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Bryony Bird Interviews Me!

(Louis playing and baby-talking throughout in background)

BB: What drew you to your first Yoga class?

LR: I was living in Washington DC and was pretty active physically (running marathons and swimming), but also had an active mind. I felt if I didn’t exercise I might blow a fuse, and sought out yoga to help quiet my thoughts. I was also drawn to the principles of yoga having studied eastern religions and philosophy in university.

BB: What kind of style were you introduced to?

LR: There was a yoga shala down the street that was quirky and authentic. At that time I didn’t know enough to ask what style it was – it was slow classical type of yoga with a lot of meditation. The teachers wore orange and led meditations by instructing the students to ’empty the mind’. The concept of an empty mind was difficult for me to understand at the time, and despite feeling very good after the classes, I didn’t find myself there on a regular basis.

It was perhaps more of an esoteric type of practice than I was ready for at that time. It was four years later that I went to my first Astanga class which I really took to; it appealed to my need for physicality but my self-competitive nature made it difficult to move beyond the asana practice and into the other limbs of the practice. By means of exploration I came to the Iyengar practice and other methods.

BB: What made you move away from Astanga?

LR: It was not thought through- I moved to Amsterdam in 2000 and was practicing Astanga and Iyengar.  I had a shoulder and neck injury that came from stress and not practicing some of the postures correctly, and I found myself re-evaluating why I was practicing yoga and what aspects were becoming more important for me. Eventually I was ready for a practice that more overtly threaded the teachings and philosophy together with the asana practice, and discovered Svaha yoga with Patrick and Gos. That became my entry point into the yoga I practice today.

BB: What kind of style do you teach and practice at this moment?

LR: By definition, I teach the Jivamukti method, and my philosophical understanding of yoga and teaching style is strongly influenced by the founders of the method, Sharon Gannon and David Life. Having said that, we are all constantly evolving, and for me as a teacher and practicioner it’s fundamental to continue to practice different methods and to study with different teachers to continue my own evolution.

BB: How important do you think it is to label yoga classes with a name or a method?

LR: I think labels are helpful to the students to know a little bit about what kind of class they are going into. Yoga methods and teachers vary so dramatically that it can be helpful to the student to have a point of reference. In a Jivamukti class, for example, there are certain types of asanas (eg. side bending, twists, backbend) that must be included in the practice, there is a focus of the month that sets a theme for the class. Along with this, music usually plays a role in the class.

BB: Who are your teachers?

LR: My students are my best teachers of the body and of what it means to be human; then there is my son who teaches me everyday about learning to listen – not just with my ears. My yoga teachers are Sharon and David, Thich Nhat Hanh, Richard Agar Ward, and many other great teachers I take classes with around town. My greatest life teacher has been learning to live with impermanence, especially as it relates to the ever-changing state of the body and mind.

BB: How did you get into Thai Massage and Cranio Sacral Therapy?

LR: Ironically I wanted to spend some time with a friend who happened to be doing a thai massage course, so I decided to go along with her despite having never had a thai massage. I really took to it. At the Thai Yoga Massage training one of the teachers was also a Craniosacral Therapist and I had a session with him that was subtle but powerful. He was nurturing, but managed to stir up some old experiences and emotions. After a couple of weeks I returned home and the same area on my body he had been working on experienced a huge opening. I felt spaciousness and freedom in an area of the body I had never even thought much about. I didn’t understand how it worked but it was something I kept coming back to and I realized something much deeper was going on.

BB: How do you learn therapies- theory vs intuition

LR: Everyone is different and learns differently. For me it’s an organic and intuitive visceral exploration. The therapist’s role is to be able to understand the body and its deep connection with the energy, physicality and emotional/ mental disposition of the client, and the experiences that have contributed to their overall state of being.

BB: How has being a Mother influenced your career decisions?

LR: It has clarified how important practicing and teaching is for me. The first time I left the hospital was to give client a massage and it felt fantastic, it was a great reminder that I have capabilities (other than mothering).

It has helped me to balance things and to prioritize. I can’t place my needs first, or even my client’s needs first anymore. In a way this has improved how I treat and value myself, I have to have integrity not just for me, but also for my son. I have it in my personality to be a ‘yes’ person, and at times in my life I have been miserable but have continued without speaking up just for not wanting to rock the boat- to please others. I’m learning now to create boundaries and to be okay with saying no.

BB: You have your own blog- Do you think it is important to engage with modern technologies when you are teaching ancient healing arts?

LR: Not at all. Some of the best teachers I know don’t even have email. I think if it’s an interesting platform for someone to better understand their ideas and it can serve to provoke others to think, then it’s certainly worthwhile. It can help bring people together and stay connected to ideas. If all the teachers of yoga were luddites then the global satsang would lose some of it’s energy as these electronic mediums are the backbone for global events in the evolving art of yoga to stay afloat.

BB: You are now a Yoga Teacher and Therapist in a new studio in Marylebone. Indaba Yoga. Is it important to be regularly in one place rather than moving around?

LR: Its always been my intention not be a stressed out or burnt out yoga teacher and for that I am very much looking forward to teaching regularly in one place. Ultimately it helps students and clients because the more I know their practice, their minds and bodies, the more it becomes a joint healing process that we share.

Lizzie teaches at Indaba Yoga Studio in Marylebone Wednesdays and Fridays at 10am and 4pm, and Sundays at 10am as well as offering Thai Massage and Craniosacral Therapy by appointment.

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