Charlotte Morse is the creator and CEO of The Private Yogi. It’s not often that people go from battlefield to yoga mat, but that’s exactly what Charlotte did, and the result of this switch was: The Private Yogi.
Before you were a yoga teacher, you worked as a military medic in the Royal Air Force. Can you tell us a bit about what this role involved and your experience of it?
I joined the RAF at the age of 17 and served 10 years as a medic. I worked in military medical centres across the UK and was deployed to remote locations across the world. The role of a Medic is to provide medical treatment. This could be Primary Health Care, like what you get at your GP’s, to Traumatic Pre-Hospital Care on a Battlefield. My experience of the RAF is one of the family; it brought me up and supported me whilst highlighting my strengths and weaknesses. It showed me that I always have a little bit more strength left than I think, it pushed me to my limits and showed me that I always survived.
What first inspired you to try yoga?
I went through a very hard time after my last deployment. My mother was ill and my personal life pretty much fell apart. I decided to try yoga in my bedroom using an app called Yoga Studio. The time I spent on the mat, wobbling, shaking, crying and laughing allowed me to take a break and to feel present in the moment. I often find we spend a lot more time in the past and dreaming of the future. We spend very little time where we need to be in, the present. The present is balanced, is calm, is faith, is happiness, and yoga showed me that.
Now when I practice yoga I often move with my eyes closed as I love to connect with myself. It has become my sacred time with god/universal consciousness where I silently say my prayers and feel its guidance.
Was there anything in particular that pushed you to go from student to teacher?
I noticed how people around me were feeling, anxious, depressed and even suffering from Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD). As I practiced more, people noticed how I had changed. I was calmer, more aware of my mind and my body. People began asking me for tips, sequences and even to join me in my lunchtime practice. It was then that I decided I needed to do this, not just for me, but for them. It was those same people who supported me every step of the way during my training. Letting me test out my scripts, sequences and manual adjustments, they were truly wonderful.
What teacher training have you undertaken, and what did this involve?
I undertook my 200Hr Teacher Training with Yoga London on their 1-year course, which covered everything from Anatomy & Physiology, Philosophy, Sanskrit, Asana sequencing, and adjustments. It was a long year for me. One weekend a month I would travel from Oxford to London by train to complete my course. Alongside this course I undertook training with Warriors at Ease in the USA, learning the fundamentals of teaching yoga to military personnel and their community for PTSD and Traumatic Injuries. Since then I have allowed a period of ‘soaking’ of my knowledge, to let my teaching voice come through and find my place in the world of yoga.
Having taught both private and group classes, how do you think they compare?
I think open classes have a really fun aspect to them, moving together in unison with one breath. However; coming from a medical background I think it is key for students to have the undivided attention of their teacher, in order to avoid injury. This simply cannot be guaranteed in an open class. Private classes are unique to each student and they allow a student to further their knowledge and physical asana faster and more tailored to their needs and spirituality. I still teach open community classes but prefer to have another teacher assist me in ensuring everyone is getting the attention they need.
What was it that inspired you to start your own company?
I felt very lost when I came out of my teacher training. Yoga seemed so competitive and I couldn’t work out why. With so many different styles emerging I didn’t know what was what. Everywhere wanted experience before I would be considered for teaching roles, which was very frustrating. This frustration, coupled with my transition to leave the RAF, was what encouraged me to create The Private Yogi, a family where we honour the tradition of yoga and support and learn from one another in a fun safe environment, without the ego.
What are your goals for the company?
The company’s ethos is simple; we honour yoga’s tradition and pass on the knowledge of yoga to our clients and one another. In the future, the company will expand nationally and we will see the development and roll out of our exclusive yoga programmes, bringing tailored dedicated yoga to your doorstep.
Do you feel that your medical background informs the way you practice and teach yoga?
It’s definitely present in my teaching, however, my focus is always moving to what feels good. I take a lot of inspiration from Scaravelli and Strala which emphasises this point. However; my medical background has taught me how to read the body, I understand what asanas can help injuries and which ones could make the injury even worse.
Do you also feel that your military background has affected the way you teach and practice yoga? If so, how?
Yes, it has taught me how to teach to different people. I have had to tailor my sequencing and script depending on who I am teaching. In the military, people are very physically fit, so prefer a more dynamic class focused on how it can strengthen, balance or increase flexibility in the body with clear simple language. However, during moments of rest, it is always important to offer them stillness to reflect, as busy minds need time to rest.
Within my own practice, my military background has actually taught me to pull back – and to find space with slower movement to balance my busy lifestyle.
If you could give only one reason for someone to give yoga a go, what would it be?
Life is full of opportunities; yoga is one which gives you the chance to change your life – surely that’s worth a try!