Dr Sally Coulthard, from Gosforth, is a wife, mum of two boys, retired research scientist, personal trainer, yoga and Pilates instructor. She teaches at Yoga Therapies Mala, Newcastle University Sports Centre and Sound Mind and Body.

We’re talking to people who have made interesting life/work changes and have a positive attitude to mid-life, doing things differently, changing their pace of life, their priorities, reflecting in what’s gone before and the new opportunities and challenges to come.


I was a post-doctoral research associate, or one of the white coat nerds! As always, I took a circuitous route to this position. I have a BSc in Botany and Zoology and during a gap-year travelling around the world I spent five months working as a cleaner in Brisbane, followed by several years in a clinical biochemistry lab before starting my research career. I interspersed cancer research with some time in developmental biology and non-cancerous disease research. I studied and obtained my PhD while having a toddler and giving birth to my second son. One might say that I am not one of those people who follows the norm or chooses the easiest path!

I used to do this…

Until the summer of 2018, I worked at Newcastle University in the Northern Institute for Cancer Research and the Institute of Cellular Medicine on pharmacogenetics; the way in which our bodies respond to drugs specialising in cancer and inflammatory bowel disease.

Now life is about…

My aim now is to help people of all ages from babies to the over 70s to keep physically and mentally healthy through the benefits of exercise particularly yoga (including meditation) and Pilates.

I’m so fortunate to be working with Yoga Therapies as they embark on The Mala, a new venture in Gosforth and their third studio in Newcastle as one of their teachers and manager. Life, now, is about making every effort to timetable and run classes that will appeal to different age groups and abilities at The Mala, I want everyone to try yoga and see what they think, which is so exciting.

We also support uS, a local charity, which helps young people from 12 to 25 with mental health issues get involved in exercise and sport to improve their quality of life. Yoga Therapies’ Corporate Social Responsibility programme has focused on fundraising and delivering 1:1 and small group yoga classes for uS participants.


Throughout my research career I was on short-term contracts, applying for my salary every couple of years and eventually decided that as much as I loved my job, it was time for a complete change. So, 18 months before leaving,
I stopped applying for funding and started planning my exit strategy to do something totally different.

I have always been very interested in fitness and firmly believe given the right support and choice of exercise everyone can learn to love being fitter and healthier. During this period, a very good friend of mine introduced me to Yoga and to say that I fell I love with yoga practice is a gross understatement. I then had to find a suitable teacher training in Newcastle that would fit around my academic career. Nearly three years down the line, I now have my 300h Yoga Therapeutics and 100 h Yin Yoga teaching qualification awarded by Yoga Therapies and Pilates qualifications awarded by Active IQ.


Our favourite family entertainment is skiing. We introduced our boys to skiing when the youngest was only five so they now both leave us standing and only find us when they are hungry. But the first and last run of the day is a family affair. My mum lives locally, but my dad who, was a neurologist at the General Hospital for most of his working life, sadly died in 2013 on a cruise in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean. We try to get the whole family together as often as possible, but it’s not easy. We all went to Hong Kong in December 2014, which was a fantastic experience, however we had to wait until last year to get everyone together again. That was for my mother’s 80th in Yorkshire at Swinton Park Hotel. So, for me, family is about trying to get together wherever and whenever possible.

I’m lucky I can…

Be active and fit. I am blessed with a healthy body and have never been seriously ill.

I’ve always been an enthusiast, inherited from my dad, so if I go for something, I do it 100%, which has stood me in good stead throughout my life. I believe (within realistic parameters) if you want something enough and believe it
is possible you will get there. I would never have believed I could go from a lab rat to a yoga teacher, but hey I wanted to do it so it was only a question of making it happen. 

Things are different because…

I now don’t have to worry every few months about applying for funding for my salary, all I have to worry about now is making sure my sequences are well thought out so people are gently warmed up and
able to achieve all they want from their practice and to maximise the benefit to their body.

Day in the life of me…

Typically, I still set my alarm for 6am, but may not get up until 7am. Three times a week, I do my own training and on a Monday I go to an amazing gym, Storm Fitness where my personal trainer, Lomé Faatau, puts me through my paces. Then it’s the usual weekly shopping or reading, either yoga books or crime novels, before going home to have lunch with my husband Paul. I then head out to my classes to either take a personal training client or a class at The Mala or at the university. My evening classes usually finish at 7.30pm, so I’m usually home by 8pm when I have a bite to eat then relax on the sofa.

The people who are important…

Obviously my family, but also my close friends. Without them I would not be where I am. There are a few of them, they know who they are, without whom I would have never tried yoga let alone trained to be a yoga teacher and would certainly not have had the opportunity to practice on them every Sunday.

Work/life balance?

Work hard, play hard. That’s what my dad taught me and it’s certainly paid off. Good planning means you have time and energy to relax. From what I have observed, both at the university and since, it’s generally the bad planners who run out of playtime.

I thrive on…

I absolutely love the privilege of sharing the benefits of yoga practice with my friends, who were my first students, and now with people I have only just met. It is so rewarding to be part of their progress. Seeing someone who has gone from not even knowing what a downward facing dog was, to doing a few Sun salutations on their own on holiday because they were missing yoga, is so amazing.

Mid life means to me…

Freedom! I am who I am and I realise not everyone will like me, but luckily I have some very dear friends and, of course, my family. I like to think I treat everyone how I would like to be treated and make a point of trying not to be negative. I think as a mid-lifer we need to celebrate and treasure every day, as we become more susceptible to disease as we get older. We need to really take care of ourselves, both mind and body, especially as more and more evidence shows that they are far more intertwined than we used to think.

Seaham Hall

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