Today we catch up with Clem Balfour, the creative mastermind behind the brilliant Yogabrunchclub. A fellow Bristolian, I recently met Clem at an event just before Christmas. Impressed with her outlook on yoga (no power stretches or unreachable poses here) and how she wanted to bring yoga to everyone. It soon came apparent that Clem would be the perfect teacher for our Self-Care event (which happened last month and our upcoming retreat in France).
Clem also runs monthly yoga/brunches around the country. Which sell out in days, so if you are lucky to get a ticket, I urge you to go. We asked Clem all about that and her beginnings in yoga.
Please can you tell us a little about you, and how your love for yoga came about?
Hi, I’m Clem Balfour founder of the Yoga Brunch Club, I am on a mission to break down barriers and make yoga more accessible for everyone. My events are designed to give you the opportunity to pause, breathe, stretch, eat and connect with a new group of people who share similar interests. Yoga Brunch Club’s events combine a fun, energising yoga session with a three-course, sit-down feast in beautiful surroundings.
Your background was in events, how did you take the first leap into teach yoga? How did your family / friends react?
I have practised yoga since I was 18 so for well over 13 years now and have always found it the best way to carve out some time for me at the start or end of my day. When I decided to go into teaching yoga it seemed like a very natural thing for my family and friends with many of them encouraging me to do it.
I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in my early twenties when I was at university and found that was when yoga became a much bigger part of my life as it was a way for me to keep my joints moving. Although I had to modify the practice a lot, yoga was always there to remind me each day of the changes in my body, to notice how my energy was and how incredible our body really is. I found yoga was always the constant thing in my life, it was always there to go back to, to support me and to guide me through the at times scary and worrying changes that were going on in my body. I am fortunate now to be in remission from RA.
Yoga has helped me such much at so many different points in my life, I want to share and teach and get as many people as I can to start practising.
You trained in South India, can you tell us about that time?
I was working in an events management role at the time when I decided to leave my job and travel. India had always been somewhere I wanted to spend time in and explore, and doing my first yoga teacher training out there seemed like the perfect opportunity.
I spent a month in Kerala for the training and loved having that time to be completely absorbed in the practice, to be by the sea and sample all the wonderful food. However, the course was very challenging and in ways I wasn’t quite prepared for, I loved waking up each day before the sun rose to practice on the shala rooftop, and seeing the changes in my practice and focus. However, to try and come back and teach after 1 month I realised was just not realistic, there was still so much I need to learn. I returned to the UK and continued training in different styles, working to build up a really strong foundation to teach from.
It was on my UK Teacher Training that I had the idea for the Yoga Brunch Club, I felt that there was a real gap in the market for bringing people together after a class to share food, eat and chat and socialise.
What can we expect when we come to one of your events? What if we don’t practice yoga?
My main intentions behind the Yoga Brunch Clubs is that they make yoga more accessible. I know well that feeling when you first walk into a studio or yoga space it can feel scary and intimidating. People will always say they are not flexible enough to do yoga, or they need to practice at home first and get ‘good at yoga’.
I love Instagram, but it has also made everyone feel they need to bend into at times unobtainable pretzel shapes to be able to practice. This is absolutely not the case, yoga is about finding a deeper connection with your breath and your body. It’s about preparing your body for seated meditation so you can sit for periods of time finding time to slow down and build in time for stillness in your life. We are all guilty (me included) of over stimulating our brains with too much screen time, and yoga is there to help us slow down. Once we make time for that ‘white space’, that time in our day to sit and notice our breath, you naturally feel more productive, more creative and generally happier.
If you attend a Yoga Brunch Club, you will find a relaxed and welcoming space. People often attend on their own or with friends, it’s normally a weekend so no one is in a rush. The day starts with a rejuvenating, relaxing and at times a challenging class.. After yoga we then gather round a beautifully laid table with everyone, making time to share food, drink tea or juice or even a cocktail if it’s a supper club, there is space to connect and chat and meet new people. There is a real community feel to each event, with people returning to each event month.
You are constantly looking for new collaborations, teachers, chefs and locations. Any exciting news coming up?
I am really fortunate to work with so many wonderful cooks and chefs. I first started the Yoga Brunch Club over four years ago now and have been lucky to have some incredible collaborations, such as Liberty London, The Guardian,Wilderness Festival and The Soil Association.
I run the events once a month in London and Bristol and have recently started introducing Yoga Supper Club’s this summer. My next collaboration is with Dela in Easton on Sunday 15th July which will be a Yoga Supper Club, with seasonal cocktails and a three-course dinner.
I am going to be at Wilderness Festival this summer with a few others in the pipeline too.. I’m always looking for unusual, beautiful spaces. I recently ran a beautiful event in an old asylum in London, which is now a chapel. I filled the whole space with candles, the sun was shining through the stained glass windows during the yoga, it was a truly magical evening.
A Yoga Brunch Club weekend retreat is on the cards too, so watch this space!
