Ahead of her foundation course, yoga teacher Susannah Hoffman tells us about her upbringing with yoga and how it unknowingly paved the way for her to answer her calling – becoming a yoga teacher. Her parents’ spiritual influences and alternative beliefs set Susannah up to begin practising yoga at just five years old. Now, years later, Susannah shares her in-depth knowledge of yoga in her foundation course – a must-attend for aspiring yoga teachers, trainees and serious practitioners.
Susannah Hoffman came to yoga in an unusual way. Rather than attending classes and deciding on the basis of what she learnt there that she wanted to teach, she grew up around yoga, meditation and Eastern philosophy, and feels that these have been with her for her whole life. “Yoga was always part of me”, she says.
Susannah’s parents are, in her words, alternative thinkers and deeply spiritual people, and their wide-ranging influences including Sufism, Transcendental Meditation, Theosophy and Gurdjieff introduced the young Susannah to chanting and meditation. In what must have been a diverse and enriching environment, their neighbours were Iyengar yoga teachers and Susannah began copying their poses, and attended British Wheel of Yoga classes at age nine – in a school hall.
As anyone who has ever parented a teenager will attest to, one of the driving forces of this age is rebellion, and the young Susannah was no different. (Heads up to all the yoga parents: your tousle-headed toddler may love to do backbends with you now, but they will have zero interest in trikonasana or pranayama during their teen years.) She ploughed her love of movement into studying dance, working as a professional dancer in young adulthood.
Although she loved the movement and liberation of dance, Susannah could not shake a niggling feeling that the requirement upon her to move in ways determined by choreographers meant that it could not offer the freedom of the spontaneous and innate movement she was really looking for. It felt lacking in meaning: she was looking for a kind of “moving meditation”, not performance. So in her early twenties, supported by the personal meditation practice she’d begun in her teens, she gave up dance and reunited with yoga. In her words, “it did what it says on the tin: it made me feel whole. Before that I felt like two separate parts, a physical person and a spiritual person, and now I had union”.
Susannah has now taught yoga for some 25 years, and her love for the practice, teaching experience and background means she is able to apply the tools that make up the yoga tradition to many diverse populations. She has taught yoga to pregnant women, kids, complete beginners and trainees. She was one of the original trainers on the triyoga teacher training program, founded the ‘Teaching Yoga to Children’ training and is the best-selling author of a Dorling Kindersley book Yoga For Kids.
Susannah’s experience and understanding of yoga teaching is as a vocation – a calling – meaning that she is perfectly comfortable teaching online, viewing Zoom as a tool that offers a different way of connecting with people. In these days of cookie-cutter pose imagery and expensive leggings, her teaching is designed to truly meet students at the point they happen to be at in their journey of reuniting with themselves. She treats everyone as an individual, encouraging them to work at their own level in ways that balance comfort, safety and progress, and emphasising personal responsibility for wellbeing.
Susannah’s foundation course has been through many changes over the years and it’s now an online space in which students are introduced to aspects of yoga they may not have yet encountered. Asana, pranayama, chanting, mudra, alignment, history, philosophy are all covered, providing the perfect bridge to future teacher training, and a more in-depth environment for anyone who just wants to dive a little deeper into yoga. Expect to come away feeling empowered to practise in a way that suits your own body, to develop a sound understanding of yoga’s various styles and approaches, and to have your desire to learn really met. Susannah’s teaching creates a light-hearted, enjoyable teaching environment in which students can laugh at the same time as they learn – surely the perfect way to really fall in love with yoga.