Instructor spotlight – meet Gemma Cousins!

Instructor spotlight – meet Gemma Cousins!

There's a new yoga instructor in town (well, Gymbox) and her name is Gemma Cousins. Gemma is teaching Vinyasa Flow and Ashtanga yoga. "I couldn't imagine a life without yoga now. It's my life remedy!"

Hi Gemma, welcome to Gymbox, how has it been so far?

It's been incredibly exciting to join the Gymbox team. I've already met some great members and I'm looking forward to getting to know more.

What are you most excited about joining us?

I'm so passionate about what I do, and I'm excited to share this passion with the Gymbox members. I want to share my experiences and the sensation of freedom that yoga gives me. I'm confident that this will help anybody to develop mindfulness and awareness of their bodies and spirit, to find strength and overcome any personal barriers.

You’re teaching Ashtanga and Vinyasa Flow yoga classes – what can members expect from these classes?

We'll be using the breath to create a moving meditation, which enables us to free the mind to feel balanced and relaxed in our daily lives. In joining my classes I hope to enable them to be something stronger than they thought they could be, both physically and mentally. Finding the breath whilst aligning the body correctly in each posture to build strength and to find space where there were once blockages, remembering that in yoga it is not the final posture which matters, it's the journey we go on to get there. I hope to inspire members to be the best they can be, and to accept and embrace every single aspect of what that means.

You're a self-confessed ‘yoga addict’ – tell us about how the love affair started

I trained as a dancer from the age of 3 and I have always enjoyed exploring the body in different ways and forms. To be completely honest I originally thought I would find yoga boring, little did I know!! It was actually my flat mate and fellow dancer friend who introduced me to yoga, she kept telling me how amazing she was feeling from her practice and how it had changed her body and way of thinking. I was sceptical, of course, but went with her and started practising in 2007. Once I saw the affect it had not only on my body but also my mind, I was hooked. I couldn't imagine a life without yoga now. It's my life remedy!

In what ways as yoga impacted on your life?

Working as a professional dancer in an extremely competitive industry where there were immense highs but also knock backs and severe lows, I was constantly putting pressure on myself to always 'be the best'. Living in such a fast-paced world I found yoga to be the much needed escape, and grounding both for my mind and body. Yoga allowed me to re-balance and find space. We are all faced with challenges on a daily basis and by coming to practise on my mat I found it helped me to face these challenges with tenacity and grace. Experiencing the benefits of practising this ancient art form, it became an integral part of my life and so the addiction began.

Can you describe the key benefits?

  • Increases flexibility
  • Builds strength and stamina
  • Cleanses and purifies the internal organs
  • Releases stress
  • Creates inner peace
  • Improves focus

Can you recommend a suitable style of yoga for a newbie, and someone more advanced?

The great thing about yoga is that it is available for everyone. Postures can be modified to suit different strengths and flexibilities. However, a power yoga class will cover some of the more advanced postures and have you moving at a faster pace around your mat. For a beginner I would recommend a Vinyasa Flow or Ashtanga class to become familiar with the yoga postures. If you are looking for a more restorative practise then Yin classes are the one for you.

How can integrating the yoga practice into one’s training schedule improve other areas of training? (i.e., running, boxing, swimming)

I believe that all sports people should practice yoga, as there are so many benefits which will help to improve performance in other sports. Not only does yoga increase strength and flexibility of the muscles, it also helps to improve balance, co-ordination and poise. It's great for boxing. Practising yoga sends fresh, oxygenated blood around the body, rejuvenating the cells and improving circulation. This also helps to strengthen deep connective tissues and prevent injuries. The yoga postures help to release muscle tension and even out the body, and practising to control the breath and increase lung capacity can really help with cardio sports such as running and swimming.

Outside of yoga, what other training do you do?

I love to run. I can often be found sprint training on the treadmill. I also love a sunset or sunrise run around my local park Hampstead Heath. I'm a big fan of boxing. I love to box it out in the ring and then head to my yoga mat, I feel the two practises compliment each other well.

You lived in Rio de Janeiro for two years, tell us about that

I have a love affair with Rio de Janeiro, it holds a special place in my heart and I believe it to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. There is an energy there which makes you want to train hard, look your best and be at one with nature. Working as a personal trainer there were so many inspiring places to train - a run around the Lagoa looking up at the stature of Christ, hiking in the forests, interval training on the famous Ipanema beach, getting in the water on Copacabana beach for a SUP session, or my favourite, taking to a yoga practice on the rocks of Arpoador at sunset. I also took part in the Rio half marathon beating my previous time with a time of 1 hour and 41 minutes. The energy and vibrancy of that city is one of a kind and it keeps drawing me back for holidays year after year.

You’ve worked as a professional dancer, with the likes of Pink, Boy George and Nile Rogers. Did you have a favourite?

Dancing for Pink at the Brit Awards was one of my first jobs out of theatre school so I felt really privileged to be sharing the stage with such a pop star and she was super cool. Touring as a Coconut with the band Kid Creole and the Coconuts gave me the opportunity to travel the world and meet some incredible people such as Nile Rogers and Macy Gray, who are such great talents. Macy likes a boogie on the dance floor and really knows how to throw down, she has a great energy!

Follow Gemma on Instagram @gemsicola and Twitter @ompompomyoga.