On my 42nd birthday, I decided to post a little video of my average morning wake up and shakeup session that keeps me so young and vibrant......whatever. Moving, shaking, stabilising, handstanding, sitting in freezing water. All before breakfast :)
A few weeks ago Yoga matters interviewed me with some questions that really got me thinking. In case anyone is interested here are some of the not very profound answers that i came up with.....
How did you come up with the name 'Yoga Like Water'? What does this phrase mean to you?
'Yoga Like Water' was born from a number of sources, all of which were very important in my life. I had always loved water: I surf most days down in North Devon, I freedive, we raised our two children on a boat. My lifelong hero has always been Bruce Lee and one of his famous sayings was 'Be Like Water'. His philosophy was very similar to mine when it came to yoga and it all just fitted perfectly.
How do you see yoga as a very personal thing, an individual path, and how does this concept fit with all the 'schools' of yoga available today?
Yoga is a very personal thing. There is only one correct path for each individual and that is the path that comes from within them. No-one else can tell us what our path is and no-one can walk it for us. The various systems and schools of yoga provide a 'gateway' to set us on the path. The important thing is that we remember that they are just that..a starting point; they aren't an end in themselves.
You've said that 'yoga becomes life and life becomes yoga'. How has that been true for you in your own life?
I have always been very able to tap into the 'flow state'. I have done everything that I have ever wanted in life and I can honestly say that I regret nothing. Yoga is present in every aspect of life. There is something to learn from every second, every incident, every thought that we think or word that we say. We just have to listen out for the lessons and grow from them.
How is it possible for a human being to be 'formless and shapeless like water'?
I have no idea! The concept applies more to mental states. We don't attach to anything, we aren't fixed in our opinions, we can adapt to any situation, we can be strong as a waterfall or soft as a raindrop. It has a great deal of taoist undertones. The very concept is as elusive as water. If you try to hold onto it, it just slips through your hands.
You describe 'Yoga Like Water' as a 'non style' and an 'un-training'. What does this look like in practice?
That's a great question! We make a huge effort not to 'systemise' anyone, if that is even a word. We bring in teachings from not only yoga but a massive range of disciplines: asana, martial arts, slackline and parcour; meditation, the flow state, deconcentration and systema; pranayama, freediving. You name it, if it has value...and everything does...then we add it into the mix. Our only aim is that the students find their own authentic way of facilitating yoga and practising it themselves. The last thing we want them to be is a secondhand copy of us; we want them to be a 100% version of themselves.
What is the difference between a yoga teacher and a yoga facilitator?
You cant teach yoga, it's as simple as that. The concept that I could teach you something as internal as yoga is ridiculous. Sure, I can teach someone to sit quietly, breathe in a certain way, make amazing shapes and balance on their hands, but that isn't yoga. What I can do is facilitate and assist the journey of self understanding in others. Helping others to trust that they know what is best for themselves, not a distant teacher or guru.
What role does meditation play in your own life and how do you incorporate it into your teaching?
I try to practise meditation in whatever I am doing. Sitting down and meditating is all well and good, but like asana, it is just a means to an end. The ideal situation is that everything becomes a meditative process, whether you are washing up, eating chocolate or just breathing. Humans have an uncanny ability to slip into the 'flow state' when they are totally engrossed in an activity. That's why I return to climbing, freediving, surfing, skating and so on, because the complete concentration makes it so easy to merge in the moment.
What is your vision for passing yoga onto the next generations?
Yoga is an organic process. It always has been and always will be. How we practise now is unrecognisable from how yogis would have practised 100 or 1000 years ago. That doesn't mean that we are right or wrong, it's just different. What we are leaning towards now though is a version of yoga often passed on by 'teachers' who don't really understand it themselves and many more who certainly haven't deeply investigated what yoga means or why they are passing on the things that they do. I want the next generation of yogis to be free, to realise that yoga isn't limited to a mat or a studio, that it is OK not to Om of you don't want to. They can rewrite the rule book because there is no yoga rule book.
HELPING HANDSTANDS..........After a weekend teaching 60 plus people how to handstand I thought id pass on a few things that i see time and time again that could make life a lot easier if you fancy playing with handstand...and lets be clear, there is no need to do handstand EVER. But if you want to its quite fun!
1- if your shoulders are behind your wrists before you begin you will find it very difficult to stack your body in a straight line as your bodyweight is too far back. You are trying to defy the laws of physics!
2-you need to stack hips above wrists NOT hips above shoulders necessarily
3-dont worry about straightening your legs until you can hold handstand with your legs in splits position (like a tight rope walkers stick ) or with your knees pulled into your chest. Both of these lower your centre of gravity and stop your pelvis from wobbling about so much. This means less forces moving down at the floor for the hands to control.
4-Once you can hold it like that for 30 seconds regularly , then worry about straightening your legs. Whats with this need to straighten the legs anyway? Seems to me its about recreating some picture we have n our minds eye.
5- you will have a slightly banana back because you are looking forwards. Don't worry about this, you wont get rid of that bend until you control the core more and drop the ears in line with the arms.
Once again a straight back is just our minds picture of what we think looks pretty, we arent doing gymnastics, it is about awareness not what looks nice. The lower back has a natural bend in it for a very good reason! Control it, don't allow it to hyperextend but you dont need to straighten it!!! Look at any of the old pics of iyengar or sivananda, they control the bend in their backs, they don't straighten out smile emoticon
6-Strength to adjust in the hands (this comes from the forearm muscles) is absolutely key, Develop this, get a finger strengthener, practice taking weight forward in plank. KEEP THE WEIGHT OUT OF THE HEEL OF YOUR PALM AND TAKE IT FURTHER FORWARDS!
Of course there is a lot more to it, which is why my workshops are several hours long but thats a good place to start.
Good luck and enjoy the journey, forget the destination! #yogalikewater#yogasansfrontiers
I am a great believer in First Do No Harm. Practising asana is pointless if your body suffers as a result. At the last few workshops I've done I have found it a shame to hear so many people say that they often suffer from wrist pain after yoga, especially if they practice as lot. Almost always this is due to poor hand alignment, over tight forearm flexors and weak extensors. We need to try and balance these out a bit better and spread the weight through the hands when we practice. I know for a fact that this has 'cured' the issue for a lot of people, even teachers that I have seen with awkward wrist alignment once i have explained what was going on. Although I'm not a big one for using specific strengthening, if you are going to do a lot of hand balancing then you could really benefit from fully engaging hasta bandha, I use this gripmaster device a lot and the strength in my hands is really helped by it. (Im holding it the wrong way in the photo, but you will get the idea). As a note, for someone who spends ages on their hands each day I never get wrist pain. #gripmaster #hastabandha #firstdonoharm
All understanding (we aren't talking about knowledge or skill here) can only be beneficial – it cant be right or wrong - and with enough dedication to understanding, we will be able to become the best version of ourselves that we cna be, right now in this very instant.
We can imagine this as a carpenter with certain tools and skills. As a young apprentice their skills are limited: they don't understand the material they are working with yet and they might not be able to control certain tools to work it with. Even so, with full application and concentration the young carpenter will still be producing the very best work that he can at that point in time; in fact it couldn't possibly be any better. With dedication he develops his understanding of the material as well as his skill with the tools and eventually he is producing work that is unrecognisable in quality from his earlier efforts, yet of course, it is still only the best that he can deliver at that point in time. With an attitude of acceptance and non-judgement he would have been just as satisfied with his earliest efforts as as he would be with those when he became a master craftsman.
That is why every time we practice it can only be perfect!