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How Holly went from nurse to yoga teacher in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 14:42 07 June 2017 | UPDATED: 14:42 07 June 2017

Holly Boardman was a nurse for a decade but has now trained as a yoga teacher. 
Photo: Siobhan Larkin

Holly Boardman was a nurse for a decade but has now trained as a yoga teacher. Photo: Siobhan Larkin

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During a decade working as a nurse, Holly Boardman saw first-hand how the stress of everyday life contributed to ill health. She’s now re-trained as a yoga teacher, travelling in a campervan from her home near Norwich to offer classes to groups and individuals in a variety of locations. She told Sheena Grant why she thinks more of us should be doing yoga...

Holly teaches yoga in a variety of settings, including natural ones.
Photo: Siobhan Larkin Holly teaches yoga in a variety of settings, including natural ones. Photo: Siobhan Larkin

How did your career as a nurse influence your decision to train as a yoga teacher?

As a nurse you strive to help people reach optimum health and this can only be achieved using a holistic approach to gain physical, emotional, mental and social wellbeing. After 10 years in nursing - most recently in community and school settings in Suffolk - I felt compelled to explore more about how we can realistically enjoy good health in our busy, stressful world.

After I qualified as a nurse I worked in emergency and critical care in acute hospitals both in the UK and abroad. I enjoyed it but soon felt I needed to be more proactive in promoting healthcare. I took a post-graduate diploma in specialist public health nursing and began working with young people in schools and with their families, promoting health and wellbeing. During this time I came to realise how prevalent mental health problems are among young people and how important good mental health is in achieving overall health. There is no health without mental health.

Eventually, I felt that there must be more I could offer to help people of all ages restore their mental health. Regularly working with young people revealed shocking truths about how much lifestyles are influenced by external factors which cause stress and impact emotional and mental wellbeing. Often, the ‘tools’ youngsters have been given by the people they depend on are not always helpful.

Yoga teacher Holly Boardman
Photo: Siobhan Larkin Yoga teacher Holly Boardman Photo: Siobhan Larkin

A certain level of stress is necessary to keep us motivated in life but in order to get the right balance we sometimes need to slow down before it starts to affect our health. If the body is constantly under stress our health becomes compromised.

What difference did taking up yoga make to your own life?

Having a stressful job and feeling the effects on my own health led me to embark on my own journey of moving from stress and the fight or flight sympathetic nervous system, towards the parasympathetic nervous ‘peace system’. Yoga helped me achieve this by providing coping strategies for managing a busy

job and heavy caseload with endless responsibilities.

During my nursing career I met some fantastic professionals and patients but having trained in a very dominant Western medicine culture I began to feel there was room for some aspects of Eastern medicine to complement healthcare provision. I made connections with chiropractors, sports injury therapists and acupuncturists and now feel very fortunate to be guided by both Western and Eastern medicine as I truly believe we can all benefit greatly from both.

How has life changed since leaving nursing?

I completed my yoga teacher training in Indonesia last year, a truly fulfilling experience where I met people I really bonded with as we shared a transformational journey. I also had the opportunity to study reiki healing (a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing) and now practice reiki with clients who want to enhance their yoga practice. I feel incredibly lucky to have been given this opportunity and have so much energy to help others manage their stress, anxiety and find balance with their emotions.

I am on a continuous journey with many clients, teaching yoga in groups and to individuals, adults, young people and children as private sessions with absolutely life changing results. I feel really motivated and inspired when I hear how the sessions are helping.

I am now a full time yoga teacher so have taken a new pathway in my career, combining my nursing knowledge and experience with yoga and all the benefits it can offer.

Why did you go to Indonesia to do your training and where do you hold your classes?

It can be quite difficult to find a course in the UK if you need to carry on working while you train, as I did. Because my nursing job was on a term time contract I was able to do an intensive course in Indonesia that ran for five weeks during my summer holidays. I’m now a Yoga Alliance registered yoga teacher and a reiki practitioner, training at level 1 and 2.

I am mobile, with a campervan, so I go to lots of different locations to teach, including natural ones.

What do you think others might gain from taking up yoga?

I adopt a mindfulness approach to yoga which focuses on the individual making a connection with their own breath, bringing the awareness to the breathing and the present moment. There are many ways of exploring mindfulness, which is definitely a word we are hearing more and more about lately. Really, mindfulness is meditation, which my yoga teacher always explained as ‘taking the time to smell the flowers’. I use imagery and visualisations in my

sessions and this, combined with correct alignment, stretching, breathing exercises, mantras and intentions, has helped move people away from stress and into peace.

Even if you have never thought of taking up yoga before I would encourage you to find a class or private tuition to explore how it may help your life. The

benefits may surprise you. There is definitely room for alternative therapies and Eastern medicine in our stressful lives to help us relax and enjoy good health. Yoga encompasses all of these and I would encourage anyone to give it a go.

■ To find out more about Norwich-based Holly’s yoga sessions go to https://en-gb.facebook.com/yogawithhollyboardman/.

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