Alex Howarth is a yoga teacher who is organising the first Norwich Yoga Festival, due to take place at Whitlingham Lake in August. Here, she explains that, if yoga has taught her one thing, it’s that there are no limits to how much it can impact life for the better
My name is Alex Howarth, I’m Norwich based and have been teaching yoga for the last eight years or so. Most of my yoga classes are now based online, but I am teaching a few classes a week in studios across Norwich. My passions lay in helping people find happiness through the simple things, such as getting on the yoga mat. This led me and a fellow yoga teacher with similar views to start the YogaLife Podcast earlier this year, a Podcast dedicated to discussing yoga philosophies and how we can implement them into everyday life to increase wellbeing and happiness.
When did you first become interested in yoga and what were you doing before?
I started my career in the Fitness Industry as a Personal Trainer in 2010. I was based in various gyms in Norfolk and Suffolk as I developed my knowledge and understanding in a hugely vast industry. With a Fitness Yoga Qualification under my belt, I started teaching basic yoga classes as part of my weekly schedule. At this time, my view of yoga was very fitness orientated and for a while I created a following with this understanding. While teaching yoga more regularly I had also moved up to a management level within a corporate gym and it was a nice balance, but the more I studied and taught yoga the more I wanted to know, so took myself to Nepal for another, but more spiritually based, Yoga qualification. After my month in Nepal, I knew I was done with sitting at a desk to earn a living, I returned home and within six weeks I’d handed in my notice and secured a studio space to teach yoga full time. Since then, Alex Howarth Yoga has steadily grown as a brand and a business, we migrated from the studio to online at the start of lockdown, we had two incredibly successful retreats between lockdowns last year and this year we have more retreats and the Norwich Yoga festival to look forward to.
What’s the thinking behind the first Norwich Yoga Festival and how is the planning for that coming along?
The thinking behind the Norwich Yoga Festival is to celebrate yoga in Norwich, there are so many incredibly talented yoga teachers in this area and the festival is designed for all those teachers to come together and share their incredible knowledge. If yoga has taught me one thing, it’s that there are no limits to how much it can impact life for the better. Yoga has not only given me a better understanding of myself, but it’s allowed me to create a happy and full life and I want to share this with each person that comes through the gates of the Norwich Yoga Festival.
We’ve secured the location, Whitlingham Lake, the tent that will hold up to 50 yoga mats and over 20 yoga teachers, guest speakers and vendors that all want to be part of the day.
What can people expect on the day?
They should expect a beautiful Norwich location and hopefully with some sunshine. There will be 10-plus yoga classes to take part in, guest speakers hosting workshops throughout the day, an area for kids to get their yoga on, with various activities for the whole family, and a lot of Norfolk-based small businesses offering their expertise and wares. As we seem to be growing week-on-week, this list is set to increase as the months go by.
Can complete beginners go along and get something out of the day? It’s for all the family?
We have classes to suit everyone, each teacher is prepared for people of all abilities to walk into their class. However, there are definitely some more advanced classes towards the end of the day,
such as Acro Yoga, and it’ll be highly recommended that you have some yoga experience to take part in classes such as this.
We have an incredible children’s yoga teacher offering a parent and child class in the big tent, as well as other activities, such a mindfulness through drama and sound baths for kids to get involved with. The benefits of children learning about mindfulness and yoga at an early age are huge and we hope to promote this.
What are the main benefits of practising yoga? Have you noticed more interest in yoga and wellness over the past couple of years?
The interest in yoga over the few years has certainly grown. Before lockdown it was increasing at a rapid pace, but lockdown brought a new level of stress and anxiety to many, and yoga seemed to be the one thing on offer to help. The usual assumption is that yoga is stretching, or just sitting on a mat – “how hard can it be?” – but it is in fact so much more. Yoga is a holistic approach that doesn’t just involve stretching, it creates a connection between the mind and the body like no other form of training or exercise. Yoga teaches us how to breath (sounds insane, but it’s very common to not utilise the breath). Yoga teaches us how to be quiet, to slow down and to notice not only the world around us but the world within us too.
Are you on the lookout for more yoga teachers and food vendors to get involved?
We have a waitlist for yoga teachers, but I’m always keen to speak to others as we have so many opportunities to offer at the festival. And there is always space for more vendors and more food.
If the festival is a success, will it be the first of many?
Yes! Absolutely. I’m already in discussions with Whitlingham Lake about next year and how we could expand the festival. Many teachers have been in touch to ask if I’d make it a two-day event, and I personally would love live music in the evening next year. But we shall see what 2022 brings before making any promises about 2023.
The Norwich Yoga Festival is certainly something I’m very passionate about, so I hope going forward it becomes an annual event, introducing more and more people to the wonders of yoga.