Last week I went to a Jivamukti yoga class at Indaba yoga studio in Marylebone. I went with an old Sivananda buddy and my, how far we’ve strayed from our roots.
Before now I’ve told people I practice Ashtanga and they’ve told me I’m hardcore/mad/nuts etc. But I guess I just like a class that enables me to move and stay with my breath.
Perhaps it’s because I’m unfamiliar with the sequencing in Jivamukti but I was all over the place. It was so fast. I’m told it was a particularly challenging class but it just felt repetitive. So many chaturanghas followed by lunges or warriors… I couldn’t keep up, I kept losing my breath and child’s pose was a-calling.
I enjoyed the chanting of what I knew as the Sivananda meal prayer and the teacher busted out the harmonium which was fab.
Jivamukti Yoga is a method of yoga that was created by David Life and Sharon Gannon in1984, which reintegrates the physical, philosophical and spiritual aspects of Yoga. The emphasis in the west has been on Yoga as mostly a physical practice. More and more people are achieving firmer bodies through regular yoga classes.
But many are finding something more: what starts out as a purely physical practice creeps into the hearts and minds of even the least spiritual practitioners.
David and Sharon became teachers because they were passionate about communicating Yoga as more than just a system of exercises, but also as a spiritual practice; a path to enlightenment. From their earliest classes, they have taught a living translation of the Indian system of yoga in a way that western minds can comprehend. That is why Jivamukti Yoga emphasizes vigorous asana as its primary technique, but other practices such as meditation, devotional chanting and study of the ancient texts play an important role as well.
I like trying new classes and styles of yoga but when I lose my breath, it simply becomes an exercise class.
Has anyone else tried Jivamukti? I’m reluctant to judge an entire style based on one class and I’m keen to hear other’s thoughts.
Last weekend I was at a party at a friend’s flat in Balham, South London. A few years ago it was the venue for a weekly class I taught to a group of blokey triathletes. You can read about that entertaining experience here.
Over a glass of wine I was chatting to a girl and it was revealed that I taught yoga. She said, “I’ve done yoga but I’m not very good at it.”
“I’m not very good”
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we put ourselves down? We judge ourselves against others and against ourselves. We tell ourselves that we should or could be better.
We compare ourselves to before we had that injury or health condition. We compare ourselves with the body we had 20 years ago. We compare ourselves against someone who’s been doing yoga for years or against someone whose background is as a gymnast or dancer.
So much of our lives are lived as a competition. How much can we do before we have to pick the kids up from school? What can we achieve today? Can we improve our 10k personal best? We’re always striving.
The joy of yoga
For me, the great thing about yoga is that it isn’t competitive. PE was never my forte at school. I hated netball. I got motion sickness on a trampoline. I’ve got a funny running style. I always got picked last for any team.
But with yoga, you just move your body in a way that feels good for you. And some days it feels ok, and on other days you feel like you’ve got the body of Dorothy’s buddy the Tin Man… and that’s ok.
You become aware of what’s going on inside. Emotions come up. Sensations come up. You simply witness that stuff and you accept it.
To hell with the competition.*
“The renowned seventh century Zen master Seng-tsan taught that true freedom is being “without anxiety about imperfection.” This means accepting our human existence and all of life as it is. Imperfection is not our personal problem – it is a natural part of existing.
We all get caught in wants and fears, we all act unconsciously, we all get diseased and deteriorate. When we relax about imperfection, we no longer lose our life moments in the pursuit of being different and in the fear of what is wrong.”
* But if you beat me at Scrabble, I’ll never forgive you.
Last weekend marked the end of an era. I taught my last yin yoga class at Bermondsey Fayre and I am no longer teaching a weekly class in London. Instead, I will be focusing on classes in Hertfordshire.
I’ve had a long standing relationship with teaching yoga in Bermondsey near London Bridge. The first class I ever set up was at Bermondsey Village Hall in SE1.
