My Ashtanga Journey & Links

Me and my Full Intermediate Level 2 Authorisation certificate in the old KPJAYI shala in Mysore, 2018

It took me seven and a half years to get back to an Ashtanga Class after my first experience in a led primary in Edmonton, Canada in 2007. The first class I attended was full of 20-something-year-old-girls who seemed to be looking each other up and down rather competitively and knew exactly what they were doing. To be fair I was also 20-something at the time, but I had no idea what I was doing and could not wait to get out of the class! I had so much fear to return to the practice, even after teaching yoga in other forms for several years, and even when some of my friends were teaching it! However, at the right time, having then finished competitive springboard and highboard diving training, I came back to an ashtanga class and I was like a duck to water. I fell in love with it. It was as if I came home. I do believe we find the right form of yoga at the perfect time for each of us. I was not ready before. I clearly recall watching an ashtangi on YouTube practice with such beauty, precision and grace it moved me to tears. I deeply knew then, without any doubt, that this was the path I was to take.

At that time there was no authorised KPJAYI ashtanga teacher in Essex, and even now, as far as I know, I am the only one. To see a list of SYC authorised teachers in the UK see: United Kingdom | Sharath Yoga Centre. At that stage there were not any Mysore programmes either and I knew I wanted to study Ashtanga at its source. I had learned enough about yoga by then to know staying close to the lineage is very important. I did not want to be another ashtanga instructor. I wanted to be a true teacher of this method. Sharath Jois, the Paramguru of Ashtanga Yoga, was coming to the UK in the August of 2015 and I knew I had to practice with him. I had heard some erroneous stories of being sent home if you could not do a posture, so I was determined I was going to be able to do full primary by the time he taught the workshop. I started doing a daily Mysore practice at home, supplemented by a couple of weekly led ashtanga classes at the studio I worked predominantly at, and taught myself the latter parts of primary series there. In the summer of 2015, as a TMI Yoga Therapist I had booked to do a CPD course in Yoga Therapy and Mindfulness for Addictions. The course was on Drummond Street in London, and I discovered that Certified Ashtanga Teacher Hamish Hendry’s shala Astanga Yoga London was on the selfsame street. To me, such occurrences are not coincidences but divine synchronicities. So, before my CPD course I went to my first few Mysore classes with Hamishji, who I immediately recognised to be my teacher. Due to my yoga teaching schedule I could only attend once a week but it worked well. If Hamishji gave me any corrections I had the week to deeply integrate them and proceeded to teach myself to drop back at home, using a variety of pieces of furniture! That Autumn I made my first extended trip to India, to study with certified teacher Louise Ellis in Rishikesh either side of doing my first three months with Guruji, Sharath Jois in Mysore. That first trip had a profound impact on me. I returned to Leigh on Sea, where I had taught yoga for several years, knowing I was coming back to leave. I sold my car, most of my possessions, passed on my beloved yin, kundalini, dynamic hatha yoga, pilates and mindfulness meditation classes and dedicated the following years to deeply exploring ashtanga. I flew to Indonesia to do an ashtanga retreat and intensive, before going back to study with Guruji and Louise Ellis in India again.

In front of certified ashtanga teacher Louise Ellis’s altar in Rishikesh, 2015-6

To make a long story shorter, I received Guruji’s blessing to teach the Full Intermediate Series of Ashtanga during my third trip to Mysore in 2018. It was a dream come true and is such an honour and privilege to have received Sharathji’s blessing to pass on this practice as it has been imparted to me. I have practised with Guruji six times now and assisted him during my last three trips to India. I endeavour to return to study with him every season I can. Between India trips, I did an ashtanga apprenticeship in Stockholm, covered Mysore programmes in Nicosia, Cyprus and in Cape Town, South Africa for a few months at a time and whenever I returned to the UK I continued to study with Hamishji. I moved back to the UK early 2020 and for the next three years I would drive 45 miles one way to AYL from Essex at crazy O’clock in the morning, four times a week, to start practice a little after 4am, to leave central London by 0615am, to teach my Mysore programme at 0730/0800am. In May 2021 I completed the advanced A series of Ashtanga with Hamish.

Guru Purnima in 2018 at the old KPJAYI shala with Sharathji, his wife Shruthi (left) and his mother, Pattabhi Jois’s daughter, Saraswati (right)

I started a Mysore programme in Brentwood in early 2020 but within three weeks lockdown hit so I continued to teach online until August 2021, when I opened Ashtanga Yoga Basildon in my new home. I now teach mostly in person with some hybrid online classes too. Here I teach a six day a week Ashtanga Yoga programme and love sharing the practice with anyone who wishes to learn.

Links

Paramguru Sharath Jois SYC: Sharath Yoga Centre If you are interested in studying with Guruji this is the website to go to. It also lists all his SYC authorised level 1, level 2 and certified teachers throughout the world. This is a beautiful resource as you can search to see if there is a local authorised teacher close to where you are or where you are going.

Hamish Hendry’s shala AYL: Astanga Yoga London

Puspam, Hamish’s ashtanga yoga magazine: Pushpam Yoga Magazine The fifth edition of this publication was themed Bhakti, devotion and includes one of my poems and some process photographs of my oil painting of my Ishta Devata, Quan Yin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion.