The Yoga Map Project
I have just written my "yoga story" for the Yoga Map Project.
Here it is. I've called it:
Landmarks on the Path
I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar…well, that’s not entirely true, but I was working as a waitress in Los Angles health food store’s restaurant when I found yoga.
Or rather, I suspect yoga found me. Like most young adults in their 20s I was asking life a lot of questions and seeking answers. Another waitress who was older and wiser than I, suggested that I go and meet her yoga teacher Baba Hari Dass. It was quite a trek to get to him from LA as he was tucked away in the Santa Cruz mountains of Northern California, but I went.
Babaji (as his students called him) was a silent monk who delivered his teachings by writing on a small chalkboard. The day I went to meet him was the day that my feet landed on the path of yoga. By a stroke of luck I was able to have a personal meeting with Babaji and I spoke to him about my circumstances, my uncertainty about going on to do a Master’s degree, my general lack of direction and feelings of frustration. He listened with those kind, deep, clear eyes and simply wrote, “you could live here.”
Baba Hari Dass
Within a month, I had whittled down my belongings to things that could fit in my Jeep and I left LA for the mountains of Santa Cruz. I lived at Baba Hari Dass’ centre (Mount Madonna Center) for four years from 1994-1998 and studied meditation, pranayama, hand mudras, the Yoga Sutras, The Bhagavad Gita, shat karma (purification techniques) and asana frequently with him. In 1996 Babaji began to ask me to teach asana, pranayama and hand mudras to people that would come to Mount Madonna Centre on retreats. It was from 1996-1998 that I taught these components of his Classical Ashtanga teachings regularly.
In 1998 I had reached the decision that I would go and obtain a Master’s degree in dance and so I flew to London to undertake a course at the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance. After completing my Master’s I stayed in London and pursued a PhD whilst lecturing in dance in UK universities. I was also teaching yoga to my dance students to supplement their physical dance training.
In 2003 a fellow university lecturer suggested I come with her to meet her Ashtanga yoga teacher John Scott; and so we went together to Newlyn, Cornwall to do a self-practice week with John and his (then) wife Lucy. The first day with John and Lucy was a baptism of fire. I had no knowledge of the Ashtanga yoga Primary series sequence as taught by Pattabhi Jois. I struggled through that first day. John counting; “Ekham, One, Inhale. Dve, Two, Exhale.” Adjustments from Lucy were like she was inside my body, moving the tissues and blood vessels with her warm hands.
And the heat!
Everyone else in the room seemed to know what they were doing and I, although fit from dance, had never had to dig so deeply into the world of stamina as I did with the Primary series work. I loved it. I was hooked and for over 10 years I continued to study with John and Lucy.
Lucy Crawford Scott has remained my Ashtanga yoga teacher since 2003. I love her vigour, her humility and her balance between the soft and the hard. She drives me, inspires me and holds me when I need it most.
Lucy Crawford Scott
Because John and Lucy lived in Cornwall and I was living and working in London it was only about once a year that I would get to see them. So to supplement my practice I started going to the then just opened Triyoga studio in Soho. One week the usual teacher wasn’t there so they had a cover teacher in: Norman Blair. Norman gave me an adjustment in downward dog that I will never forget: a soft, even push on my sacrum that felt so full of care and consideration. I was grateful for the respect that I felt the adjustment showed. At the end of class, Norman handed out some flyers for a new Yin yoga class he was launching in London. I carried the flyer around in my diary for months before finally attending one week in 2003.
Norman’s Yin yoga brought out all the stuff I had experienced in my early meditations with Babaji…the frustration, the impatience, the anger, the judgements but I kept going back. Norman’s stories, his kind words, his humble examples of the postures kept me going back.
This yoga story of my trajectory on the path is really marked by my teachers. Norman Blair, John Scott, Lucy Crawford Scott and Baba Hari Dass all shape who I am as a person and who I am as a teacher. For me, without my teachers there would be no practice.
Just like the continuum of life, it is our teachers, our teacher’s teachers, our students and our student’s students that make up the acts kindness and peace within the practice of yoga. Long may it continue!
Baba Hari Dass' teacher (centre): Baba Raghubar Dassji Maharaj
John Scott and Lucy Crawford Scott's teacher: Sri K Pattabhi Jois
Norman Blair's teacher: Sarah Powers
AND photographs of some of my young and budding students:
Jose (age 8) with Niki Clark (one of our new Big Dog Little Dog teachers)
Grace (age 5) with Adele Cassidy (one of our new Big Dog Little Dog teachers)
Lincoln (age 7) with Natalie Buckland (one of our new Big Dog Little Dog teachers)
AND the best part of this is the children were teachers to the teachers!