Memories include my Mumbai friend Sundeep in London for work, joining us on a Thursday evening. He brought along Indian sweets for everyone.
This was also the place where I once – note ‘once’ – suggested that students should “flower their anuses” in down dog. A certain someone collapsed on her mat in hysterics and I think she’s still recovering.
Then I met Liz Dillon through various circuitous events and so began my relationship with Bermondsey Fayre – a little shop with a whole lotta love.
I’ve enjoyed my early Sunday morning commute into the city. The girl in the coffee shop on Harpenden station knows my order and I’m normally her first customer.
Whilst the train sits at Blackfriars, I look over the Thames, the sleeping City, Tower Bridge and Tate Modern. The South Bank is empty except for keen runners.
I get off at London Bridge and try not to get knocked over by the wind tunnel caused by The Shard. I snake through the back streets of Bermondsey, taking in the old brick-built buildings now converted into luxurious flats and places named Tanner Street and Leathermarket Gardens harking back to its grubby industrial past.
I walk by the Manna Centre and an old man with a white beard turned yellow often sits in a doorway diligently making rollies. On a Sunday, Bermondsey Village Hall is being used by the local Filipino community praising the heavens with their tambourines. I bet there’s no flowering of anuses happening there then.
It’s in stark contrast to the trendy pubs on Bermondsey Street and the Bermondsey Coffee Shop – full of hipsters with beards (the men), partially shaven heads (the women) and posters of Philip Schofield, Roland Rat and Vanilla Ice… in, like, an ironically cool kind of way.
My weekly classes at Bermondsey Fayre have been a delight. I love the yogis there. It’s a small space and we need heaters but everyone’s so friendly and there’s such a sense of community.
Teresa has a special place in my heart. We first met when we shared a room on a New Year yoga retreat in Somerset and she’s been coming to my Bermondsey Fayre class since the start. I’ll miss our chats in the park and coffees after class. She always has pearls of wisdom to impart.
Liz Dillon is the Bermondsey Fayre glue. I love Liz. She’s provided wise advice on my choice in men, guided me through my one and only ever experience of expressive movement and she’s just fab.
And so I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who’s ever been to one of my classes in Bermondsey. I have appreciated your presence and I hope you’ve got something out of it – even if no more than a serious attack of the giggles… I’m talking to you, Sandra Lynes.
I will still be teaching monthly yin workshops at Bermondsey Fayre. The first one will be Sunday 1 June, 10am – midday and is £25. If you would like to book, please email Liz. Bermondsey Fayre offers yoga classes throughout the week. Visit the website to find out more.
My family cat is ill. He’s 15 and a Burmese blue. Like a lot of family pets, my family think he’s pretty special and at times, a little monster.
My mum and dad went away last weekend and asked if I’d pop by to give him a tablet. Monty and I spent time sitting on a bench in the garden: me feeling the warm glow of the March sun on my face, him sprawled out over the wooden slats basking.
As I stroked him, his fur wasn’t as sleek as it used to be and my palm felt each and every one of his more noticeable vertebrae. He’s lost weight. I cradled him in my arms and he felt limp and lifeless.
He’s not going to get any better and it’s now just a case of us deciding when we’re ready to let him go.
‘Let him go’
I know we’re clinging onto him. I’ve been listening to Martin Aylward’s dharma talks recently and he says about this ‘clinging’. We hold onto things, views and experiences and because of this, we never really taste freedom. We’re tied.
It’s only when we let go of our stuff that we can be more open and more fluid in the way that we approach life. Perhaps we need to think less about ‘letting go’ and more about ‘letting be’ and cultivating acceptance.
The worldy winds
Martin also talks about opposites and this resonates particularly. These opposites are called the ‘worldly winds’ and they buffet us and all our experiences:
Success and failure
Pleasure and pain
Praise and blame
Gain and loss.
We all fear loss. I don’t want to lose Monty. He’s a little member of the Wener family. I’d much rather have only ‘gain’ in my life but it doesn’t work like that.
