Described by Kate Winslet as ‘the teacher who got under her skin’, she goes beyond an every day practice to help her students (who she prefers to refer to as yogis, believing you are your own teacher) unlock their fullest potential – be it physically, emotionally, spiritually, professionally. Her varied skillset allows her to address all concerns and her inspirational teaching style has seen her lead classes from the clifftops of Ibiza to A-list luxury resorts around the world.
When did you first discover yoga and what attracted you to the practice? At the age of 17, I had a very serious ballet injury and needed hardcore physiotherapy on my back. At the time I was supposed to be in a wheelchair and living off medication and I wanted to stop this. The physiotherapy went well and I needed to exercise to maintain its benefits, and because I wasn’t able to dance or do my usual fast-paced gym workouts, spin classes and running, so I tried yoga at the gym.
Did you feel an instant connection to the practice? [Laughs] No! It was a classic example of a boring gym power yoga session – though I did feel the connection I was missing to my usual sports, I didn’t think yoga was ‘my thing’.
When did you start to develop a regular practice? It came at a point when I had a conversation with a doctor after I had gone down to nine-percent body fat, which is quite dangerous for a woman. He was concerned for me – mostly mentally, as I didn’t have anorexia or anything like that, I was just addicted to sports. I think I was compensating for my sadness of not being able to dance ballet anymore. I had started jogging again and my Asthma became worse, I was having dizzy, fainting spells… I realised that I may never be able to do my sports again and so signed up to a professional yoga studio in order to do more.
Is this when you felt the connection? [Continues laughing] No! I’m lucky they didn’t kick me out of my first class. I cracked up laughing so loudly when they started chanting… Honestly, I couldn’t even spell the word yoga without laughing for about two years. I thought it was like scientology. But I persevered and started to practice every day wherever I was, Germany, France, Turkey – I wasn’t conscious of a change happening at the time, but now that I look back, I see it just felt right. The yoga was doing its magic on me.
At what point did you make the decision to become a teacher? It wasn’t really a conscious decision! In 2007, I was doing a lot of work with children’s charities and someone asked me why I hadn’t been to India – it seemed to fit with my yoga practice and charity work. The idea of an ashram didn’t really appeal to me so much – I thought I was too European! But I loved the idea of the colours and music, and thought why not? While I was there, I didn’t practice but did some charity work in a small village. It was here that a fifth generation Brahmin who owned a Tantric ashram came to me and said [adopts perfect Indian accent] “I hear a lot about you and what you are doing for this village. I would like to invite you for dinner in my ashram.”
So it was a chance meeting that inspired you? Well… in the beginning, I didn’t go! I heard the word ashram and was like aaahh! Of course, the Brahmin thought I was quite rude and sent someone over to remind me of his invitation. She very kindly said to me that if someone like him invites you to dinner, you shouldn’t say no. So in the end I went, and he told me straight away that he wanted to train me to be a teacher, and asked if I wanted to ‘save’ people. I burst into tears – I didn’t know what he was seeing in me but it resonated. I was always having people end up on my sofa telling me their life stories or helping people after yoga classes. So it was here, really, that the true connection to yoga, Tantra and me started.
Tell us about your training? I thought the Brahmin would be the one to teach me all of the most amazing acrobatic yoga positions. But the toughest thing was, for the first eight months we just did the tree and mountain positions. My teacher said to me [again breaks into perfect Indian accent] “If you understand these positions, you will understand the other 490.” He literally broke down my physical ego. It was a very psychological training. I stayed in India to train him for five years (off and on), and after that I did two more yoga teacher training courses including Anusara yoga. I am now 1000-hour certified.
Tell us about the style of yoga you teach today? It’s definitely Anusara based. Once you’ve tried this, you are hooked – the alignments and adjustments are so profound and the healing benefits are amazing. But I also use my Shamanic drum and other instruments in the practice, I use sage and work with the moon constellations, plus I incorporate Tantric flow so it is not strictly Anusara. I’d call it the Yogayda method.
How do you describe your teaching methods? I am direct. Very to the point. Strongand hands-on. I explain alignments very clearly and carefully, so you know how you should be feeling during the positions. I’m not a teacher who will stand at the front of the class and demonstrate every position. You’ll find me walking through the studio, correcting everyone – students need to listen to my voice as a guide and focus on their own postures rather than watch and copy. I also like to explain the psychosomatic impact positions have as well as the physical.
What is your own yoga philosophy? I want to help bring people to their fullest potential, with whatever tool they are using. I am also a Shamanic healer, a trained counsellor, a naturopath, a transformational guide – sometimes yoga is just 20-percent of what I do for people, and I always work from the heart.
What is your own personal practice like? I’ve maintained a personal practice over the years but it’s much more gentle now. I do a lot of Tantric breathing exercises, Kundalini and more yin yoga, which is female energy. I can’t imagine ever doing a power yoga session again! Sometimes I practice for five minutes, sometimes half an hour, sometimes one and a half… but I have let go of the pressure of putting my practice into my calendar as something I ‘have’ to do in order to be a good teacher. I believe you have to find a practice option you can live with – what your body tells you, not what any teacher tells you. For me, this includes meditating twice a day, setting conscious intentions and practicing awareness exercises and praying. It doesn’t have to be physical.
Do you practice under the guidance of any other teachers? I must say, I would love to train with someone else in Ibiza but I haven’t yet found another Anusara teacher on the island. It’s important to be connected, to have that hands-on experience. I love that.
Tell us about your connection with Ibiza? I came here by chance in 2010, for a birthday party (and I didn’t want to go!), and instantly knew this was where I was supposed to be. Six months later, I moved here. I will always continue to travel, it keeps my mind going but Ibiza is where I am based. I love this island – sometimes, when you really want to fly it can make you feel like you are losing your wings, but in the end it acknowledged me and helped me grow. Ibiza is my home. I’m very proud to be where I am here today, with my passion as my work.
Where can people practice with you on the island? I offer private sessions and I host regular pop-up events in some stunning spaces surrounded by nature all year round – like the cave in Cala Conta. This year I’m also hosting my first therapy retreat, where all sessions will be completely private and one-to-one, with the support of the group dynamic in the villa and at mealtimes. I also offer bespoke weekenders fusing yoga and healing (sometimes more of one than the other, depending on what they need) for people – in Ibiza, or in their homes.
Tell us about one of your most profound yoga experiences? For me, it was when my original teacher [the Brahmin] told me I had to stand in mountain pose: legs hip width apart, feet on ground, shoulders back, upright position, arms hanging. It looks simple. Very simple. And I started to cry. I had an emotional breakdown for around three and a half hours. I cried in a way I never thought I was able to and I felt a deep grounding within me, that I hadn’t had before. I felt all at once my ego, sadness and trust… literally I felt everything we talk about in Tantra. Opposites: darkness and light, happiness and sadness. I think this is probably where I started to crack, which let the light to come in.
Have you got a yoga ‘wow’ moment? It was when I was flown to the Maldives to teach Kate Winslet for a week in 2015. When they asked me, I thought, why are they asking me? Surely she has her own private teacher. I had my own reef villa, a private butler and I called my whole family and said “I think they’ve got the wrong Ayda!” But really – it was an amazing experience. She was very humble and later wrote in Conde Nast Traveller magazine that I was the yoga teacher who ‘got under her skin’. I don’t differentiate between my yogis – everyone is different – but that raised my awareness.
Photography by Ana Lui