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Taking Yoga Off The Mat Into Everyday Life

Taking Yoga Off The Mat Into Everyday Life

This article was first posted in the British Wheel of Yoga in the North Autumn Newsletter 2022, which you can find here.


Helen Redfern spent several years working as in-house writer for Yogamatters. In that role, she interviewed yoga teachers from many different schools and traditions, wrote yoga meditations to be used in yoga classes and produced all the copy for the website. When we came across Helen as founder of Green Heart Collective, a social enterprise in Gateshead selling preloved items in store and online, we were interested to find out how and why she had made that transition. In this article, she explores how she sees what she does now as a continuation of her yoga practice into her life off the mat.

Working in the yoga industry was a great experience. I was new to yoga when I started at Yogamatters and as I met with yoga teachers all over the country and participated in their classes, I soon came to realise that there was far more to yoga than I ever imagined! I was one of those people who thought yoga was all about flexibility, strength and crazy poses. And yes, for some teachers I met, yoga was that, but for others, yoga was more like a whole life experience. It changed the way they behaved and what they believed off the mat as much as on the mat. They carried what they practiced on the mat into their whole lives. I certainly never mastered the flexibility, strength and crazy poses side of yoga. In fact, I suffered from performance anxiety in yoga classes for a while, possibly triggered by one teacher who, whilst trying to force me into a pose, announced to the whole class ‘We’re all going to hold this pose until Helen gets it.’ That certainly put me off attending classes!

At the beginning of 2020, I left my role at Yogamatters with nothing to go to. I was burnt out because of stress in my personal life, but I was also disillusioned with the yoga industry at large. Looking around the world at all the huge businesses profiting from wellbeing, it became clear this was an industry, not so very different to any other industry. It was all about selling things: which was great when people new to yoga were discovering all the props etc that could support them on their yoga journey (which Yogamatters is so good at) but less good when the big players in the industry were turning the yoga world into a commercially competitive yoga version of fast fashion.

I came away from my experience at Yogamatters with a home yoga practice, many valuable breathing techniques and a practical outworking of two of Patanjali’s yamas, Ahimsa and Satya. The Yamas are the first limb of the ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga‘ from the ancient Indian philosophical text, ‘The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’. Each limb describes a different aspect of a yoga practice, and the Yamas deal with our interaction with the world around us.

During the pandemic, I had a lot of time to think! What grew out of that reflection was a vision for Green Heart Collective, an initiative that would combine Ahimsa and Satya in a practical outworking.


“Green Heart Collective is a social enterprise based in Gateshead dedicated to reducing waste to landfill by providing an attractive and sustainable alternative to buying new. This fresh initiative takes preloved clothing and other items, where necessary repairing and reworking them, to sell them in curated collections online and in store.”  About Us,

Ahimsa is compassion for all living beings. In practice, this means not causing any harm to others, ourselves, or anything in the natural world. This value is what led me to become a vegan. I didn’t find it easy to make the switch, but when I did, I felt more aligned with my values and could enjoy food with a clearer conscience. I also wanted to show my care for the natural world by responding to the damage created to the planet by mass consumerism. I stopped buying new clothes myself and wanted to create the opportunity for others to consider buying nothing new in an inviting environment that felt more like a regular shop than a charity shop (not that I have anything against charity shops but I know people who do!). We welcomed donations of unwanted items from individuals and from companies whose returns and deadstock would have ended up in landfill had we not taken them. And so that’s how we came to stock a wide range of slightly damaged yoga products – and I find myself back in the yoga industry, but in a corner of that industry that I feel far more comfortable in, finding new homes for products at greatly reduced prices. We have a steady stream of local yoga teachers and students visiting our warehouse on Gateshead High Street {and our online eBay collection of yoga wear and props}, who usually stay for a chat and leave with a bargain or two!

Satya is truthfulness: not just speaking truth, but living truth and authenticity. For me, that means being true to the person I was created to be and speaking truth when required. My commitment to truth makes me an uncomfortable person to be around! For example, when I discover ways in which we as a society are causing damage to other people, animals and the natural world (a violation of Ahimsa), I can’t stay quiet. I can’t turn a blind eye and carry on regardless. And that’s why Green Heart Collective is so much more than a retail business. The team is committed to communicating truth about waste, landfill and incineration; the environmental damage of mass consumerism; the shocking statistics around the fast fashion industry and so much more. Through our blogs and social media channels, we speak truth and challenge lifestyle habits – hopefully in an engaging way that captures the imagination and creates a desire for change.

Read More: Shocking Statistics About the Fast Fashion Industry

For me, yoga is so much more than what takes place on the yoga mat. Stepping onto the mat is the opportunity to reset: to ground myself and remind myself of my intrinsic values through the moving meditation of my yoga practice. Stepping off the mat is the opportunity to take that renewed perspective with me into my daily life, to live out my values in practice in my personal life and in my work life at Green Heart Collective.

Do connect with us at Green Heart Collective sometime. You can find out about us at and on Facebook. If you have any particular questions, then email me direct at


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