Martin says that we live our lives thinking that we should only have the positives but we have to know both. We have to experience the negatives in order to know how great the positive feels. Life really is about balance.
I’ve met someone recently and I think he’s pretty special. In this sense, I’ve gained a lot. It’s Bliss.
Recently I’ve been reminded of a situation that happened a couple of years ago on my 500 hour teacher training with Michel Besnard.
Every morning we’d spend two hours making our way through our tailored version of the ashtanga primary series. I was new to the practice and found every day hard. The breath was different, the poses were different, the intensity was definitely different. The strength and stamina required for the practice in the Thai heat was unlike anything I’d experienced before.
I was surrounded by people from all over the world and some were very familiar with the practice. Michel drip fed second series poses to them whilst others like me looked on gawping.
One morning I was struggling to lift my back knee in the twisted version of Utthita Parsvokonasana. Wobbling ridiculously, bringing my palms together in prayer, attempting to open my chest upwards, I sensed Michel approaching me.
Now imagine this: A cheeky Frenchman in his seventies, over six feet tall. He’s got steely blues eyes and the ability to make me laugh simply by calling me ‘Fromage’ on account of the cheese jokes we both enjoyed over meal times. But this time he looked deadly serious. There I was twisting, wobbling and sweating, trying to stay focused.
He crouched down by my side and brought his face very close to mine. He stared into my eyes and said, “You are better than you think you are.”
Immediately I lost it. Hot tears streamed down my face. My pose went out of the window.
It’s funny, I’ve listened to a podcast recently with Ryan Spielman and other Mysore teachers where they say that when you see someone practicing on a mat, that’s the real person. When people practice, it’s an opportunity to see the person as they really are – their true self – compared to the person you may have a chat with at the end of a class.
Michel knew that I needed to hear those words. And for this, I am grateful.
Who would you like to say this to?
“We have to learn how to be non-violent towards ourselves. If we were able to play back the often unkind, unhelpful and destructive comments and judgements silently made towards our self in any given day, this may give us some idea of the enormity of the challenge of self-acceptance.
If we were to speak these thoughts out loud to another person, we would realise how truly devastating violence to the self can be.
In truth, few of us would dare to be as unkind to others as we are to ourselves.”
There’s this Sivananda chant that one thing and another has led me to think about this last week or so. It’s called Song of Will and contains these lines:
I am that I am, I am that I am
I am neither body nor mind, Immortal Self I am
I am not this body, this body is not mine
I am not this mind, this mind is not mine
I am not this prana, this prana is not mine
I am not these senses, these senses are not mine
I am not this intellect…
I am not these emotions… and so on.
But what on earth is it all about? Surely I am this body. Surely I am my senses. It’s all me, right? Wrong!
I was at one of Norman Blair’s yin workshops last weekend and he was talking about ‘WMB Syndrome’ where WMB stands for ‘Want Madonna’s Body’. I’m pretty sure he’d made it up. Some people may practice yoga asana with this as their goal but it’s not just about that.
It’s about learning to relax, to let go and actually detach from the body, the mind and the senses i.e. all these aspects of ourselves that are actually just our ego. This concept of ‘I’ and ‘my’ is totally false. It’s our ego talking.
When I was in Goa recently at the Indian Shanti Yoga Festival, I listened to a talk about yoga ‘vedanta’ or philosophy. The teacher said how we wrongly identify with the ego but actually we can detach to discover the ‘Self’.
By practicing yoga – in any of its forms: bhakti, jnana and so on – we’re working to reduce the ego and uncover our true nature.
We say, “I am this” or “I am that” but how do you know that you’re sad/happy/tired etc? How do you know that food is hot? Because your mind is telling you. But you’re not your mind.
Our mind naturally always looks outward and it’s always searching for fulfilment, happiness, whatever you choose to call it. But real spiritual life and happiness is within. Clichéd I know. We mistake our thoughts and emotions for being ‘us’. But we are actually unchanging and this is the ‘Self’ or ‘atman’ of Vedanta.
