With all the chaos in the world right now, finding balance and inner peace can often feel like an elusive dream. Despite that, there is a practice that has stood the test of time, offering a path towards holistic well-being – yoga. With its origins dating back centuries, yoga has evolved into a modern-day phenomenon, embraced by individuals seeking physical strength, mobility, mental clarity, and emotional harmony.
Yoga has been a well-established exercise practice in Lagos (and Nigeria) for quite some time. Numerous gyms and fitness centres now incorporate yoga into their class offerings, and there is also a rise in dedicated yoga studios opening up in the country. Its popularity continues to grow as more people adopt it, with a few going on to pursue careers as teachers.
This week, I chose to have a conversation with Faith Onyesom, an experienced and passionate certified yoga teacher (Yoga Alliance – RYT200) based in Lagos, Nigeria. If you’ve been a dedicated viewer of Big Brother Naija in previous years, you might recall her from 2022’s “Level Up” season and this year’s “All Stars” season, where she guided the housemates through their early morning yoga sessions.
With over five years of experience teaching and more than seven years of consistent yoga practice, she has developed her expertise. Since receiving her certification in 2018, Faith has taught 900+ hours, specialising in teaching different styles of yoga and catering to yogis of varying levels of practice – from beginners to advanced. Faith serves as the Yoga Studio Manager for Proud Journey Yoga, a premier yoga company located in Lagos and also tutors private and group classes weekly, along with retreats and corporate sessions for companies. Her classes offer creative sequences focusing on proper alignment, breathing techniques, aromatherapy and meditation to foster a strong, healthy body and mind.
In this interview, we delve into the factors that sparked Faith’s initiation into yoga, her transformation into a full-time yoga instructor and her experience so far. She also shares tips for beginners and individuals contemplating a similar career path.
When did you begin practising yoga, and what was your motivation?
In 2016, I moved back to Lagos for NYSC after my postgraduate degree in Public Health (MSc.). I struggled a lot with anxiety and stress, typical for new graduates trying to find themselves; from job hunting to finding suitable housing, managing finances, and basically adjusting to a new environment, I needed to manage my mental health better. I knew yoga was a practice to help manage stress and anxiety, so I decided to attend a session. After that one yoga class, I experienced a lot of mental clarity, and my physical body also felt lighter, so I decided to add yoga to my daily routine. 15 minutes a day turned into 30 minutes, then an hour. I joined a 30-day yoga challenge and immediately saw the benefits to my overall well-being, so I committed to deepening my own personal practice and learning more about the philosophy of yoga.
Could you explain why you decided to pursue a career as a yoga teacher? How many years have you spent in this profession?
Of course! My path to becoming a yoga teacher was not only about sharing physical poses but also about guiding others on a holistic journey towards well-being. It was a decision that stemmed from my own experience with practising yoga consistently. The power of yoga became clear to me during that period of my life when I was facing challenges and seeking balance. I turned to yoga as a way to find inner peace, and the practice not only helped me physically by improving my flexibility and strength, but it also had a remarkable impact on my mental and emotional state. The mindfulness, presence, and self-awareness cultivated through yoga were instrumental in helping me navigate through life’s ups and downs. As I deepened my practice, I began to recognise the potential to share these benefits with others. The idea of guiding individuals towards a healthier and more balanced lifestyle, both on and off the mat, resonated deeply. Becoming a yoga teacher allowed me to merge my passion for public health and wellness with my eagerness to connect with and uplift others. I saw it as an opportunity to foster a community centred around growth, mindfulness, and self-care. I have been teaching for five years now, and ultimately, the joy of witnessing students experience moments of clarity, strength, and serenity keeps me inspired and reinforces my belief in the power of this practice to create positive change in one’s life.
Have you always been a full-time yoga teacher?
Before yoga, I worked as an Executive Assistant for four years while teaching part-time. I then became a manager of a coffee business, The Kofe Club. I made the transition to teaching yoga full-time in October 2022.
Can you describe how yoga (teaching and learning) has impacted your life?
Yoga has transformed my life on multiple levels – physically, mentally, and spiritually. As a practitioner, it has provided me with a space of calm amidst the chaos of Lagos. The practice of asanas (physical postures) has improved my flexibility, strength, and overall physical health, but the benefits extend far beyond the physical. Mentally, yoga has been a source of clarity and stress relief. The mindfulness cultivated through breath awareness and meditation has taught me tools to manage the challenges that arise in daily life. The ability to be present and grounded has helped me navigate situations with more compassion, equanimity, and a clear perspective. On a spiritual level, yoga has enabled me to connect with a deeper sense of purpose and self-awareness. The philosophy of yoga encourages introspection, self-inquiry, and the exploration of one’s inner world. This journey of self-discovery has led to personal growth, increased self-acceptance, and a better understanding of the interconnectedness of all beings.
