Yoga for every body
Isabel Holmquist, yoga teacher & studio owner, Yoga GBG Sweden
Born in Sweden, Isabel Holmquist was drawn to yoga as a young teenager, when studios were scarce and the internet wasn’t accessible, but she persevered with her practice and went on to open her own studio in her hometown of Gothenburg, Yoga GBG. After a chance encounter led to a friendship with Hot Yoga Ibiza’s Sebastien Carincotte at Tony Sanchez’s CORE 40 teacher training course in Mexico in 2013, Isabel was inspired to bring her students to Ibiza, hosting two weeklong yoga retreats at the Hot Yoga Ibiza studio in 2015.
How did you first get into yoga?
I used to gymnastics, until I was 13, then between the ages of 13 and 15 I didn’t do anything and I really felt it in my body. I needed something but the gym seemed too serious. I saw a sign around town for a yoga class – back then there weren’t many and they were mainly filled with older people – and I tried it.
Did you feel an instant connection with it?
I didn’t get half of it, but I liked it. I tried to do it at home. I started travelling more, and I always looked for studios wherever I went, like Israel, Argentina and the states. Then 17 years ago I found Bikram, while I was in San Francisco. I went to a class and I thought, ‘These people are crazy.’ But I bought a 30-day pass and I went every day, sweating like a pig and I loved it.
How did you go from student to teacher?
It’s in my nature to teach. I’ve always been in positions where I’m not the boss, but I’m a leader. Youth group as a kid, a ski instructor, drama teacher – I find myself good at explaining things, and I have a good way of relating to people.
What kind of yoga do you teach today?
I teach Hatha yoga mostly, but it’s a mix of styles. I have been practicing yoga for over 20 years, so there are influences from all different types of yoga, from Anusara and Ashtanga to Bikram. My classes are very small and semi-private, so my focus is really on learning – each class is like a little workshop. I also do corporate classes with businesses and those classes are more focused on the physical and stretching.
What is your personal practice like?
I have two kids, I run my own company, I teach around 10 classes a week and I have a lot of other stuff going on in between that, so I’m happy if I can get 10 to 15 minutes a day in. But when I teach, I always warm up as I am very physical when I teach. I try to go to other classes as often as I can, at least once a week – it’s important to take classes from other teachers. Not to be the person in charge. Someone has to push you because you won’t push yourself. I prioritise my daily meditation over everything.
How did you get involved with Hot Yoga Ibiza?
Sebastien and I met in Mexico… but it’s a funny story. At my studio in Gothenburg, one night a guy knocked on the door two minutes before class started (I normally locked the door 10 minutes before), it turned out he’d been practicing Bikram yoga in Ibiza and wanted to join my class. Even though I didn’t normally take new students, I let him in and he had a really good practice style, and I thought… this teacher in Ibiza, he must have knowledge, he’s more than a regular Bikram instructor. The when I was in Mexico, we were on the first day of training, and went round in a group and introduced ourselves. He said, “I’m Sebastien and I have a studio in Ibiza,” and I was like what? Is that you? We started talking and hanging out and I thought it could be fun to go to Ibiza and rent his studio for a retreat. We kept emailing and texting and then I brought over a group of 15 people in the spring and again at the end of the summer season.
What was the reaction of your students to the idea of a retreat in Ibiza?
People were saying to me, “Oh you’re doing a retreat in Ibiza? Are you going to party every night?” But my students were open to it, and they wanted to come. It’s a beautiful island and so much more than the parties. I’ve done retreats in Greece and in the French Alps, but I made this retreat a little different – you could stay in whatever type of accommodation you like, you could get here however you like and then there was a set price for the yoga. Seba had his classes plus a meditation workshop and I taught several yin classes. It wasn’t a strict group thing where you had to buddy up all the time, it was very laidback. I hope there will be a next time!
How do you describe Sebastien’s teaching style?
Sebastien is very attentive, and very caring about his students. He lives and breathes and eats this yoga studio – it’s his life. But you can always feel his love for the yoga. He’s just a little package of muscles and body control. And he has so much knowledge. I love coming here to see the way that he practices and teaches. He’s exactly what you need to stay in the room during a Bikram class!
What does the future hold for your practice?
I’m going to do an advanced teacher training course with Tony again in December, and there are a lot of good teachers coming to Gothenburg that I’ll check out. I want to continue with my teaching and I also have a project with a Danish company trying to get yoga into schools – we’re building a platform teachers can use to start every class with a few minutes of yoga to bring the kids’ energy down. My plan is to also do this in Gothenburg and get yoga into schools in Sweden too.