Mountain Yoga!

Mountain Yoga!

lundi 18 juillet 2016

I am Not a Yoga Teacher

...If it means can I take that perfect instagram photo on a beach in California or do the splits or wrap my legs around my head and balance on my finger nails then no I am not a yoga teacher!

Social Media v Reality

Now-a-days if you do not have an instagram account with at least 500 followers or way more, facebook, snap chat etc….  you are apparently a nobody in the world of yoga and well being. It seems that the number of followers you have, the likes per day, the presence you have on social media gives you your status and credentials as a teacher of this ancient art and discipline way more than years of experience and study. As we trawl through the beautiful images on the perfect hand stand, splits or back bend in an idyllic spot miles away our eyes are pleased with the image, we may even think or aspire to the « one day I hope to be able to do that and why not in that kind of location ». But does this desire, these images, constitute & create a good teacher and yoga practitioner ? Lovely images yes – the body is inspired, the ego attracted by the challenge but is the heart filled with joy, is the mind eased and connected ?

We all come to yoga for many reasons and often even if we started out for very physical reasons as indeed I did we quickly feel the subtle shift of something deeper, wider and more special, internal happening. As a practionner we can aspire to these flexible acts of dexterity – whether we get there or not is another matter. As one wise yoga teacher once said its not the ability to touch ones toes that counts but the journey on the way down. 

As a teacher should we able to do all these postures and should we post them on instagram ? I always thought the yoga path was related to healthy well being, inner strength and harmony, calmness of mind, connected and balanced living. Yes, my body has progressed over the years and come to achieve many postures although these super bendy challenges & some technical balances remain a little allusive. As I now teach and have done for years and as the « market » has progressed, boosted and nourished by instagram, it seems the bar has been raised so that it is expected of the teacher that they can do ALL the postures AND they can perform & post them at will & on social media. 

I remember a teacher friend of mine, Alessandra Pecorella,  once saying about Yoga in London. It was a few years ago and the market has moved on even further but she said at the time « If you don’t turn up with live music and fire eating jugglers now people are not interested ! » Years of devoted practice, study of the sacred texts, of sanskrit, deep meditational practice seems some how not to count if you can’t « perform » as a bendy toy and attract 1000 simply from a photo. 

Shiva Rea – a very experienced and highly accomplished teacher & friend of mine - once told me she turned up to teach a class in London and the students were actually standing around the edges of the room with faces that sent a « so impress me ! » expression & message. She said she so wanted to shout out in true Africain style accent « I will not teach you until you can show me some respect ! I will NOT teach you» because the word teacher or guru should at the very least encourage that respect, conjure up some form of humilty.  Not a « so show me attitude » but a keen and humble interest to learn and gain experience from one who knows. Information from the person teaching, what they and are passionate & knowledgeable about and wish to share with you.  Shiva did not shout out at them but swallowed a humble pill and went in and teach an honest and beautiful class. She won the students over through the yoga practice and her flowing message.

I also remember once in India I was asked by a lovely « nodding-head couple » (if you have travelled to India you will know what I mean)  what I did for a job and I said I was a yoga teacher. They simply heard the word teacher and said whilst nodding « ooooo teacher, very good. Teacher is very good ». It seems in India the word teacher commands a respect and certainly not a « well go on then prove it attitude ». They are simple ready to sit and listen to what you have to share with them regardless of a photo clad instagram account.

So why am I saying all of this ? Well I suppose because I feel a little sad that the yoga trend and market has moved more towards the images and the « product » we are selling rather than remain on its beautiful origins of simple practices to encourage the body and mind to feel connected inside. I feel sad that the message of yoga is dilluted into the gymnastic world of beautiful bendy toys and that we are being carried along on the wave of advertising the body beautiful. As I vere towards my fifties I suppose I also find it hard to « compete » on this level of yoga external prowess. But mostly I feel sad I suppose that no matter what I do I too look at these pictures and want to be those people. I am being sucked into the world of marketing.

BUT and there is a big but…. At the end of the day and every day I still roll out my mat for me, not to achieve the hardest postures in the world but to create some space in my day, my body, my mind. I roll out my mat with a attitude of devotion and prayer and with a desire to root down and create strength, rise up and create joyful energy. And pretty much every day I go and teach super happy to have a job I adore and share my experience of yoga with students who are often simply just happy to have an hour to themselves and leave feeling a little happier, more grounded & sereen whether I turn up with fire eating jugglers or not ! I turn up and so do they. We move, we breath, we practise, we lay still together and we as individuals guided by a common inner need – whether our legs are behind our heads or just vaguely in contact with our hands – to connect and feel a part of a bigger beautiful picture.

