The Many Faces of Yoga: Sandra Hayes



Sandra Hayes is originally from Berlin, Germany and is a yoga teacher here in Wexford and founder of Sunshine Yoga. Sandra was a student on the first ever teacher training here at Earthwise Yoga and it is wonderful to see here bringing so much to the Wexford yoga community.

How did you get into yoga?

The first time I practiced yoga I was 13. My mom had a book on the shelf and I had a phase of practicing from the book by myself. I had a few phases throughout my life of practicing yoga, it actually feels like yoga has been tapping me on the shoulder all the time but I wasn’t ready. I just didn’t get it fully – just bits and pieces here and there. It was only since I met Shakti that I really started to ‘get it’.

I’d taken classes before but it always felt more like an exercise class. I think it was the style of yoga – classical yoga – that really opened up the world of yoga for me and brought all the pieces together. Now it’s a daily obsession.

What was your idea of yoga before you began to practice deeply?

I had an impression of yoga as a spiritual practice. From the book I used as a teenager it all looked very exotic and different, especially the breathing practices. It wasn’t just an exercise, it was much more but I needed more guidance. I guess that’s why I never really got into it – I never found the right teacher. But then again I didn’t really look for one.

I went on exploring all the different aspects seperately – the physical, the meditation, the moral codes, the breathing. The real connection between them wasn’t there until I stopped dancing and was looking for something that combined the spiritual and the physical, which was when I took Shakti’s classes. I guess you find the right teacher when you are ready.

How has your idea changed?

I realise now that yoga really works as a holistic practice. I knew it somewhere in my mind but it didn’t settle fully. The daily practice leads to this holistic experience – what you practice on the mat spreads out into your life – not just the body and mind but the whole life. The more I read and practice, the more I am convinced of the really deep wisdom that is passed on to us through this ancient practice.

What are your backgrounds in yoga?

The books I had been reading as a teenager and later were mostly by Satyananda, who was very popular in Germany then. Then I started with Shakti and did the Ashram Yoga course here,which comes from classical yoga.

Suzanne Barry who teaches here in Wexford has been a great inspiration and influence on my teaching and I still very much enjoy her classes.

Rachel Collins here in Wexford introduced me to Ashtanga Yoga and she is also a great support and inspiration. With this style of yoga I feel at home and I have made it my personal daily practice. I find it really powerful and very effective. To me it combines all of the aspects of Yoga just perfectly.

I did a teacher training with David Swenson but I also practice and learn a lot from David Collins in Blackrock, Dublin. He is an amazing source of knowledge and wisdom and is like a mentor to me as he helps me in my personal journey as well as with my teaching.

I am also doing a distance learning classical yoga philosophy course with Brenda Feuerstein and and a yoga nidra course with Uma Dinsmore Tuli – It’s like pandora’s box, there is so much to learn… Every teacher has something very valuable to give.

How have you found your life has changed?

My life is all about yoga, morning to evening. We have been foster parents to a little girl with health issues for 3years, it was really tiring at first. We would be up all night which was really difficult as we also have 3 teenagers. It was really tiring, so without yoga I think it would be stressful, but with yoga in my life everything just seems to run smoothly. I can cope much better with anything – emotions, physical tiredness… My mind-set has changed; if we have to get up at night I don’t stress about not getting enough sleep.

Physically I feel much better and healthier. I appreciate my body more & feel more connected to my self. Your life does change – for example you can’t eat bad food anymore as it affects you, you become more sensitive when you do pranayama- you just start changing. My husband and children also practice and they also find it beneficial. It makes me a lot happier and lot more able to take things on.

How was your experience of doing the teacher training course here at Earthwise Yoga?

The best thing for me was that it really opened the door to yoga for me – it changed my life actually. It really had a deep effect on me, it was a really important start for me. I didn’t realise what it would do to my life when I started the course. When you do a lot of practice it spreads out into your whole life.

I think the most challenging thing for me about the course was establishing a daily practice when you have lots of kids at home and trying to fit in another routine into a packed life can be challenging. That wasn’t easy. It took me 2 years to finally find a good routine that works for my daily practice.

The shakti bandhas – a series of asanas to release energy – were really quite some experience for me. I really reacted to it because I couldn’t sleep for weeks when I practiced them. One interesting aspect to this was that I didn’t actually feel tired during the day, I realised again it was more the fear of tiredness than actual lack of sleep. It was a big learning process and it was the first time I realised just how powerful these practices can be.

Had you been going to classes before starting the teacher training?

Yes, I had been attending classes for a few months and talk of the teacher training came up quite early on. I had wanted to get into yoga more intensely. I wasn’t sure if I was goingto teach, even though I have been teaching in other areas since I was 19. I just wanted to do it.

You teach kids yoga, how do you find that?

I love it!

I did the course with Rainbow Yoga, I thought it was fantastic. They have such an amazing attitude towards kids. It’s not about taking yoga for adults and teaching it to kids, it’s about taking the fact that when you are doing yoga that you have to start from where you are at. With kids it is especially important to start from where they are at – from where their minds are at.

It’s really playful, they have great imaginations – every class is a game and adventure but at the same time bringing in lots of things that connects them with yogic values. I introduce the philosophy really subtly and playfully – because they are great at it already. We go on adventures to different places each time and with each story they learn new postures, gentle breathing techniques and some of the philosophy. And each class ends with a relaxation journey. This provides great opportunities for the kids to connect. They absolutely love it.

The older kids are a bit different, it’s a little bit more serious. They still like their games but they are at an age where they are really interested in the philosophy. They are fascinated and see yoga as magic. It’s great for them to have that outlet to talk about things that they don’t really usually talk about and they really take to the postures as well and can take on a little more challenging ones too.

The relaxation journey is a favorite with all of them. I definitely notice a change in the kids and I’ve got great feedback from the parents. I can see their ideas, confidence and wisdom grow – we can learn so much from them. Some parents tell me it’s the highlight of their kids’ week.

Any final words on yoga?

I think everybody should do yoga, it’s really an amazing practice. The thing is you only really know how amazing it is when you have done it regularly for a while. I can see the changes in myself and in my students who have kept with the practice. I feel that people’s minds are being opened up. More and more people are practicing, I’m finding that bit by bit all the little pieces are coming together.

Yoga is so vast, the learning never ends. I feel like I am still a beginner in all of this, and I’ll probably still be signing up for courses when I am 70. At least I hope so!

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