As a wife and mother of two small children, Amy has made yoga an essential part of her family.
After owning and managing a natural health clinic for five years, Amy returned to studying yoga and being a full-time mother in 2010.
She passionately believes that yoga is and has been a positive, powerful, transformative factor in her Life, one that effortlessly leads to deep peace, acceptance and love.
Amy’s interest in yoga as a personal, therapeutic practice has led her to work in Yoga Therapy. She believes that there is a right yoga for Every Body, but not every yoga is right for everybody.
Amy’s friendship with her teacher Mark Whitwell, who studied with Krishnamacharya and his son Desikachar for more than 20 years, continues to be inspiring, educational and supportive. She facilitates the Heart of Yoga Association’s Worldwide Teachers Community and studies with Mark Whitwell on a regular basis.
1. What style of yoga do you practice and where do you teach?
I practice and teach Hatha yoga, as taught through the lineage of Krishnamacharya – known as the Teacher of the Teachers.
Krishnamacharya was the teacher of B.K.S Iyengar, Pattabi Jois and his son, T.K.V.Desikachar. My teacher Mark Whitwell studied with Krishnamacharya and his son, Desikachar, for more than twenty years.
Hatha means Sun (Ha) / Moon (Tha) and my practice and teaching focuses on this coming together of natural opposites, merging them as part of our whole, within each of us and also without, in our outer universe.
2. How did you come to yoga?
My first yoga class was in an all-women fitness centre in Phoenix, Arizona. I was coming out of a drug addiction and was extremely fragile on every level.
After my first class, I immediately felt better. I felt lucidly alive, naturally “high” and yet grounded. I was IN my body and deeply happy just being ME. This was a radical feeling at that point in my life
Although the style of yoga taught in this gym was focused purely on the physical benefits, it was obvious that there was much more happening within myself during and after my yoga classes.
During this period, my interest and desire for knowledge to understand yoga and the mind – body – spirit connection grew and grew.
Many years later, and after practicing and studying yoga at a wide variety of schools and with some excellent teachers all around the world, I met Mark Whitwell. I was immediately embraced by Mark’s friendship and his wisdom soothed my soul.
Mark’s teaching, the Heart of Yoga, made clear what I knew inside myself all along. The simplicity and necessity of doing My Yoga as an un-obsessive, natural and actual part of My Life became obvious and enjoyable.
3. When did the yoga bug really get you?
The yoga bug really got to me in 2004, when I moved to New Zealand. I became part of the vibrant community along the Tutukaka Coast and soon began studying with Agnes Hartley and the Integral Yoga Academy of Australasia.
Six year later, I studied with Byron Yoga in Australia and gained my Yoga Alliance 200hr qualification.
In 2010, I completed Mark Whitwell’s Yoga Alliance 500hr Heart of Yoga Teacher Training. Since focusing on the Heart of Yoga, my Life has gently and powerfully relaxed into its Given state of ease, connection and beauty.
4. How has yoga transformed your life?
Since embracing the Heart of Yoga, my Life has become a seamless process of strength receiving. My strength has become stronger as I have opened my heart and received my true self and all my relationships as being perfect, exactly as they are right now.
Society, family and friends, and especially ourselves can put huge amounts of unnecessary pressure on us to become some idealized, unrealistic version of something that someone, somewhere, said is the definition of “perfect.”
Since becoming a student of Mark’s, I have realized that all of these images, ideals and products that society tells we need to look better and be more spiritual, and thus (theoretically) be more loved, are outrageously false.
I still have goals, desires and things I wish to change, but I am at peace with my Self and my Life. My yoga practice has given me strength, acceptance and peace to stand in my own ground and artfully be true to myself, allowing the Reality of Life to work in its mysterious ways.
5. What is your home practice like?
I enjoy practicing early in the morning, before the sun breaks through the horizon and the birds are just beginning to sing. My children are asleep and the house is quiet and calm. To me, the dawn feels alive and fresh with the beholding that anything and everything is possible. I find that this time for my yoga practice brings greater balance to the rest of my day.
I commonly do about an hour asana practice, approximately 10 minutes of pranayama and 20 minutes of alert relaxation where mediation has the chance to come as a gift, a “siddhi.”
