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Esther Nagle

Esther Nagle

Wales, United Kingdom

Esther Nagle has overcome grief through walking and addiction through yoga, and wants to share these gifts with a world in pain and disconnected from itself and nature.

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About the author

I  have practiced yoga for ten years,and has been teaching since September 2014, and have been a keen walker since 2006.

I write on my blog about yoga, recovery, walking and well-being on her website, and have written for Om Yoga Magazine, Soberistas, The Fix, I love Recovery Cafe and more. I have featured in articles in Good Housekeeping, Top Sante and Prima. 

I have appeared on Sky News's The Point, and been a guest on Chick Chat and The Art of Being Well on Radio Cardiff.

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Success! Follow the Path sold 2 pre-orders by July 21, 2017, was pitched to 26 publishers, and will be self published.

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$25 Print and ebook bundle

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Get a signed copy of the book, and the e book bundle

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$50 Walk with a friend

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Share the love with 2 signed and printed books, and 2 e book bundles so that you and a friend can share the book together

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$100 The YOU ROCK! Fast action bonus!

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*****This bonus is only on the table for a week!*****

In this amazing bonus, you get the benefits of the Walking with friends bonus (Make this a real group experience with 5 copies of the book, with personalised gratitude cards and an ebook bundle each), but I will also include all your names in a thank you note in the book, AND you will get a 90 minute group Zoom Yoga class at a time that suits you, that I will record and make available for you to watch whenever you want!

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$250 Faster along the path

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Get 5 copies of the book and 5 ebooks to share the learning


Tranform your world by learning a simple but powerful breathing technique with my 4 week Breathe in a New You video course


Join me for a one hour face to face session using Zoom, in which I will share with you practices and concepts that can help you create the life you were born to live!

5 copies + ebook included

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Go further along the path with this amazing package to give a fantastic boost to your personal development!

Spend a day with me in the beautiful hills of South Wales, see the places that inspired my love of walking, and my yoga journey, practice yoga with me, learn to breathe with me, and walk with me. We will look at areas of your life you would like you improve, and I will give you some practices and concepts to help you with that, and provide you with a delicious, nutritious, vegan, gluten free lunch and plentiful supplies of herbal tea.


Access to Breathe in a New You so that you can learn a simple, but powerful and transformative breathing practice


25 personalised and signed copies of the book and an ebook bundle

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$1000 A Weekend of Yoga, walking, connection and growth

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The Welsh mountains are a wonderful place to get away from the rat race and the noise of modern living, and centre yourself in quiet and nature.

In this 3 day retreat in a beautifuol retreat centire in mid wales, we will walk and talk together, practice Yoga, reflect and explore ourselves and how we can fit Yoga philosophy into our very 21st Century lives, and relax body and mind deeply. We will eat simple but delicious and nutritious food that we will cook together, ensuring the spirit of cooperation and camaradierie that is vital to develop in the world.

You will come away from this weekend with a new perspective on yourself, your life, and the world around you, and a new toolbox of practices to empower you to keep the stillness of the Welsh mountains at all times.

In addition to this, you will also have 50 copies of the book, printed, signed and personalised, to share with your friends,


access the the Breathe in a New You 4 week video course

PLUS a 30 minute catch up call with me roughly two weeks after the retreat to see how you are doing back in the real world!

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$1500 Stress management workshop for your organisation

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Do you have a workforce in need of some stress management techniques?

Would you like to find ways to improve your absence rates, and productivity?

Stress is one of the highest causes of absenteeism, and presenteeism. A relaxed and happy workforce is a productive, motivated and healthy workforce.

In a one day workshop I will teach your staff (up to 50 attendees) some effective relaxation, breathing and stress management techniques, and share my inspirational story and lessons learned. These practices will help them increase concentration and focus, develop effective coping strategies, increase their energy and much more. I will also provide a copy of the book for every attendee, and a PDF copy of my first book, Bent Back into Shape, Beating Addiction Through Yoga, and extra copies of the book that you can give to clients, colleagues etc

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Follow the Path

Personal growth and wellbeing through yoga and walking

A guided walk through the healing and transformative power of yoga and walking in nature.

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Personal Growth & Self-Improvement Personal and spiritual growth
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13 publishers interested


“Follow the Path; Personal Growth and Wellbeing Through Yoga and Walking” looks at the many ways that the ancient practices of Yoga and walking can transform us on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level.  

Looking at Yoga not just as a physical exercise but a way of life, and applying the principles of yoga to our relationship with the natural world as we experience it when walking, the book seeks to help us to deepen our relationship with our selves, with the rest of life on earth, and with our spiritual side.

Well being, true health and wellness, is not merely the absence of disease, but an abundance of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

As humans, we need connection to ourselves, to each other, to our spiritual side and to the rest of the world in order to live and thrive.  Sadly in the modern world, we are we are becoming increasingly separated from ourselves, from each other, seeing ourselves as separate from the natural world, and adrift spiritually.  Through Yoga, and time spent consciously and mindfully in nature, we can reconnect with all aspects of our being, and life as a whole.

