We’ve been pretty vocal about our love of HotPod Yoga (have you read Namaste or Namastgo? What happened when we tried Hot Yoga?), a hot yoga franchise, where yoga is practised in a heated inflatable pod. However, we also fell in love with the studio owner, the inspirational Frances Good, who told us yoga helps her deal with her mental health issues. With such issues on the rise and a recognised link between exercise and improved wellbeing, we couldn’t resist following up with Frances, and of course, her adorable puppy, Maggie.
Name: Frances Good
Organisation: Hotpod Yoga Bristol
Can you please give us a little introduction to who you are and what you do?
I’m Frances and I’m the co-owner of Hotpod Yoga Bristol (George my partner being the other half of that duo!). Originally from London, I started off by working in various charities specifically focused on mental health, but always taught and practised yoga alongside, at Hotpod Yoga and the next thing I knew, I’d moved to Bristol, opened a yoga studio, and of course, had a puppy – Maggie.
Finding a passion for yoga helped you overcome issues with anxiety, can you please share how you started practicing yoga and how it has helped?
As a teenager, I suffered from OCD, an eating disorder, self-harm, various addictions and crippling anxiety and depression. Not only did I struggle with these, but of course faced the challenges we all face as teenagers. I personally was never one for fitness – you could guarantee I’d fake my period to get out of any form of exercise! I was nervous about what I looked like exercising and was nervous about not being good enough. However, when I turned 18 and started to address the various mental health challenges, a doctor suggested that perhaps some gentle movement would actually aid recovery. Therefore, I promptly ignored his advice and went straight into high-intensity training – not quite what he meant by gentle I guess! So unsurprisingly this phase passed pretty quickly! During this time, however, I’d met a truly inspirational woman, who opened up to me about her history of disordered eating and how yoga changed her life. Although sceptical, I was pretty desperate at this point, so was willing to give almost anything a go. Needless to say – I fell in LOVE! This was the first time I had ever moved my body and felt anything other than terror! In fact, I actually started to realise how much fun I could have whilst moving, I found that with patience I was able to physically do things I could never imagine being able to do (touching my toes being the big one) and then mentally I found that for the first time since I could remember I wasn’t focusing on anything other than my body. This started off as a negative conversation with my body, but at least it was something, but it was only a matter of time before as I physically progressed the tone of voice inside my head started to change and became a voice of praise and being impressed around what I was learning.
It became clear to me that this was the thing that made me happy and that I wanted to marry together my desire to work with others (something I’d done in charity work). Therefore I trained to be a yoga teacher. Shortly after training, I was introduced to a then very young Hotpod Yoga. I was initially incredibly sceptical of hot yoga – and let’s be honest, a bit scared! I’d heard horror stories about hot yoga as I’m sure we all have, but I’d trained with two of the then current teachers at Hotpod Yoga and so knew there must be something in it. So I went along. In those days the pod was popped up and inflated in school halls across London so when I arrived I put my belongings on a school bench, changed in some questionable toilets and walked into a room with a GIANT purple inflatable studio – the pod. The moment I stepped in all fear passed, it was a warming heat, the light was a dark purple glow, it smelled of delicious bergamot and the music wasn’t the usual chanting I’d become used to in yoga studios, it was deep and soothing beats with a modern twist. When the flow started I was sold – the other students were in shadow and the teacher was lit up so I could follow the class without the usual compare and despair I’d felt in classes. I completely forgot about everything outside of the pod. I can only say that feeling I’d slowly developed over a couple of years of practising yoga was tripled in the space of an hour and I left hungry for more.
Over the years of working for, then opening my own Hotpod Yoga studio here in Bristol, I’ve seen countless people come into the pod extremely nervous about all things yoga related, but who’ve heard it would be good for them. It genuinely only takes one class for all that fear to pass and for their own personal journey in yoga to start. The best way for people to understand this though is to try it so I couldn’t encourage anyone to come along anymore!
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in getting to where you are today?
My mental health. Waking up every day for years and feeling the way I did was quite simply crippling. If it wasn’t one problem I was facing it was another. I felt that no-one would ever truly love and accept me if they knew the thoughts I had racing through my mind and I honestly thought the best I could hope for was maybe some form of supported living. That may sound drastic but anyone who’s ever suffered from mental health problems has probably felt similar.
What has been your proudest moment so far?