I believe that we must listen to our bodies. So on days when I am feeling sore, tired or fragile, my practice will be very nurturing and gentle. On days when my energy is brimming over, my practice will focus on strength and balance.
I often feel that a fine balance between the two creates the most harmony for myself. However we structure our asana practice, it should mindfully be sequenced to bring relaxed attention and peace on all levels to the practitioner.
Sometimes I find that sitting still can cause more aggravation to my mind than simply getting on with my day. So when that happens, I don’t make a big deal about sitting and “trying to meditate,” I just get on with my day.
I don’t believe we should force ourselves to do any practice that causes disturbance and increases any struggle, we should only practice out of joyfully wanting to be in that space.
6. When people ask you, “What is Yoga?” what do you say?
Yoga is Life.
My teacher says;
Yoga is a science, artfully applied.
I like that, too.
Yoga is the union of all of the polarities that create Life – male / female, inhale / exhale, sun / moon, above / below, right / left, etc. etc. etc.
We cannot have one without the other, and when they are in harmony with each other, then each of their characteristics become truly powerful. When they are in union, or yoked, with each other, then Life has the ability to bloom, creating new life and being fully in its natural state of ease, grace and creative power.
Our yoga practice is our participation in Life. Bringing our inhalation and exhalation to meet in union at our heart centre is a simple, easy, enjoyable practice that reveals the Source of where all Life blooms from and returns to, the Heart.
7. What can people expect from one of your classes?
My classes are always based on the breath and designed to meet the needs of the students in that particular class. The asana and pranayama sequence of each class depends on the health of the students, the time of day, the mood of the day and any other influencing factors.
My classes always incorporate relevant asana and pranayama and allow time for reflection at the end. We often use mantra and yantra during the class, and sometimes music is played.
8. What do you love most about teaching yoga?
I love helping people relax into their naturally perfect Life.
To see students breathe prana, the Life force, into their bodies as they feel their breath move their bodies is awe-some.
To connect with students in a spirit of friendship, where real issues can be supportively addressed, and emotions are allowed to be fully felt, released and healed, is humbling.
9. What do you wish everybody knew about yoga?
I wish everyone knew that yoga has the power to bring deep peace into each Life.
Your yoga practice is as simple as moving your physical body, stretching and strengthening each part and the whole. Everything else, all the other benefits, naturally happen. There is no effort required to obtain yoga’s benefits.
There should be no struggle to achieve anything other than what is already present within yourself. When you do your daily asana and pranayama practice, everything else takes care of itself. Changes come, and we cannot force them to come faster or to leave us alone.
The one thing constant in Life is change.
What we can do is practice yoga.
In a deeper explanation, your yoga practice, especially when done as part of your daily routine (as simple and effortless as taking a shower!), transforms your life and your relationships with ease, patience and love.
You learn to know deep within yourself that you are perfect, right now, just as you are. Even if the social conditions are suggesting otherwise, you deeply know in your whole Being that Life is nurturing.
Life loves Life.
And God / Life / Nature / Source / Reality wants us to be vibrant, joy-full and at peace, knowing we are Love and are Loved.
10. What role do you see yoga playing in our world?
I would love to see yoga taught in schools where it can be given as a life-long tool for young people to have in their “toolbox” whenever they need it.
I feel that those formative years are some of the most difficult in life, particularly in today’s society.
I believe that yoga education can bring reduced sexual abuse and exploitation, heal negative self-esteem and self-image issues, and bring an alternative to drug and alcohol abuse and violence.
There are already some great programs happening around the world that prove daily that yoga education brings miraculous changes to people in all parts of society for all kinds of issues.
I’d like to be a force in this positive revolution. I’d love to see yoga taught in more classrooms, prisons, recovery centres and hospitals – let’s spread this gift everywhere!
11. Anything else you’d like to say?
If you already have a yoga practice that you are committed to or if you have any other kind of activity that brings you a deeper sense of connection to your Life, then enjoy that.
The basis of the Heart of Yoga is that its principles add amazing depth and authenticity in whatever practice you may already do. There is no substitute for Your unique yoga practice and doing daily asana and pranayama practice, naturally, actually and non-obsessively.
Do Your Yoga, and Stop Looking, Start Living.
12. And finally, how do people find you?
You can find out more about my classes, workshops, and Heart of Yoga Retreats with Mark Whitwell at Heart of Yoga.