By HANNAH TURNER
As a 19-year-old Kaye Flounders found herself in Scotland drawn to a book about yoga. She bought it, unsure of what the practice was really about. Not long after, while working on a cruise ship going through the fjords of Norway, she sat in her tiny cabin while waiting to attend to her guests, reading her book and trying the postures.
Drawn to the practice, her real journey with the possibilities of yoga began at a traditional Hatha yoga retreat in Thailand years later and the book she bought is now at the reception of her own Sunshine Coast yoga studio, Phoenix Yoga.
“Doors just seemed to open, as soon as I opened the door to yoga, yoga opened to me,” she says.
After the initial restrictions brought by COVID-19 eased, the studio received an influx of new students and old students alike which was extremely rewarding for Kaye, especially after doubts about how the studio would reopen after the pandemic. The uncertainty was washed away by the large number of students who wanted to practice at Phoenix Yoga after isolation.
“My passion came back after [restrictions eased] it was like ‘wow, this is my dream, this is exactly what I was wanting to create’,” she says. “As the doors opened, it was amazing: all these new people coming in [as well as] old students, so it gave a big tick to what we were about and what we were putting out there and what was coming back to us as well.”
Before emigrating to Australia from the UK, yoga wasn’t part of Kaye’s everyday life. The small town she comes from didn’t have a large yogi scene and after her travels, the practice went out the window as she went back to her normal life working in hospitality.
“When I moved to Australia – when I was 28, with my husband at the time – that’s when I got back into it, there was a yoga studio down the street called Bikram yoga. I’d never done hot yoga in my life and I thought ‘okay, I’ll give it a go’,” she says. “Within five months I was at teacher training … I realised it was very helpful for my anxiety; all of a sudden I realised the thoughts slowed down, I was able to be more present and the anxiety that I was dealing with did not come up as much.”
Not sure if teaching would ever be something she could achieve, she went to her Bikram and vinyasa teacher training with the intention to expand her own personal experience. However, after her training Kaye ended up sharing and teaching the practice to students in studios in Noosa, Caloundra and Kawana before buying her own studio, Bikram Yoga Maroochydore, with her husband seven years ago.
Before becoming qualified, while reading the small print of her Bikram yoga teacher training, Kaye became disheartened to learn that Bikram studios must only teach one style of yoga. Her partner at the time, James, reassured her that she could “have a studio and teach whatever [she wanted to and just] call it Phoenix yoga not Bikram yoga”.
“My ginger cat [Phoenix] looked at me at the time and I went ‘oh okay’, and that was years before we had a studio,” she says. “I hadn’t even become a teacher yet, but the creation of Phoenix yoga was already happening.
“I wanted to practice different styles of yoga, not just Bikram yoga, And obviously teach it and hold a space that would facilitate numerous styles … people just want to try different things, they want that little bit of spice, they want to have a vinyasa class, a pilates class and the variety is definitely something that people want.”
Now, Kaye teaches multiple times a day. She walks graciously around the heated room, full of yogis, encouraging each student to get the best out of their practice, mentally and physically. She guides each student through the 26 postures and two breathing exercises during her Bikram class with a reassuring smile. She welcomes new yogis into the friendly community she’s created and watches complete beginners flourish as they practice at her studio, day after day.
“I just would like to see more people practicing yoga, practicing mindfulness, more people practicing time with themselves and what they can gain from that is joy and happiness of being themselves,” she says. “We all have the little doubts in the back of our mind like ‘maybe I should be doing something else’ but they seemed to be weeded out after coming back after COVID and actually teaching again … as soon as I was able to teach again I was like ‘oh my goodness I love this!’.”
She laughs while speaking about her journey, convinced that she was destined to follow the path of yoga and how she is so grateful about how things have turned out. She flicks through the book that she bought as a 19-year-old, smiling, recalling sitting in her tiny cabin, unaware at the time of where her yoga journey would take her.