Meet Lawrence Hassan, my second recruit for the Yoga for City Surfers class in Bristol, along side Rebecca Coales.
When were you first introduced to yoga and can you tell us the style of yoga you teach?
I owe my path into yoga to my father and my uncle. They took me to my first class when I was 15, but being an awkward teenager I rebelled against it at first, I found it so difficult and confronting. I didn’t know it at the time but I was being introduced to ideas and philosophies that I’ve kept close to me since then. Both my father and uncle are yoga teachers so it’s been a part of my life for a long time.
The style I teach is called power yoga, it’s a strong but totally approachable practice that everyone can take something from.
It’s not about forcing and jamming deeper in postures for the sake of how the pose looks. I sometimes ask my students why they’re freaking out if I notice they’re getting frustrated. It’s completely down to you how much or how little you take.
My class is about exploring your limits, backing off and connecting with the things that are powerful in this world, gratitude, compassion, benevolence and surrender, this is where power comes from, this is what keeps it a yoga practice.
Which board sport did you start with and what drew you to surfing?
Snowboarding was the board sport of choice when I was growing up, and I guess the same thing that drew me to snowboarding guided me to surfing.
I love the freedom, I love the battle with the elements when it’s rough and I love the harmony when they’re working with you.
Where is your favourite place to surf and where’s on your surf-bucket list?
Being a Welshman I’ll always have a soft spot for the Gower and Pembrokeshire, watching the sunrise over a Welsh coastline keeps me grounded and reminds me to appreciate the amazing places we have right here on our doorstep.
Next on the surf bucket list is South Africa, which I’ll hopefully tick off sometime next year, and on the other end of the temperature spectrum a chilly surf in Norway looks nothing short of breathtaking!
When people think of yoga they often picture a white, slim women in some sort of bendy-unsidedown position. Has this ever bothered you and have you seen this image change since you’ve been practicing?
It’s a tough one because this has always been the association with yoga, and put in the wrong context this idea can be very misleading.
I sometimes feel it’s a shame that these advanced contortions and balances have become poster images for the practice, it makes me ask what are they teaching us?
To an individual looking to start a practice with this image in mind I’d like to ask, what are your reasons for taking up yoga? Of course a regular practice contributes to a healthy lifestyle, but to only want to gain strength through postures is missing the vast majority of everything that encompasses yoga.
What gets lost and is so important to remember is that yoga is not postures, it’s the state of mind we’re in while we’re on the mat.
I find people are mislead by these associations, achieving visually impressive postures becomes the end point, the goal of yoga for some, it gives the impression that this is what constitutes a ‘good’ practice and it should be something to aim for, when in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
Yoga is there to be free from a society that tells us to be prettier, skinnier, stronger, richer, more successful and replaces it with working towards a more accepting approach to where we are in life, no competing or contrasting, just you, on your mat moving in whatever way feels good, that’s the most liberating part of the practice.
What advise would you give to any surfers (or surf-fans and boardsports enthusiasts!) who were thinking of trying yoga but haven’t “taken the plunge” yet?
I’d say yoga is a perfect way of staying in the right kind of shape to help you dig deeper when you’re on your board.
The dynamic movement during posture work will strengthen the body giving you the ability to ride with more stability, the synchronisation of breath and movement will increase stamina making you ride longer, and the calm and centred mindset will increase your focus dramatically.
If you don’t have the mountains on your doorstep, or a coastline around the corner, a regular yoga practice will up your game when you get the chance to head out.
What motto, if any, do you try and live by?
Only take as much as you need, on and off the mat.