Follow the Path is the perfect book for someone who is seeking greater connection, wellbeing and self knowledge, in ways that take care of the body, mind and spirit.

I have had considerable personal experience of the healing powers of both Yoga and walking.  My first book, Bent Back Into Shape; Beating Addiction Through Yoga, charted my journey from two decades of alcoholism through the application of Yoga in her life following a breakdown.

Yoga changed my life beyond recognition in 2014, but before that, walking had already brought me great healing.  I started walking in the hills of the Rhondda, my home, following the death of her brother Richard.  I turned to walking regularly, and found that it brought perspective, peace and acceptance to replace the rage and grief I felt.

This new love of walking and a growing desire to embrace more of life, inspired by Richard's life and death, has seen me undertake many "epic walks". These include the Inca Trail, The West Highland Way, The Welsh Three Peaks and The Taff Trail for charity, and numerous walking weekends and longer holidays.  I have found perspective, solace, joy, connection to herself, to other people, to the Divine, compassion, space, acceptance and much more in both yoga and walking in nature. I am at my happiest when on a mountain or by the sea, or on my yoga mat.

I have come to understand that yoga is not what you do on a yoga mat, it is how you are in your whole life, and it is this understanding, and potential for joy and growth that I want to share with you in this book.

I believe that the principles underpinning Yoga are a wonderful guide to whole hearted, compassionate living in which we recognise that we are part of, not masters of, the natural world.  Yoga helps us to see the connectedness of the whole of creation, and to truly value it, and our place in it.


Introduction – how this book came to be, overview of what will be covered

Chapter 1 – The Science part

·       The conscious and unconscious mind

·       The stress and relaxation response in the nervous system

·       Mind/body connection

·       Research into yoga and walking benefits to health

Chapter 2 – How I learned to love walking

·       Early ‘why would you do that?’ attitude to walking ‘for pleasure’

·       Richard’s death and walking with mum

·       Healing, clarity, space and perspective in grief and turmoil

·       Adventure, exploration, meeting new people, seeing beauty of the world

Chapter 3 – What would George do?  Finding salvation through Yoga

·       2013 breakdown

·       2 decades of alcoholism and misery

·       Sobriety and a new future

Chapter 4 – Taking steps along the Yoga path

·       Overview of Yoga Sutras and Yoga philosophy related to modern living, including the Kleshas, the Pancha Kosha and the concept of Nara

Chapter 5 – Praising Mother Nature

·       Surya Namaskar – worshipping and giving thanks to the sun and the earth, the source of all life

·       The Divine – a look at what I mean when I talk about this through the book

Chapter 6 – When you’re in the valley, you can’t see the view

·       The importance of developing awareness of the body, the emotions, the thoughts, the connection with the world

Chapter 7 – Moving beyond our animal instincts

·       Overview of the Yamas and how they affect our experience of life

·       Problems we face in the world connected to behavior the Yamas help us to move beyond

·       Yamas applied to natural world

Chapter 8 – Do no harm – Ahimsa

·       How practicing Ahimsa can be truly life changing.  Applying ahimsa to our relationship with ourselves, with the people around us, the society we live in, the wider natural environment

Chapter 9 – What is your truth? – Satya

·       Yoga helps us to uncover out true self, to be open and honest about who we are, and to see the truth in the world around us.  Being in nature also allows us to be with our true self.  Living in our truth is so much easier in the long run than trying to live a lie.

Chapter 10 – Don’t take what isn’t yours – Asteya

·       Asteya reminds us that we must not take what isn’t ours – this relates not only to posessions, but time, energy, love, ideas, and more.  We can also relate this to the natural world, not just in the ‘countryside code’ idea of not picking wild flowers, but the way we view the resources provided by nature

Chapter 11 – Beyond instant gratification – Brahmacharya

·       We live in a world that tells us we can have it all, and RIGHT NOW, but do we need it, and should we have it?  Brahmacharya teaches us the value in not submitting to our desires, to controlling our urges and moving beyond cravings.  Don’t pick that beautiful flower, leave it there and come back and enjoy it again tomorrow, and allow it to produce the seeds to create more flowers!

Chapter 12 – Letting go is the strongest thing to do – Asteya

·       It can be really hard to let go of things we think we are entitled or justified in holding on to.  We are a nostalgic species, and often we hold on to objects that no longer bring us joy, resentments that cause us pain, ideas that are out dated, perceived need for things that we don’t really need.  Asteya helps us to let go of the things that hold us back to allow us to create space for better things to come

Chapter 13 – Becoming Human

·       The Niyamas help us to evolve more as humans.  Once we have mastered our animal side, we can elevate the human in us to reach higher levels of consciousness and connection to the Divine

Chapter 14 – Clean in mind, body, soul – Saucha

·       ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’ so the old saying goes, and the importance of cleanliness was well understood in ancient yogic texts, but not just having clean clothes and a clean body.  While these are important, clean thoughts, a clean spirit, and concern for a clean world are all important to attain connection to the Divine and to really connect with the world around us

Chapter 15 – Be grateful for where you are – Santosha

·       Happiness is not dictated by what our life looks like on the outside, but how we see it from the inside.  A positive attitude and gratitude for what is good in one’s life, regardless of how small that good might be, is the difference between happiness and never to be satisfied need.  When we are grateful and content with what we have, we can see more reasons to be grateful and life is a brighter place

Chaper 16 -  It’s all about the practice – Tapas

·       Anything that we do regularly will impact on the present and the future.  Even the smallest actions, done regularly, will add up to a big impact.  So choose wisely, and make your regular habits be those that take you where you want to be.  Application of yoga principles to daily life, not just to what we do on the mat, will bring big changes to how your life looks.