Teaching yoga has magnified these benefits and introduced an entirely new dimension to my journey. Witnessing the positive transformations in my students is incredibly fulfilling and motivating. It’s truly rewarding to see people become more attuned to their bodies, minds, and emotions and to witness their growth as they develop a stronger sense of self and self-care. The connections formed within the yoga community are also immensely meaningful. Building a space where people can come together to support one another’s journeys fosters a sense of belonging and shared growth. The energy generated during a yoga class, where each person is working towards their own goals while contributing to a collective intention, is truly remarkable. In essence, yoga has provided me with a toolkit for well-being that goes beyond the mat. It has helped me maintain physical health, manage stress, and nurture a deeper connection with myself and others. Teaching yoga has been a way to pay forward the blessings I’ve received through this practice, allowing me to positively impact the lives of others. The journey of teaching and learning yoga is an ongoing exploration and has become my way of life.
Which styles of yoga do you have experience teaching, and which would you say is your favourite?
I specialise in Vinyasa, Hatha, Yin and Prenatal yoga. I personally love Vinyasa yoga; it is a dynamic style of yoga that focuses on the coordination of breath with movement. It’s often referred to as “flow yoga” because of the seamless way poses are linked together in a continuous, flowing sequence. This continuous movement helps build heat in the body, keeps the mind focused, and increases strength, endurance and flexibility. The word “vinyasa” itself translates to “to place in a special way,” emphasising the intentional arrangement of poses and breath. Vinyasa yoga is suitable for a wide range of practitioners, from beginners to experienced yogis, as long as the pace and intensity are adjusted to match individual capabilities. It’s a style that encourages exploration, self-discovery, and the development of a strong mind-body connection. Each class can offer a unique experience, making Vinyasa yoga a versatile and engaging practice.
Do you consider yoga to be primarily a mental or physical practice?
I believe yoga can be considered both a mental and physical practice. It is a holistic practice that encompasses both mental and physical aspects. While it is often associated with physical postures (asanas), yoga extends far beyond just physical movements. It integrates the body, mind, and breath to create a harmonious and balanced experience.
Can you provide any advice for novices? Or for individuals interested in becoming certified yoga instructors?
Yes, sure, I’d love to.
Advice for Yoga Novices:
Start Slow and Be Patient: Yoga is a journey, not a destination. Begin with beginner-friendly classes or videos, and gradually progress as your body and comfort level allows. Be patient with yourself and avoid comparing your progress to others.
Consistency is Key: Even practising for a short time consistently is more beneficial than sporadic intense sessions. Establish a routine that suits your schedule and commit to regular practice.
Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body’s signals. Avoid pushing yourself too hard or forcing your body into uncomfortable positions. Yoga should be a comfortable challenge, not a painful one.
Focus on Breath and Mindfulness: Breathing mindfully is a cornerstone of yoga. Learn to sync your breath with your movements. This practice not only enhances your physical experience but also helps to calm your mind.
Explore Different Styles: There are various styles of yoga, each with its unique focus and pace. Experiment with different styles to discover what resonates with you best.
Stay Curious and Open: Explore meditation, philosophy, and other aspects of yoga to gain a comprehensive understanding of its benefits.
Advice for Individuals Interested in Becoming Certified Yoga Instructors:
Deepen Your Practice: Before considering teaching, build a solid foundation in your own practice. This improves your skills and enhances your ability to guide others.
Invest in Education: Look for reputable yoga teacher training programs. These programs provide in-depth knowledge of yoga philosophy, anatomy, teaching methodologies, and ethics. Proud Journey Yoga is a great yoga teacher training school.
Practice Teaching: Gain experience by practising teaching with friends, family, or even in front of a mirror. This helps you refine your communication skills, cues, and sequencing.
Embrace Continuous Learning: Stay open to learning from other teachers, attending workshops, and exploring advanced training to deepen your expertise.
Whether you’re a novice or an aspiring instructor, yoga is a personal journey. Approach it with an open heart, an eagerness to learn, and a commitment to self-discovery. Over time, the practice will reward you with not only physical benefits but also a profound sense of connection and growth.
How can those interested in attending a yoga class or a one-on-one session with you contact or locate you?
I teach 3 group classes weekly at Proud Journey Yoga. Please visit www.proudjourney.com for details. You can find me on Instagram @goodfaithyoga.
For bookings, kindly email me at email@example.com