16. Communication, Grace & Creativity with Sarah Leyla Puello

episode description & show notes

Harriet is joined by Sarah Leyla Puello.

Sarah is from the Dominican Republic and has been living in the UK since 2003. She’s a recovering academic who has always worn many hats. These days, she most likes to describe herself as a movement lover, a creative writer and a grace seeker. She works as a project manager, yoga teacher, teacher trainer (for Nourish!) and has recently co-started a new venture called Our Sparkle Club, a virtual space that blends together Yoga, Meditation and Creative Practices like journaling and doodling to help people find and keep their sparkle.

Sarah loves the potential for creativity, connection and support that yoga offers and she shares the practice in the belief that by giving the body the space, the breath and the time to express itself in an intentional and honest way, practitioners can begin to piece together the stories of who they have been, who they are really, and how to live better in this world.

She loves dancing, naps and the sight of palm trees moving against the breeze. Her dream is to someday publish a book, to go back to live in a country where the sun shines all year round and to turn Our Sparkle Club into a social venture that offers community to people from vulnerable backgrounds.

Sarah and Harriet talked about loving how yoga teachers communicate, grace, and creative practice.

You can find Sarah here:

Read the full transcript:

SUMMARY KEYWORDS
grace, practice, nourishing, yoga, space, feel, yoga teachers, creative, communication, spaciousness, explore, people, week, question, Harriet, big, life, find, moment, speak

SPEAKERS
Harriet McAtee, Sarah Leyla Puello

Harriet McAtee
Welcome to In Our Experience, a podcast exploring the many ways of living well with Nourish Yoga Training. I’m your host, Harriet, yoga teacher and founder of Nourish, and I can’t believe we are at the end of another season. Season two is ending on a high with the lovely Sarah Leyla Puello joining me; Sarah is from the Dominican Republic and has been living in the UK since 2003. She’s a recovering academic who has always worn many hats. These days, she most likes to describe herself as a movement lover, a creative writer and a grace seeker. She works as a project manager, yoga teacher, a teacher trainer for Nourish and has recently co-started a new venture called Our Sparkle Club, a virtual space that blends together yoga, meditation, and creative practices like journaling and doodling to help people find and keep their sparkle. It was such a joy to talk to Sarah; I absolutely loved it. We talked about loving how yoga teachers communicate, finding grace and exploring creative practice. Thank you so much for joining me for season two. I have loved every minute of sharing these conversations with you. Here is my chat with Sarah, and season three will be back in May 2022. Hi, Sarah. Welcome to In Our Experience.

Sarah Leyla Puello
Hi, Harriet, how are you?

Harriet McAtee
I’m really well; I’m so glad to see you. Thank you for joining me,

Sarah Leyla Puello
I am so happy to be here today.

Harriet McAtee
So we’re gonna get started as I do in every episode by asking you what’s nourishing you. And this can be. I always say big, small, serious, very silly. And I’ll help by sharing mine first. And I’m going to cheat, and I’m going to have to this week, but it’s my podcast. So I’m going to have two. So the first one is a silly one, which is baths. I’ve really, I mean anybody that follows me on Instagram, you know that I love a bath. And I have this silly thing called Saturday bath Club, which very rarely happens on a Saturday. But I have really been appreciating my baths; I think because also it’s winter it’s cold. So baths is is the first thing that’s nourishing me. And the second thing, I saved it for you because I knew you would appreciate it, which is that last week I got my invitation to be a British Citizen.

Sarah Leyla Puello
Celebration,

Harriet McAtee
I know. So you know, I still have to do my ceremony and pledge my allegiance to the Queen. But as a fellow immigrant, a fellow non-British person yet, I thought you would appreciate that. End of a long journey and an expensive journey. But it is insight. So what about you? What’s nourishing you?

Sarah Leyla Puello
Ah, I feel like first I want to respond to your nourishing things. Can I do that?

Harriet McAtee
Yes, you can.

Sarah Leyla Puello
Oh my goodness. Because if you had asked me last week, probably I would have had the same nourishing thing because I submitted my paperwork for my British British citizenship a couple of weeks ago. So I was absolutely basking in the joy of that. It felt like such a huge milestone; I put it off throughout the whole of the pandemic. And then finally I did it. And it just felt like a huge relief. So congratulations to you for getting you.

Harriet McAtee
and congratulations on the paperwork. I feel like for people that don’t have to interact with the home office in this way; they just do not understand how much work it is and also how invasive it feels as well. So you also, well done.