Chaper 17 – Know Yourself and Grow – Swadhyaya

·       Self awareness is truly powerful, and is the fertile ground from which we grow personally and spiritually.  Regular reflections on who we are, what we think, what we are telling ourselves and what we do will shine a bright light on our shadows and allow us to make changes to become the person we want, and are destined to be.

Chapter 18 – Relax, nothing is under control – Ishwara Pranidhana

·       Usually translated as surrender to the Divine, I favour the interpretation of this that encourages us to remember that we cannot control the outcome of events.  Just as  gardener cannot be fully sure that his crops will succeed, all he can do is do the best he can, create the ideal circumstances to the best of his ability and leave it in the hands of nature to do the rest, so is true of our lives – we can do the best we can, but we have to accept that we are not fully in control of the situation.  Accepting this leads us to be far happier and more relaxed about life, while taking full responsibility for our role in the way our life plays out.

Chapter 19 – Take care of the vehicle you live in.  Asana

·       In the modern western world, asana IS Yoga.  While asana is very important, it is not all there is to yoga.  In this chapter I will look at

·       Mind/body connection

·       Awareness of the body, which allows us to meet our physical needs

·       Tension/Non Tension in the body

·       Loosening the joints and muscles through ‘Jattis’

·       Sitting quietly, preparing the body to sit for long periods

·       Stillness in nature

·       Connection of postures to natural world, postures and the qualities they embody

·       Guide to some of the postures

Chapter 20 – It’s all about the breath – Pranayama

·       The breath is THE most important aspect of yoga I believe.  When we learn good breathing we can transform our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, and change our lives.  Everything functions better in our being when we breathe properly.  Going out into nature, walking up hills, and breathing deeply near trees is a powerful way to connect to the breath and the important role that nature plays in helping us to breathe. As well as looking at the importance of Pranayama and how to make this part of our daily practice, I will look at the relationship between animals and trees and how much we completely depend on plants to ensure that we are able to breathe

Chapter 21 – Focus, clarity and space – Pratyahara

·       The practice of sitting in stillness and focusing on one thing, whether the breath, a thought, a mantra, a candle etc is a powerful one that creates massive shifts in the mind, as well as increasing connection to the Divine.  In a world that seems determined to have us overstimulated and ever connected to consume, taking a step away and getting quiet and still feels like an almost revolutionary act.

Chapter 22  - The Circle of Life – we are all connected – Vasudeva Kudumbakan

·       This beautiful yogic idea reminds us that whether we like to acknowledge it or not, we are all connected – from the smallest single celled amoeba to the massively complex human, and all other life forms in between.  The planet evolved to be a beautifully balanced ecosystem, all forms of life depend on this balance being maintained. 

Chaper 23 – Conclusion


The book will be targeted at the personal development market, and will attract people who are interested in both walking and yoga, and personal growth.  It will be suitable for people who are interested in their physical and mental wellbeing, and understand that true wellbeing relies on taking care of all aspects of their being.

Other potential markets that will be interested in the book….

Yoga teachers and trainees



Personal trainers

There is a massive and seemingly never ending market for self help books, with the industry worth $10 billion in the US.  There are an estimated 300,000 – 460,000 people in the UK practicing Yoga, and approximately 10,000 practicing Yoga teachers. 

A Ramblers survey found that approximately 22% of the population of the UK enjoys walking as a leisure activity, and this, like Yoga, is rising.

There are approximately 23,000 personal trainers in the UK.

There are thousands of people in all walks of life coaching others in various ways, this book could add to their repertoire of resources and inspiration.


Current platform size

Facebook – 727 likes

Be More Yoga Facebook group - 95 members

Twitter – 523 followers

Website has had 3,011 hits so far this year (30 Apr. 17)

List – 280

Promotional ideas

Retreat in Brecon beacons to include yoga and walking

Workshops, online and in person events

Daily blogging through Kevin and Sarah Arrow’s 30 Day Blogging Challenge, and sharing in the Facebook group as well as in other relevant sites and my own channels

Contact Derek Brockway, Julia Bradbury, and investigate any others who like to walk or practice yoga to see if they will support the book

Pitch articles to Walking magazines, yoga magazines, health magazines, psychologies magazine, women's magazines, Ramblers

Regular live streams on FB page

Connect with anyone tweeting about #nationalwalkingmonth

Join organised walks in the local area, write about the walks and talk about the book to the people on the walks

Attend events for National Parks Week (July), and any walking festivals I can get to

