I had the great joy of meeting Marianne on the two Prana Flow teacher trainings I did with Twee Merrigan through Yoga Unlimited.
Thoughtful, intelligent, playful and generous, Marianne makes a delightful yoga teacher.
Marianne is passionate about peace, and has spent many years working for NGOs in areas of the world that would test any yogis ability to stay calm.
She’s lived and working in Afghanistan, the Gaza Strip and Tior Leste. You can read more about her adventures in the world of peace-keeping on her blog, Zen and the Art of Peacekeeping.
1. What style of yoga do you practice and where do you teach?
I practice a range of different styles of yoga, I’m currently teaching online yoga courses via my website.
2. How did you come to yoga?
My first yoga class was in the community hall in North Piha, another small beach village on the west coast of New Zealand. I started attending Iyengar style yoga classes in Piha when I returned to New Zealand after two years living and working in the Gaza Strip. I didn’t recognise it then but I was experiencing a type of post-traumatic shock and the yoga classes by the beach were wonderful therapy.
After those first classes in Piha I attended yoga classes sporadically for the next five years, mostly at a gym in Wellington. I found the classes challenging because my muscles were tight from a lot of running and my thoughts were busy and fragmented from a high stress job. I could feel the benefit of the practice but resisted it and so I tended to practice infrequently.
3. When did the yoga bug really get you?
At the end of 2005 I moved to Afghanistan to work and in Kabul I discovered a group of women who practiced yoga together twice a week. Those women and our practice together became my safe place in that city of suffering and yoga became a daily practice for me.
I took the opportunity, while I was home in New Zealand for my sister’s wedding, to get four sessions of one-on-one yoga teaching from Jude Hynes at the Yoga Academy. I had gone to Jude looking for instruction in the Astanga Primary Series, which she did teach me. But she also encouraged me to practice more restorative yoga. Jude, herself a woman of great discipline and determination, understood that what I needed most was to let go and she gently nudged me away from the desire to “do yoga better” and towards an understanding of the sacredness of letting go into the natural, ever present flow of my own energy and breath.
Jude showed me how to acknowledge and honour where I was starting from, each day, and to allow my practice to flow from that place. That was when the yoga bug really got me!
4. How has yoga transformed your life?
My work as a human rights advocate has taken me into war-affected countries like Afghanistan, the Gaza Strip and Timor Leste and yoga has helped me find my own practice of peace in the midst of war. Yoga provides practices that rebalance our energies when we are ‘out of whack’, practices that restore our strength when we are weary, practices that put fire in our bellies when we are lethargic and practices and ground us firmly in the earth when we are losing our foundation.
But most of all yoga has enabled me to let go. I’m a born activist and I’ve been “fighting” injustice my whole life. Yoga has helped me let go of the fight and instead relax into the flow that can move us all towards justice.
5. What is your home practice like?
It varies from day to day. Many years after those sessions with Jude, and having studied with many amazing yoga teachers, I still honour her wisdom by beginning my practice by stopping to check in with my starting state.
Most days I begin the day with pranayama, meditation and chanting and sometimes a little free-from movement will arise out of that and I’ll have a little stretch and sway boogie around the room. I generally prefer to practice asana in the afternoon, I like to liberate my muscles after a day spent mostly at the keyboard. I do look for ways to practice karma yoga (the yoga of service), pranayama and a little meditation every day. But it can vary and I don’t practice physical asana every day.
6. When people ask you, “What is Yoga?”, what do you say?
Hmmm, it would depend who was asking. A new-comer to my class asking that question might really want to know “What will we be doing in this class?” whereas a friend who is interested in my overall approach to life might be asking a much deeper (or broader) question. To the latter I might say that yoga is a path of unification – firstly a process of bringing all our different parts into unity and wholeness and then a process of finding unity with the greater whole.
Yoga is a way of liberating the natural pulse and flow that moves within us and a way of connecting with our natural intelligence, our natural compassion and our natural strength.
7. What can people expect from one of your classes?
I teach vinyasa flow as taught by Shiva Rea (and by my teachers Twee Merrigan and Kelly Fisher). This includes pranayama, meditation, salutations and flowing sequences of poses which are often accompanied by beautiful yoga-inspired music. We always finish with the healing shavasana or relaxation pose.
My classes can be energetic and heating; gentle and flowing; or grounding and stabilising. Some classes will incorporate all those elements. You can expect to have fun in one of my classes and you can expect to be welcomed as a honoured guest in our little sea-side yoga community.
8. What do you love most about teaching yoga?
The people who come along to practice with me, we have fun together and I love to hear from them how yoga is making a difference in their lives.
9. What do you wish everybody knew about yoga?
That anyone can practice yoga, there is no requirement for physical prowess to get started.
10. What role do you see yoga playing in our world?
I see yoga bringing each person who practices it into greater wholeness in themselves and into greater unity with the bigger whole and I see these two processes enabling each of us to live our daily lives with more compassion, more service, more integrity and more joy. I also see yoga loosening up a lot of tight “computer” shoulders!
11. Anything else you’d like to say?
I’d like to say thank you to my amazing Wellington yoga teachers, Lynda Miers-Henneveld and Kelly Fisher at Yoga Unlimited, they have provided me with a yoga home base, wise teaching and great support since I arrived back in New Zealand. I’d also like to thank my other teachers Jude Hynes and Twee Merrigan for all their wisdom and compassionate teachings.
Finally I’d like to thank you Kara-Leah and all the other wonderful yogis in Wellington that make it so much fun to practice in community with you all!
12. And finally, how do people find you?
You can email me on fridaworld [at] gmail [dot] com.