Yoga, like life, is a never-ending journey. There is always more to explore and more to learn. Below is how my journey began and where it has led me so far.
My journey started in 1994 at the age of 13, I can't remember exactly what it was that prompted me to enroll in a series of yoga classes but somehow I ended up sitting on a towel in a room full of old ladies.
The classes were held in a classroom at the local high school (back then yoga wasn't as popular and there was only one studio in the city). My first teacher, Asmita, was everything you imagine a yoga teacher should be.
A petite Indian lady dressed in a full length leotard with a long black plait draped down her back which she sometimes wore in a bun. She led the class through various yoga contortions and strange breathing patterns that would occasionally cause me to giggle self consciously. I am not sure exactly what style Asmita taught, back then I didn't even think to ask, yoga was yoga right? Either way I was hooked. I don't know what it was exactly but yoga gave me something I couldn't find anywhere else.
I took a short break after several months, but after a short while I had this overwhelming sense that something was missing and I was compelled to seek out another class. Once again I ended up in a school classroom and with my second teacher Richard Tweedie, quite the unexpected yoga instructor (although he did have the trademark tights).
Richard's journey began when he was very young and his classes held something different to what I had experienced previously. My body and mind started to react differently I started 'to get' what it was all about, this is where the seeds where first truly planted. I studied with Richard on and off for about three years, during that time he installed a lot of knowledge in me that I would come to understand as the years went by. He also introduced me to a more physical form of yoga called Ashtanga.
In 2000 at the age of 18 I moved to Melbourne, Australia and was left to fend for myself for about a year before finding another teacher. Eventually I found a studio that was in biking distance from my house and met Adam, an older man (although he did not look his 50 years) once again with the trademark tights.
Adam was brought to yoga after a back injury which was a result of many years of playing football. His doctors wanted to fuse his discs together which could have resulted in him being bound to a wheelchair. Not too keen on this idea Adam persuaded the doctors to give him a year in which he planned to diligently practice yoga; he promised his teacher that if yoga fixed his back he would teach. That is how he ended up in the studio, walking taller and prouder than he had in all his life thanks to yoga. Once again Adams approach was different.
The class was taught in two rooms, one for the beginner students and one for the more advanced who had a set sequence that Adam formulated we would follow. Adam would walk back and forth between the rooms giving instruction and adjustments where needed. Actually come to think of it, it was pretty talented that he could teach that way. I studied with Adam for a few months before moving on.
On the other side of town was where I found Greg and Tracy, a beautiful couple who taught Ashtanga. I was pretty nervous going into the class at first because I was unsure if I would be up to speed with things. My nerves were soon calmed and I was hooked once again. Before I knew it I was up at 5am five mornings a week to get my yoga fix for the day. My body felt alive and my mind was overwhelmed and encouraged with all this new information. Through the guidance of my two new teachers I finally found yoga and began to find myself. I practiced intently for nearly a year with my new teachers taking in all I could before I headed off.
I hit the road in October 2002 to travel around Australia. I had more knowledge than before so self practice came a bit easier. I practiced where I could; in a burnt out building, in a small cottage, on balconies, on the grass outside my tent, on the beach..... The ground was not always even but like life these are the battles we must face and I just adjusted my balance accordingly.
Sometimes successfully, other times not. But the practice comes in the practice itself, what we learn on the mat and what we take into life is what is important. Not the fact that we can or cannot sit in lotus or get our legs behind our head. I only had one formal teacher on this part of my journey, Susie a firm Iyengar teacher with an intriguing accent.
From Susie I learnt all the things I was doing wrong (in typical Iyengar fashion) but this only compelled me to learn more. Susie would be in and out if my life a few times on this journey, revealing a different side of her self as well as yoga every time we crossed paths.
At the end of 2003 I decided it was time to head overseas, I was drawn to Toronto, Canada and to my next two teachers. Maureen Rae was the first, a wonderful lady with a lot of passion. She had been in the fitness industry for several years but had been drawn to yoga for its all encompassing body/mind philosophy. Much to my surprise she asked me to teach a teen yoga class at her studio. I was both flattered and nervous.
I almost pulled out at the last minute but realized that this opportunity came my way for a reason, and so began my first teaching experience. With no formal training I went into my first class not knowing at all what to expect, but I am here to tell the tale today so obviously things went well. It was only a small class but the girls were dedicated and open to my teaching. During that time I also began a short teacher training with Maureen, I began to see perhaps I knew more than I was giving myself credit for.
My second teacher in Canada, Michael was more easy going then my previous teachers and his lack of seriousness was almost refreshing. In turn I began to slowly take myself less serious (a process that would still take a few years). But behind his flamboyance Michael had a serious knowledgeable side that I also gained a lot from. 'Just take your own path and do it your own way' were the words he spoke that changed me the most.
I was lead back to Susie and her teacher Nikki Knoff in June 2004 to complete an intensive eight week training course. After over a decade of self practice I finally felt ready to take the final leap. Nikki had studied with many teachers over a number of years and her broad range of experience was what drew me to the course.
The training itself was Iyengar based and covered all the aspects of pranayama (breathing), asana (postures) and meditation. Physically it was hard but it was the mental and emotional stuff that almost made me give up. It was an intense overwhelming experience but I made it through, as did all the other amazing teacher trainees who completed the course with me. Nikki's aggressive style taught me many important lessons, ones that I am not likely to forget in a hurry
So here I am today on my own once again, trying to incorporate everything I have learnt from every one of my teachers when I jump on the mat. The voice I hear and the guidance I receive changes each day.
I have been blessed with so much knowledge that it is hard blend it all together, a harmony of voices from a bunch of inspiring human beings. If there is one thing I have learnt from all of my teachers (both directly and indirectly) it is that it is essential to listen to my own body, to myself.
So it is with you, as much as you can be told and shown certain things only you know what is right for you. You can be guided, you can be led, but in the end it is up to you. I wish you blessings and joy in your journey and would be honored if I can help you along the way.
What Does Namaste Mean?
(pronounced nah-mah-STAY), means 'the divine in me bows to the divine in you' it is a respectful greeting that is accompanied by a gesture of joining one's palms, with the fingertips pointing upwards. The joined palms are brought close to the chest.
I am lucky enough to have learnt many wonderful things from many inspiring people. I would like to thank my teachers;
- Richard Tweedie
- Greg and Tracey Cooper
- Maureen Rae
- Susie and Rich Davis
- Nikki Knoff and James Bryant