Yoga Teacher: Scott Rennie

Hi Scott. Tell us a bit about how you came to Yoga.

My first memory of Yoga was when I was 16, and we were spending the summer in Saudi Arabia where my dad works. I was kind of bored during the day and noticed this book in his collection called “Light on Yoga” by BKS Iyengar. I don’t know how I knew anything about Yoga, but I did know that it was to do with the mind and figured I could do with some steadiness in there, so I skimmed part of it and decided to try the first practice at the back.

Scott Rennie One of the first postures in the first practice was Tree posture. So there I was in my shorts (the UK football/running type, not those nice long American beach shorts) practicing in my bedroom. Of course my technique was non-existent, so instead of instant enlightenment I got instant depilation. As I pressed my feet against my inner thighs, it slid firmly down, pulling out all the hairs on its way.

I was quite into the “no pain, no gain” mentality at that time, but that was just too much for me and the Yoga thing fell by the wayside for several years.

So can you think of a significant moment in your Yoga journey?

LOL, you mean apart from ripping all the hairs out of my upper leg?

To me, Yoga is all about the journey in its entirety rather than single moments, but I guess I can also agree that on any journey there are moments of outstanding beauty. I’ve had the joy to study with some amazing teachers in my time, and also learn from some amazing students too.

The moment that sticks with me, though perhaps not the most intensely spiritual, was my feeling after the very first class I went to. It was with a wonderful teacher named Sandra Scott in Kilmarnock, who sadly I’ve lost touch with. I was so blessed out after that first class and remember thinking how amazing this Yoga thing must be if I can fall asleep in front of 20 strangers in relaxation at the end. It was the experience that started me off on the journey that has brought me here, and I wish I could get in touch with her to let her know.

What is your home practice like?

I practice every day, first thing in the morning. I am not a morning person in any way shape or form, more a night owl in fact, but I know that if I don’t practice first thing the odds of me doing so are greatly reduced.

It has evolved from a one-time Ashtanga practice towards a form more sympathetic to my body’s needs. My major influences are a number of teachers in the tradition of T Krishnamacharya, primarily now my teacher Kausthub Desikachar. From them I have learned much about the breath, and an exploratory approach to Yoga that considers the possibility of every activity of interest being used as a tool to progress our goals. I particularly enjoy the use of sound during practice, which is something that has to be experienced to truly understand its power.

Frequency of practice is also very important. 20 minutes a day is much more effective than an hour every three days. And who has time in this modern world to practice for a couple of hours every day – only the lucky I think. It is far better to get into the way of practising every day even if it is for 15 minutes, or ten, or even five, than to force yourself towards a 2 hour practice and crucify yourself with guilt because you cannot manage that every day. Be honest with yourself, and work out how short a practice would need to be for you to manage it every day. Then set your practice accordingly, and I’m sure you’ll reap the benefits very quickly.

My sacred space is our spare room, where my Yoga mat vies for space with my computer. It’s not ideal, but I have found it so important in developing a daily practice to have that space set aside, it makes me much more inclined to get out of bed early and practice.

Is Yoga something you would like to see develop in your local area?

Absolutely, though when you scratch the surface in Ayrshire you find a lot of Yoga going on. It’s just that it is so difficult to find out information on classes because Yoga teachers seem to be soo poor at promoting themselves. This why I started the Yogasangha Ayrshire group on Yahoo!, to help connect students and teachers in our area (and for free). It took me a good few months, but now I have a list of over 50 classes in my local area, so we definitely have a wealth of experience here. The only disappointment is that, even with 35 members, only a handful are active participants in this online community, but I live in hope.

I would like to see Yoga teachers promoting themselves a little bit more – not too much, I’m not talking “big business” marketing campaigns, we’ve all seen how horribly that can go wrong. But there are so many more people out there that we, as Yoga teachers, can help if only we let them know we’re here.

I think that part of this stems from the fact that many Yoga teachers often have too limited a sense of their own value. Many years ago, society knew nothing about Yoga, of its value to them, and so teachers were treated accordingly. We have moved on since then, but still some employers and many students treat Yoga teachers and their classes like second-hand goods. I am not just talking about pay here, though that is an issue, but Yoga is often marginalised by some employers and I think the good will of many excellent teachers is being exploited here. It’s about time we let the world know otherwise, but in a slow, organic fashion, proving the value through example.

What is your teaching philosophy, and your aims as a teacher?

I want to help. I want everyone that I teach to walk away from me just that one iota better off than when they walked up. Actually I want them to walk away deliriously joyful and totally enlightened, but life’s not that simple so I’ll settle for gentle progress.

My teaching philosophy comes from Yogacharya Krishnamacharya, who said, “Teach what is inside you. Not as it applies to you, but as it applies to the other.” This is so important to me, to truly investigate the needs of the student and help them to move towards fulfilment of those needs.

As a teacher, what is your motivation, and how does it differ from that of your personal Yoga practice?

Some time ago someone said to me, “Practice for your students, teach for yourself.” I thought I kind of understood at the time, but now I truly do know what they mean. My home practice has been totally overtaken by my need to explore the class plans I am creating, to test out how well the various tools of Yoga work together and think through how I will present them. On the other hand I find that when I am in the class, watching and helping the students, I learn so much about what this Yoga is all about.

I have a feeling that this will settle slightly with experience, and my personal practice will return more to my own needs. My home practice would usually concentrate less on asana and more on the pranayama and meditation practices, and with a lot of use of sound throughout the asana. This is something you can’t do in a general group class, where you have absolute beginners that need to build the foundations of a practice. You need to meet the student where they are in terms of practice maturity, not where you are.