Attend local networking events and pitch for speaking opportunities to share my story

One day seminar with yoga and walking

Pitch articles to newspapers both local and national about walking,yoga,mental health, environment, etc

Share on social media channels

Contact Fearne Cotton, who was on the Inca trail at the same time as me, to see if I can interview her for my website

Go for lots of walks and take pictures and videos to share

Attend public health events

Organise local health walks

Guest post for (DA 38)

Guest post for Active Hands Yoga (DA 24) 

Write articles about walking and yoga for Thrive Global 

Keep my social networks involved in the production of the book through regular updates, livestreams and ask them to share as much as possible


Wanderlust: a Modern Yogi's Guide to Discovering Your Best Self – Jeff Krasno

£15.90 paperback, £7.59 Kindle

Rochdale Press Inc, 11 May 2015


 Like the wildly popular festivals that have taken the yoga world by storm. Wanderlust is a road map for the millions of people engaged in cultivating their best selves. For the 20 million people who grab their yoga mats in the United States every week, this book gives a completely unique way to understand "yoga" - not just as something to do in practice, but as a broader principle for living. Wanderlust helps readers navigate their personal path and find their own true north, curating principles that embody the brand and lifestyle - authentic yoga practices, provocative thinking, music, art, good food, eco-friendly activities, and more

How my book differs

This book is visually beautiful to look at, but does not go in depth into Yoga philosophy.  My book will look deeper into Yoga philosophy, will show that Yoga is about far more than satisfying the senses, and helps readers to find connection to others and the world as well as themselves.

Yoga Girl: Finding Happiness, Cultivating Balance and Living with Your Heart Wide Open – Rachel Brathen

£12.91 paperback, £0.99 Kindle

Yellow Kite, August 2015


By the yoga instructor who inspires more than one million followers on Instagram every day.

Part self-help and part memoir, Yoga Girl is an inspirational look at the adventure that took writer and yoga teacher Rachel Brathen from her hometown in Sweden to the jungles of Costa Rica and finally to a paradise island in the Caribbean that she now calls home. With more than one million followers on Instagram, Brathen shares pieces of her life with the world every day. In Yoga Girl, she gives readers an in-depth look at her journey from her self-destructive teenage years to the happy and inspiring life she's built through yoga and meditation.

Featuring spectacular photos of Rachel practising yoga in amazing locations, along with step-by-step yoga sequences and simple recipes for a healthy, happy, and fearless lifestyle, Yoga Girl is all you need to inspire your own yoga journey

How my book differs

This is a memoir, and while I will be relating some of what I write about to my own experiences, my book is not a memoir, it is a book to educate and inspire.

Do Your Om Thing: Bending Yoga Tradition to Fit Your Modern Life – Rebecca Pacheo

Hardback £16.99, paperback £10.68, Kindle £9.99


Sometimes an hour-long yoga class is the only chance we get to connect meaningfully with our bodies and our minds during an otherwise hectic week. For a brief moment we’re able to let our worries melt away and feel relaxed, centered, and fully ourselves. Have you ever wondered how it would feel to bring that experience out of the yoga studio and into your everyday life?

In Do Your Om Thing, master yoga teacher and creator of the popular blog Rebecca Pacheco shows us how to do just that. The true practice of yoga, she says, goes deeper than achieving the perfect headstand—it is about bringing awareness and intention to every part of our lives. In her warm, personal, and often hilarious prose, Rebecca translates yogic philosophy for its twenty-first-century devotees, making ancient principles feel accessible, relatable, and genuinely rooted in the world in which we live today.

How my book differs

Both books look at bringing yoga into the modern world, but mine will be coming from the perspective of someone whose life has been dramatically changed by this fusion of ancient and modern life, and I will be highlighting the potential for radical growth and development through Yoga, as well as connecting it to our relationship with the natural world and walking.

Yoga for Life: A Journey to Inner Peace and Freedom – Colleen Saidman Yee

Paperback £13.48, Kindle £9.99

Atria Books (4 Jun. 2015)


The very first time Saidman Yee took a yoga class, she left feeling inexplicably different-something inside had shifted. She felt alive-so alive that yoga became the center of her life, helping her come to terms with her insecurities and find her true identity and voice. From learning to cope with a frightening seizure disorder to navigating marriages and divorces to becoming a mother, finding the right life partner, and grieving a beloved parent, Saidman Yee has been through it all-and has found that yoga holds the answers to life's greatest challenges.

Approachable, sympathetic, funny, and candid, Saidman Yee shares personal anecdotes along with her compassionate insights and practical instructions for applying yoga to everyday issues and anxieties. Specific yoga sequences accompany each chapter and address everything from hormonal mood swings to detoxing, depression, stress, and increased confidence and energy. Step-by-step instructions and photographs demonstrate her signature flow of poses so you can follow them effortlessly.

Yoga for Life offers techniques to bring awareness to every part of your physical and spiritual being, allowing you to feel truly alive and to embody the peace of the present moment.

How my book differs

Saidman Yee’s book is a very personal account with Yoga philosophy woven in.  This book is going to be a much deeper look at the philosophy with snippets of my own experiences scattered to elaborate a point.

