Wild Self Stories - Bridgett Ane Goddard - Part one

Wild Self Stories - Bridgett Ane Goddard - Part one

I first met Bridgett Ane, affectionately known as BA, at Yoga in the Lanes, the yoga school she runs with her husband Simon, when I began practicing there in 2022. More than anything, I was struck by her conviction and deep faith in the power of hot yoga, which comes across so resolutely both in and out of the yoga studio. Her enduring confidence in her practice is contagious, keeping us rapt and in the moment during class.

Over the last two years, I’ve come to know BA more fully. Her energy and enthusiasm for not just hot yoga but also life and spirituality have inspired me to stand more deeply in my own power. In a society that often feels the need to categorise and label, BA embraces her many facets comfortably, defying the random rules that suggest women can't be both untamed and emotionally intelligent simultaneously.

Collectively, as women, we can all learn and grow from hearing each other's experiences. I’m deeply grateful to BA for sharing her wisdom with the Wild Self Co collective, as I know how nourishing it will be for our bodies and minds.


How has your spiritual practice evolved over time, did yoga or spirituality come first?

Spirituality came first. I recently met with my eldest brother, I'm one of six children, and I had said to him that we were raised Catholic. And he said, no, we weren't. I was under the impression that we were raised Catholic, but it was quite loose and we had grace before dinner and we had prayers before we went to bed. 

When I was quite young, saying to my mom, as we were saying our prayers, looking up at the sky, is God up there? And she said, God is inside of you. So you have to be very still and very quiet in order to hear God's voice. I think that's more yogic, than Catholic.

I think there was a very spiritual practice in the way that both my mother and father raised me, but more from my mother in terms of nature and the importance of connecting with the sky and with trees and with dirt and with plants and flowers and all that.

By the time I was a teenager, I was told I had to be confirmed into Catholicism. I felt very much against it because of what I understood about Catholicism but I was told my grandmother would die an early death if I didn't get confirmed. So I was like, let me reconsider. I did end up getting confirmed when I was about 15 and didn't really feel like I was a Catholic, but I felt it was an important thing to do for my family. 

I left home and moved to New York when I was 18. That's when I first got introduced to a yoga practice. 


So in terms of bringing the two together; yoga and spirituality, did it just happen naturally? 

I think so, because the spiritual practice came as being a dancer.

I started dancing at age three or four. It was so much who I am and who I was then to dance and to express myself being kind of wild and free, whether it was dancing at home, in the garden or on stage and in classes.

I started performing as an actor professionally when I was 12. One of the first roles I had was Saint Bernadette in the play Song of Bernadette. It was a hugely spiritual experience playing her and realising that even through my dreams, I was connecting to the spirit of St. Bernadette.

So then when I first did my yoga class in New York, I had a teacher called Diane, who was very pregnant at the time, and the class was held at sunset in a chapel that was floor to ceiling. A whole wall of glass, looking down at a valley, at Lake Cayuga. It was just stunning, to see the sunset over the lake, to see Diane, this very pregnant woman, moving with such grace and ease into crazy yoga poses with no effort, apparently, at all. Really made me very curious and inspired and in awe of the potential that lies ahead and lies within.


Listening to you talking about playing St. Bernadette I have a question about your wild self. How does it feel for you when you're dancing and connected to your inner self? 

It's like everything else almost falls away that there's a purity. There's a sense of being connected. Most recently in Egypt just a couple weeks ago was the most spiritual experience I ever had, actually.

But with each experience that we allow ourselves, we give ourselves and others the opportunity to grow further into this connection to spirit and self.


So like climbing the tallest pine tree at five years old. I got grounded. But for me, it felt absolutely beautiful. Perfect and real and safe. It was like being connected to the tree itself with a strong grip, my legs and my arms embracing the tree but then just surrendering to the wind holding me at the top of the tree, swaying back and forth and being that close to the sky and the sun. Just where I was supposed to be. But I was only five so it was a bit dangerous. My dad said at my first wedding; he said we wanted to give all of our children roots and wings and BA started spreading her wings at age two.

Both are important, right? The roots and the wings; The wings - that freedom of spirit to be able to fly. Whether that's flying into a dance or flying into a painting or just lying down in the grass and looking up at a cloud. Sometimes it's being at the theatre, watching a play and flying into the story or because I'm an actor for me flying into the spirit of another character or playing a person from history that's been before. Recently I was Joan Crawford. It's just an amazing experience being able to surrender to another's experience. And that can be through nature, art, physical embodiment. And through spirit in time as you practice, some people I think it comes more naturally to just being very still and very quiet.

I spoke one to one with a Muslim man in Egypt. And he said do you think it's weird just like to sit in the darkness? I don't think it's weird at all, and I absolutely have always loved doing that, even when I was a child, to be in that darkness and connect.

