I first met Catherine a couple of years ago in India, whilst coaching at Soul & Surf.
Once a child protection lawyer turned corporate marketing and events career girl, Catherine says 'I believe yoga found me at a particularly dark time in my life - a time of family crisis, an abusive relationship, and general misery where I found myself.'
Along with a passion for surfing, Catherine now travels the world as an Award-winning spiritual business owner specializing in transformational yoga (& surf) retreats, spiritual business mentorship, and sacred yoga practices.
I love Catherine's story, so I asked her a couple of questions about her journey:
Name: Catherine Gallagher
Catherine in flow
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I’m Catherine, an Award Winning spiritual business owner of the Empower Method offering an online digital yoga studio, international transformational retreats and spiritual business mentorship for female entrepreneurs. My focus is on empowering practitioners with self-love, peace and compassion through honouring the body's natural energy, rhythm and cycles. I’m also a very keen surfer (wannabe pro longboarder), dedicated foodie, in love with my 1988 VW Campervan and I love any opportunity that allows me to live most of my life outdoors!
Whereabouts in the world are you at the moment?
Right now, I’m living in Andalusia, Southern Spain which I love! I’ve checked out the surf down in El Pal Mar a couple of times but am living more inland where I work giving teacher trainings and retreats in a beautiful retreat centre in the hills. I’ve been here for the winter and am hoping to fit in some last minute trips to Portugal and Morocco before heading back to the UK for summer.
What did you do before you found yoga?
I used to be a barrister lawyer! I worked for a child abuse charity in London and then took up a couple of NGO opportunities abroad in South East Asia. Then I transitioned into marketing and event roles within global financial services corporations. I feel like I’ve had a few lives already! It was at this point during my corporate career that I realised I suffered with quite severe anxiety at times and luckily I found yoga… or yoga found me ;)
Catherine on another van adventure!
You are the spiritual business owner of the Empower Method, what inspired you to develop this method?
At times in my life I’ve felt very disempowered. Yoga has been a HUGE comfort to me - teaching me to breath properly, to relax and discover movement as medicine. After a practice, whether gentle, dynamic, restorative - I always feel shifted for the better. I wanted to offer people the same and began teaching in a unique style and flavour to help people feel shifted, not just in their body but in their hearts also. People were always asking me what’s this style of yoga. I would just laugh and answer “Yoga with Catherine” I guess. After being asked so many times I decided to think about this more deeply and realised what I want is for people to feel EMPOWERED when they leave a session with me. I rebranded into the Empower Method with Catherine Gallagher, so people know what it does on the box. I’m not empowering anyone, I’m helping them to tap into their own innate sense of power deep within that sometimes gets trodden on, suppressed and quiet. I’m just helping people to remember and reactivate their confidence, presence and calmness. I haven’t done anything - it’s all their effort, dedication and practice that makes the difference. Yoga heals. It’s that simple.
The Empower Method has been well recognised and has also won awards, tell us more:
In October 2021 I won a Best Business Women Award for outstanding customer service. This was after losing my entire international yoga retreats due to Covid and then pivoting online offering online yoga and a spiritual business school for female entrepreneurs. To be recognised like this was an incredible highlight of my year and has opened up a number of doors for me in terms of my client reach, being a guest on podcasts and features (like this, thank you!) and a huge boost in confidence to keep going. Running your own business can be a very solitary and isolating experience at times as there’s no team, no camaraderie so this was a real boost to continue offering what I do. I now have two women working with me in my team so I’m loving having more support and a team around me. To any female entrepreneurs, if you’re not applying for business awards why not?? Consider this a loving BIG nudge from me to go for it! Did you know that for every 10 business awards, 8 are awarded to men… I’m writing this on International Women’s Day so I’m feeling extra about encouraging the incredibly talented and skilled women reading this to go for the recognition they deserve.
In her element
How did you first get into surfing?
I grew up in Plymouth and we spent so much time at weekends, half term and holidays down in Bude, Polzeath and Holy Well Bay. Until I was 15 I’d only ever tried (and loved) body boarding but I was obsessed with the idea of being a “surfer girl” and was determined to try. I taught myself to surf on a surf betty mini-mal and after a couple of weeks in the summer I was popping up on every wave. Since then over the years I’ve surfed as much as I can joining women’s surf holidays in France, Bali and Cornwall, taking up a yoga teaching job at Surf Marcoc so I could enjoy surfing in Morocco and even living in Cornwall for a year so I could surf every day. I’d love to make surfing a part of my every day life again soon and am working towards that goal now to live by the sea somewhere I can call home.
