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(Karis wears our ethical yoga clothes including our Go To Vest and our Drawstring Pants.)

Karis was nominated by her mother Marion and when we heard what she has been through, we knew she had to be one of our winners!

As a Yoga Teacher, Covid-19 has drastically changed her work (something we know many of you are struggling / have struggled with) but Karis has evolved and moved with the times, taking her practice online.

After struggling to conceive, Karis and her partner are now expecting! We sat down with Karis to find out what it's like being pregnant in a pandemic and how she has managed to stay calm, centred and grounded, not only for herself and her little one, but also for all of her students.

Here is a little snippet from her nomination: 'Karis is a yoga teacher in Bristol, she has had a pretty rotten time. She and her husband, Joe, have tried for a long time to have a child but had eventually been told that this would not be possible. So she put her energy into her work, teaching yoga on zoom during the lockdown and only asking for what payment, if any, people could afford. Two years ago she lost her sister to acute myeloid leukaemia and it hit her hard, she decided to carry on in her name to do her best in life. Karis, beyond all hope, is now expecting a baby in February, she will be a fantastic mum!'

2020, how has it been for you and your family?

2020 has been a bit of a rollercoaster year for everyone! With the national lockdowns and the new tiers coming into place (we are tier 3 in Bristol), we’ve been staying a lot closer to home so I haven’t been able to see my family as much as we’d like to.

What have you learnt/discovered in 2020? 

I’ve learnt that there’s adventure in a much simpler, slower life. Staying local, spending time in nature and growing things at my allotment.

What would you like people to remember about 2020?

I would like people to use the experiences of the first lockdown to inform more environmentally friendly consumption habits. Even small changes for example, everyone being able to bake their own bread can make a difference in terms of plastic waste etc.

There’s so much to be discovered and engaged within your own community and with travel that can be done within the UK. All the mindless over-consumption is needless and only we have the power to make the much-needed changes.

Taking the time to slow your life down, to stop and think makes a huge difference to living mindfully, for our local communities, the planet and ourselves.

(Karis wears our bamboo yoga clothes including our Bamboo Base Layer, and our Drawstring Bamboo Yoga Pants.)

What has it been like being a yoga teacher in 2020?

Very different and a bit tricky! The big difference has been the shift to online teaching. Living in a small flat, teaching from home has been very challenging and it involves us moving around the furniture before every class to make enough space!

There have also been a lot of shifts in what students are looking for. There was a huge uptake of online classes during the first lockdown, but not so much in the second one. I think there’s definitely a bit of Zoom fatigue, where people are a bit tired of looking at their screen. I do miss being able to give hands-on assists. Even when we’re back to ‘In Real Life classes, we are advised not to touch our students now, due to the Covid risk which is a sad reality.

Can you tell us a little bit about your yoga journey? When did you start, why did you start teaching etc?

I first practiced yoga when I was eleven, I was naturally bendy and didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about! I reconnected several times over the years, but didn’t establish a daily practice until my mid twenties when I discovered Power Yoga.

I took my initial teacher training almost 5 years ago. I was working as a youth programmes manager at Surrey Docks Farm in London and recognised that so many of the parents weren’t making time for themselves. After my training I started teaching weekly in the classroom at the farm, to the background noise of ducks and sheep!

When I moved to Bristol almost 4 years ago, I started teaching at Pacific Yoga, doing a few classes a week alongside my full time job managing a community garden. When the garden closed down and I was made redundant, I began to teach yoga full time.

Do you have any tips for yoga teachers moving their practice online and onto zoom etc?

Each teacher will be comfortable with different situations and will find a platform that works best for them. I personally prefer platforms where I can see my students as they practice, not only does this allow me to tailor my pace and verbal cues, but I can also change the class according to what the students are enjoying. I really encourage those practicing to turn their cameras on, even if they’re feeling a bit shy, as it really does help the teacher to give the best class.

What can we at home do to help support yoga studios and yoga teachers?

