Words & Photography by Victoria Phillips
Jamaican born Pamela Harris is a certified yoga instructor with over 16 years of teaching experience. Moving to Barbados at age 6, Pamela became interested in yoga at a young age but stopped when she moved overseas. On returning to Barbados in 1985 she got back into her practice and took instructor courses in America and Brazil.
A warm, knowledgeable and inspiring woman, Pamela teaches Anusara Inspired Yoga and Integrative Yoga Therapy. Her beautiful studio, Sunshine Kula, is just steps away from Sandy Lane beach on the West Coast of Barbados. Here you will learn how to build strength, stamina and flexibility as well as awareness and breathing techniques. All designed to connect body, heart and mind.
We sit down with Pamela at the stunning Villa Bohemia to find out how yoga has positively impacted her life, why she loves teaching and her advice for beginners.
When was your very first introduction to yoga?
My mother took me to Yoga classes when she started and I was 8. I loved the focus and concentration, even then, in addition to the postures. So I stuck with it until age 11 when I went away to boarding school. However I’d always join in on returning home as my mother had begun teaching.
What has yoga taught you and how have you benefited from your yoga practice?
Wow that’s huge! And that’s actually an important point, yoga teaches so much and in so many aspects of our lives. A paramount teaching to me is to observe the mind, ones thoughts, patterns, judgments, speech etc and then the yoga practice helps me shift to a place I prefer to be, happier and healthier on all levels. Of course there’s the physical changes too, I wasn’t a naturally flexible body and the new openings feel wonderful, the body freer and fitter. The clearer body definitely helps me find better balanced energy and clarity in the mind… I could go on but simply, it helps me feel good!
Were there any poses that you really struggled with in the beginning?
In the beginning I refer to my adult life practice! Even downward facing dog wasn’t easy until my shoulders started to open up! Pigeon pose too was a challenge for my hips. The four corners need to gradually open. Things really do change and it doesn’t matter how tight you are.
Pamela Harris at Villa Bohemia, Sandy Lane, Barbados
Who has been your greatest influence? Who are your yoga heroes?
I still hear my very first teacher, Tory Pilgrim and he mainly influenced my awareness of the health benefits of Yoga. Those that I trained under are the greatest influence, Joseph and Lilian Le Page for Yoga Therapy plus John Friend and Sianna Sherman.
What is your favourite style of yoga?
Those two that I teach (Anusara-inspired Yoga and Integrative Yoga Therapy) as they really do offer magnificent deep teaching and intelligent alignment. I love to go to other yoga styles, particularly fluid dance like flow and join classes of many types for a wide range of experience but always want to come back to what I believe is safe, joyful and threads inspiration and yoga philosophy into class. Plus involves awareness of all levels of oneself.
At what point did you decide that you wanted to teach?
Very soon after I restarted doing yoga in 2000! I started to practice again and thought ‘I can teach this, it’s already in me!’ I was a school teacher for many years and my interest in alternative health just told me this is the way I have to go.
What do you love most about teaching?
Seeing the qualities and feelings that it awakens so many students to. The joy, their amazement, the calm and peace, the emotions, the changes, the love, the sharing and friendship it brings.
What advice do you have for people who have never tried yoga?
Try it! Everyone can find a yoga that is right for them. Don’t be concerned and anxious, no one is going to judge you, there is no need to worry about a stiff body, just go along and even if it’s not your favorite first time (it usually is!) give it a few sessions and feel the difference. Oh and, let your teacher know about injury, issues and any concerns.
What advice would you give a well-practiced yogi to take their practice to the next level?
Explore, in every sense of the word, your body, heart and mind. You can plateau, but stay with it, listen and feel, a change will occur and a new discovery and another dimension will be experienced. Make sure you are including Meditation and Pranayama. Have fun and play!
Why is yoga so important for the times we’re living in?
It’s a busy pushy world. We need time out, even in an active practice your mind gets a break, we reconnect to ourselves and move away from being scattered and realise the importance of connection to nature and giving to ourselves. ‘Real’ rest and relaxation becomes more important too, deep restoration should be allowed to occur to bring us to balance and allow our bodies into a healing place. Yoga can influence our entire lives and help us make shifts to live in a way that is better for us and cope with the challenges of life with more harmony and vitality.
You can find Pamela online at www.sunshinekula.com, Facebook and Instagram. For class schedules head to her website. A great mix of professional yoga instructors teach at the studio. This allows Pamela to offer a wide range of yoga styles from Anusara to Vinyasa as well as incorporating fun classes such as Rock Om, FitFlow and Core Yoga. Workshops are held throughout the year and are led by instructors from around the globe. Pamela is also available for private lessons which can be arranged via our concierge service.