Bent Back into Shape, Beating Addiction Through Yoga – Esther Nagle

Paperback £7.99, Kindle £3.95

Self published October 2016


In 2014, following a breakdown the previous year, Esther Nagle entered Yoga teacher training, thinking it was going to give her a different way to earn money.

She emerged a year later having freed herself from the depression and alcoholism she barely realised she was suffering from, a wiser, happier, healthier and stronger woman.

This inspirational and transformative book tells the journey of Esther’s addiction and recovery, and the ancient wisdom of Yoga that helped her find inner peace, sobriety and herself.

If you think Yoga is just an exercise class, or sitting cross legged chanting OM, then you are in for a surprise when you learn of its true power.

How my book differs

This is my first book.  It was mostly a memoir of my journey from addiction to sobriety, with a look at how Yoga guided me there.  In this new book I will be looking in more depth at the philosophy, and applying it to more aspects of life in the 21st cemtury, and looking at the human experience from a yoga perspective, as well as looking at the value of being in nature gives us for our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing

13 publishers interested Express interest
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If, ten years ago, you had told me that I would be sitting down on the May Bank Holiday to begin writing a book about the wonders and power of yoga and long walks, and would be crediting them with my very survival into my 40’s, I would have thought you quite mad.  I would have also probably been quite disappointed that I wasn’t going to be writing a book on my life as a rock star wife.

The “Me” that I was 10 years ago was a very different being to the “Me” that I am today.  For one thing, I am sitting here, sober, writing this book today, on a bank holiday, rather than in the pub or nursing the effects of the weekend’s epic booze-athon!  The glass at my side contains sage and lemon tea, and I have spent the day walking, writing and practising yoga.

This change is thanks, in no small part, to the role that walking and yoga have played in my life.  In fact, I don’t think it is any exaggeration to say that between them, yoga and walking are the reason I am still alive with any semblance of good mental health.

You may be raising a sceptical eyebrow at this point, but I am certain that this is the case.  They literally saved my life on separate occasions, and continue to do so to this day.

Yoga is, for all its popularity, much misunderstood, and greatly underestimated in the West.  It is seen as an exercise class,  meditation, or, as I was once memorably told, ‘not really doing very much’.  The recent surge in ‘Mindfulness’ has led people to think that they can ‘do Yoga’, and they can ‘do mindfulness’, but they are two separate activities.  This is a great shame, and it means that we in the west are missing out of some great treasures that could bring us, as individuals and as a society, great happiness, contentment and inner peace. 

Yoga offers so much more than the exercise class at the local studio or sport centre.  It is a roadmap to a whole, holistic, meaningful life.  It can guide us to healthier relationships with ourself, the people around us, the society at large and, crucially, with the whole world around us.  Yoga is not just about the body, although it recognises that it is important that we have a healthy body.  Yoga’s true goal is liberation of the soul, to connect us to the Divine, to our True Self.  Along the journey, yoga can bring us contentment, acceptance, peace of mind, positive outlook and much more.

Through the pages of this book I will be looking in depth at what treasures are available to us when we incorporate Yoga not just into our exercise routine but into what we think, what we say, how we behave, how we speak to ourselves and others, how we treat others and the world we live in. 

Yoga is a truly holistic practice of mind, body and spirit, and regular practice and assimilation into daily life will lead to balance in these aspects of our being.  It can lead to huge life changes, or simple ones, but one thing that is true, once you take yoga into your life, you will see change.

As an enthusiast of long mountain walks in the last decade, I would say that walking too, when practiced mindfully and with a sense of reverence for the world we are walking in, is also a holistic practice that can touch mind, body and spirit.  Much research has been carried out into the mental and physical benefits of walking in nature, and it is known that regularly spending time in nature affects us on a spiritual level as well. 

When walking in nature, taking deep breaths filled with the oxygen produced by the trees around you, gazing in awe and wonder at beautiful views, it is easy to feel connected to nature in ways that we tend to forget when we are in our concrete jungle.  We might live differently in the world if we all spent more time breathing deeply surrounded by the lifeforms that are giving us the lifegiving air we need.

We are not separate from nature, we are part of it, and it is part of us.  We have evolved from animals, and we are still animals, albeit civilised beasts.  We depend on the natural world for our survival, but it seems that often we regard it as a set of resources for us to use, rather than something that we are part of and can impact for better or worse. 

While this book will not be a diatribe on the disastrous impact of humanity on the natural world, we must take responsibility for the part we are playing in the degradation of the health of the planet.  In this book I aim to show how adopting yogic philosophy to our relationship with nature will benefit us as well as the rest of life on earth. 

As you read this book, try to reflect on how you can, and already are, incorporating the principles of Yoga into your life.  Consider the likely impact of taking one or two steps down the Yoga path, what would it do to your physical health, your mental wellbeing, your home, family, relationships, sense of joy, positivity, sleep, energy levels, self esteem to name but a few.  Yoga is a generous teacher, and rewards all efforts, so any attempt you make to incorporate even one thing into your life will bring rewards.