Sarah Leyla Puello
So my nourishing thing. This week, I so I have really been enjoying these newfound pockets of time, where I’ve been able to explore my creativity and also to respond an awareness to whatever it is that I want to do in that moment. So, for example, one of the things I’ve been doing this week is I bought this little notebook that basically gives you it’s a tiny notebook. It’s less than an a4 page size. And each day, you get a prompt for something to write about. So you write about really big thing in life, but in a very short space of time. So the one from today, for example, was write about a time when you broke a law, a promise, a bone and a heart.

Harriet McAtee
Oh wow. So you have to write about each of those things.

Sarah Leyla Puello
Yes, but in the square in the space of like maybe two centimetres by two centimetres, like really, really short amount of start here. And I’ve really been enjoying those nuggets of time to think about, Like memories or experiences that I’ve had just to jolt kind of my creativity a little bit; that’s been really nice this week for me.

Harriet McAtee
Juicy I, I like it sometimes when you get those, those questions and it invites you to see or think about something in the past in a, in a different way. How interesting. Wonderful, very nourishing, nourishing your creativity. Great. Well, tell me a little bit about your background and how it is that you would describe what you do, please.

Sarah Leyla Puello
You know, I this question makes me very self-conscious.

Harriet McAtee
Okay, that’s fine.

Sarah Leyla Puello
And nervous,

Harriet McAtee
okay.

Sarah Leyla Puello
Because I think that I consider myself to be somewhat of a storyteller, and I feel that the moment I start telling my story, then I’m already committing to telling a story of me, when in fact, I feel like, we’re, we’re not just this like one thread narrative, right? Like, we are much more complex than that; we are all the pieces of things that have happened in our life. And on one given day, on any one given day, we might tell the story in one way and then tell the story in another way. So

Harriet McAtee
Well, how are you telling the story today?

Sarah Leyla Puello
Good segway. So I think today, I’m seeing myself as a movement lover who basically came to embrace movement from a strong academic background that was laced with angst as I was growing up. So to backtrack a little bit, I am from the Dominican Republic, so this small island in the Caribbean and both my parents are doctors, and in some ways, they encourage myself and my brother not only to aspire to have, you know, a fruitful, productive life, and the path to that was education. But also, I think they instilled in us this sense of service and doing something for others, in one way or another. And their chosen way was through medicine, you know, by being physicians. And so I came up in this kind of lineage, I suppose, where education was very important. And so I, you know, I went through school, I went to a really good French school. So I’ve spoken French since I was very young; my mom was always very adamant that me and my brother spoke multiple languages because that was the way that we would get by in the world, right. And so, I came to the UK to study initially, creative writing, because I had dreams of becoming a published author. And that kind of continued into the more theoretical side of literature, writing; I ended up doing a PhD, what they call a DPhil here in Oxford, where I live where we live. So I did my DPhil in French and Latin American urban spaces.

Harriet McAtee
Hmm.

Sarah Leyla Puello
And I think my interest in that was combined with this question that I always had within myself that was linked to who we are, in the spaces that we inhabit, and how we relate to the places where, where we live. And at the time, I was a city person; I studied cities, I studied Paris and Buenos Aires, and I absolutely loved my topic, and I love the path that I took. But what I found was that the academic side of things had a really big toll on my health and well-being. And so, through in that process, I found yoga as a way to support my wellbeing as I was finishing my DPhil. And then I started to become really fascinated about how the self occupies space. And so yoga was a really good place to explore that. Fast forward, you know, a few years I decided to, you know, get my yoga certification, I became a yoga teacher. And what I found through the practice of yoga was that I could bring in all these dimensions of self. So this is how my background kind of ties together, right? I found this way of bringing all these pieces of me to one space where I could feel most myself, I suppose. So in yoga, I found the ability to move, which is something that I always did because my parents were also very sporty and encouraged that we did sports that was part of our education. I found my the ability to be academic, through teaching and learning about yoga, and there was this other dimension that for me was also sort of in the background, but perhaps less explored, which was to do with my, my spirituality, in some ways, I consider myself to be a seeker in some ways of truth, truths about self about, you know, how we, how we inhabit the world. And so, all of that together, I feel like the space of yoga has given me a lovely home, and in some ways, and so that’s why I’m a movement lover because I think movement allows me to, to explore all of those things. And, and I like to see myself as a creative as well.

