How did you get into yoga?
The first memory I have of yoga as an asana practice was seeing my mother practising in our living room. She had studied Sivananda yoga whilst growing up in Mauritius, and I remember seeing her in shoulder stand and halasana and thinking it looked like so much fun, so gave it a go. I think I was five or six at the time, and at that age those asanas are so easy for the body to express. With no kids yoga classes back then it wasn’t until I was 15 that I was able to take a class, where there was a yoga class on offer as an extra curricular Wednesday afternoon class at my school. I took that first class in my school uniform and despite the restrictions of wearing a kilt, I loved every second of it. It was clear, I had come home. For the first time, I felt totally comfortable in my own body. From that moment onwards, I started practising sun salutations at home every day as part of my newly found love for all things healthy!
Was there a moment when you realised you wanted to pursue yoga seriously?
By the time I was 23, I had completed a degree in Biochemistry and I was living back home with my parents and studying again to become a dental surgeon – Im obsessed with learning and especially about the body and mind. Upon returning to London, I discovered a class at a local gym. I started going to this class and again, that feeling of coming home returned. I had no idea at the time that the teacher was teaching a rough version of the primary sequence, but I knew that I was fascinated by it. After a couple of years of attending this class, my teacher at the time suggested that I look into becoming a teacher or at the very least going to practise with David Swenson to develop my practice further. At the time I was dedicated to becoming a Dentist and didn’t really take the suggestion too seriously, however as the five year course rolled on, I became more and more convinced of the health benefits of the practice, not just physically but mentally and emotionally too. By the time I reached my final year of dental school, I wrote in our year book that in ten years time I would be teaching yoga full time. I had no idea about teacher trainings or how I would do it, but I knew I wanted to share this method with as many people as possible. So even though others could see that this is where my passion was, I felt it crept up on me slowly until I just couldn’t ignore the calling anymore. I find that yoga has a way of finding you and calling you whether you want to do it or not.
How has yoga changed you?
I can honestly say that for the last 20 years, yoga has been my truest best friend. Like a golden thread it has silently been part of my life, holding space for me through a whole host of life’s ups and downs. Whether it was relationship break ups, or seeing my mum go through cancer three times or relentless schedules of exams for dentistry, my yoga practice has helped to keep me focused on what is important in life. It also created a space for healing to happen on an emotional level, so that I can share this method from a place of strength and humility, without needing to impose my experience onto others, but to be able to hold space for others to find their true voice, within their own experience. Physically, I never considered myself as strong, I was never athletic at school and although that mindset hasn’t changed much, being able to move through a daily practice every morning whilst working as dentist and teaching yoga part time, started to make me see that perhaps we do have the potential to achieve things that we never thought possible. Mentally, the practice has made me see how we can frame things in our mind, in such a way that holds us back from our fullest potential. Although yoga is an internal journey, it is also a way to teach us how to be part of community and how best to serve others.
What’s your advice to people considering starting yoga?
JUST START!! Find a class that’s local and easy to get to and that can fit into your schedule. Make it easy to get to, so that when the excuses not to go to practice come up (and they will!) you can mentally challenge these excuses with why you should go. Getting onto the mat is often the hardest part of the practise, just as turning up to the party can be the hardest part of life. It’s important to know that there will be times when you fly through your practice, days when everything feels luscious, like honey flowing through your body. But then there will also be days when the body feels stiff and stuck, like you can’t even breathe and that’s probably when we want to give up on it. Actually, this is when you need to stick with the breath, turn inwards and trust in the power of the practice and just keep practising. These are the times where we grow stronger. Also, find a teacher that you connect with, whose teachings resonate with you and stick with them for as long as you can. This will help to develop your ability to see past those times when you feel like you can’t practice.
Do you have a favourite yoga quote?
“On this path, no effort ever goes to waste and there is no failure. Even a little effort towards spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fears”, taken from the Bhagavad Gita, a poem of verses teaching us about the guiding divinity within us and how right action in life goes to support the welfare of all beings, not just ourselves.
What is your approach to teaching?
I choose to teach Ashtanga from a very traditional and holistic view point. Which means, teaching yoga as a balance between the external expression of life and the internal journey of Self reflection. Mysore style (Self practice) is my preferred way to “teach” the Ashtanga method as this is how we prescribe the method in this lineage, however some people can only make it to led classes due to work and family commitments and then in those classes I share the method as my teachers have taught me – counted in Sanskrit and asana names in Sanskrit. The first series in the Ashtanga method is called Yoga Chikitsa, which means yoga therapy and this is what guides my teaching. To me, yoga is an holistic form of therapy which teaches us to soften where we need to soften and become strong and employ strength in areas which may be weak. By teaching in this way my intention is to encourage the students to bring about a sense of balance within their body and ultimately within their minds.
Is there anything else outside yoga that would be interesting to share?
I feel that everything has the potential to be yoga. How we wash the dishes, to how we speak /communicate with our family and friends and strangers, to how we make space in our lives for fun. Everything has the potential to be a place to practice yoga – that means a place to practice being present, focused, compassionate and balanced in listening and taking right action. Beyond the physical practice, I love to chant Sanskrit mantras. I love singing and dancing along to house music and spending time on the magical island of Ibiza (purely for the good food and gorgeous beaches!!). I am also fascinated by the power of essential oils to heal the body and how we can use them to deepen our experiences in yoga and in life. The Australian Masterchef is my (not so secret) guilty TV pleasure…..you just can’t help but get high off the positivity that those Aussies exude.