One aspect of running this site I’m really enjoying is the people I’m meeting along the way – people like Bruce Foley. He appeared a few weeks ago and began leaving thoughtful, in-depth and at times controversial comments on various articles.
Here was a man who was passionate about and committed to yoga – and it turns out he lives and teaches in Wellington.
I have yet to make it to one of his classes, but am looking forward to going along and experiencing the way he teaches.
From the way he describes it, it sounds very similar to the place I am coming from when I teach. That is, we all have a yoga teacher living within us, and all we need do is tune in for our own expert guidance.
Teachers like myself and Bruce, we’re just there to remind yourself of your own inner power and truth.
1. What style of yoga do you practice and where do you teach?
From a philosophical point of view, I don’t teach a style of Yoga, I try to help people find their own style.
I have my formal qualification from Erich Schiffmann, who coined the phrase “Freedom Yoga” which should give you a bit of a clue about me.
From a practical point of view, I teach a Vinyasa flow style (more gentle than Ashtanga) where most poses are held for a fairly short duration, but then again, I see the movement into and out of a pose as an integral part of the pose itself, so when practicing perfectly, the class is just one long fluid pose connected by your breath and your passion. My classes are in a constant state of evolution, reflecting my growth as a teacher, or perhaps just the natural change of the seasons. I believe there are an infinite number of Yoga poses and this is reflected in some of the strange things I get my participants to do!
2. How did you come to yoga?
I have always been physically grounded, and at a young age discovered sport as a way of self-identification. My ego and self-esteem were very much attached to my achievements as an athlete, and the perceived love I got from it. That was great when you were winning, but misery when you weren’t.
On one particularly miserable day, I think I can put a stake in the ground and say that was when I found Yoga. Looking back, I was already starting to seek answers elsewhere, but on that day it became a conscious thought that I had to change the direction of my life, because I was desperately unhappy.
3. When did the yoga bug really get you?
From the moment I started feeling like a happy person again. I mean, I was doing stretch classes to help with injuries, and I couldn’t help but notice three things:
- that it felt good doing it
- even though I was an athlete I was utterly humiliated by nearly everyone else in the room
- the humiliation I felt didn’t matter to anyone but me
The 3rd point is really important because that was when I started looking inwards. It was a slow process but I gradually came to understand myself better. Why I suffered so much in the past, and how unnecessary it was because my mind was in state of delusion. I could blame my competitive instinct, but actually that was not the problem. It was how I was using it to try and feel loved. When I came to accept and love myself, I was then able to embrace who I was. Yoga, as a process of breath, movement and internal inquiry gave me that insight, and I have been a Yoga dude ever since.
4. How has yoga transformed your life?
It’s hard to be too specific, but at a basic physical level, it saved me from ruining my health. Just as importantly, it helped me to become a better person.
I need to say something important here. Yoga really is a journey, not a destination. It’s easy to think you have arrived and it’s time to kick your feet up. I recently made that mistake. Being a Yogi does not give you any special privileges, and it does not exempt you from making screw-ups or becoming disconnected with the source inside of you. Everyday is an opportunity to work with the wonderful tool set that Yoga provides, but you always need to be looking past all the smoke and mirrors -that takes effort, and it is easy to become complacent.
5. What is your home practice like?
Although I have a big red gym mat at home (which I had custom made) it is currently out of commission as it houses a large jigsaw puzzle that currently has the best of me!
In the early days I practiced at home a lot, but I’m not too sure you could call it Yoga. I was very ambitious about doing Yoga poses -which is not quite the same thing as doing Yoga, but then again maybe it was a necessary part of the journey. These days I’m an opportunist practitioner, which means I tend to do most of my practice at the same Gym I teach at.
I will also practice outside, say in a park or at the beach – spontaneous sessions are often the most joyful. I pretty much practice 1.5 hours everyday, on top of the 6 classes I teach each week. In the early days, I probably practiced 2-3 hours every day, but I have to say that as you get more flexible, you can definitely use time more effectively, so less time is actually needed.
I guess I should also mention that as your practice matures, it becomes less about “achieving” poses and more about doing them. Unlike some of the other teachers here, teaching is not my full-time profession. I have a full time day job as a senior software engineer but strangely enough, I have found a way to balance these contrasting aspects of my life so that they compliment each other.
6. When people ask you, “What is Yoga?”, what do you say?
I tell them yoga is not an answer to anything, it is a tool set that may help you discover the right questions to ask. I tell them it is a non-judgmental process of self-inquiry, and you may not always like what you find, but delusion and self-denial is no way for anyone to live a life.
I really need to qualify my definition of Yoga by further stating that some people are born Yogis. They don’t need to do classes or know anything about the doctrine associated with Yoga. I am not one of those people, but I was blessed with a gift for teaching, of that much I am certain.
7. What can people expect from one of your classes?
Authenticity. I teach from within myself. If you feel shame or frustration in one of my classes, then you can be sure that it was not provoked from the teacher. This is because I believe in non-interference. I will do my best to keep you as conscious and in the moment as possible, but I’m not there to feed you fish, I am there to teach you how catch fish.
I do not take responsibility for someone else’s inability to concentrate and focus, but if you are willing to try your honest best, then I will honor you for it. Last, but certainly not least, I am an experiential and philosophical teacher, not an academic or moralistic one. The class should be about breath; movement; stillness and a growing emotional intelligence that I think is unavoidable when you connect inwardly.
8. What do you love most about teaching yoga?
That I can give to others something that might make their lives a little bit better, or maybe a lot, is a rich reward. Sometimes I wish I could offer people an easier way, but I do everything I can to make the process as accessible as possible, and fun for everyone, including me.
11. Anything else you’d like to say?
There is no way to peace; peace is the way – A. J. Muste
9. What do you wish everybody knew about yoga?
That the one true teacher resides within us. I believe this teacher connects all of us, so the more we connect to that, the more we connect to each other. The closer we are to knowing ourselves, the less the world seems filled with strangers.
10. What role do you see yoga playing in our world?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see all the world leaders practicing Yoga. Maybe then more than half of them would actually be ready for the role!
12. And lastly, how do people find you?
I teach an open class at St Andrews Church Hall, bottom of the Terrace every Wednesday Lunchtime, and I teach two classes a week at Pure Balance.
- St Andrews Chruch Hall (Back of Church) Wednesday 12:05pm
- Pure Balance, Saturday 9am and Wednesday 6:30pm
Anyone who wants to know more can get me at firstname.lastname@example.org