My Yoga Journey

People often ask me How did you start yoga? Sometimes it seems as though there wasn’t a clear beginning as though yoga has always been there as part of my life. There is often an assumption that you have to be flexible to do yoga but I was never that flexible and had never succeeded at dance or gym. I used to stand back in envy of people who could vault, run and jump I always felt a little clumsy and uncoordinated. When it came to yoga I found here was something I could do and because Iyengar yoga works to your own capacity I found I could do better each time. I now realise that being stiffer isn’t always a drawback and that you can with time bring increase your flexibility and that people who are flexible are often challenged to build strength into their practice. ‘Where there is freedom bring restraint where there is restraint bring freedom.’ BKS Iyengar I suppose the seeds of my own experience started in the 70’s when I was in my early twenties and I came across a book called Yoga – 28 day exercise plan by Richard Hittleman. I tried out a few of the postures and liked the effect. Then a friend recommended Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar – this was altogether a different and more serious text and explained the philosophy behind asana practice as well as the postures. The photos were very artistic and I found myself very drawn to the subject. But I was just dabbling in those days. A few years later when I went to live in Greece for a year I took Light on Yoga with me and started tentatively practising the postures which are described in simple terms. I was aware that I was feeling a physical change from repeating the postures on a daily basis, but again the phase didn’t last long as I had young children and family demands came first. When we returned to the UK I wanted to find a teacher and was lucky enough to come across Barbara Hicks who was absolutely passionate about the subject. She had been to Pune and had been taught by the great man himself. She talked about the subtleties within the practice and I was fascinated. She was also one of the most joyful teachers I have ever met so enthusiastic and generous with her knowledge. I was hooked and attended classes with her for about five years. By that time my three children were at school and I was starting to work full time as an events manager. I still continued classes but sometimes work and family took over and it wasn’t until 1995 when The South London Institute opened with classes every day morning and evening that I could start going back to classes and sometimes when I wasn’t working I would be there at least three times a week. It was there that I met and started studying with Sylvia Prescott and Penny Chaplin two very senior teachers and attended intensives with Jean Maslen and Lillian Biggs. These were all inspirational teachers who had studied directly with BKS Iyengar. I remember coming out of one workshop with Jean and Lillian and feeling like I had grown three inches! In Dec 1995 Guruji himself came to inaugurate the institute and give a talk. By now I was following a well trodden path to become a teacher. It seemed only natural that the subject I loved should become the main focus of my life. In 1998 I made my first trip to India to Gurujis 80th birthday It was such a joyous occasion people coming from all over the world to revere this great teacher. On the first day when he leapt up onto the stage it was like a thunderbolt had struck, he was so full of vigour and light. In that moment he embodied the meaning of yoga the union of body and mind. There was a real feeling as in the first yoga sutra of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras of ‘Atha Yoganusasanam’ – and Now here is Yoga. It was for me what people call a seminal moment. I have been ever grateful for the gift of yoga and particularly the gift of the Iyengar tradition. It has seen me through some stressful times and is always the stabiliser. I have returned to India many times to study with the Iyengar family and each time there is something new to discover or consolidate.