Hannah Glancy is the founder of Proper Northern Yoga, a yoga studio based in the North of England offering fun, friendly and open classes and workshops. Classes are also available online. We spoke to Hannah about how she became a yoga teacher and why she is such an advocate of yoga…
Firstly tell us a bit about your background in fitness. Did you do other types of fitness before you got into yoga? How fit were you before you started yoga?
Funnily enough, I was in bottom set PE at school. It was one of those where the teacher pretends there isn’t a bottom set but not one of the more athletic kids was in there. So really I wasn’t, very sporty, or gymnastic or even fit. I liked running. My mum made me do early morning runs with her sometimes. But mainly I was a couch potato.
What made you decide to start doing yoga?
I started yoga at 18 because I was unfit, and restless and wanted to see if yoga was my thing. Apparently, it was. I was good at it. I was naturally flexible due to lack of activity and fearless due to age!
Around this time I decided I wanted to be a nurse in the RAF. So I began training at a gym too. It was a big turnaround from no fitness whatsoever to pushing myself hard in between care shifts. I needed yoga to counterbalance.
I began looking for a yoga class that was less fitness-based and more actual yoga. I found a class in a local climbing wall and hey presto. Spirituality meets stretching.
How long were you doing it before you decided to become a teacher?
I never really consciously decided to become a teacher. At university, I studied creative writing and English literature with a view to publishing more short stories and becoming a teacher. I then did some outreach in schools around higher education and my Post Graduate Certificate in Education.
The teaching world is riddled with stress and that can easily get taken out on you as a trainee. I booked tickets to India on a whim after a particularly bad few weeks. I’d never travelled really so was terrified. My yoga teacher (of five years by that point) told me to consider doing a yoga teacher training as a way of filling some time and easing myself into travelling. So I did.
What made you decide to become a yoga teacher?
Drunkenly offering to teach someone! After my training, I lived in Agonda by the beach. It was bliss. I made some Nepalese friends who owned a bar and exchanged work for food and beer!
One night while I was helping out I got talking to a couple about yoga. They wanted to try it but were unsure where to start. Agonda is a 2km stretch of beach huts, restaurants and yoga schools so I said take your pick. They were still hesitant. I have a really bad habit of offering things so before I knew it I was inviting them to my 7 am practice on the beach (ambitious considering how many beers we went on to drink).
To my surprise, they turned up. I rolled out my hut and down the hundred yards or so and sort of went with it. I never took any money – it was all about experimenting and seeing what would happen. Seems I was quite good at it.
My teacher from the yoga school, Jaggi, said I would end up teaching. I’d argued him down saying I never would. I was wrong.
How long did it take you to train?
My initial training was 200 hours, I then went on to complete a further 300hrs in Nepal and have not stopped ever since. I think teaching is about continuously reassessing your skills, reflecting and improving. My practice has changed massively over the past seven years. The training never stops.
Do you practise one particular form of yoga or do you do lots of different types and combine them into your classes?
Hatha was always my first love. It offers structure and focuses on breath and gives you time to explore the postures. I guess what I teach now is Hatha with a somewhat more embodied and personalised feel to it. It’s probably further from what my original classes looked like but more consistent with what I feel yoga can do for both mind and body.
When did you set up Proper Northern Yoga and what inspired you to do it?
Well, the name came from a group of Londoners I taught in Goa. They told me I was ‘proper Northern’. Being from Lancashire and moving up to Cumbria has given me an interesting dialect I guess. It was like instant marketing. I became that proper northern tattooed lady on’t beach!
When I got back to Kendal I just ran with it. I think it represents me and my plain-talking style. We now have teachers from all over the country so it’s morphed a little into PNY.
To me, PNY will always be a kind of earthy, grounded and loving community. We’ve built something that embraces all ages, abilities and doesn’t follow form. It’s pretty special.
What sort of people typically attend your classes?
I’ve taught primary ages right up to the late 70s. Male and female. Mostly though we have people looking for a slice of normality in the yoga world. We aren’t fancy. We are down to earth.
What do you love most about yoga?
I love the enquiry into your habits. It flashes up things you maybe don’t want to recognise in yourself but when you do you understand your environment and how you react so much more.
How has yoga made a difference to your life?
One of the biggest things is my ability to regulate. I’m a hot head and can respond really badly to stress. A number of years ago I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis which is a stress response disease. Yoga has helped me to regulate my responses to respond to stresses better and touch wood, I’ve not had a relapse. Mentally I’ve done things I never thought possible and I am less afraid of life! I attribute all of that to yoga.
How strict are you on diet and nutrition?
Not at all. I think it’s a really unhealthy mindset to be “strict” with food. Rather I level up my meals where possible. For example for breakfast I might make porridge, to level it up I can make it with water, add blueberries and cinnamon and make a green smoothie to go in the side.
I’m studying the precision nutrition course at the moment. It’s all about making sure we fuel ourselves right to do incredible things and learn to love a variety of food rather than limiting how and what we eat.
Do you do any other forms of fitness apart from yoga?
Running the fells, cold water swimming, animal flow and more recently football!
Why is yoga suitable for everyone?
With yoga, the aim is to bring a sense of calm. To regulate your nervous system and help you navigate life effectively. You can choose softer or stronger styles and it compliments any activity. It’s about giving you tools to find those moments of peace.
For more information on Hannah’s teaching, visit her website at https://www.propernorthernyoga.com/