I’m delighted to introduce our first Christchurch yogi, and our first Anusara teacher.
Anusara means “flowing with Grace,” “flowing with Nature,” and “following your heart”, and it was founded by John Friend in 1997.
It’s a style of hatha yoga with an uplifting philosophy, epitomized by a “celebration of the heart,” that looks for the good in all people and all things. That goodness and that delight shines forth clearly in Katie’s answer to the questions below.
She may be based on Christchurch, but Katie travels to deliver workshops, and will be in Wellington in May, and Dunedin later on.
1. What style of yoga do you practice and where do you teach?
I practice and teach Anusara Yoga in Christchurch.
Anusara is a style of hatha yoga founded by John Friend that weaves together universal principles of alignment with an empowering Tantric philosophy. We begin with the premise that life is good and see our yoga practice as a means to playfully remember and celebrate this goodness in everything that we do.
Postures are expressed from the “inside out” using our asana to craft an artistic expression of the heart!
2. How did you come to yoga?
Just in time! At a place in my life of extreme self-denial and dis-empowerment.
Facing challenging circumstances, I had built a wall between my body and spirit and this dis-integration played out in so many ways. I felt profoundly separate from family and friends, unable to articulate my emotions or clearly express my thoughts and feelings, and unconsciously refused to nourish myself on every level – physically, mentally, emotionally.
In short, I was rather a mess and I wasn’t even aware of it..! Yoga gave me the space to see myself clearly. Then I faced the choice to either ignore my new awareness or make real changes. Thankfully, I chose the latter. Once you know, you can’t un-know…
3. When did the yoga bug really get you?
My very first class.
I found the postures bizarre and the instructions insane (you want to me to put my inner thighs where?). My arms were shaking like leaves and I could barely find my breath. Lying on the floor in relaxation, it seemed that my mind would do everything but surrender to the moment… Yet at the end of my class, I walked out the door, looked up, and saw the night sky as if for the very first time. I could feel every part of my body and soul vibrantly alive. My cells were singing!
I began going to two classes a week, then three…
4. How has yoga transformed your life?
Yoga first healed my body.
I came to the practice with chronic back and neck pain (old figure skating and whiplash injuries) and when I learned Anusara’s alignment principles, my pain completely disappeared. Quickly! I began to taste an amazing freedom in my body and the healing of my body facilitated a healing of my heart. I discovered that pain, fragility, and fear were no longer the ground of my being. My life choices shifted and I moved forward from a stronger and more spacious place inside.
I see a lot more beauty these days and I look for and find it in my everyday, ordinary experiences. Yoga helps me stay open to all of the good things in my life, even when challenges arise. The more I experience the goodness of my life, the more gratitude I feel in each moment.
5. What is your home practice like?
Playful, nurturing, forgiving, appropriate yet adventurous!
When I first began yoga practice, I believed I wasn’t doing it well unless I was always working hard and pushing my limits. As a self-admitted perfectionist, ambition and achievement found a way to creep onto my mat. While my physical body was challenged, this way of practicing didn’t make me happy.
My teacher always encourages us to test the efficacy of our practice by looking at our life: Am I happy? Are my relationships thriving? Do I feel connected to my heart? If the answer to these questions is NO, then something needs to change. Not only did I soften my practice but I softened my attitude to my life.
I start each day with 20 minutes of meditation and I usually do a 1- 2 hour asana practice late morning or early afternoon, 5 or 6 days a week. I practice what I need, what I love, and what challenges me. I aim to keep these three things balanced!
My partner once reminded me – I don’t live my life to practice yoga. I practice yoga to more skillfully and happily LIVE my life. I try and remember this everyday.
6. When people ask you, “What is Yoga?”, what do you say?
Yoga is a practice of actively creating union, connection, community, radical wholeness. Through the practice we become aware of our many “parts” and then learn to draw our parts together into one radiant whole. When we are able to recognize that this wholeness is who we are at our essence then we are better able to engage our lives fully, fearlessly, and joyfully.
7. What can people expect from one of your classes?
In my classes, you will fully and creatively engage your body – in participation with your breath – in the service of a powerful heart centered intention. You will stretch, maybe sweat, most definitely laugh, perhaps find challenges…But every time you will leave feeling supported and encouraged by an amazing community.
To me, the cultivation of kula ~ community of the heart ~ is an essential part of the practice.
8. What do you love most about teaching yoga?
The fantastic people I meet everyday and the building of relationships that last years, perhaps lifetimes!
Everyday I get to share what I believe and love about this life through the language of yoga. There is no greater freedom, joy, responsibility, or gift. I am allowed to be exactly who I am and when I’m not afraid to share myself authentically and fully, I am best able to help others recognize their own worthiness and see their highest potential. It’s a blessing!
9. What do you wish everybody knew about yoga?<
Yoga is for everybody. Being flexible or strong is not a prerequisite. Just a happy consequence of the practice!
Yoga is not just a practice that you DO but it is an expression of who you ARE. Delight in the practice itself rather than what you think the practice is meant to give or do to you. Every posture and every breath is an opportunity to create something beautiful from your immediate experience.
10. What role do you see yoga playing in our world?
Yoga transforms the world one person at a time. It compels positive change and it starts with small things…
I don’t have to tell people that come to class that they should stop smoking, get out of a bad relationship, or drop habitual negativity. If they stay with the practice, the things that don’t affirm life simply start to drop away.
Most of the yoga we do these days is a physical practice done on a mat. This is where most of us start. As our practice deepens, what truly transforms is a cultivated perspective or state of heart. It’s the willingness to keep seeing and embracing all aspects of yourself- good, bad, beautiful, ugly, easy, challenging – with sensitivity, awareness, and love.
When you begin to look at and know yourself in this way, you start to see this same beauty, divinity, and perfection in others. Our capacity for loving unconditionally expands. When we recognize that we are all held together in relationship with each other and with this Earth, our beliefs, our choices, and our actions reflect this.
11. Anything else you’d like to say?
Anusara Yoga is relatively new to New Zealand. I’m thrilled to have introduced it here and excited to keep sharing what I know and love about this practice. If you have any questions or want more info, feel free to write or ring anytime!
On May 14th-16th, I’ll be co-teaching a weekend workshop in Wellington with a fabulous Anusara teacher from Australia. Contact Yoga Unlimited for more details.
12. And finally, how do people find you?
You can find my classes and workshop schedule posted on my website, Yoga Kula NZ.
I’m based in Christchurch but offer workshops and intensives around NZ.