Yoga for every body
Natalie Chaponnel – Founder, White Ibiza
Having tried yoga on and off for many years, Natalie Chaponnel – the Australian-born, Ibiza-based founder and director of online island guide and content agency White Ibiza – has been practicing at Hot Yoga Ibiza since its inception. Originally attending the Hot Yoga classes religiously, a series of injuries in 2013 led her to Ashtanga, and CORE 40 and she soon felt the distinct shift between a physical and spiritual practice. Today, Natalie credits her daily yoga practice as changing her perspective and subsequently her life. “Absolutely everything is better with yoga,” she says.
What was it that first attracted you to yoga?
I can’t really remember exactly – I just fell into it. About 12 years ago I started practicing Ashtanga in London, quite casually, but I think it was just as an alternative form of exercise to the gym. I went to the gym a lot but I was bored with the environment. Then when I found hot yoga in Ibiza, I discovered I really enjoyed the sweating, and that complete feeling of relaxation at the end. It felt like good strong exercise without the impact, and I liked being led through the class, not having to think about what to do next. There was nothing spiritual about it at all.
So how did you go from being a casual class attendee to a fully-fledged yogi?
Yoga slowly gets inside you. The hot yoga in particular, made me get more into a dedicated practice. It was something I wanted to commit to and I wanted to be more focused. It was completely a physical thing. It was all about feeling my hips opening, and my shoulders relaxing and the feeling of detoxification, giving myself time out and feeling lighter. But it was only when I progressed to Ashtanga properly around two and a half years ago that I started learning what yoga was about and it started to become much more of a spiritual practice for me.
Why the change from hot yoga to Ashtanga?
I was injuring myself a lot in hot yoga – I am much more flexible than I am strong – and all of a sudden it felt like I was fighting the heat. That became the challenge. Sometimes I’d come out of class feeling quite sick and I had an ongoing problem with my knees and didn’t have the strength to support myself, so Sebastien suggested I try the other classes.
Tell us about the physical benefits of your practice?
I feel completely different physically. I can turn my neck to the side without it hurting, my shoulders have literally opened right up and that creates a lot less pressure from all the computer work. Only recently, my hips have come into alignment. I have core strength. I sit up straighter and stronger. I feel lighter and more energised, I can run, and it doesn’t it doesn’t feel difficult. I’ve got muscles, which is nice, because it’s changed my shape to more than just scrawny little shoulders. And [laughs] people keep telling me how good my bum is!
Have you noticed any health benefits?
Health wise, it has massively affected everything. I respect my body and my health a lot more now and this just becomes something you naturally do. I’ve eaten healthily in the past, but it was to be skinny, and now I eat to be healthy. I need the energy or I can’t practice the next day. I don’t pick and snack because I don’t need to. Yoga balances your central nervous system so you don’t feel those highs and lows. If I’m hungry I eat, I am more aware of what my body needs. Yoga is just so good for you on a cellular level – it creates enzymes in your body that are anti-ageing, anti-disease and I can feel that.
How has your practice benefitted you off the mat?
Yoga has completely changed my life. It has helped me understand who I really am and helps me feel clear and confident in my decisions. It helped create space around things so I started living in the moment and not reacting to situations and things around me. When I get off the mat, I am in my centre and my space. I can see everything around me with enough space that it doesn’t stress me out. I feel happy inside for the first time in a very long time.
What happens if you don’t practice?
I can definitely feel a difference if I don’t practice for two days. I lose my motivation, I have a lack of energy and I start to get stressed. It’s an integral part of my life, of my day. But I don’t beat myself up about it. If I miss practice, it’s because I couldn’t do it, and that’s ok. The benefits of yoga are with me whether I practice or not.
How much do you know about the yogic philosophies?
Not much. I am interested in finding out more. I keep saying I want to buy books about it, but I find it easier to learn through experience and listening. This is why I want to do a teacher training course. Not because I want to be a teacher, but because I want to learn more. When I am in class, I am so in my breath and my body, I am meditating but not really listening to what the instructor is saying to me. That feeling that I get in class is so much more beneficial to me than reading a book.
Do you feel like you are still learning in class today?
In every class, you learn sometime new. You find something different, you find another point of your body or relationship between parts of your body and your breath, and it takes you to a different place. Today I had an amazing class – I walked off the mat and it was like wow! I felt light as a feather, driven by my core, I could do full vinyasas, everything worked, I felt energised but then other days I feel as heavy as a rock and just can’t find my core. Yoga is like an onion… you’re slowly unravelling all the layers. What I’ve learnt has been transformational and I am just a junior yogi really. Two years is nothing – there’s so much more.
How do you react to days like that?
More than likely when you have a class where you feel like your practice is getting awesome, your next class on the mat, your ego will show you your practice isn’t all that awesome – that was just a good day. It’s all about understanding some days are good, some are bad and they’re both OK. It really doesn’t matter. The major lesson I have learnt from yoga is if you trust in yourself, if you take the good with the bad, if you are fundamentally happy inside and don’t react to it, everything will be OK… Just let it be good. Or let it be bad.
How would you describe your relationship with Sebastien?
It’s interesting. I feel like there is a mutual respect there. It has never felt like a typical student teacher relationship – though of course he is my teacher and he has so much knowledge and has so much he can teach me – it feels like a friendship. I think we have a special relationship because Seb is very focused on the fact that yoga is not about the poses, and he really values his students who see it as more, and I am trying to practice in this way.
Where do you see your practice going in the future?
I don’t see myself as ever stopping. I would like the opportunity to practice more than I do now, but I think that comes with age and having more time. I have thought about doing something more in the yoga space from a work perspective, so that it’s more a part of my daily life, and that’s why I am helping Hot Yoga Ibiza out with their website and marketing because I just enjoy it. I want more of it in my day because it is a positive influence. Every time I step into the studio, it is just so nice to be there, even for just part of my day and I can imagine enjoying being in that environment more in the future.