I’ve always found this quite a hard concept to get my head around and I most definitely don’t have all the answers. I’m still learning all this stuff.
However, I watched this TED talk with Jill Bolte Taylor the other day (another gem of Norman’s) and she helps to explain it. She’s not a yogi or a guru by any means. She’s a neuroanatomist (I think that means she’s a brain scientist) who suffered a stroke and witnessed this divide of Self and ego. It’s amazing and well worth watching. Enjoy…
With winter in the UK closing in and the early mornings becoming darker and colder, snuggling under your duvet is likely to feel increasingly appealing. But how do you stay connected to your home practice?
I’ve heard people say that the hardest step to practicing on your own at home is rolling out your mat. But once you’re standing on that mat, you’re half way there.
I’ve asked some teachers for their tips to help you stay motivated through the winter months…
One of my favourite sayings is: A little a lot is better than a lot a little. Make it accessible. You could just sit for five minutes. Go with the morning. When does the evening start? When you get in from work? After dinner? Before bed? The morning is better.
If you can’t work out how to fit it in, just get up five or ten minutes earlier. It’s not rocket science. We can be so disciplined in reading the paper, watching the latest boxset…
People forget that Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time. We have to be realistic about what we can do and we just have to do our best. Be less ambitious.
Get support. It’s great to have a home practice but a sense of community is important. In Buddhism it’s called ‘sangha’. The support that we require in these hard and difficult times isn’t unique to now – they were difficult in the times of Buddha too. But we need support. We need sangha.
Norman has been practicing yoga for more than 15 years and teaching since 2001. If you’ve enjoyed reading this, I’ll be interviewing him for the blog very soon – sign up on the right to make sure you don’t miss it.
Dedicate a specific time each day to practice which is realistic and manageable.
Let go of the idea that you need to do a full primary series practice. In an ideal world this is great, but with the many pressures we often put ourselves under, this is not always possible. Be happy to start with ten minutes and let the universe decide if you are able to do more.
Remember what you feel like when you finish your practice and reconnect to that feeling if you are struggling to get on your mat. Have you ever regretted getting on your mat? I know I haven’t.
Aim to get to a certain posture in your practice each time you start. This may be the sun salutations, standing, or maybe navasana. When you reach that posture, see if you feel like doing more. If not, be very happy that you have achieved your goal. Don’t forget to allow time for your relaxation at the end.
Avoid beating yourself up if, at the end of your day, you didn’t manage to get on your mat. Trust me, it doesn’t help! Look to smile inwardly as you progress through your practice, trust it, and enjoy it.
Cathy runs BAYoga Studio in Berkhamsted, Herts. Her favourite class to teach is a Mysore self practice and can’t wait to visit the place itself in India next year.
When it comes to starting a home practice or keeping one going my best advice is to find something to motivate you and let that motivation be fluid.
BKS Iyengar says that practice “waxes and wanes like the moon”. Some days I spend several hours luxuriating on my mat with my books and pen to hand. Other days it’s all I can do to stick my legs up the wall in vipariti karani. It took me about three years to be ok with that.
I’m pretty sure that since you’re reading this blog something’s motivating you, but in case you’re stuck here’s my top list:
1. I’m going to a workshop/training/retreat I better get a bit fitter
2. I’ve been on a workshop/training/retreat and I’m pumped with enthusiasm
3. No reason, I just gotta do it
4. I really don’t want to do this today but I’m going to anyway
5. I am going to nail that pose
Christina Sell would say that every second you put into practice is a deposit in the bank. If you see someone striking a perfect pose and the words “I could never do that” enter your thoughts, the truth is that for the majority of us, we’re not born like that. What you don’t see are the hours, blood, sweat and tears which went into that asana.
Adele describes herself as a yoga teacher and spiritual adventurer. She’s very excited to be currently studying towards her 500 hour qualification with Chris Chavez. This requires regular trips to Istanbul. Can’t be bad.