It's very freeing, and it can be scary sometimes if we allow our dreams and our thoughts to go places that are dark, but knowing that we have the ability to change our thought as a human being. And through the practice of yoga and meditation through a physical discipline, it gets much easier to empower yourself with that knowledge and then utilise that self control to change a thought that doesn't serve and go more towards the light, then it's not so scary.


Do you have any specific ways that you connect to self? Any rituals or ceremonies that you perform regularly when you start yoga or when you're meditating? 

Yes, I'm a big fan of ritual. I think it infiltrates my whole life actually, probably more than I even realise. But I start the morning with gratitude.

I like to be in stillness when I wake up, but still have my eyes closed for a while. I guess it's marrying the dream state to the awake state. So I allow myself time to digest or revisit the images from my dreams and then slowly, as I replay them in my conscious mind, that goes to journaling.

So I like to start with journaling. Morning pages and often it is my dreams that come out, but if there's something in my life that's challenging sometimes that's what I end up writing about or if there's something that's really exciting or wonderful, I might write about that. I find my journal practice is a bit more regular during challenging times in my life.

The way I get out of bed is a ritual. Depending on how I'm feeling, I'll either lead with my intuitive side and step with my left foot first, or if I'm feeling I've been too much in my spiritual practice and not grounded enough, then I leave with my right foot. So that helps me kind of staying grounded and connected to body. When I have some goals I really need to get done, that would be right foot. More and more these days, I'm consciously stepping onto both feet when I get out of bed and really trying to live in that balanced state. 

And then before I eat or drink, I have a practice of gratitude. It could be seen as prayer, but it's meditation, prayer, gratitude, practice, basically just looking at the food or the drink before me and having time to consider how many different people were part of that process from the first pick of the cacao to the truck driver that drove it to the people that packaged it to how it got to into my cup or onto my plate.

So the gratitude practice really helps. And also because I have an autoimmune disorder, when eating was difficult for me and scary because I often had pain from it, the gratitude practice really became important. And it wasn't only about the food, but it was also about my body being able to digest properly.

And that has evolved as my diet has evolved. When I've recognised I've had to eliminate or integrate foods that I either love or have said, no way, I'm never eating that again. I've had to change. I've had to become more flexible both ways. Change can be a bit scary. I really like to sit with gratitude for my body, saying thank you for being so wise and communicative and telling me what it needs.



It sounds like there's a lot of awareness there throughout the day. How are you able to be so present? 

I remember hearing an interview with the Dalai Lama and they said, when do you meditate? And he was like, I'm always meditating. And that really was a bell of mindfulness and the bell of mindfulness practice I've used since the nineties. My ballet teacher at university gave me a book called Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh

It helped me hugely in terms of becoming more present and less bothered, less frustrated, less annoyed. Of course, I'm still human and I have those feelings, but what previously, or even currently, frustrates, annoys, or bothers me, I've used to the best of my ability, the practice of a bell of mindfulness.

Also I love squatting, and I think traveling to Asia helped me really embrace my squat practice, especially while eating, but it's generally not as socially acceptable here to squat while you're eating, so I do it when I'm at home in my garden if I'm having lunch, I'll squat at night time before I go up to sleep, especially during a full moon, really connecting with sky and stars and moon.


Do you have intention setting as well as part of your practice?

Yes, I always start when I practice yoga, I always have an intention at the beginning of the class. For me, intention moves towards bhakti yoga, devotional practice.

So, again, it's connected to spirit and I like to offer it up. I'll usually start my class saying that if you have a particular someone or something that you'd like to dedicate your practice to.

I think when you have an intention that is bigger than you, it's actually easier. I have personal intentions and my own personal growth and evolution, but I found, in more recent years, if the intention is actually bigger than you, bigger, much bigger than my life, my body, my personal it goes so much easier. 


I totally agree with that. It's so much easier, when you're sending love out into the universe or the world or to other people, it's so much easier than sometimes giving it to ourselves, isn't it?

When you want to send love inside, sometimes it's a bit like, oh, this feels a bit difficult. It gets easier. And for me, it's gotten easier when I've gone through harder stuff. So it's been through death, through living in pain almost all the time with my autoimmune disorder. 

So it was one of my teachers, Mary Jarvis, who helped me realise I have to be thankful. I have to be grateful for the pain and to actually have love for it. So I'd be there rocking back and forth in pain, thinking expletives in my head and I would have to change that to thank you.

Thank you. I love you, instead of F you. It was that swap. I think verbalising it is very important. It's not always appropriate to verbalise it because it would happen for me in the loo a lot is when I would do it is in a public bathroom it can be a bit weird if you hear somebody yelling at you.

