JOSEPH THOMAS

BIO

My yoga journey first began whilst training as a Contemporary Dancer here in Leeds. When I discovered dance I initially couldn't live without it. I would wake up with such a sense of possibility walking into the studio everyday. But as my training progressed deeper I began to burn out. Dance was once my outlet, but the way I was approaching it made me drift further afield from my own health and happiness.

The reason I adored dance in the first place was because I have an innate desire for freedom. In reality, it was the freedom of physical expression that I loved and not the industry itself. It became apparent after a couple of years that dance was in fact my steppingstone to yoga. 

 

The problem that held me back from becoming my greatest self was my embedded shame. Growing up and being queer I felt like the outcast and totally isolated. I didn’t identify with my gender and I don’t ever remember not feeling that way. As a result of being tyrannised, my tics (Tourette’s syndrome) became more obsessive as time progressed. Essentially my brain was trying to distract itself from things that I couldn’t protect myself from. It acted as a coping mechanism. As I matured, I felt it was my duty to take responsibility for my own mental health and formulated coping mechanisms.  

 

The yoga mat became my natural sanctuary. It became a place where I could reprogram how I perceived myself, how I connect to myself and in time how I connected to my environment. Yoga transformed who I was, for the better. As my practice progressed into a daily ritual, I began to experience movement in a much more holistic way, connected to my sensory experience, as opposed to how it looked.

 

As I practiced yoga, mindfulness, and meditation I noticed it helped minimise my tics. This was a natural alternative to medication which I knew in my gut I never set out to pursue. Mastering my breath, aligning my body and digesting yogic philosophy cleared space to get to the core of my deep-rooted problems and sit with them without malice. 

 

My first Bikram class, however, was not an exhilarating experience. I remember looking around the room in Pranayama breathing thinking: “Where on earth am I, and why would anyone want to subject themselves to this intense heat? Why is this man on a high mirrored podium, and why does he have a microphone?”. Funnily enough, three years later I came to The Hot Room Leeds, and this time I dived into the practice instantaneously. To my pleasant surprise, this time I felt a huge shift in my self-belief, knowing that it didn’t matter if I perceived my practice to be good or bad. The only important thing was that I showed up and reaped the benefits. I started practicing almost every day, and this time around I loved the 26+2 series and all it had to offer. Facing myself in the mirror every day and accepting what I saw.

 

I slowly formed a more compassionate relationship with myself. A more authentic nature began to take form, and I decided to take back my power and live the life I was always deserving of, without shame and without resentment. 

 

I’m now in a position to help others by giving skilful knowledge. It’s a means to pay forward what was given to me. It’s an honour to have a platform aiding people to form the best version of themselves. My yoga classes generally have an emphasis on self-expression, the desire to move, to feel and above all else, freedom.

 

I believe life isn’t about finding yourself it’s all about creating yourself and we have the capacity to do that in our yoga practice. Action comes first and the feeling of self-confidence follows. We literally need to step on the mat, stand where our feet are and create. We are born makers and creativity is the ultimate act of integration. 

 

I strive to create an environment where people can be brave enough to challenge themselves both physically and mentally. Helping students cultivate the strength to persist, take control and believe in themselves. Gaining tools to deal with life’s challenges and foster their own mental health and happiness.