We wanted to ask our students about their journey with their practice, so we spoken to Kevin, an ashtanga yogi about his experience.
What attracted you to try ashtanga yoga?
I found Ashtanga by accident in 1996 when The Lifecentre opened in London, I went along to the beginners yoga class with Liz Lark, not knowing what I was letting myself in for and having no idea about ashtanga.
When did you first start and how regularly do you practice?
Between 1996 and 2000 my practice was sporadic, then in 2000 I went to France with Liz and practised daily for the first time, I’ve been a regular practitioner since then. I first met Dena Kingsberg at the Lifecentre in 1997, she changed my perceptions of yoga and has been my most influential teacher over the last 20 years. Currently I practice 5 or 6 days per week.
What were you expecting from it?
I started yoga after a tennis injury, I just hoped it would help, though I was skeptical. I was surprised at how much it helped in my recovery and realised there was more too it than people sitting in lotus position (cross legged) chanting ommmmm.
What have the the actual benefits been for you?
Once I started to practice Ashtanga properly, although it was physically very challenging I realised that I left the class with a mental stillness and equilibrium I had never experienced before. I’m now in my 50’s and have far more flexibility than I did in my 20’s tennis playing days.
When you started what were the challenges and how did you begin to overcome them?
When I started there were only a couple of places in London that were actual yoga studios, as opposed to gyms that offered the odd yoga class. The challenge was getting to a class that fitted in with work, life and transport. On the way home I used to try and write down the asanas (postures) we had done, this would form the basis of what passed for a practice at home on a bedroom carpet. I didn’t even have a mat until The Lifecentre started selling them! I still have that mat, though it’s got holes where my hands and feet go!
What do you specifically love about BAYoga studio?
I like how BAYoga has gradually become a community of people who share a passion for the practice. I can only comment on the ashtanga teaching but this is excellent – Cathy and Caroline are both good for newbies and the more experienced practitioners. Over the years Cathy has managed to bring internationally acclaimed teachers to BAYoga including David Garrigues and Lucy Crawford.
What advice would you give to a newbie to yoga (and perhaps specifically ashtanga yoga)?
I would say to a newbie don’t be intimidated coming into a Mysore room and seeing what some of the students are doing. Many have practised for years. Take it slowly. Ashtanga yoga takes time to build strength and stamina as well as flexibility. Try and repeat the postures at home, a little every day is much better than an hour once a week.
What do you think people get wrong about ashtanga yoga/yoga in general?
People think you have to be flexible to do it. Except for students who have come from a dance or gymnastics background I would say a mysore ashtanga room is full of students who have worked, in many cases for years to do their postures. Dena Kingsberg always says “show up every day and do the work”.
How does your practice help you in every day life?
Ashtanga has become integral to my life. In 2011 I got Sepsis and MRSA, months after surgery I wasn’t recovering well and my GP said I should have a break, so I quit a job that was making me ill and headed to Mysore in India, the home of Ashtanga for 3 months to study the practice at the source, an amazing way to rehabilitate. I broke my shoulder soon after I returned from Mysore, 4 years and 4 operations later my practice was what got me through both physically and mentally. I was unexpectedly able to return to Mysore in 2015 where I was interviewed by Ekaminhale about my practice and how it helped in my recovery.