But at home I can do it. In the middle of the night I had to be quiet but it helps being able to articulate it and to write it down. Writing down whatever the frustrations are, whatever the things I want to stop, whatever I want to release, get rid of or change, then writing those as individual lines, tearing them into strips, reading them out loud, and then burning them, and then taking those ashes and burying them. That has been a really helpful ritual for embodying some of the stuff that's more personal.


So you were already doing yoga when you were dealing with the pain of your autoimmune disorder?

So it's hard to tell always if it's the flare up from the, it's called interstitial cystitis or if it's an infection. But the yoga helped me realise that it's not okay to be in pain. I would just be there sometimes in yoga crying and doing these moves. And my teachers were like, are you okay?

I'm like, no, I'm in so much pain. They're like, then stop doing that move. Don't do that. I was like, well, what do I do then? And so I, again, having the conversations, having the courage to share with somebody that you're in pain is huge. And then being willing to consider the possibility of letting go of your pain is also huge.

If it's been something you've been dealing with for a long time, it just feels like it's part of you. 

It's made you who you are. What's going to happen if I let go of this? So I think meditating on, or considering that possibility of a life free from pain, free from suffering is a beautiful thing.


So in terms of your yoga practice, is there any particular pose or set of poses that you would always say this is my go to, I love this.

Yes, the original hot yoga, twenty six and two. I started yoga in ninety five. I tried all different styles, for the first five years. And when nothing really changed in my life, I liked doing the yoga. I did it about once a week. I didn't really want to do it more than that. So when I got into the hot yoga in 2000, within a week, maybe because they had this introductory offer. And by the end of the week, so much had shifted that had never shifted for years. Things that I never thought would shift. Things that I had accepted about myself and pretty much said, no, this is who I am and this is how my body is.

I think a big part of it was looking in the mirror because I had a practice with a mirror as a ballet student or dancer that was filled with criticism that transferred. I don't know if it's related to me looking in the mirror as a young adult, it's probably not related.



I think it's a very human experience to look in the mirror and not like what you see, especially as a teenager. Everything that comes up is like horrifying cause our bodies are changing so much. I had a lot of bad habits in terms of seeing myself. I would say with hatred actually, and a lot of judgment, with my flaws. I did have a therapist in New York as well, who I met through the hot yoga community in New York. It was recommended by my teacher and he was the one that said to me, what if every pimple was a reminder of you being human and how as a human, you're not meant to be perfect.

And that was another bell of mindfulness. So then one day when I was in the hot yoga room in front of the mirror and I had a big red pimple in my third eye right on my forehead, that was the pimple I remember that changed my relationship with blemishes because I used to have a real problem with acne and it was horribly embarrassing. So I started to see my blemishes as reminders that I'm human and being grateful for them and developing little by little a gentler relationship with myself. 

So there were things in hot yoga practice that I didn't like. I didn't like the heat. That was the first thing I didn't like.

I didn't like not being able to do the yoga. I was sat down for a lot of the class. So I didn't like not being successful in my practice. So my whole relationship with success changed, being okay with doing less, learning to sit down and actually meditate on a posture.

Rather than criticising myself for not being able to do it, I looked outside of myself and my teacher helped me see that in others, I can see what I'm supposed to be doing or what I'm hoping to do. And then you meditate on that possibility of you doing it in the future. Even if in the current moment, you're not capable of it, that's fine.

But to see that it exists and then imagine the possibility of you feeling good, in that position. And then in 2008 when I was sick, I had to dial my practice right back again and speak to the teacher and have conversations and learn how to, okay, if I can't lie on my belly, what can I do in a similar way that I can help my spine?

So the whole spine strengthening series had to be inverted for me. And I think it's helped me become a more creative person to embrace my creativity, to allow myself to be, to be in traditional meditation, to sit in stillness and notice myself. I never thought I'd be able to sit cross legged in the Lotus position cause my joints were very tight.

Even from being a ballet dancer, I never had like real natural flexibility. But then after eight years of yoga, so it was three years of hot yoga, I found myself sitting in Lotus for the first time. And this morning at 7am, I was sat there in Lotus and meditation. So now it's something that can happen with ease.

And I got a very lovely husband as well. I got rid of the first one. It's looking in the mirror all that time and realising what is it in your life that doesn't work. And then helping you realise you have all the tools in your mind and in your body to make the choice. To turn, take a different path, and let go of what no longer serves you, and create space for something even better.


In that sense, is the hot yoga studio your sacred space? 

Absolutely. Oh my gosh, I bow down to it every day. I like have my hands on it, my forehead on it, my definitely my feet. So much gratitude. 


So we'll end Part One of the interview here so you have time to read and digest the wonderful wisdom of Bridgett Ane. In Part Two we learn about the practices that enable Bridgett Ane to work through life's challenges, where she finds stillness in nature and her views on how wild women are viewed in our society.

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