So keep it up people! And do you have any advice? What keeps you motivated in your home practice? You can leave your comments below.
As part of a new series on the blog, I’ll be interviewing various yoga teachers – each with their own story to tell. The first of these is Lila Conway.
I first met Lila on my Sivananda teacher training in 2010. Having signed up for the month-long course in the Himalayas, I simply wanted to deepen my understanding and learn more about the practice. I had no plans to ‘be a yoga teacher’. In the final week, she sat us all down and said that it was our duty to share our new knowledge with people back home and teach. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Here she talks about her love of India, Sivananda yoga and teacher training.
CW: Tell me about your first experience of yoga.
LC: In the early 90’s I was living a typically fast paced, hectic lifestyle working 24/7 in the London fashion industry. It was really demanding and competitive and I often used to feel physically ‘burnt out’.
It made me start questioning the meaning of life and I started searching how I could lead a more peaceful existence. I found ‘The Book of Yoga’ by Sivananda and started practicing at home. Although I found it a bit weird at first, I really began to feel a sense of peace after chanting mantras and practicing Tratak (candle gazing).
Soon after, I made the decision to leave my London life and take a year out travelling. Everything moved quickly from then on. I went to a yoga class in Thailand and was hooked… it was really my first deep experience of true connection, peace and healing.
CW: How do you bring the practice of yoga into your every day life?
LC: Yoga is a way of life, it’s not something we do only when we step on a yoga mat. And so I try to see everything as an offering – whether it’s preparing a meal, teaching a yoga class or gardening. We are divine consciousness itself and yoga is a means and a method to awaken to that realisation.
The moment I wake up I offer gratitude and repeat a mantra. I do the same before I go to sleep. My daily practice routine is that I start the day with a small Puja (devotional worship of deities) to connect to my spiritual teachers and God. I think it’s a beautiful way to begin each day – offering light, incense, flowers and water to the divine. I then sing some devotional mantras, do some breathing exercises, mantra meditation and yoga asanas.
The practices we do in yoga are varied according to the path you follow. Flexibility, peace of mind and improved health are all wonderful side effects of the practice. However, keeping the ultimate goal in mind keeps me motivated and committed to the practice.
Yoga is a process of awakening consciousness, removing the layers that obscure our inner divinity and ultimately returning to the eternal abode of love. Every small act we do helps in this process of evolution.
CW: Who or what inspires you?
LC: Wow, so many things inspire me! Nature, life in all its forms, seeing the transformation yoga brings to people. My students inspire me so much too. I’m also inspired by spiritual texts such as ‘The Bhagavad Gita’, the healing power of raw food, plants and herbal medicine.
I have such deep gratitude and inspiration for my first teachers – Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnudevananda – for giving me a strong foundation in my spiritual life.
I also am inspired by various spiritual Masters and their service, humility and pure love: Bhaktivinoda Thakura for the poetry and beauty of the Bhakti yoga tradition, Amma for her message of love and service, and BKS Iyengar for being a living legend in Hatha Yoga.
The list really could go on and on!
CW: You’ve spent lots of time in India. What do you feel makes the country so special?
LC: It’s the land of the Rishis (sages), saints and yogis. The ancient texts of the Vedas were revealed to the Rishis in India. Lord Krishna, Buddha, Jesus and many incarnations of God have appeared in this sacred land.
The people of India teach me so much: patience, tolerance, acceptance, surrender, simplicity, devotion, faith, family values… so many qualities.
India has a wonderful way of magnifying my inner stuff and things I need to deal with in my life. Although not always comfortable at the time, it definitely helps to have an internal spring clean and I always feel better for it!
My greatest moments of inspiration often come in India. The place makes me feel alive and at home. I love the culture, food, language, temples, music, colours, smells (well… most of them), smiles, frustration and the joy that this magical country brings.
CW: How come you’ve spent so much time there?
LC: I first went to India to study yoga and stayed in the Sivananda ashram in Kerala. I stayed so long my teachers advised me that the next step was doing a teacher training. I completed the course in 2001 and it was a huge journey and personal transformation.
