatigue, anxiety and breathlessness.

Michelle's divine little studio at the bottom of her garden

Michelle's divine little studio at the bottom of her garden

I am also now working part-time and hope to fill the other part of my time treating people on a 1:1 basis, in my little studio at the bottom of my garden, or in their own homes. I will see anybody, but would like to advertise this to people with cancer, long-term conditions or disabilities who are either not confident enough to attend a class, unable to attend, or just would like a 1:1 approach. I can make assessments using my physiotherapy knowledge and then design bespoke programmes for them using my skills as a Physiotherapist, Pilates and now Yoga Teacher. Although the physical asanas are usually very heavily modified for the individual, I am finding other techniques such as restorative yoga postures, pranayama, relaxation, meditation and yoga nidra are great at bringing balance to the autonomic nervous system and feel that I can offer a real holistic approach to treatment rather than just focussing on a single physical aspect.

I am getting a real sense of joy from what I am doing now, and although still very much in its infancy, I hope to move forward with this work so I can bring about the benefits to many! I had no idea how much my life would change before I embarked on this journey and would recommend the course, and an open mind, to everyone.

If you'd like to find out more about Michelle and her work, you can visit her website:

Hannah EllisComment