I have written this book with love and joy, in the hope that I can share the joy I have found in life through yoga and walking.  Both give space and time for reflection and inspiration, and this book is a direct result of that reflection and inspiration, and it is my sincere hope that it leaves you feeling uplifted and inspired to go for a walk and Be More Yoga!

Chapter 2

What would George do?  Or, how Yoga came into my life

I love, love, LOVE The Beatles, and have done since I was a child.  Although other bands come into my life, and I love those as well, The Beatles are my Desert Island band.  I was to be stranded on a desert island and could select the back calalogue of one band only, it would be The Beatles, and I would have no hesitation in saying so.

As long as I could have their solo work as well, and in particular, the work of George Harrison.

I adore George.  Completely and utterly adore him. 

I love pretty much every song he ever recorded, I love his ethos in life, I love his sense of humour and his apparent joy in his faith and his music.  Listening to his music can make me smile and cry at the same time.

I was utterly distraught when he got sick and died, and I still cry from time to time that he is gone. There is definitely a George sized footprint in my life.

His influence goes far beyond providing the soundtrack to my life.  I have often said in the last few years that he unwittingly saved it.

When I was in my early 20’s, when my adoration of George over the other Beatles emerged, I embraced my new found love with a passion, and a great desire to emulate my hero’s life. 

I can see now that I was utterly adrift spiritually, and aside from a rather large crush on the young George, I know that the spiritual aspects of most, if not all of his later Beatles, and solo work, resonated with me in a way I didn’t fully understand at the time. 

George’s love of all things Indian brought Indian culture into my life as well.  I bought clothes that looked Indian, I bought LPs of Indian music, I burned incense, I read books about Hare Krishna.  And I experimented with Yoga. 

I attended a few classes, but was never able or ready to commit to regularly attending them, although I had loved the experience, and really wanted to.  I was a single mum and a full time student at the time, it was very difficult to do anything in the evenings that meant being out of the house, so I bought a video by Barbara Currie which I loved, and really enjoyed the practices.

It was not until an asthma attack in 2007 that I started to make yoga truly part of my life.

This attack happened not long after moving house (something I have done far too many times in my life), and I was pretty stressed to say the least, so I invented an instruction from the hospital to rest, and took a week off work (sorry boss at the time, I am sure that wasn’t the only time I was less than truthful to you about reasons I couldn’t be in work!)

While I was off work, I decided that I had to do something about my asthma.  Now, a sensible person would have concluded that, given the harmful impact of smoking on the lungs, that quitting smoking would be a good place to start.

But of course, a sensible person with asthma wouldn’t have started smoking at 17, and certainly would have made some very serious attempts to give up before the age of 35. 

I was NOT a sensible person.  I was a very reckless person with my finger firmly on the self destruct button, and I KNEW that I had tried to quit smoking and couldn’t do it.  So I came up with another idea.

I was going to start going to Yoga classes!  I could learn to breathe there, and my asthma would magically get better, and I could carry on smoking to my heart’s content (although I am sure my heart was not very content with it!)

Yes, this is the logic of the self destructive addict in denial.  Great, isn’t it?

So I went to my local sport centre, and after my first class, came back a yoga addict.  Within about 3 weeks I had decided that at some point in my life I was going to be a yoga teacher.

I LOVED it!  I was pretty flexible, so the postures came fairly easily to me.  I loved the energy in the room, the feeling of being welcomed into a calm, relaxing space, the way that the teacher would praise my postures and use me as an example of someone who could do the posture, the space it gave me and the fact that I could talk about going to Yoga!

My ego was in its element in this class!  Finally (I felt) I had found something I was good at, that it was ok to be good at, that other people praised me for, and that I enjoyed.  As a former ‘swot’, teased for, and painfully uncomfortable with being very good at the school subject her mother taught, and who decided it was better to not excel at anything, it was liberating to be in a situation where being good at something felt so rewarding.

There were two parts of the class that I didn’t enjoy though.

Ironically, given that it was my conscious motivation for joining the class, I hated the breathing practices.  As well as asthma, I have a dust allergy, and my nose was often blocked up, making proper nasal breathing impossible.  With the poor state of my lungs through years of cigarette and marijuana smoking, I was not in a good place to work with the breath even when I was able to breathe through my nose, and I would often just disengage during the breathing practices.

Additionally, and probably not entirely unconnected, I wasn’t ‘good’ at relaxing.  The relaxation at the end of the class was usually a time when I would lose myself not in my breath, but in my thoughts. I would go through problems I was having, plans for the next day, worries about work, family, relationships, or ponder if I was going to drink and smoke when I got home.  Which I often did.

Imagine, going from a yoga class to a bottle of wine or cider, cigarettes and joints, and staying up in a state of increasing drunkenness for the next 3 hours or more!

Despite this, yoga became very important in my life, and was to be a regular feature in my exercise regime for the next 6 years, apart from a brief break after the birth of my youngest son.

Life had always been pretty tumultuous for me, and the 7 years that followed my discovery of Yoga were no exception, and maybe some of the rockiest.