Harriet McAtee
Oh, thank you for sharing that; I think one of the, one of the themes that comes up over and over again, you know, and I talked to a lot of people, not only for the podcast but also, you know, more broadly, is how yoga. And I mean, not necessarily always yoga, but some form of practice, right? Whether it’s yoga, whether it’s meditation, whether it’s tea, whether it’s writing, is how practice becomes a container or becomes a way of weaving together like collecting these parts of ourselves. And in a way, in a way, it ends up becoming a little bit of a mirror, like the practice reflects back what we put out, in a sense. But it also then becomes, there’s a lot of mixed metaphors here, and I really apologise for it. But then practice also becomes, you know, like a process or a vehicle for transformation, evolution within ourselves as well. So it becomes like a home, but also a space where growth occurs.

Sarah Leyla Puello
Absolutely. And I think that when I first started to explore the world of yoga, I, I defined it as a journey; I think the very first yoga sequence I built was around the theme of journeys because I really felt that I was on this, this really important, you know, self-discovery type journey. As the years have gone on, I feel like I see it more and more as a practice. So yes, we are all on a journey through life, right time is passing by, and we are living through. And what we do every day, or what we choose to do every day, is a practice. And I think that through that practice, there is the potential for, as you say, growth, discovery, self-discovery, connection. And, and what I find that a really rich place that I like to explore is the space of tapping into something really profound within us that is, that is almost like an inner knowing or an inner wisdom. And I feel like my practice, whether it be a movement practice, or a writing practice, or a teaching practice, is very much linked to tapping into that essence of, of who I am, but also because we are mirrors of each other, you know, of who you are, who we are, together. Really,

Harriet McAtee
that’s lovely. I love talking to yoga teachers. I think you know, there is there is a lot of nonsense yoga speak, don’t get me wrong, and like, it’s a lot. There’s a lot of bullshit out there. But when I think one of one of the things I love about the people that I know, or the yoga teachers I know and, you know, people that I have on the podcast, is that there’s this real commitment to communication, which I just, I like I’m totally obsessed with spending time with people that are good communicators because you can say to them, you can ask them a question that is completely I don’t know, wild and they’ll they’ll like pause, and I can see it happen. There’s this process of like, pause and like checking in and like what’s happening in my body, how do I What is this question? And then you get this really wonderful response,

Sarah Leyla Puello
I absolutely love your response for two reasons. Let me see if I can thread this together. One, right now, I am checking myself. Because I, I recognise in myself this tendency to live in the abstract and some ways my, my thoughts run away into metaphors. And, and, and so and so my part of my commitments as a yoga teacher and, and becoming a good communicator, as as a teacher and a communicator overall, is to strip away some of the abstract language that I am very drawn to. I was educated in the French system, which, you know, it’s, it’s a very, it’s a great education with lots of philosophers and authors. French is a very flowery language. And so I grew up speaking and thinking in this way, you know, like French philosophers lyrical, that’s a good way to put it. And so I suppose that the work that I like to do now within myself in part is to strip all of that down and to, and to not have a lot of woowoo language, but it is, it is, it is something I need to work on. And communication is so important to me, you know, from, from you and I am having this conversation, which I’m really enjoying to, like, you know, what I say in a post on Instagram, how I communicate my cues to my teachers, I am obsessed with communication. So in some ways, it was perfect that you responded in that way because you read me very well, essentially, is what just happened?

Harriet McAtee
Well. I mean, it is also like that reading of people or being present with people, because like, what it is, is just like listening, right? But that’s also part of our job. Part of our job as yoga teachers, I think, on the on the topic of communication, it’s, it’s always very interesting to me, the, I was gonna say like the layers or the attitudes that we bring to how we communicate, I recently spent some time with somebody, and they, it was a little bit like, you know, the type of person that enjoys saying something to be slightly provocative. Slightly a slight contrarian sort of vibe. And like, there’s nothing, there’s nothing wrong with that, except that it’s deeply annoying. But my main issue with it is that it’s not a kind form of communication. Like I am, one of the things that I’m really committed to in my language is like, checking myself before I speak to one of the questions I asked myself is, am I am I communicating in a way that’s inclusive? Am I communicating in a way that’s accessible? Like, is there are a lot of abstract stuff in there. But also is what I’m saying? Even if it’s not necessarily a kind thing to say, because I also don’t subscribe to the idea that, you know, we should only say kind things because that’s not the way the world works. But even if it is a difficult thing for me to say, is it coming from a place of kind-heartedness, like in myself or for the person that I’m communicating with? And, yeah, I mean, you just can’t spend enough time thinking about communication.

