When Tyag submitted his teacher profile for me a couple of weeks ago, he asked me where mine was. It was a good question.
After all, I’ve sent these questions out to a few yoga teachers now, and the universal response has been, “They’re hard!”. So out of appreciation for the yoga teachers who have already filled them in, those who are in the process of filling them in right now, it’s only fair that I answer them too.
1. What style of yoga do you practice and where do you teach?
I used to struggle with this question when people asked me what I taught. Because I’ve never studied extensively under one teacher, I’ve tended to try whatever yoga was on offer. Over the years, I’ve done Iyengar, Astanaga, Bikram, Kundalini, Restorative, Power and Vinyasa Flow. My classes have tended to be a predominantly Astanaga or Power Yoga based, with elements from the other styles added as well.
Then I attended teacher training with Twee Merrigan, and she was teaching a style I’d never heard or seen before called Prana Flow. I absolutely loved it. Prana Flow contained depth, breadth, sound, movement and best of all – it was spontaneous. In my own practice, I’d often found myself moving into postures and hand movements that I’d never been taught before and sometimes didn’t know if they were even asana… but here was Twee telling us that there were thousands and thousands of asana and to let our bodies be expressive.
I felt like I’d been set free… and come home all at the same time. So now when people ask, I say I’m teaching Prana Flow.
2. How did you come to yoga?
I’d moved to Auckland when I was 19 years old and one of my closest friends took me along to an Iyengar class that a friend of his taught. That was in 1995, it was only a ten week course, but I knew then that yoga was going to be really important in my life.
3. When did the yoga bug really get you?
Yoga really became a part of my day to day life when I came back to New Zealand in 2004. I’d experienced what can only be called an implosion of my life, and was in pretty rough shape – mentally, emotionally and even spiritually. Living in Glenorchy, I had no access to yoga classes but knew that I needed to do yoga. It was quite literally my salvation. So with no other choice, I had to develop a home practice. Ever since then, yoga has become more and more integrated into my life.
4. How has yoga transformed your life?
Firstly, it’s transformed my body. After experiencing a spinal fusion at age 16, and then increasing back problems into my mid-twenties which doctors attributed to degenerative disc disease… I was on the fast track to more operations and life-long pain. I couldn’t even bend over to tie my shoelaces. My spine was completely locked up, my hips were painfully tight, my hamstrings were short, short, short and while I was strong, there was no softness or suppleness to my body, (or mind) at all.
Now… my body has completed opened up. It’s like living in a new body. No back pain for a start. My spine is fluid and open, my hips have softened and opened right up, my hamstrings have lengthened more than I ever believed was possible and my strength is far more balanced.
Mentally, I was an over-thinker, I was obsessive, and I was excessively driven to control life around me to get what I wanted (and damnit – I would get what I wanted!). Emotionally, I was completely shutdown and pre-yoga didn’t even realise that emotions were a physical sensation in the body. I had retreated so far into my mind, that “feeling” had been completely shut off.
Yoga has transformed me mentally and emotionally – thank god! It’s still a work in progress, but I’ve been able to move into the state of the witness and notice how my mind and it’s machinations were creating nothing but misery for me. I’ve also been able to open myself up so I could feel emotions again – something I could write a whole chapter or five on! But suffice to say, yoga has transformed every aspect of my life, and I am so grateful for it.
5. What is your home practice like?
Varied! Spontaneous! Integrated! I practice pretty much every day, doing a mixture of asana, pranayama and meditation. As my life is super busy right now, I’m adept at fitting in yoga whenever I can. I meditate on the bus to and from from work – a solid 80 minutes every day! I also have a yoga mat at work and go and do an hour Prana Flow on the grass somewhere around Parliament (I work right behind it). When I teach, I make time to practice right before for an hour or so, exploring what comes up so I can see what I might teach that day.
Plus I’ll do yoga in the bath, I’ll break into a posture here and there and everywhere if I feel like it. I’ll do Tadasana standing in line at the supermarket. I’ll take a break from my desk and do chair yoga… Whenever, however!
6. When people ask you, “What is Yoga?”, what do you say?
Yoga is connection. It’s how we learn to connect with the essence of who we are. Through concentrating on and becoming conscious of our breath, we travel down out of our mind and into our body where we experience ourselves as awareness.
7. What can people expect from one of your classes?
They can expect to be both challenged and supported. My classes are physical, but they are also designed for the absolute beginner. I teach with plenty of attention on the breath – if you do nothing in one of my classes but remain conscious of your breath for sixty minutes, then you will have had a wonderful class.
I also teach with the intention of encouraging all my students to take their practice home with them – even if it’s only five minutes. My job as a teacher is done when a student no longer needs me. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never done yoga before, you can still go home and the next day bring yourself into child’s pose and breath there for five minutes. And voila! – you’ve began to develop your home practice.
8. What do you love most about teaching yoga?
I love the look on my students faces. I love the way everybody shines at the end of class. I love the sensation I have of coming out of my mind and stepping into flow and knowing that all there is… is this moment. I love sharing something I am so incredibly passionate about. And I love it when students begin to see the benefits in their lives.
9. What do you wish everybody knew about yoga?
Yoga has the power to change your life for the better from the inside out. And anyone can do it… only twenty minutes a day and you’ll see results! (Infomercial anyone?)
10. What role do you see yoga playing in our world?
I believe that yoga has the power to completely change what we’re currently experiencing in the world. Everything we see – all the conflict, all the pain, all the suffering, all the misery… this is an external manifestation of what we collectively experience within. When you practice yoga, you open yourself up to experiencing peace within – and when you experience peace within, you create peace without…
Yoga has existed for thousands and thousands of years… and it was only in the twentieth century that it was (quite deliberately) sent over to the West. Once only transmitted directly from guru to deserving student, this opened it up to anyone who went along to a class, or bought a DVD. Yoga is a powerful practice, and while many people may only be doing it for the physical benefits, other deeper changes are taking place.
We can’t solve the issues of our world with the same mind that created them. We can’t look outwardly and try and fix things. There is nothing to be gained by controlled the external world, fixing this and fixing that… because when we take one action, no matter how well intended, often the consequences can have the exact opposite of what we wished.
The only true way to create change in the world is to transform our Selves from the inside out – for us to be able to be aware of our Selves as Souls, rather than attached to ourselves as an ego identity. Yoga is one way to begin to understand and experience this shift within.
11. Anything else you’d like to say?
Yes! It’s really important to remember that practicing yoga doesn’t necessarily mean that you do physical yoga (asana). Some of the greatest yogis that the world has seen likely never did any asana – like Jesus, or Ghandi, or Mother Theresa. So when I say that my goal is to have everyone in New Zealand practicing yoga – I don’t mean that everyone is on a mat working with their body.
What I mean is that everyone is practicing being Aware. They are aware of their thoughts, they are aware of their feelings, they are aware of the physical sensations in their body… they note all these internal fluctuations… and then they make a conscious choice of how to act and what to say based on what it is they want to create.
12. And finally, how do people find you?
Through this site – you’e already found me. Get in touch with me through my contact page.