In 2001, when I moved back home to the Rhondda after finishing a 4 year degree, I told my friends that I was home for a few months, to ‘have the nervous breakdown that my degree had created’, then I was going to move on once I recovered.  I said this in jest, but stayed in the Rhondda, and, in 2013, the breakdown finally arrived.

In what I have often reflected was probably the worst year in my entire life, I experienced what felt like an onslaught of relentless stress from the start of the year.  Insecurities in the organisation I was newly employed by lead to a more uncomfortable, tenser work environment than I had ever experienced before.  A seemingly never ending, and increasingly vicious separation and battle between me and my ex (and the father of my youngest son) really wore down my resilience, my mental health and my confidence in myself.  The shock of the discovery of alcoholism in the family shook us all, but I really struggled with it, as it held a big mirror up to my face, showing me a reality about my own life that I had spent 2 decades hiding from.  Again I was left wondering ‘why isn’t this happening to me?’ and feeling somewhat conflicted as I tried at the same time to be supportive to my family, and try to rationalise and further hide my own addiction.  My mum was diagnosed with cancer, and I felt what little resilience I had slipping further away as I struggled to come to terms with this, be supportive to her, and feed the demons in me, who were screaming ever louder for alcohol to cope with this storm.

Half way through the year, in a state of near breakdown already, I switched jobs to a role I had decided I would not accept as it was too technical for me, but found myself saying ‘Yes thank you’ when I was offered it.

As soon as I started I knew I should have gone with my instinct.  A year or two earlier, when I felt more sure of my abilities and less fragmented, I would have loved the job and the opportunities for professional growth it offered, but in 2013, I simply couldn’t cope.  I found myself in the awful position of sitting in the office all day wondering what I was supposed to be doing and worrying about how much I had yelled at the kids in the morning as I bundled them out of the house, late again. My evenings were spent with a glass of wine and a smoke in hand, wondering how long it was going to be before I got found out and sacked, and if I would get up on time in the morning.  I didn’t usually get up, and I am sure I wouldn’t have passed the probationary period. 

I didn’t get to find out.

After a few weeks into the job, we were all taken away to mid wales for a few days for training.  Spending 3 days learning about the job, getting to know my team mates, and seeing the possibilities of what the job could offer me, both now and in the future, I left feeling inspired and excited. 

The evening that I came home, I opened a bottle of wine and enjoyed a few hours of listening to music.  As I got drunker, and my thoughts became more confused, my agitation and discomfort about the job returned, and the by now familiar panic started to set in. 

At the time, I was completely obsessed with ‘…Like Clockwork’, the latest album from Queens of the Stone Age, another band that I am a massive fan of.  This album had really got under my skin, and was being played pretty much on a loop.  It was the musical equivalent of chain smoking, before I got to the end of one play of the album, I was thinking about the next!

One song in particular had really captured my heart, a song called ‘I Appear Missing’.  This song tells of the pain and confusion and mental turmoil faced by Josh Homme, the singer and songwriter, after a near death experience in 2010.  I had fallen in love with this song so much that my need for it felt like a physical pain.  That night, in turmoil, stoned, stressed and smashed, I suddenly realised why.

As I listened to

“Where are you hiding my love?

Cast off like a stone

Feelings, raw & exposed when I’m outta control

Pieces were stolen from me or dare I say given away

Watching the water give in as I go down the drain

I appear missing now

I go missing, no longer exist

Some day, I hope, I’m someone you’d miss”

I experienced a jolt of realisation so forceful it almost hurt.  I sat up bolt upright, swore a lot, and cried.  I loved this song because that is EXACTLY how I felt.  I felt completely adrift and lost to myself.  This realisation was too much to bear, I knew I hadn’t been coping with life too well, but didn’t realise that it was so bad.  I stayed up for a very long time that night, and was inevitably late for work the following day, which got me into trouble, and furthered my conviction that I was going to be out of a job pretty soon.

That night added fertiliser to the seed that was already growing in my mental health, the seed of a breakdown that had been planted sometime in the past – who knows when exactly, I could pinpoint many moments when it got sown.  But it germinated fast, and within 3 weeks I was talking about the need to give up work.  I had that it was the only way I was going to cope with the demands on my time and emotional state that my mother’s illness, separation battles, and the demands of being a single mother on the edge of emotional collapse.

When the job was out of the way, having resigned in floods of tears, and treated with great kindness by the organisation I was leaving behind after just 7 weeks of employment, I allowed myself to fall into the much needed breakdown.

After a couple of months of completely eratic and unhelpful behaviour, including binge watching the entire 5 seasons of Breaking Bad in two weeks, but remembering only about half of it because pretty much all of that binging was accompanied by wine.  Redecorating the kitchen, then almost immediately deciding that we needed to move house.  Moving to a house at the top of a mile long hill, in a part of the Rhondda where I didn’t know anyone, and thinking this isolation was a good thing. 

Crying and drinking and sleeping and smoking and not sleeping and shouting and staring at the wall and fear and panic and oh my god make it stop I don’t know what I am doing – help!

Help came.