Sarah Leyla Puello
and that and I think that that’s probably why I’m going on a bit of a leap here, but I feel like that’s probably why you enjoy talking to yoga teachers because we have been trained and we, we like to check our bodies, or you know, we’d like to kind of take a moment pause to reflect on what it is that we are going to say so that so that our words come from a place that is kind that that is aware and, and it is reflective of the person who’s in front and who appreciates the person who’s in front of us. So yes, I absolutely am on board with what you’re saying, and I I like to bring in. So I’m gonna bring in something from my side. I don’t know if we want to treat this like as a question that we can like talk about, but I am really, really interested, for example, in the word grace,

Harriet McAtee
okay.

Sarah Leyla Puello
And the reason why this relates to communication is that if I am ever to pause and think about how I am going to respond to something, the word that comes to my mind is the word grace. Am I treating myself and the person opposite me with grace? Or am I being in grace by having this exchange? And so I find that whenever I, that happens, it doesn’t happen always because obviously, I’m human. And I react to things like, Oh, my goodness. However, when I do, I always find like the outcome of that is like a sigh of relief. Because, because when that happens, I feel like appropriate boundaries can be put in place, I find that authentic communication and truthfulness. There’s a there’s an opportunity for truthfulness to come out. And there’s a moment of recognition of the person who’s in front. So yeah, what do you think of the word grace?

Harriet McAtee
So, I think; initially, my response to it is slightly problematic because I just went to too many church schools. Ah, yes. And it’s not that I, like, I just have a complicated relationship with Christianity. And Grace is a big is a big word. In in that practice, and in that faith. I think when you say grace, I think about things like dignity, like dignity is a nice word there as well. But also, I think, for me, one of the things that I’m very interested in, I think it’s the same thing, we’re just calling it different things. But one of the qualities that I’m really interested in is like spaciousness around things. So one of the big things like one of the primary focuses of my practice, personal practice, and teaching practices, while I guess, is how do I create more space for myself and for others. So when we allow space around things, they become less personal. And paradoxically, there is an intimacy that arises through spaciousness. So when you allow space around something, you able to get closer to it.

Sarah Leyla Puello
100%

Harriet McAtee
Like when it doesn’t feel like it’s right up, you know, like, sometimes you’ll be going through life, you know, trundling along, and suddenly there will be an idea or a feeling, or a memory or a problem, or whatever, and it feels like it’s right up against your face, like pressing against your eyeballs, and your head’s going to explode. You can’t get closer to it because you don’t have space around it. Like there’s no perspective on it, because it’s like, it’s trapping you. A lot of what I’m interested in is creating, you know, creating an experience of spaciousness within ourselves, as we relate to our ideas, our thoughts, but also as we relate to other people and things going on in the world. And that isn’t about creating distance, but about creating opportunity for intimacy. And through that, that closeness you, you are able then like that’s where you have the opportunity for insight and growth, and I guess healing as well. But yeah,

Sarah Leyla Puello
I love that I. It does sound like we are feeling or expressing different things, but maybe with different words because I do I do recognise that in the way that I embrace the word grace. And it’s actually I have to recognise it’s not lost on me that probably the I inherit the word grace from my upbringing in a Christian society, right. Dominican Republic is mainly a Christian Catholic society, and even though I didn’t grow up in a religious household,

Harriet McAtee
yeah.

Sarah Leyla Puello
I feel like that was all around.

Harriet McAtee
Yeah,

Sarah Leyla Puello
at the same time. I really don’t feel like the way that I embrace Grace, and I see Grace has anything to do with

Harriet McAtee
Yeah,

Sarah Leyla Puello
Religion. Maybe it did at some point. Yeah,

Harriet McAtee
I totally not anymore. I totally get what you mean by, like, feeling a space of grace. 100% Yeah. And I think when I’m talking about spaciousness, it’s like through that, that I have the opportunity to. It’s like the precursor for me to that feeling of grace and connection. And yeah. One of one of my favourite things that Michael Stone ever said is the closer you get to something less personal it is. And I love that so much. And I think that’s part of what grace recognises as well, potentially, is that there’s a shared, interconnected experience that, you know, we, well, that often goes on ignored, often goes ignored often goes by acknowledge

Sarah Leyla Puello
but that, but that possibly deep down we want to inhabit

Harriet McAtee
100%. Yeah,

Sarah Leyla Puello
yeah.

Harriet McAtee
Well, just real, just craving or just craving connection. So I’m curious, I’m curious about how that feeds through into your yoga practice, but perhaps more curiously into your creative practice. Like, I can understand how one might cultivate grace through yoga? And I’m sure lots of people do. Lots of our listeners will have a sense of that. But what about through creative practice?