What is your favourite part of being a yogi ?
I love that my yoga practice is with me wherever I go. I always pack a travel mat if I’m going away and can roll it out anywhere that is big enough to fit a towel, often at the end of the bed. It’s so important to me to try and start my day by moving my body, even if it’s just 10/15mins of san salutions.
If you had to choose yoga teaching or being the person behind the events, what would you choose and why?
At the moment, I do both so it’s quite hard to choose, I often invite guest teachers to lead the class, as a yoga class can vary and change so much depending on the teacher. The events have grown so much and at times there is 40-45 people attending so for me to teach and manage the behind the scenes too it can be a lot to juggle.
I think it will always be important to me to keep teaching and I never want to loose that connection to the events and all the wonderful people that attend. I teach weekly classes at Pure yoga in Bristol and find that keeps me developing my own practice and teaching style. I don’t think I would ever need to choose as I think I will always keep teaching at these, even if it’s not for every event.
Do you have any advice for someone who is wanting to give up their 9-5 to follow their passion?
It is good to remember that often something is a passion because it’s not your 9-5. When your passion becomes, your full time work it can be hard to view it in the same way. I would say don’t rush to quit everything in one day, but build it up as a side job initially. Take teaching for example, if your keen to become a yoga teacher, after you’ve done your training you could start off with one or two classes a week, or teach your colleagues at the office. Then you could move to teaching in the evenings on the weekends, see how it fits in your life and if you would want it to become your full-time work. As with anything the grass is always greener, and the reality of full time yoga teaching is very different to what you probably imagine!
I try to have a few different revenue streams, so I run the Yoga Brunch Club, but I also teach part-time, teach on retreats and workshops for other people and do some freelance event work. It is all yoga focused but I’m not relying on only one thing to be my source of income, so it can take the pressure off a bit and keep me feeling creative and inspired.
If you could collaborate with one woman, who would it be and why?
I absolutely adore Melissa Hemsley’s approach to food and cooking, and how she looks to feed people with the most delicious and tasty produce. Her attitude to food, her body and how she presents herself online is so authentic and inspiring.
I adore Anna Jones who creates the most delicious vegetarian recipes I’ve ever cooked. And If I’m really dreaming I know he’s not a woman but Ottolenghi would be a dream collaboration!
Do you ever experience self doubt and what steps do you take to overcome it?
YES! It can be really hard working and running a business on your own, to keep motivated and to keep fresh ideas coming in. When it comes to big decisions in the business it can be hard to know what to do when there’s no one to bounce ideas off. I have a very supportive boyfriend who listens to me talk on about YBC and my family too, also I’m lucky to have a lot of repeat customers and loyal following who giving me the drive and passion to keep going when things get tough.
Can you tell us your morning routine, from waking to out the door?
I tend to work at home which I love but also it can be harder to build up work boundaries. I try to start my day either with some yoga at home or a run or swim, I always need to move my body first thing. I often like to take things slowly in the morning as my most productive time for working is the afternoon/evening.
My day will be filled with a mixture of meetings of phone calls about upcoming events, I try to plan at least 4-6 months in advance. I will be discussing venue details or research, or discussing menus and logistics if it’s a new space. I’m constantly looking into finding new spaces, chefs, teachers and ways to make each event feel unique. I work with designers to create bespoke menus and carefully styled tables.
If I’m teaching that day ill be preparing a class plan or theme for the session. I’ll have lunch at home or in a café and try to make time to get outside for a walk or break in the day. In the week dinner will be at home, I love to cook and me my boyfriend normally take it in turns. I love trying new recipes and having friends over for dinner. We recently moved into a new house so it’s been lovely having a little more space and a garden to sit in for the warmer summer evenings.
What is the one thing you do for a self-care ritual?
Yoga, moving my body every day. This is a priority for me and I make sure to always block some time out for it.
I adore running events but they can be exhausting and draining, I have a ritual each Monday if I’ve run a brunch club or supper. I’ll go for a swim, switch my phone have a coffee or something delicious to eat and just try and sit there and do absolutely nothing.
What are your future plans for yoga brunch club?
As I mentioned before a Yoga Brunch Club retreat is on the cards for the autumn in the UK and hopefully abroad one day.
There are some beautiful venues I’ve been looking at some very unique outdoor spaces..all will be revealed in the next few months so I don’t won’t to give too much away!
You can learn more about Clem’s YogabrunchClub and book your ticket to her next event on her website.
Clem will also be teaching daily yoga at our Summer Retreat in France this September. We have a few places left, so head over here to book your space.
Images by Kasia Kiliszek
Lou Archell, a writer, photographer, stylist and the founder of Sisterhood Camp.
Lou is also a busy mum of two amazing boys and can be found over on her blog Littlegreenshed, where she shares her life, loves and inspiration. Lou is passionate about supporting and inspiring others whether through her workshops, writing, photography or lifestyle hacks.