Hi there! I’m Mercedes Sieff (nee Ngoh) and I’m the Co-Founder and Creative Director of the award winning Yeotown Health Retreat in Devon and soon to be opening Yeotown Kitchen in London. I’m also a passionate Vinyasa Flow Yoga teacher and qualified Positive Psychology Coach, though you may not know it from my impatience with long queues at the Farmer’s Market and devotion to lie-ins! Fortunately my aim is authenticity and not perfection. A survivor of the exploding Los Angeles yoga scene, I’ve always believed in making my way through life with humor and laughter and my yoga classes and coaching are certainly no exception. I’m an E-RYT500 and hold a Diploma in Coaching from the University of Cambridge and a certification in Applied Positive Psychology Coaching.
Born in Ottawa Canada, I’ve pretty much spent most of my life studying creative movement and its use as a form of self-expression and self realisation. Upon graduating high school, I moved to California for University and this is where I first discovered yoga. I also began working in the music and film industry during this time while simultaneously cultivating a rich and diverse yoga practice. As my studies and passion for yoga grew steadily more intense, I gradually moved into teaching. After studying with many recognized teachers around the globe including completing a 500hr YTT with Shiva Rea, my primary methodology is Vinyasa Flow Yoga. I infuse my classes with Positive Psychology studies and encourage a character strengths approach by building on what’s strong versus focusing on what’s wrong.
In 2010 I Co-Founded the award winning Yeotown, a haven of health in Devon, England dedicated to sustainable and balanced living. I’m excited to be expanding my Yeotown brand into London in the form of a MindBody eatery complete with cafe, juice bar and ‘Meditation Station’. I’ve studied hard and worked harder and have established myself as one of the UK’s leading Vinyasa Flow Yoga instructors with a roster of high profile clients and popular group classes at London’s esteemed triyoga studio. I also travel the globe conducting yoga & surf retreats, Yoga Teacher Training courses and master classes/workshops. I’ve been fortunate to have been featured on ITV1, BBC Radio and in publications such as Tatler, The Sunday Times, YogaJournal, OM Magazine, Harpers Bazaar and Yoga Magazine. I’m a lifestyle and health blogger for the Huffington Post in addition to contributing articles to various wellbeing websites.
I joyfully divide my time between London and Devon where I share my life with my surf loving husband and our two adorable cheeky little girls.
Yoga may or not make you more flexible but it can teach you how to find a little more peace and acceptance around the inflexibility. Like any other living, breathing entity, yoga is constantly growing and evolving and changing to suit the needs of the people and the “zeitgeist” of the times. No matter what type of yoga one may practice, at the end of the day, its all yoga and no style of yoga is any better or ‘more pure’ than another. While Vinyasa Flow may involve a fluid pace or music or unconventional sequencing, it still, at its roots, has a lineage and stands on the shoulders of giants, and is ever evolving to stay relevant, effective and alive.
I admit I do get a bit perplexed when I hear a teacher speak about how the poses don’t matter but then proceed to teach 90 minutes of poses or a 2hr handstand workshop! While yoga is a mind and breath-centric practice, the poses developed over time and in monastic environments because to sit, pray, contemplate, meditate for hours on end, one actually has to be quite healthy, physically strong and flexible. Kind of ironic I guess that you have to do a lot of something in order to sit and do more of nothing but that’s just that I suppose.
The poses aren’t hard or easy, they’re just poses. Just because one may involve more strength and/or flexibility over an other doesn’t make it ridiculous, or silly or “non-yogic”. It’s our relationship to them that is hard or easy. So to tell someone the poses don’t matter is not accurate at all. To someone who is perhaps coming back from a back injury and desperate to feel a sense of space, fluidity and openness in their spine again, practicing a backbend of whatever kind may very well matter to them. To a new mama with a little baby in tow, who is ready to move again and feel the agni, that fire, that strength in her belly again after hosting a life inside of her for almost a year, well that handstand or crow pose or warrior pose that helps her build her strength back from the inside out, that makes her feel her fire again, that spark again, the pose may very well be important. It’s my view that it’s not responsible to say the poses don’t matter but then proceed to teach a physical practice. It’s misleading and students can get injured believing they don’t need to learn the inner workings of a pose and what its true function is. Or how it can help heal, strengthen, inspire or support, how a pose can be a conduit to help Prana, life force energy, get to places in both the mind and body it can’t normally reach.
After all I’ve experienced in my life, I’ve come to realise that the grass is not only not greener on the other side but that there is NO other side! There is only one side and that’s the inside, and the grass is always greenest where we water it. So don’t worry about comparing yourself to others, it will only make you miserable. Take a moment and reflect on what’s going good for you right now and build on that. Build on your strengths, don’t wallow in your weaknesses. We all have our flaws, no one is immune but some people are more resilient than others and you’ll be much happier in the long run building your strength of resilience, grit and gratitude than trying to be perfect and all the time.
What can I say, some people are born lucky in love! I am surrounded by it and take none of it for granted. From my two baby girls, my loving husband to my crazy, funny sisters, doting parents, awesome friends and passionate students. I am fully aware of how fortunate I am and of the love and light that surrounds me and informs my life on a daily basis. I believe we are attracted to people for their seeming perfection, their shiny veneers and masks they may wear however it is their flaws, their imperfections, their confessions of insecurity, hurt and vulnerability that actually make us fall in love.
Don’t forget though that at the end of the day it’s gotta start with self-love! I am super comfortable to say I really do love myself and with my many interests that pull in me in various directions, I always make sure to slot in loads of self-care. Above all though, let your mind be kind to you…