Sarah Leyla Puello
That’s a really good question. I don’t know that I have asked myself that same question before; I think that, in terms of my creative practice, Grace possibly shows up in the form of kindness. Because most of the time, I am not necessarily kind to myself, big moment. So partly because I think I’ve, for a lot of my life, I’ve been on this like, spinning wheel, too, to, you know, to get through education, to do well in education too, too, to have a productive life to, you know, be healthy, eat well rest appropriately, all of these things. And in that rat race of, of, of wanting to do everything, well, let’s say, type A personality, I have lost the ability to, to pause and find those moments of kindness for myself. And so the work that I’ve been doing, and it’s one of the spaces that the pandemic has opened for me, is working on bringing back that kindness through the creative practice,

Harriet McAtee
okay.

Sarah Leyla Puello
And what that looks like is, you know, when I sit down to so I, I do mostly a lot of journaling, and I write a little bit of non-fiction, and the grace part and that is the sitting down practice the taking the space than making a cup of tea, before coming to the space, to take a few deep breaths. And to arrive at the space, that moment, in some ways is actually more precious and more symbolic of grace, then then the, than the actual experience of sitting down to write or, you know, to, to create anything.

Harriet McAtee
I think the like, the rituals that we create around these sorts of experiences are so interesting, as well. And it’s like you say that sort of setting up and establishing a foundation through which creativity grace can arise is, yeah, I agree with you almost as important as the time you spend in the practice as well.

Sarah Leyla Puello
And it goes all the way around back to, you know, the word that we kind of came to at the beginning of the conversation, which is practice, it’s a practice. And what I’ve realised around these words, like rituals and routines, is that what doesn’t help me personally. And I wonder whether it’s the same for a lot of people you know, out there who, who are thinking that they need to have like new routines and implement new better habits, etc., etc., is that it really doesn’t matter. The order in which you do what you do, or the things that you actually do, do when you come to have those rituals or those routines. It’s rather choosing the, you know, the one or two things or the one or two categories that make you feel like your life is whole on any given day. And just do a little bit of that, and I don’t often find the words rituals and routines that helpful because I think they For me back in that place, so yeah, I need to achieve this. Now

Harriet McAtee
there’s something moralising around those words, isn’t it? Like where you should be doing it, or, you know, it becomes something that is about being a good person or a bad person. And that’s not always particularly helpful at all.

Sarah Leyla Puello
Exactly.

Harriet McAtee
But I love what I love what you said about, you know, picking one or two things that allow you to feel whole on any given day. Like that’s, that’s a beautiful way to think about it. Because that also is adaptive, it’s flexible; it’s responsive to what’s going on in your life. But it also speaks to the importance of having a variety of things that you think of as practice. So not just yoga or not just meditation, but, you know, whether it’s walking or making tea, or journaling, or sleeping or reading, like having many things that serve you in that way.

Sarah Leyla Puello
Yeah. And that’s, and that’s enough, you know,

Harriet McAtee
it’s also just. Yeah, it’s plenty. You could spend a lifetime. Well, I can’t believe I’m gonna say this, but we’re basically at the end of our time,

Sarah Leyla Puello
no way.

Harriet McAtee
I’m almost definitely decided that season three we’re going to do we’re going to do longer episodes. So you know, we can have a part two at some point in the future. I’m sure

Sarah Leyla Puello
I would be delighted.

Harriet McAtee
But before we before we end, where can where can our listeners find you and see what you’re up to at the moment?

Sarah Leyla Puello
Right. So I have a couple of places on social media. I have my own Instagram slash Facebook page @arahleylayoga. And I also have a website which is www.sarahleyla.com. And I also like to point everyone to this new lovely venture that I’ve started with my delightful creative, talented friend, Amy Malloy. It’s called Our Sparkle Club. And it’s a virtual yoga meditation and creative practices club that helps people to find and keep their spark.

Harriet McAtee
I love that. Well, we’ll make sure to link to everything in the shownotes but for now, thank you so much, Sarah, for joining me. It’s been such a joy.

Sarah Leyla Puello
Thank you, Harriet. I’ve had such a fun time with you.

Harriet McAtee
Bye. Bye. Thanks for listening to In Our Experience. Don’t forget to subscribe rate and review the podcast. We love hearing what you think, and it makes a really big difference. In the meantime, until the next episode comes out. Why not check us out on our Instagram account @nourishyogatraining will pop us an email via our website. See you soon

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