When former nurse, Cat Percival, started teaching yoga on the beach back in 2017, little did she realise that almost three years later she’d be the recipient of an award from North Tyneside’s Elected Mayor as a business that reflects the Spirit of North Tyneside.
We chatted with Cat to find out more about her business, her award and how receiving an award at a virtual award ceremony has been for her.
How did your business come about?
My business, The Yoga Tribe, has been trading for almost two years now. Prior to that I was teaching yoga for free on the beach. It was a bit of an antidote to my job as a nurse because I was feeling totally burned out.
I had no work/life balance and I was experiencing constant Mum guilt for not being able to have real quality time with my family. I knew I needed to change something so I trained as a yoga instructor. I’d had postnatal depression after my son was born so I knew I wanted to support other Mums who were going through similar experiences.
Motherhood is advertised as this wonderful time, full of excitement and joy. And yes, it does come with those moments, but it can also feel lonely and exhausting and often there is very little support available for brand new Mums, even before Coronavirus happened.
Before lockdown I ran Pregnancy Yoga, Mother and Baby Yoga, and Hatha (or as I call it ‘Simple Feel Good’) Yoga for mums with older children. Yoga has so many mental and physical health benefits but I know from experience and from talking to Mums that it can feel intimidating to join a class and start practising yoga. My main aim with The Yoga Tribe is to make new joiners feel welcome and supported whether they’ve done yoga before or are a complete beginner.
I also ran workshops and retreats in places around the North East such as Doxford Hall and Seaham Hall.
Then lockdown happened. And of course, I was worried about my business surviving, but my main concern was making sure all the Mums were going to be OK. I knew the isolation created by the various lockdowns and restrictions was going to put a great deal of pressure on their mental wellbeing. After all antenatal and postnatal services were cut, women were forced to labour alone in hospitals, all baby groups and support networks for new Mums had to stop and the usual flocks of well-wishers and support networks were no longer allowed to pop in to help.
Then there were the Mums with older children trying to work from home, home school their children and juggling with pressures from all corners.
That’s why I moved all my classes online and made sure I built in some extra time at the end of sessions to talk. I set up a Facebook group to allow Mums to feel like part of a community. I ran online journaling sessions to support emotional wellbeing and I used my nursing background to educate women on birth and what to expect from a hospital working with high infection precautions.
In the second lockdown when support groups were allowed, I started running an in-person session for new Mums to come and talk.
I also used my time to film some short yoga videos on King Edwards Bay in Tynemouth as well as some Birth Education videos so that women can now use my pregnancy programme in their own time, anywhere in the country.
How did you come to be nominated for the award and how has the Forum supported your business?
I was encouraged by my friends at The Yoga Station to put myself forward for the award because they knew about all the work and support I was providing for pregnant ladies, new Mums and my community as a whole.
The Business Forum has been incredible. I’ve had the opportunity to reach more women in the region. It’s my mission to support as many mothers as possible. To give them somewhere to talk, to nurture their body and feel real connection to others in the community which is The Tribe.
The Forum has helped me to make connections with other North Tyneside businesses and made it easier to stay informed with local changes to guidelines.
What does winning the award mean to you and your business?
The other nominees have done so much for our community so to be recognised in this way is overwhelming. Everything I’ve done has been because I care so deeply about all those mothers out there. I suffered for so long with depression and guilt in the early years of my motherhood experience but I always managed to put a smile on my face and tell everyone I was ‘fine’. I don’t want other mothers to feel like they have to cover things up to look like they are coping.
They say it takes a village to raise a child so we have to be open about our experiences and support each other. This award has shown that my dream has become reality.
What was your experience of the online award ceremony?
It was interesting. Getting all dolled up and sitting in my kitchen was definitely bizarre but it was heart-warming to see everything the other businesses had been doing in our community. It did mean my little sausage dog Coco managed to jump in and make an appearance, and I got to keep my comfy slippers on.
Once it was over, I changed into my PJs, ordered a Chinese and opened the fizz. No taxis, childcare or late nights so that was a bonus!
What advice would you give other business or people thinking of setting up a business in North Tyneside?
North Tyneside has such a community spirit. As a new business the North Tyneside Business Factory and the Whitley Bay Chamber of Commerce have been an amazing support for me.
Also, The Yoga Station (the studio I teach from) have been so supportive. Every idea I have come up with they have tried their best to accommodate so we can continue to support our local community. Even making space in the Station Master’s Garden to teach classes outdoors there.