Surfing is often compared to yoga, in the sense that you have to be present and it embodies mindfulness. What are your thoughts on this?
I couldn’t agree more. I wrote something about this recently so here goes…
Surfing is my favourite method of meditation. It’s taught me:
⚡To live in the present.
⚡To ride atop the ups, downs
⚡Dispassion (the more you panic the worse it is under water!)
As yogis, we are in training to remain dispassionate by non-identifying with the fluctuations of the mind. We are learning how to surf whilst maintaining a steadiness in response to everything.
Whether the waves of our life are huge barrels or tiny mini-ripples, can we stay calm, peaceful and balanced no matter what comes next?
It's not easy!
How do we get there?
We need to give up the drama of our lives! The drama will still happen (we can’t control it!) but we can stop getting so caught up in our own soap opera.
Can we remain steady rather than completely swayed by every high and low?
If we remain unfazed and steady, what happens?
Through adopting a dispassionate stance to all fluctuations we disentangle ourselves from the egoic mind and dwell in a state of peaceful, calm equilibrium.
We don’t react.
We only notice.
In that sense, meditation becomes a training ground for daily life.
We would ride atop the waves rather than churning within them.
I don’t enjoy the disturbing rollercoaster of ups and downs of life anymore.
It’s painful and exhausting.
Yoga, surfing, your form of meditation is the antidote to dis-ease providing deep relief, calm and santosha (contentment) independent of anything external.
Catherine and her trusty 1988 VW campervan
There are so many approaches to Yoga, what advice do you have for someone that is thinking about starting out?
The question to ask yourself is “What do I need today?” rather than “What do I want?” Our mind may make us feel guilty for doing something for ourselves, especially if it’s a more gentle, relaxing practice. Often if we have an hour free we think we have to go go go and do something dynamic. That’s why I suggest listening to your body, considering where you’re at on your cycle if you have a cycle and being true to your needs. Honour yourself. Then… give it a go!
If you feel more comfortable trying it out in your own home there are so many resources online. I have a free mini-immersion of 5 classes available on my website and I also give a lot of nice freebie yoga treats to my subscribers if you feel called.
How many years have you practiced Yoga and what does it mean to you?
I first tried yoga at school when I was about 16/17 - I thought it was really weird and the teacher a bit crazy! Now I’m one of those myself! I can’t really believe where life has taken me but yoga has really been my saving grace. I hadn’t done yoga in ages but I started again in the winter of 2014 as there wasn’t a ballet studio in my area and a gorgeous new hot yoga studio had just opened around the corner from me! In the winter of 2014 my sister was diagnosed with cancer during her pregnancy. I was also miserable in my job and current relationship and felt like my world was falling apart. Yoga was my anchor - somewhere I could go to allow myself to feel my feelings, to learn how to breath again (I say again as we all know how to breath well as babies, through our nose and softly, deeply) but I wasn’t breathing well or moving much at this time. The teachers helped me to feel safe, held and seen without knowing anything about what I was going through. Yoga for me means an honour and a privilege to now hold the space for others. We never know what another person is going through so to provide a safe, nourishing space for my students is my biggest motivator - to help others feel just a little bit better after my offerings than when they arrived keeps me going.
Catherine and her signature smile / Photo Sophie Mitchell Photography
Any plans for 2022?
I’ll be heading back to the UK in April and am planning lots of fun catch ups with friends and family. I’m obviously hoping to join a level 2 Longboarding weekend in May with you amazing women at Gather & Glide! I’m hosting a mini-retreat in the breath-taking Hartland Peninsula
I’ve got a number of retreats coming up this year including a mini-retreat in North Devon this June and week long retreats in Ibiza and Andalusia in the Autumn. I’m really excited as I’ve missed teaching live retreats so much! I’m also loving growing my online digital yoga studio and my spiritual business mentorship programme. I’ve also booked my first ever holiday to Portugal which has been on my travel list for years.
Thank you so much for chatting with us Catherine, your story is so inspiring and empowering and we cant wait to see what you do next!
To find out more about the Empower Method or to follow Catherine's adventures, click these links:
Podcasts: Listen here