Five minutes with Shelley McCarten

Have you met Shelley McCarten? Shelley is one inspirational human who happens to also teach at Urban Yoga, including heading up our Pregnancy Yoga Course offering. It is an honour to have such a down to earth individual on our team, a teacher whose classes are instilled by her own realness and contagious enthusiasm for the practice. It’s Shelley whom I often turn to when I need advice from one yoga teacher with a lot of wisdom under her belt.

In spending five minutes in Shelley’s company I was curious to know how her approach to yoga and passion for the practice has also evolved since returning to NZ from London in 2013 following a seven year stint away and especially with the arrival of her daughter Hazel 20 months ago.

In pitching five big questions Shelley’s way, her answers to them are shared below and are a worthwhile five-minute read.

1) Who/what got you into yoga?

In 2004 I kicked off my OE by staying with a friend in New York who was training to become a yoga teacher. One of her teachers was a woman with bright pink hair that drank pink cocktails. It was from attending this teacher’s classes that I found yoga didn’t have to be as purist or traditional as some of the classes I had attended in the past. I flirted with yoga classes ever since that point, but it was not until 2010 that I took the plunge to train as a teacher. It was the extra body-mind layer that you get in a yoga practice that finally hooked me. For me it’s a holistic practice where we give importance to the whole of the structure and function of the body, rather than just giving attention to just the actions and thoughts of the brain or mind. In yoga we blend all that in to one thing – a body-mind-movement practice. I find life becomes more simpler when you can focus in that way. Less chaos and clutter!

Shelley McCarten Urban Yoga2) What gets you on your yoga mat to practice these days?

In all honesty I have found it harder as a mother. Finding a good amount of time can be challenging. So, I slot it in where I can. I found that because of this my yoga practice has changed. It is definitely not as physically challenging as it was before I became a mother, and mindful movement and gentle breathing practices have become more prominent. You can find me meditating while folding the washing, or cooking Hazel’s dinner! I definitely know in my body when it’s been too long off my mat though – there is a fuzzy, stagnant feeling that takes over if I haven’t done an asana practice. That’s when I make sure I jump on the mat to get that balance back to feel in sync again.

3) What inspires you as a teacher at Urban Yoga?

On my return to New Zealand after working in yoga studios in London I was so happy to find Urban Yoga. It is such a grounded space. It is also an accessible space. I struggle a lot with the commercialisation of yoga and I really feel that Urban Yoga doesn’t buy into this, and it’s because of this I don’t have to buy into it as a teacher. It’s not about yoga selfies or crazy postures. It’s about finding some space in body and in mind, and having some fun at the same time. The students are all so curious and open, and are such delight to share an asana practice with.

4) What would you say to someone you wanted to train to teach yoga?

If you are curious about it, do it. You don’t have to become a yoga teacher after doing your training. In fact, someone in the Urban Yoga community said to me the other day that there are too many yoga teachers when I suggested a training! And that’s probably true! But, one of my teachers said her aim in training yoga teachers is so that we don’t have to teach anybody yoga anymore. Because it then becomes a private practice and a daily practice of body-mind connection. We aren’t just heads running around in space being driven by what it means to be successful in this day and age. We are connected on a deeper level, on a happier level. Because that is what most humans want isn’t it?  Belonging, happiness, connection.

Shelley McCarten Urban Yoga5) What inspires you off the mat?

Always my daughter. She is my mini Buddha teaching me all the time about love, presence, and of course, patience.

A good beer or wine in the sunshine, and a swim in the ocean because that is mindfulness and meditation made easy.

Making mistakes, and always learning from them, because that brings life colour, vibrancy and keeps me forever young (I hope!)


Catch a class with Shelley at Urban Yoga by checking out our timetable for the most up to date days/times. Or to make an enquiry about one of Shelley’s Pregnancy Yoga Courses on offer please email us at