Martyn Blacklock. Born 1981. Counsellor and yoga teacher.
When and how did you start yoga?
5 years ago as I was about to start my MA in Counselling and Psychotherapy. Yoga was the perfect complement to a new journey of self awareness, exploration and addressing of some of the effects I was experiencing due to my corporate job in a bank (travelling, eating out, drinking too much alcohol, working too many hours).
My teacher was a recently recovering diabetic. Yoga offered her the antidote to her role in the police which almost killed her. She knew before me it was my time to start, seeing me in a way I wasn't able to then, I took a few months to catch up!
What style of yoga do you practice?
I am naturally drawn to Yang styles including Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Hot, Power and many others. My body frequently tells me, usually before I am ready to listen, that I need more Yin yoga, and time working on pranayama and meditation only. I tend to go from one extreme to the other. I have so much opportunity for self reflection in my work as a counsellor that I consider this my Yin practice on emotional, mental and spiritual levels, but my body definitely needs Yin more often.
How has it changed your life?
In every way! But I'm not a different person, I am just 'more' me; it's like I've expanded the periphery of my being and the possibilities in my life.
On a spiritual level this expansion helps me feel connected to the universe, which of course is also expanding as we currently understand. We are all infinite beings, fully connected and capable of anything, and the knowledge of this, through yoga, helps me knock down self (and culturally) imposed barriers to becoming the best version of myself, but also to delight in my sharing of my unique offering to the world. I used to be ashamed of my uniqueness, I still struggle with this, but I now know how to work on it and I'm eternally grateful.
I left my job and now share counselling and yoga to inspire others to explore what wellness means for them. Yoga helped me find my purpose to support others and gives me the confidence to pursue that.
What is your most memorable yoga moment?
I am still working on achieving a steady handstand, it was all about doing the asana, to show I could and I was desperate for it but I was too embarrassed to ask for help. I once spent an hour throwing myself against a wall and swearing and shouting at myself and I collapsed on the floor in a foul mood. My inner voice said to me, "just ask for help". So I did, from other teachers and myself, and I learned some valuable lessons about the importance of careful preparation, building strength, understanding my body and motivations, being patient and to practice, practice, practice with full awareness. Most importantly, I found a way to accept where I am and learn whatever lessons I can while I am there to help me progress.
Challenges presented through asana practice offer far greater potential for growth than always being able to 'do' asana. I feel so grateful my frustration at my current inability to stand on my hands offered me this, and I've stopped beating myself up about it! Everything is perfect as it is.
What makes a great yoga teacher?
A desire to connect with their students through a non-judgemental attitude, offering warmth and being genuine; remembering we are all one and we are as perfectly imperfect as each other. Of course a sound knowledge and experience of anatomy and the limbs of yoga through self practice and training are a prerequisite, but for me it's the ability to connect and share the practice that inspires students the most.
What is your favourite pose and why?
Camatkarasana (Wild Thing Pose): “the ecstatic unfolding of the enraptured heart.”
It is truly awesome what you can experience through your physical yoga practice, each asana offering an unlimited exploration.
This more active heart opening pose keeps energy moving in the heart and the challenge of maintaining position and keeping the breath even helps you to remain present. Physically it opens the chest, lungs, and shoulder areas. It opens the front of the legs and hip flexors and helps build strength in the shoulders and upper back. All useful for your wider practice and it feels amazing to create this space, to allow this expansion of yourself physically and energetically. Literally opening up your heart from a position of strength.
What do you do when not doing yoga?
I am a very keen fell walker. When I am not supporting through counselling, sharing or doing my own yoga I am straight in my car to drive to the nearby Lake District with my chocolate labrador Pat and we go walking for hours. The fells offer me a disconnection from others and the opportunity for a deeper connection with myself, there's no mobile reception and the challenge of climbing (I am scared of heights) encourages me to be present, fully conscious. Pat is always there with me, my constant unconditionally loving little pal. Our pint at the end is one of my favourite times!
I also love going for dinner with friends and exploring other healing, such as sound, massage and energy work.
What are you listening to?
Right now, 'Summer Bummer' by Lana Del Rey (feat. A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti). The title is amusing me as I sit in here in the summer sunshine. It's ace, good album overall.
What are you reading?
I am not one for fiction really so when I get time to read I enjoy my monthly 'Therapy Today' provided by the BACP (British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy) and I'm reading 'A Little Handbook of Shinrin-Yoku' (Forest Bathing - practicing use of all the senses in the forest to deeply connect with nature).
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I am doing it! Although I am not sure I am growing up, I feel like I'm getting younger.
If you could be any animal in the world, what would you choose?
A dog (labrador ideally): for their continued persistence to love unconditionally and take pleasure in the simple things in life.
Who would play you in the film of your life?
Will Smith, I think he would get me and I would like to see myself represented with a different ethnicity. Plus he's got that mixture of humour and depth which I hope I communicate about myself.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
When are you happiest?
When I don't have a plan for a set period of time (which is often planned in!)
What is your greatest fear?
That I'll get found out as a fake.
Where would you go if you could time travel?
To when we will hopefully live like the people in the film Avatar: fully re-connected to nature, each other and therefore ourselves. Oh and I want to be under that amazing tree of life with someone special.
Why should people do yoga?
Whatever challenges you face in life, yoga can help, just find a knowledgeable teacher and you'll be on your way; for me it's the best gift humanity has been given. Make it your own, there's no expectation for it to be anything else.
Tell us something we don’t know.
In June this year I resigned from a 2 year process of adopting a baby on my own, only 3 weeks before she was due to move in with me. It was a huge decision, I am trusting that inner voice more than ever right now, and it has still been life changing even though life didn't change outwardly as planned. I am grateful for the experience. I wonder if I will get to be a dad at some point in the future...