It’s very much the same as the drive to support local, independent shops during the lockdowns. If you want yoga studios to survive the pandemic it’s really important to continue to attend classes, so we can financially support ourselves and be there when the pandemic is over. There’s a lot of cheap and free content online, but when you book a class with a local teacher or studio you are literally helping them to pay their rent and buy shopping. I understand it’s a tough time for many financially, so I offer my independent classes on a sliding scale payment, so people can pay what they can afford. You can find out more here...

Congratulations on your pregnancy! Can you tell us what this has been like for you in 2020?

Thank you. We were really excited to conceive after trying for more than 2 years. The slowing down of our lives in the first lockdown meant my husband and I were much less busy, getting a lot more sleep and eating really healthy, nutritious meals. I think that's what made it happen!

We first conceived at the start of the first lockdown, but unfortunately the pregnancy ended in May. The Covid restrictions at the hospital meant that my husband was not allowed in the hospital with me when I went for a scan at the Early Pregnancy Unit to confirm that I had miscarried. Miscarriages are, unfortunately, surprisingly common, with at least 1 in 8 pregnancies ending in miscarriage. We tend not to talk openly about them, which is a shame as it makes people feel like they’re alone.

We were delighted to conceive again straight away, but we have experienced the same lack of emotional support for pregnant women and their partners because of Covid measures. I had a bleed at 10 weeks, and had to return alone to the EPU for a scan, thankfully this time everything was fine. I really feel for all the women who are receiving bad news without the support of their partner or another supportive person.

I feel very lucky that the restrictions had been relaxed at the time of my 12 and 20 week scan, so my husband could attend and get to meet our baby. The rules during labour are currently quite strict in our area and partners are only allowed in with you during active labour (from 4cm dilated), and are not allowed to visit you on the maternity ward at all. This is going to have a huge affect on the mental health of the new mum and her partner and their ability to bond as a family. I’m hopeful to have minimal interventions during birthing, so I can get home as soon as possible!

Aside from the hospital restrictions, being pregnant during the lockdown has had its’ advantages. Especially during the first trimester when you feel pretty terrible, but no one yet knows you’re pregnant. I was able to teach from home and not have to worry about being sick on public transport and as I’ve got further into my pregnancy it has allowed me a lot more time for naps!

Do you have any advice for pregnant women going through the same thing?

The body knows best. Having faith in how clever and wonderful your body is, is an amazingly powerful thing. As much as it’s a hard thing to accept when you’re going through it, but for instance, in the case of miscarriage, it’s your body being clever and knowing that there’s something not right about the embryo or your body at that time, that means carrying that baby to term is not the best thing.

I also really recommend hypnobirthing as a way to feel positive about your pregnancy and birth. There’s some amazing books and courses out there. You can’t always change the situation you’re in, but if you can think positively it does wonders!

We were so sorry to hear you lost your sister to leukaemia last year. Is there anything you would like to share about raising awareness or places for support for those going through something similar?

Trust your intuition. When you are feeling unwell, go to your GP and if you don’t think the issue is being dealt with keep going back until they find out what’s wrong.

My Sister, Coralie, went undiagnosed for far too long, the GP didn’t send for the blood analysis (which would have shown leukaemia), because, being in her early 30s, she was not in the usual age range for this disease. My sister died less than a month after being diagnosed with Leukaemia.

Dealing with grief is incredibly hard, for me it really helped to talk to people who had also lost someone close to them. I also really recommend the podcast ‘Grief Cast’, which interviews comedians about people they’ve lost.

Allow yourself space to grieve. You’re allowed to feel sad, you’re allowed to cry. Always remember you’re not alone. Blood Cancer UK has a lot of free resources, information and support for those with leukaemia and other blood cancers, as well as supporting their families and loved ones.

You can practice yoga with Karis and find out more about her classes here... 

You can find out more about all of the winners in our Feel Wonderful campaign and shop our ethical activewear here...