So am I yoga teacher ? I have used yoga along the years to heal my mental issues and addictions, to heal and nourrish my body as the years have passed. I have a reasonable number of followers on social media, I can do the splits (it took me 40 years), just about get my legs behind my head and do my free standing hand stand on some days …. But mostly I enjoy the simplicity of the yoga message, the yoga practice and sharing that live, face to face with students I can look in the eye, smile at, hug at the end of the class, breath and be with. 

So am I a yoga teacher ? You will have to ask my students….. Namaste

dimanche 3 juillet 2016

How has yoga changed your life?

Has Yoga Changed Your Life ?

A journalist asked me recently so « how has yoga changed your life ? »
OMG I mean where do you start ?

From spotty overweight teenager to busy career girls in London riddles with anorexic & binge drinking tendancies to yoga teacher mum of two organiser of festivals & yoga classes on and offline living in France. 
Yep on the face of it everything has changed !

And yet….
Ok so lets start with the Ayurvedic principles of Doshas & Prakritis – well why not ! Fundamentally we are hot-wired to be the person and character that we are. We have a blue print we cannot change – we are born with it. A unique pattern of Vata (air), Pitta (fire) and Kapha (earth). It is like an ayurvedic DNA which is called our Prakriti. This not only forms many of our physical characteristics but also many many of our personality traits. Any parent with two or more children will tell you that despite the fact they they « brought their children up the same » they are both incredibly different. The whole nature versus nurture debate.

So why say all of this in response the initial question ?
Because fundamentally I haven’t changed. I am the energetic whirlwind I always was full of life and fire and very little earth (although I do have a strong homing instinct and have to have a « chez moi » in place to function and be all the many and varied people I am or seem to be now a days.

However there is a definite BY & AY – Before Yoga & After Yoga.
A little like the BC & AC - Before Children & After Chlidren – because yes, lets face it this is a definite life factor for those « in the know »…. Similarly in yoga there is a before and after. Yoga is not a step or spinning class. You don’t usually go there to get fit there is usually a deeper rooted reason why you end up on a yoga mat in a studio with a teacher talking in « yoga speak » - you know the soft voice that guides you into the realms of « this is a totally fffing impossible pose but she is making it sound and look so easy I am going to give it a go for the greater good of my body and soul….. »

Chatting recently to a friend who knows all about internal battles and who like me has fought weight gain and loss over the years with good, bad & indifferent results, she said that she believed we were born with tendancies to get fat, be large, put weight on by just looking at a bar of chocolate. I am not so sure this a physical tendancy. Yes we are born with our body types and character – as per the Parkriti debate - but does that mean we are also born with tendancies to be and do things to ? If my mother had not fed me solids at the age of 5 weeks, if I hadn’t been made to finish my plate of food, if the girls at school hadn’t called me a fat cow & a loud-mouth would I have later on confort ate, been over weight ? Life throws all sorts of events at us and we can choose how we deal with them. Mine BY was a definite move towards over-eating then starving myself, partying so hard, smoking & drinking then destroying myself with guilt and self-loathing.

So AY ? Was it a magic wand when I turned up on my yoga mat and wrapped myself into pretzel-like shapes ? Did my life and my character and everything radically change about me all of a sudden ? No of course not. But it set the wheels in motion – it took time but to brought me back to where my Prakriti wanted me & needed me to be. It helped me learn to appreciate and love all the aspects of my natural character. Well nearly all !

Years of ashrams, early mornings, hours of yoga practice, meditation, plunging into parts of my brain and my body I didn’t know and sometimes didn’t want to know. 
All of this « yoga » showed me my path and taught me to BE more. Simply BE. Not TRY to be.

I live my yoga daily, I love my yoga daily…..  I gave up my job as a sales director in IT, I moved to France, I became a yoga teacher……

So has yoga changed my life ?

Yes radically on so many levels – not over night and not magic wand like but yes. And also no it hasn’t. I am the person I am character body and all. I have changed directions, I have changed them again. But yoga has taught that life is not a permanent painting, that we have the power to change some things – attitudes, geographics, jobs – but that we can also not change or do not need to change others just life with them and except them more.