We met Keren Cooksey, who runs Falmouth Yoga Space and chatted to her about her practice, the studio, and where she finds inspiration.
How did you get into yoga?
I got into yoga about 20 years ago. I practiced at university to get fit and toned. When my sister got sick with leukaemia, I decided I wanted to be close to her. So I left my fancy PR job in London and moved down to Bristol, where she was in hospital, and started spending a lot of time with her.
Right opposite the hospital was a yoga studio called Bristol City Yoga. I started practicing once a day, twice a day, sometimes three times a day – yoga became my sanity saviour whilst I was dealing with the emotional situation of my sister’s illness. I became a yoga addict, and it got me through the day. Then I started teaching my sister some of the things I was learning in the studio, like the breathing and meditation techniques, so we were both benefitting from this yoga practice. That literally changed my life – and from then on, I haven’t stopped.
Tell us a bit about your practice
My practice has changed over the years – and there have been periods in my life when I’ve had a very strong practice, when it’s been all about the poses and how they look. Now, as I have a four-year-old who keeps me really busy, my practice can be getting up for half an hour before he does and meditating. I probably practice yoga in a class once a week now if I’m lucky; my practice now is more about finding space for myself and mindfulness.
How did Falmouth Yoga Space come about, and what do you hope to achieve?
I moved to Falmouth 2 ½ years ago after living in Australia for about a decade. There wasn’t a yoga studio here, so I started teaching out of church halls. I didn’t love that – I like a yoga space to have a yoga feel to it.
I arrived in the December from Australia and opened the Falmouth Yoga Space three months later. I was walking along Killigrew Street when I saw a sign for a shop to rent, so I popped in there. By the time I left, 10 minutes later, I’d shaken hands and agreed to rent it.
Since then, we’ve moved into a bigger space. There are 12 practitioners who teach here, and other teachers come and visit us all the time. We’re about much more than just the physical practice of yoga – we also offer meditation and breathing practices, and yoga for anybody, not just the able bodied. Creating a community around yoga is really important to us.
Can anyone do yoga?
Whenever people find out I’m a yoga teacher, one of the first things they say to me is: ‘I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible’. But that’s kind of the point. Anybody can do yoga. Anybody. We have a teacher here who specialises in yoga for people with disabilities and another who specialises in yoga for therapy, for overcoming injuries.
Anybody can come on the mat and find benefit from a yoga practice – my advice to people is just come.
I think people are intimidated by getting on a yoga mat, and lots of people have it in their mind it’s just going to be full of really flexible women in fancy leggings. But I think once they come to a class and they realise how friendly it is, that we’re all laughing together and having a great time, that nervousness goes out the window.
When you’re not in the yoga studio, what kind of clothes do you prefer to wear?
I like clothes with a flattering fit, and I like to wear colour. I feel like there’s too much black in fashion, so I always look for bold prints and lovely colours that help me feel chirpier – especially now I’m living in Cornwall after being in Australia for 10 years where the sun was always shining! Now I have to make the sun shine myself with my clothes!
What do you do when you’re in need of inspiration?
I’m an avid reader; I studied English literature at university many years ago, and one of my passions was poetry. Poetry still plays a really big part in my life. I’m a single mother to a four-year-old, and he keeps me very busy – so I don’t get to read a novel very often. Now I read a lot of poetry because it’s quick and easy to read, and I draw a lot of inspiration from the Sufi poets. They wrote these little nuggets of wisdom, and I draw on them for all sorts of things: for strength in everyday life, for when things are a bit rocky, and for when things are lovely and sunshiney. I bring that wisdom and their teachings and poetry into my yoga classes quite often, so I share the inspiration.
What does a typical day look like for you – do you have any rituals or a particular routine?
No day is ever the same in my life. I work three days a week in a corporate marketing job, I have a four-year-old son who I single parent, and I run a yoga studio and I run teacher training. So, with all of that going on in a week (and I also try and have a life), it means that my weeks are really busy, and no day is quite the same. However, I do try and have a little bit of a routine to give me a sense of peace of mind, and that’s getting up at 5am to go downstairs where it’s quiet. I light a candle and I sit and breathe, then meditate. Then I get up and have a cup of tea on my own, in peace. From there the day unfolds, and it’s always different.
Where’s your favourite off-the-beaten-track place in Cornwall?
Since I moved to Falmouth, I’ve just loved exploring Cornwall. One of my favourite spots is a beach called Durgan, which the tourists don’t tend to know about. It’s on the Helford River, and it’s one of the most beautiful spots to have an evening BBQ in the summer. I think the Lizard Peninsula is probably my favourite bit of coastline in Cornwall, and I love the river beaches– they’re some of the most breathtaking spots I think I’ve seen on this planet.