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Q&A with Diana O’Reilly, Chair of the British Wheel of Yoga (BWY)

06 March 2024


What impact has yoga had on your life, as both a participant and teacher?

At 62, with a very active lifestyle, yoga has played a crucial role in keeping me physically strong and flexible for over 20 years of practice.

However, what really attracted me to yoga was the profound impact yoga had on my mental wellbeing. It has made me calmer and more contented and has given me the confidence to take on new challenges. I strongly believe that yoga isn’t just a tool to help us survive, but it empowers us to truly embrace our lives and thrive.

Teaching yoga has been a complete honour. My students have challenged me to deepen my own practice and to approach teaching with honesty and humility.

What advice would you give young women who have never considered yoga as a physical activity before and don’t know where to start?

For young women who haven't considered yoga before, my advice is to try a class. Yoga is an inclusive practice that welcomes everyone, regardless of their level of experience or physical ability. If you can breathe, you can do yoga.

When starting out, it's essential to find a teacher who resonates with you. Not every teacher will be the right fit, and that's perfectly okay. Trust your instincts and seek out someone who makes you feel comfortable and supported.

Next, explore different styles of yoga to find what suits you best. If training for a triathlon, you might prefer a stretchy yin class. Someone living a hectic life may need a restorative yoga class to calm their nervous system, while someone balancing an intense study schedule might seek out an energising vinyasa flow or ashtanga class.

Lastly, consider practicalities like timing and location. Choose a class schedule that aligns with your routine and a class that's convenient for you. Consistency is key to reaping the benefits of yoga, so make sure you can commit to regular practice.

Once you find the right teacher, class, and environment, the magic of yoga will begin.

What have you learned since taking up your senior role as the BWY chair?

Since taking up the position as BWY chair, I've had the privilege to learn from some wonderful people, from grassroots practitioners to inspiring advocates for inclusivity.

Meeting individuals who have bravely advocated for representation and diversity within the yoga community has widened the dialogue of what yoga truly is and who it’s for. It's been an eye-opening experience that has fostered a more inclusive environment.

Engaging with academics and medical professionals has further broadened my perspective, revealing the multifaceted nature of yoga and its countless benefits. Each encounter keeps me learning, open-minded and excited.

In essence, my journey as a yoga teacher and BWY chair has been a continuous process of discovery and growth. With each new encounter, I'm reminded that there's always something new and exciting waiting just around the corner.

Find out more about The British Wheel of Yoga here.