After a couple of months, while preparing to move to the house on top of the hill, I reflected on the fact that I would need to do something to improve my life soon, that I couldn’t keep floundering around for ever.  I would need to look at how I was going to earn money, and, reflecting that it probably wasn’t a good idea for me to go back to full time commuting to an office to stare vacantly at a computer, decided I should look at self employment. 

It was then that a little voice inside me, a quieter, kinder voice than those that usualy screamed at me that I was useless or needed to drink, whispered

‘Maybe now is a good time to look for yoga teacher training again?’

I had tried in the past to find Yoga teacher training, but there had always been a barrier.  Now, as I started to look again, a teacher in Cardiff, just 20 miles from my home, had just started promoting her first teacher training programme.  I knew I couldn’t afford it, but I signed up anyway.

Over the next few months, life calmed down a little.  An uneasy truce was established between my ex and I.  My mother was declared well after successful treatment, and the alcoholism elsewhere in the family was replaced by recovery and optimism.  I entered 2014 still feeling fragile, with life still testing me, but knowing that Yoga teacher training was in my future, I felt less breakable than I had previously.

A few months later, I headed off to Cardiff, very excited to be starting my new journey in Yoga.  I thought I was going to learn how to teach postures, a bit of breathing, and some relaxation exercises.  I thought I knew what I was going to be told, and that the certification was more or less a formality.  I had been doing yoga for years, I knew it!

As I entered the studio, a dark, warm, womb like space, I had a strong feeling of coming home, even though I had never been there before. 

Within a few hours of the first lesson, my ideas of ‘knowing it all’ had been replaced with the absolute certainty that I knew nothing, but that I was being given a life changing opportunity.

The lessons I learned in the first week alone started to shift my thinking and change my habits.  We were required to practice every day, and I quickly realised that if I didn’t do this first thing in the morning, I didn’t do it.  This meant getting up early.  Which meant going to bed early.  Which meant no alcohol most evenings.

While this was hard at first, it got easier as I learned to breathe better, and was able to relax more each night at bedtime.  The thoughts that had always plagued me the minute I tried to sleep sober before now seemed less pressing.  Sleep felt more satisfying than I remembered it being.  i started to find that I quite enjoyed waking up early and going to my mat.

I was taken on a powerful journey into myself through the next few months.  I had to do a lot of deep soul searching, dismantling of many old ideas and habits, rebuilding and creating new thoughts and behaviours.

Through the concepts and practices that I am going to look at in more detail in the following chapters, I turned myself inside out, took myself apart, and put myself back together without quite so many faulty parts.

Many tears were shed through the course, and there was a lot of resistance to some of the discoveries I was making about myself.  I was facing parts of myself I had long ago hidden from view, and for good reason, they weren’t all that likeable, or comfortable to be with.  I made paradigm shifting discoveries about myself approximately 5 seconds after I had written them down, my subconscious mind finally able to break through and let go of things that I had held on to for decades.

While it was a tough journey, it was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.  Like a climb up a steep, long, unforgiving mountain, it was terrifying to contemplate at times, seeming impossible, and only to be taken one step at a time, with care and self compassion, pausing for breath when needed.

And like a good climb up a high mountain, the views I got along the way were totally worth the pain!

Just seven months into the course, I woke up with The Worst Hangover In The World ™, and vowed I would never make myself feel like that again.  It took a few weeks before I was able to contemplate that I was actually giving up alcohol for good, and a bit longer again before I could start using the word ‘alcoholic’ to describe myself, but boy did it feel good when I did!

I don’t like to be too conventional in life, and my path to recovery is no exception.  I achieved my recovery without even acknowledging that there was an addiction I needed recovery from – knowing it on many levels, but refusing to fully accept it until I could use the past tense to talk about it.

In the rest of this book, I will share the concepts and practices that helped me get sober.  I will not refer to my addiction and recovery again, as this is discussed in much more detail in my first book, Bent Back into Shape; Beating Addiction Through Yoga, and I want to focus on the many other ways that Yoga can help us find recovery in all areas of life.

I would just like to end this chapter with one final thought, one which I am sure I will come back to, but which is very relevant in the context of my recovery journey.

The moment when I knew that I could change my life and make it better was the moment when I realised that I, and only I, had the power to make me happy or unhappy.  My mother had told me this for years, ‘You can’t control other people’s actions, you can only control how you respond to them’, and I had always nodded and rolled my eyes in exasperation, frustrated that she seemed to be denying me my right to be angry and indignant at  some injustice I had received.  But in this moment in the Om Studio one training weekend, I thought

“This is it, it is all down to me.  no one else can do this, but I CAN’

This thought was at once terrifying and empowering.  I could change my life, I could be happy and further more, I WAS GOING TO!

And you can too.  Whatever is going on for you right now, it will pass, you will get through it, and you will learn lessons from it.  Take a few deep breaths and know that, in the words of George Harrison

it's not always going

To be this grey

All things must pass

All things must pass away

  • Lelle Taffyn
    on May 27, 2017, 3:28 p.m.

    hello beloved Esther - i have pre ordered and i will love it i know kisses and hugs - Lelle