Aseema talks to the well-travelled Amelia German, who is currently based in the beautiful island of Masirah, just off the coast of Oman. We discuss her incredible journey from Ecologist and Researcher to one of the biggest Yoga trainers in her region. She also shares her take on navigating the online space and how she seeks to marry her connection with nature and wildlife and her passion for Yoga!
Hi Amelia! Thank you for taking the time to chat with us today! Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about how you got into the fitness industry?
I’m originally from England. I moved to Wales at nineteen to study and then to Scotland to do my masters. I then worked there for another six years as a researcher, before branching out to the Middle East- I love to explore life in new cities! My career teaching yoga started in Bahrain where I was teaching biology in a school for a little bit. I ran an after-school yoga club and from there on it developed into private classes with some people in Bahrain. I also started organizing my own events and classes such as hot yoga in the desert, full moon yoga and the like. Just something different; something to bring together my passions for both nature and yoga! During this time, I would always come to Oman to explore the mountains and all these beautiful places. That’s how I eventually moved here.
I like to encourage people to get outside and get that Vitamin D, even if it’s a little uncomfortable. It’s a pretty big problem in the Middle East- somehow, despite having the most sun anywhere, people here have got the highest Vitamin D deficiency! I think people shouldn’t be so worried about putting themselves through extremes. It’s not that bad to be sweating or to feel hot or cold because that is how you strengthen your body.
How did you come into yoga?
The first time I did yoga was when I was 21, at University. One of my friends invited me to join her at a yoga course for beginners and I ended up really liking it! I studied Biology and went on to study Ecology and Environmental sustainability in Scotland and then worked as an ecologist there, but through all this time I practised yoga as a personal interest. I’d wanted to do the teacher training for years but I didn’t get around to it till four years ago (I did my teacher training in Spain in 2016). It’s a big investment and when I was just starting my career as a graduate, I couldn’t necessarily go through with it. When I moved to Bahrain, I taught both biology and yoga at school and realised I wanted to focus on yoga much more.
What do you love most about teaching?
That it’s physical, it’s active, and it’s very much about dealing with people! Most of my time as a researcher was just me on my own going through muddy fields or rainy mountains or sitting at the lab on my computer- which was really amazing, but I was always on my own! I used to work as a teaching assistant and through that I learned that meeting and teaching other people and learning what it means to be a good teacher was something I was really passionate about. So that’s what brought me into teaching.
But it’s not like I’ve put away my career in biology and ecology, no way! That’s why I’m on this island, which is very fascinating in that aspect. I hope at some point to be able to tie these two passions, nature and yoga, together.
Any challenge yoga helped you overcome?
When I was doing this training, I honestly could not imagine standing in front of a class of students. I was so nervous! It can be very scary at first. Just the fact that I’m now able to stand in front of a class of students and that people are enjoying it and gaining something from it, has really helped boost my confidence.
Even doing online classes now has me pushing myself out of my comfort zones. You’ve got to keep telling yourself that it will make you stronger and more confident each time.
Are you affiliated with a club, or do you freelance?
I used to teach at a resort here, before lockdown. We were actually beginning to organise yoga retreats for tourists- it was supposed to happen now actually! Of course, we’ve had to put a pause on all that for now. But otherwise, I teach clients online mostly. There isn’t a very big awareness about yoga among the people on the island just yet, so I try not to limit myself to this geography.
What does a day in your life look like?
My schedule is really varied actually because I’m always doing different things. Now in lockdown I usually I have one or two classes a day online and then maybe I’ll be contacted to deliver a talk about yoga. For instance, the other day I conducted a corporate workshop on yoga and how it could be used for stress management. Tomorrow I’ll be starting a yoga teacher training for six hours a day for three weeks, which will be my second teacher training. My days are very busy- they seem to just fly by! I’m also still working with the hotel to organise yoga retreats, to be ready for when everything opens again. I also spend time in communicating with relevant companies online- which is how I came across Aseema Health actually! And it’s great to see opportunities such as this for working together towards developing a professional offering and bringing yoga to more and more people.
Could you tell us more about your Instagram presence?
I started my Facebook page about four years ago and Instagram just after. I spend a lot of time travelling around Oman, Jordan, the UAE and Bahrain so I share pictures from all of these places. Most of my content is yoga related but it also shows something about the place I’m in. It also helps to just create that awareness, because especially on the island, yoga hasn’t fully grown into what it is in many other parts of the world today.
I’d been meaning to try going online for a while, but I just didn’t get round to it because there was no real ‘need’ as such, you know. I felt a bit self conscious too, so I kept putting it off. Then as soon as lockdown started and everyone was indoors, I decided ‘that’s it, we’re starting tomorrow’. I mean I couldn’t have in-person classes, so it was great having people come to learn twice a day and being able to connect with them. Quite a few of the people who take online classes from me now actually come from those who were following the page.
Your page is incredible! Are you following any kind of digital strategy?
I don’t really have a digital “strategy” as such. I do it more in a way that I’m totally just being myself; I’m not trying to show something to gain more followers. Any videos or content I have on there right now has a ‘homemade’ feel to it since I’ve just started, so there’s no professional lighting or anything! It’s just – “this is how I am” and if people like it and they want to join then that’s great; everyone is welcome!
Where do you get your fitness inspiration from?
There’s a lot of learning that comes with training others. There are a few teachers that I really like at this moment- one is Yoga with Kassandra. She’s very clear, and I really like her sequences. Travis Eliot as well, his style is completely different. He teaches power yoga and I like how he films himself teaching students real time.
I also really admire the teachers at the Sivananda school (one of the biggest schools in India). I was doing their classes everyday.
Could you tell us about your 15-day challenge?
Yeah! I’m doing a 15-day weight loss challenge where people join me for two yoga sessions a day. I don’t give them a strict diet plan because you know, these people are coming from all around the world. I just give guidelines on when to eat and what not to include, but not what their breakfast should be or anything. I think with lockdown people are keen to have regular classes, which is very beneficial for them. My main focus is more on getting yoga into their daily lives and making it a daily habit.
I teach yoga for beginners, deep stretching, vinyasa yoga and meditation as well. So I have different classes for anyone who’s looking to learn and I think these kinds of challenges for a specific number of days is a great way to start.
Do you have any advice for trainers looking to enter the industry?
I would say, just the desire to do it is enough. A lot of people think “I’m not good enough at yoga or “I’m not flexible enough” but the point of teacher training is that you learn all of this. From going to regular classes to doing your yoga teacher training, your learning grows exponentially. Not all of the people in there are really flexible or have been doing yoga for years. All you have to do is have the desire and commitment to do it. And everything else will come into place, your understanding of yoga, your confidence.