An Insightful Journey: Yoga, Transformation & Making a Change with Helen McCabe

In this exclusive interview, we have the privilege of sitting down with the yoga teacher and true visionary and driving force behind Urban Yogi’s UK 300-hour teacher training programme, Helen McCabe.

With a profound passion for yoga and a heart dedicated to empowering others, Helen brings a unique blend of experience, compassion, and expertise. As a seasoned yoga teacher and leader of this transformative initiative, Helen embodies the spirit of Urban Yogi’s UK to make yoga accessible to all.

Join us as we delve deep into her journey, inspirations, and the incredible potential this programme holds for practitioners and communities alike.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved with yoga? 

Of course! My name is Helen McCabe, and my journey with yoga started when I was around 22 or 23 while living in London. Back then, I worked in the film industry and was pregnant with my daughter, Ella. Through my antenatal classes, I was introduced to yoga. I quickly recognised the immense value of breathing techniques, especially during pregnancy and labour. After moving to Dorset when my children were five and eight, I found a wonderful yoga teacher who really inspired my interest in yoga, and quite quickly, the classes became the highlight of my week. Before I knew it, yoga was part of my daily life.

Over the years, my curiosity for yoga continued to grow. I decided to deepen my understanding of the practice by embarking on a yoga foundation course and then a 3-year-long British Wheel of Yoga training programme. Without planning it, I was embarking on a path towards a career teaching yoga.

What was it that sparked your transition from student to teacher?

I didn’t really have any ambitions to teach yoga – but it all started when a close friend, who had trained with me, asked me to cover her classes. Initially, I was hesitant as I was very fearful of any public speaking. Still, I agreed, and to my surprise, I loved it. After that, I started teaching just one or two classes per week whilst juggling my responsibilities as a working parent.

How has your teaching journey progressed over the years? 

Over the past 20 years, my teaching journey has continuously evolved, and what started as a part-time passion has become a full-time career.

In 2008 and 2010, I had the incredible opportunity of travelling to New Zealand to undertake an Ashtanga yoga training programme with my teachers, John Scott and Lucy Crawford. On my return, I started devoting more time to teaching yoga and continuing with my professional development. Over the years, this has included training in pre- and post-natal yoga and teen yoga, as well as neuroscience and restorative yoga training with Yoga Medicine. I have also completed 200 hours of training as a Somatic Movement coach over the last 3 years.

“My yoga teacher journey has been so rewarding. After two decades of teaching, I am learning more than ever, especially from the people I share these practices with.”

What style of yoga do you teach?

I prefer to say that I teach ‘yoga’ as I hope to share all aspects of yoga, including pranayama and yoga philosophy, not just postural practices. My own practice over the last 20 years has predominantly been Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga. This has naturally influenced my teaching, and I do teach some classes, specifically Ashtanga.

Over recent years, I’ve also integrated somatic movement protocols into my teaching. These are amazing tools for promoting our brain-body awareness.

It is my intention to teach in a way that honours the traditions of yoga and supports the individual needs of each practitioner.

How has yoga and becoming a yoga teacher changed your life? 

Yoga has been such an incredible tool through life’s challenges. Teaching yoga has been so transformative in ways that I could have never imagined. I learn so much from the people I share these practices with, and I feel privileged to be on this lifelong learning journey.

What are your three favourite things about being a yoga teacher?  

I love many things. Above all, it’s the connections I make with people, from the people that I get to share yoga with to the lifelong friends amongst fellow practitioners and teachers. It is a wonderful community.

Secondly, it is wonderful to witness the transformations in people that unfold through their regular practice. It is a privilege to be part of that journey with them.

And finally, the sheer fact that I get to do what I love for a living is a true blessing.

How did you get involved with Urban Yogis?

My connection with Urban Yogis dates back to its inception in 2014. I first learned about this transformative initiative through Eddie Stern, a well-known yoga teacher in New York. I came across a video showcasing the “Urban Yogis” project that he had collaborated on with Deepak Chopra and Life Camp (through Erica Ford). The project addressed gun violence and deprivation in Queens, New York. They integrated yoga into a summer camp programme, which then led to them facilitating the training of a group of young people from the project to be yoga teachers who then taught in state schools.

I was inspired by this and contacted Eddie, who didn’t know me, to see if he would come to the UK and talk more about the project and the work of the Urban Yogis. I was delighted when Eddie accepted the invitation and came to Dorset in the autumn of 2014 to teach a workshop and talk about Urban Yogis. During the visit, we had conversations about the possibility of setting up an Urban Yogis project here in the UK and, along with a fellow teacher here, Scott, we set out to explore opportunities for volunteer projects involving yoga teaching in Dorset and London.

“My favourite aspect of being part of Urban Yogi’s UK team has to be the team itself. Working alongside such dedicated and passionate individuals is truly inspiring. There’s a collective energy and commitment towards making a positive impact through yoga.”

What is your favourite aspect of being part of Urban Yogi’s UK team? 

It is also highly satisfying to see the tangible impact of our efforts. Being part of the early stages of Urban Yogi’s UK journey and witnessing its growth and evolution is incredibly rewarding. It’s not without challenges; the sense of purpose and excitement far outweighs any obstacles. I feel very fortunate to be a part of such an incredible team for an organisation that genuinely impacts many lives.