It didn’t just ignite a spark but a raging fire! I couldn’t walk away from this whole new world that had opened up to me so I stayed on as voluntary staff. Three months became nearly eight years spread across both India and Canada.
Every year I was actively involved in many yoga teacher training programmes, including advanced teacher training courses. I would assist the main Hatha yoga teacher in all classes and demonstrated postures, adjusted students and taught a little. I was trained slowly and systematically over a period of seven years.
In 2007 I was given the authority to teach yoga teachers and taught my first course in Canada. Although I left the ashram in 2008, I continued to return to India each year to teach on training courses at the Sivananda ashram in the Himalayas – where I met you! This year I am very happy to be back in India teaching my own teacher training course in Rishikesh.
CW: What do you enjoy about training people to teach yoga?
LC: Swami Vishnudevananda beautifully put together a month-long intensive yoga teacher training course unlike any other. It is an intense programme which is a systematic introduction and direct experience of the traditional yogic lifestyle and system of learning in the Gurukulam way (meaning teachers and students live together).
As the course is residential and the programme is from early morning until evening, we spend the full month working with the students and supporting them. I feel very blessed to be part of this journey in people’s lives and I do my very best to represent my Guru and his teachings. It’s a wonderful exchange of energies.
I feel alive and challenged and even though I have been teaching for many years, I always learn so much every time. We go through the highs and lows together and by the end of the course students are always positive, inspired, shining and full of energy. It’s so good to see and it really inspires me seeing the effort, commitment and heart that each teacher trainee puts into their practice and the course.
CW: What qualities do you feel make someone a good yoga teacher?
LC: The highest quality is humility. When a yoga teacher is humble, they remain open for the divine energy to flow. A yoga teacher is a channel for the ancient teachings and always has the student’s best interests at heart and never teaching to impress or for name and fame.
A good yoga teacher always remains a student and shares from direct experience and a proper understanding of the spiritual teachings and discipline of this beautiful science.
CW: What’s in store for you over the next few months?
LC: Excitingly, I am in the process of writing a new manual for our next teacher training course in Rishikesh in October. I am also busy in communications with Swami Guruprasad in India – we are running the course together.
We are also working on some short videos of Swamiji so students can get an early peek of his wonderful words of wisdom.
My Bhakti Yoga teacher from India is coming soon so I will be fully immersed in his teachings for a week. This will give me a huge boost of inspiration ready for our August weekend yoga retreat near Bath, ‘The Heart of Yoga’ for which I am preparing some beautiful heart opening practices and have some amazing friends also coming to give talks, kirtan, delicious food, massage and more!
I’m also getting ready for a new term with Yoga Prema in Bristol. And then before I know it I will be on a flight to India for the October yoga teacher training course!
CW: Thanks Lila. Good luck with it all!
To learn more about the Rishikesh teacher training course Lila talks about, visit the Yoga Prema website.
Yes, it’s true, I’m going to use this blog post to promote the various yoga things I’ve got going on. I apologise in advance and normal services will resume shortly.
So you may have noticed that I have a new website! The Diary of a Yogi blog has now been subsumed into my Shanta Yoga site so everything’s now in one place. Much easier. If you get a chance, have a look around the site and feel free to give me any feedback. All my old blog posts are still available on here.
I’ve started teaching yoga classes in Hertfordshire and it’s going well. I’m teaching a yin/yang yoga workshop at Breathing Space in Harpenden next month with my friend and wonderful ashtanga teacher April Nunes Tucker. She’ll lead 1.5 hours of ashtanga and then I’ll teach yin for 1.5 hours.
I’m also teaching at a little place called the Mead Hall in Wheathampstead. It’s a WI (Women’s Institute) hall and has central heating and a lovely wooden floor. Before teaching yoga, I would never have got quite so excited about flooring or heating. Yoga at the Mead Hall is a gentle affair and we do lots of warm ups, some standing and seated poses and a lovely long relaxation at the end. Everyone goes at their own pace and it’s very friendly.