The motivation for both remains the same, though it may seem quite selfish – to be happy. My personal practice makes me happy, and by increasing the happiness of students, my own chances also improve.

Your new website states the phrase ‘Ancient wisdom for modern living’. How do you find that your attitude to the 9-5/material world has changed, being a Yogi in the modern world?

Scott Rennie and daughter Ooh, good question! This is a biggie for me – if Yoga had not evolved through the millennia such that it was still relevant to the majority of people who live in that 9 to 5 (or more likely 7 to 7 or worse!), then it would have died out, or been restricted to the dwindling number of true ascetics who take the mountain cave/forest hut route.

Luckily for us it did, as our society seems determined to progress this global homogenization of the Western greed culture that has brought us such corporate wonders as global warming (not to mention its counterpart global dimming), deforestation, pollution and so on. Before Yoga I well and truly bought into that culture, and it is only by looking into the effect of this Personality Ethic (as Stephen Covey calls it) on my own happiness that I realised how much I need to change.

Apart from an increased awareness of many of these issues, Yoga gives me ways to form practical solutions to the problems I face in my working life. I deal with a lot of conflict in my day job, and it’s been a challenge to move away from resolving this through “superior firepower” towards an approach that involves more effective communication and greater understanding.

One thing that I am now sure of, however, is that you can never truly change someone else’s opinion on a matter. Most people are so entrenched in their habits that they will adopt them instinctively and never open their minds to the possibility of a different, more effective way. So I think the only true way to effect change in society is to lead by example. This is why the Yama and Niyama are so important, the foundation of any Yoga practice.

By adopting the Yoga ethic and truly living it (or at least moving towards that ideal) we will improve our own lives. Then, those people around us will see these improvements and, if they are ready for such change, follow suit. I think that when enough of us do so, the ripples of change moving through society could become very powerful.

Can you tell us what book are you currently reading?

I bought a whole load of books in India and am now working my way through the pile. Right now it’s Paul Brunton’s book, “A Search in Secret India”. It’s the second book of his I’ve read, and I love his writing style and the fascinating content from what truly was another era. He was a spiritual traveller back in the 1930’s, and the people he met on his journey were so fascinating.

It’s funny though to see how India is facing the exact same issues then as they are now. I just read a chapter where he bemoans the Westernisation of India, and I wonder how he’d feel about it now with such “progress” as KFC, Pizza Hut, Silicon Valleys and Call Centres. In others he expresses a heartfelt sympathy for the abject poverty he saw. From my own experiences the same waifs, strays, lepers and cripples are roaming the new tarmac streets of modern India, begging for a living.

Where is a special place for you in Scotland?

I would say, without a doubt, it’s the Torridon area in the north-west. It’s so breath-takingly beautiful (in this most stunning of countries), and I’ve had such great times up there walking and climbing in the nearby mountains. It’s just one of those places where the mountains meet the sea in such a dazzling combination that it beggars disbelief. Now if only it had a KFC or a Pizza Hut…

That was a joke, by the way!

Glad to hear it! So what else interests you besides Yoga?

Well, I must confess to being an Internet junkie, that’s for sure. I just love all the avenues it opens up for people of similar minds all across the world to meet up and communicate. I’ve actually physically met with several fascinating Yoga people from all around the world that I knew for years through the Internet (primarily Erich Schiffman’s Moving Into Stillness Online Forum). It’s all been great fun, these Internet yogi’s seem to be the most amazing people.

I used to be an avid mountaineer, though I rarely get time now between work, family, Yoga and other commitments. It’s something I really must try harder to pick up gain, I do miss being out in the mountains.

As well as teaching , do you have any other Yoga related projects in the pipeline that you would like to share?

I was pleasantly surprised recently when June Mitchell and Julie Hanson, who run CYS Scotland, asked me to start teaching Yoga Philosophy on their Teacher Training courses. Of course I jumped at the chance and thankfully I have a few months to sort out my ongoing projects before I commit to this.

One aspect I am very keen to develop is teaching on a one-to-one basis. My study at Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai, India, has convinced me how much more efficient this personal contact can be. I also have a deep interest in Yoga Therapy, and in fact will be studying with TKV Desikachar and Kausthub Desikachar in London next March/April to advance the knowledge base I gained at KYM. So I’m currently looking for students who want to go that little further with their studies than a group class allows, or who need the benefit of a personalised practice in order to deal with individual circumstances (whether they are long-term conditions, illnesses, injuries or simply aspects of their life that they really want to improve).

Right now I want to consolidate, developing the skills and experience that my students at Kilmarnock College need. I want to spend the next few months getting to know their needs, developing that bond of trust that leads to the most powerful tool that Yoga offers, which is the teacher-student relationship. Once I have that solid foundation, then perhaps I can start looking at other prospects such as new classes.

I’m also involved in a number of other Yoga projects, both locally and internationally. Most of these are still at the ideas stage though, and given my other commitments it will be a while before any of them form into a definite plan. But I’ll be sure to let you know as soon as they do!

Written by Lorna

Scott teaches general "Yoga for Wellbeing" classes and specialist "Yoga for Pregnancy" classes throughout Ayrshire and Glasgow. He is affiliated as a teacher to the Krishnamacharya Healing and Yoga Foundation (, and is also available for one-to-one sessions to help you develop a regular home practice, deepen your existing practice or to tackle specific issues that cannot be addressed in group classes. You can find further details or contact him through his website at