Fast-forward to 2023, and you’ve just launched Urban Yogi’s UK Teacher Training programme, which is incredible! Could you shed some light on the programme’s purpose and philosophy? 

The inspiration behind our teacher training programme goes back to the work of the New York Urban Yogis, who originally inspired me. What especially resonated with me was that they had facilitated young people from deprived and violence-affected communities being able to train to become yoga teachers. Yoga, which has greatly enriched my life, isn’t accessible to everyone, especially those facing socio-economic challenges.

Moreover, the need for more diversity within the yoga community underscored the need for change. It’s vital that people in different communities can relate to their teachers and mentors. Young people connect much better with teachers who share similar lived experiences.

The Urban Yogis teacher training programme has inclusivity and accessibility at its heart, empowering those from marginalised communities to have access to the tools and expertise to become yoga teachers so that we can ultimately foster a more significant impact of yoga within our society.

Who is the training programme designed for? 

Our training programme is open to anyone who would like to learn the skills to teach yoga. It is also perfect for anyone already teaching yoga and interested in learning more specialised skills to support them with youth and community work as a yoga teacher within diverse communities so that you can offer your support to your students.

We ask prospective trainees to have at least two years of experience in a personal yoga practice. Although we will be exploring personal practice during the course, the focus of the training isn’t on teaching individuals how to practice yoga but rather how to effectively share the practice with others.

Enrolling in the programme is a step towards contributing to a more inclusive and supportive yoga community. Any profits generated from the training will be channelled back into the initiative to support subsidised or fully sponsored spaces and community projects. If you want to be part of a movement that fosters diversity, inclusivity, and positive change within the yoga landscape and amongst young people, this programme is for you.

What benefits can participants expect to derive from the programme? 

Participants in the programme will acquire a solid foundation in the skills and knowledge to support them in sharing yoga in their communities. Specifically, the programme will enable participants to:

  • Share Yoga Practices: Graduates will have the tools and knowledge to plan and teach yoga classes and courses, understanding how to deliver practices effectively to different groups and needs within the community.
  • Teaching Yoga to Youth: As part of the training, trainees will gain solid foundational knowledge and tools for teaching yoga specifically to teens and young people, empowering the next generation with yoga’s transformative benefits.
  • Trauma-informed Practices: The programme will equip trainees with a solid understanding of trauma-informed practices.

Some people might need clarification about committing to the training programme due to concerns about time and resources or their suitability. What advice would you give anyone who is still determining the programme’s suitability? 

When considering embarking on a commitment like this yoga teacher training programme, having questions and concerns is natural and important. For anyone who feels a calling to teach, our doors here at Urban Yogi’s UK are open for conversations. We encourage and welcome anyone to reach out to us if you would like to arrange a chat to find out more or to discuss any concerns that you may have about the course or costs. It is an exciting and transformative journey worth exploring, and we are there to support you.

It is essential to understand what the programme entails, who the teaching team are and the financial costs before committing to the training, which is why we’re more than happy to talk anyone through it. We also have various payment plans in place to spread the cost of the investment for the training.

If you are interested in finding out more, we’ll be hosting Q&A and ‘Meet the Teacher’ sessions on the Urban Yogis UK Instagram over the next couple of weeks, so be sure to give us a follow and tune in. 

How will the Teacher Training programme contribute to Urban Yogi’s UK, its team, and the organisation as a whole? 

This initiative marks the first step in our broader journey. We are committed to making yoga more accessible in diverse communities and nurturing local talent.

Additionally, we intend to offer training that aligns with our organisation’s mission, and by introducing this training programme, we hope to open the doors to the next generation of teachers.

From a financial perspective, the paid training contributes to the programme’s sustainability, ensuring costs are covered, with surplus funds then used to support subsidised places and reinvested into further developing the programme and future initiatives.

The programme marks the beginning of Urban Yogi’s UK’s role as a training provider, opening up avenues for growth and impact that reach far beyond the training programme itself. As well as the comprehensive teacher training content, we will also be offering Continuous Professional Development (CPDs and other workshops in line with our work. This evolution holds tremendous potential, enabling us to support our immediate team and the broader yoga teaching community with further training in the skills and knowledge that align with our core values.

“The programme marks the beginning of Urban Yogi’s UK’s role as a training provider, opening up avenues for growth and impact that reach far beyond the training programme itself.”

Our interview with Helen McCabe has illuminated the journey of a teacher with a vision for the potential of yoga as a tool for empowerment. From her early days as a passionate yoga enthusiast to her foundational role in setting up Urban Yogi’s UK and its 300-hour teacher training programme, Helen’s evolution is nothing short of inspiring. Her journey is a testament to the power of combining personal conviction with a broader vision for positive change. Her vision and passionate approach serve as a beacon of inspiration for anyone who is thinking of embarking on their yoga teaching journey to make a positive impact in the world.

As we reflect upon her words and experiences, it’s clear that the transformational potential of this programme extends beyond the mat, reaching individuals and communities alike. Helen’s story reminds us that following our passions and staying dedicated to our values can create a positive ripple effect that extends far beyond our immediate surroundings.

To learn more about the 300-Hour Urban Yogi’s Teacher Training programme, including course content, schedule, and payment options, click here.

Follow Urban Yogi’s UK on Instagram: @urbanyogisuk

Follow Helen McCabe on Instagram: @yogaatthespace