I’m also trying out teaching a weekly yin class in a yoga/pilates studio in Southdown, Harpenden. I can’t seem to find anyone else offering a regular yin class in the county. I’m aware that that might be because no-one’s interested but you’ve got to give these things a go, right?
I’m spreading the word by going door to door getting my hand squished in letterboxes (some are lethal. Lethal, I tell you). I’m also getting really good at laminating and asking shops to display them. Even the village butcher got a flyer. I had a lovely yoga natter in the beauty salon with a lady who was getting a manicure.
Yin yoga Berkhamsted
BAYoga Studio is a great ashtanga studio in Berkhamsted run by Cathy Haworth. I’ve been going to Mysore classes there and will also be running a yin yoga workshop there on Saturday 15 June. It’ll be two hours of yin yoga and it should be lovely.
If you’ve never heard of yin yoga before, have a read of a blog post that explains the practice.
And if you’d like to find out more about my classes, all the details are listed on the class schedule page.
Anyway, that’s about it. Thanks for bearing with me while I go on about my classes. It’s not all about me, me, me you know.
Some of you may be wondering how I’m settling back in to life in the UK after five months away. Well, I can say that’s going alright. I went away to deepen my yoga practice and I feel that it’s paying off.
Last weekend I skyped my thumb chum Laurie who I met in Thailand doing my 500 hour training. We talked about how our five weeks of learning ashtanga has benefitted our yoga practice immeasurably.
Michel adjusting me in class
A year ago I was tentatively dipping my toe into a beginners ashtanga course prior to going away. Now when I practice ashtanga, it feels like a pure meditation. Every movement flows with the breath and, ok, so I forget the sequence from time to time but it works. It makes me feel so alive.
Since being back in the UK, I’ve had teachers come up to me at the end of classes telling me that they could watch me practice all day. They’ve asked me where I learnt ashtanga and I tell them to seek out Michel Besnard. I am so grateful to him and Roslyn.
I remember him saying that the gift he was giving us was an ashtanga Mysore self practice but really he’s given me so much more than that. I’ve learnt so much about myself and I love Michel’s motto of ‘who cares!’ Who cares if you can’t do a backbend/sit in lotus/ lift your leg as high as the person next to you etc etc. Just enjoy your practice.
Laurie was saying the same thing. She’s based in St Louis, Missouri, and is now on the teaching faculty of a 200 hour yoga teacher training at the studio where she works. We feel so lucky to have had the experience.
I feel that everything that I’ve learnt over the past few years is coming together in my teaching. Before my time with Michel I would never have focused so much on standing postures or suggested to
students that they lift their middle toes to engage the muscles in their legs. In the class at the Yoga Hall I threw some yin postures into the mix, whilst also teaching some Sivananda-based pranayama and relaxation.
While students laid in savasana, I speedily made herbal tea in the kitchen for everyone after class. Swami Sivananda looked on with his reassuring eyes from a picture on a cupboard door, and a postcard of Swami Vishnudevananda was blu-tacked onto the wall above the mugs. It’s a lovely place and I feel at home there. Their satsang/chanting evenings once a month are wonderful too.
I’m also lucky to have met an ashtanga teacher out near me in Harpenden who is fast becoming a good friend. In jolly proper Harpenden you’d be hard-pressed to find many Californians who’ve lived in ashrams and follow silent gurus… but I found one! April is inspiring me to keep up my daily practice and we have plans to run a local ashtanga/yin yoga workshop together.
I’ve also decided that after ten years, I’m done with living in London. I’m happy to work in an art gallery there for a couple of days a week but it feels too busy and stressful. Hertfordshire’s fields, fresh air and friendly people are a-calling. I just need to work out how I can afford a car and a flat. I can’t live with my parents forever…
Any of my 500 hour training buddies reading this? How has the training affected your practice and teaching? Feel free to leave your comments below.