In many ways I do not believe I ‘teach’ this method, I simply assist others to gain a level of familiarity with the Ashtanga-Vinyasa asana practice. As an English woman and a born and bred British Socialist I am not all together comfortable putting myself forth first. It has been ingrained into my upbringing that public service is the only real work worth doing.
Yoga as a discipline is confounding to my family. It demands that I work on my own body, my own mind first. It says that I must emotionally and physically recreate myself in order to experience moksha. In the little village of Terling, Essex where I grew up, we are rarely so ambitious. Better to volunteer your services to others, voluntary community work first. And so it is huge step away for me to, one, work at this practice and, two, to talk about myself doing it or teaching it. Better just to wake up early and start helping out at the Shala.
I had studied dance since I was small and followed it thoroughly to college as a discipline. I gave it up when I was told in no uncertain terms that remembering steps was not for me. So I read Sociology and Politics, listened to good Socialist music like Billy Bragg, wore my Doc Martens, and involved myself in a lot of political/human rights causes.
I gained an MA from Girton College, Cambridge University in 1997. Immediately I started working in London at “Body and Soul”, an HIV support group for women and children and continued fighting the stigma of those faced with an HIV diagnosis for the next five years.
In 1999 during a holiday to Skyros, Greece I met someone for a short time that would change the very direction and temperament of my life twice. I participated in a two week Ashtanga Vinyasa course with Sharon Moon and was immediately hooked by the intelligence of the practice. On re-arrival to “Body and Soul” I discovered that the only Certified Ashtanga Vinyasa teacher in London worked downstairs from us, Hamish Hendry. For four weeks he only allowed me to do sun salutations. He was and still is an incredible teacher of far more than just the asana practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, a true practitioner. Over a period of a couple of years he slowly taught me the primary series.
In 2001 my mother died. I took a year away to start grieving. Moved to Oxford with some close friends, worked reception and just did my practice. Sometimes I would attend workshops with people like Nancy Gilgoff, John Scott, and Richard Freeman. But mostly I just stayed quiet and used the practice to heal. Some of my wonderful friends convinced me to go to Mysore on a three month break. This was in 2002.
It was there that I met a young man who looked sickly and needed feeding. But, he was funny which gave me a way to move on from my grief. I was not at all sure about this naughty American until he told me his first teacher was also Sharon Moon. He proceeded to buy me a donut and I decided he was a good dancer. In turn my connection to him allowed me the freedom to dramatically change my lifestyle. He was insistent on practicing the right way, everyday, tears or no tears. I needed that, and I needed a bulwark against my culture of self sacrifice. I needed to heal myself first, and now I have the freedom to assist others to learn from this practice. We return to Mysore every year to remember how to do that.
It is our students, wherever we teach in the world, those who also dedicate themselves to this life transforming practice both on and off the mat, that truly inspire us to teach this method. I know how difficult this practice is; it has not come easily for Russell or myself. When students become daily practitioners this is the greatest gift they can give me as their teacher.
I bow down to the lotus feet of my guru, Sri K Pattabhis Jois, a direct student of twenty six years of study with Sri T Krishnamacharya. I feel honored to help transmit his teachings to our wonderful community of Ashtangis here on the beautiful island of Taiwan.