This one’s easy – reading feedback from students about their experience of Hotpod Yoga. In moments when we get bogged down in numbers and endless laundry, to read about how Hotpod Yoga and yoga, in general, continues to help people who have suffered from similar debilitating conditions, as well as those facing the day-to-day challenges life throws at all of us is quite simply the best thing ever!
What skills do you think have helped you succeed the most?
Asking for help. When we first decided to franchise Hotpod Yoga, I asked Max (one of the founders) what made a successful franchise- the location, the people, the teaching? And he answered quite simply those who ask for help. Bristol is a city based around community and working together, and so it only took us to announce our launch for help and support to come flooding in. From teachers willing to wash towels, neighbouring coffee shops to supply coffee in the early hours of the morning when we’d been up all night, and from customers staying around for coffee post class to find out how we were doing. George and I have basically done none of this alone and that’s our secret to success!
Do you have any strategies for keeping motivated?
Knowing that whatever we’re facing it will pass, and sadly that means both the bad and the good. When we’ve faced challenges, knowing that somehow we’ll get through it. But also knowing that when we’ve had a particularly exciting event, or fun workshop, that that excitement will pass and so it’s up to us to find the next form of fun! Knowing that it’s all temporary keeps us pushing through when it’s hard, and keeps us enthusiastic when it’s good.
Which woman or women is your biggest inspiration?
My mum – she’s done it all! She became one of the first female partners at a big law firm in London, was a part-time judge, now works in International Aid and charities promoting female education in Sub-Saharan Africa, all whilst being a mum and raising four girls! Doesn’t get much more impressive than that! She’ll always be the first person I call and she’s got the answer to whatever problem I throw at her.
If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?
Everything happens for a reason. I don’t mean this in a karmic way, more in a form of serendipity, and finding good out of bad. If I hadn’t struggled with all the various mental health challenges I faced, I wouldn’t have gotten involved in the charity work I loved (and that introduced me to George – my partner in life and business) and I most certainly wouldn’t have seen reason to start yoga and so who knows where I’d been now. That’s not to say that I’m grateful I went through what I did, and there were some incredibly dark times involved I could easily have lived without! But having said that I wouldn’t be the person I am and in the place I am in today, without them.
Have you learned anything in your work that influences your daily life?
Patience (well it’s work in progress haha)! I use to say to myself, “if at first you don’t succeed, pretend you never tried”. In fact, I lived by that motto as failure wasn’t an option. But through work and opening Hotpod Yoga Bristol, I’ve realised failure isn’t things taking time to grow, in fact, growing is a success! I think that successes can actually happen overnight, but rather than defining success as a target reached, or a full class, success is just managing to get through the day just one little bit further ahead than where you were at the start.
Do you have anything else you’d like to share?
Before I started writing this I was nervous to look at all of this again. In my previous roles in charities, I’ve shared my story countless times, but after a while, I felt burnt out and wanted to detach from that part of my life. However, as I’ve been writing this it’s made me remember what yoga was and still is to me. This may sound far-fetched but I truly believe yoga saved me from the path of therapists, psychiatrists, psychiatric hospitals and rehabs I was stuck in. Yoga has been the only constant. I did it when I first chose to address my mental health issues, I did it when I relapsed and ended up in a psychiatric hospital (one of the nurses saw me through my door in a headstand one day and bought me a mat to use), and now I do it every day – I love it so much that even George, one of the biggest yoga sceptics, gave it a go and now owns and runs Hotpod Yoga Bristol with me! In fact, I remember one of my therapists saying that he’d gone home and watched a yoga video he was so impressed. I do strongly believe that it wasn’t just yoga though that has kept my passion for it alive and the reason George got into it – it’s Hotpod Yoga. Of course, I would say that – I run a studio?! But for George, myself and lots of my students, the pod has become something of a safe-haven, it’s a completely immersive experience totally detached from the outside world where there’s no sense of pressure, competition or stress. We’d love to have anyone join us in our studio in Bristol, and if you’re reading this from somewhere else look up your nearest studio, jump in the car with a friend, have an incredible day out and experience the pod which may just change your life too!
Anyone interested in checking out HotPod Yoga for themselves can find the Bristol branch at Unit 2, Tower House, Fairfax St, Bristol, Somerset, BS1 3BN.
Or find your local studio here.
Watch out for deals and inspirational yogi photos on Instagram!