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Rendez-vous with Cathy Alison

A couple of years ago I was going to an Iyengar class regularly at Alaric’s home studio, and there was a lovely woman there whom I never got to know. She was quiet, and clearly dedicated to the Iyengar practice. A few years later I found myself sitting across from the same woman, able to call her by name and about to learn about her journey to yoga.

FL: Cathy, how long have you been practicing yoga?

CA: I’ve been practicing Iyengar yoga seriously for about seven years, but started practicing about one or two classes a week from around 1998. My first class was in the early 1990s.

FL: What was your first class like?

CA: I was introduced to yoga by a friend in her home. We practised in her living room with the sunlight pouring in; it gave me a very special feeling. I really enjoyed being in her company and learning something that gave me a sense of peace and wellbeing. I later started attending regular weekly classes at my local gym, mainly with Louise Grimes. I loved the way she taught so I kept coming back.

FL: From those days at the gym with Louise, how did you “get hooked”?

CA: I guess I was hooked immediately,  but when I started attending classes at the Iyengar Institue in Maida Vale with Alaric Newcombe and Marco Cannavo I started to practice with much more frequency. I felt invigorated, energised and relaxed after classes and enjoyed learning ways of working with props to help me learn the asanas according to my needs. I also liked the discipline of the practice.

FL: What’s your daily practice like right now?

CA: I attend 4 – 5 classes a week and practice on my own alongside that. It works out that I practice for around 2 hours a day every day. My self practice depends what I am working on at the time – for example last year I was studying for an assessment, so my practice mainly focused on that. I practice restorative postures when I am feeling tired or when I’m on my cycle, or I might follow a sequence from a book or practice what I have learned in class.

FL: Has this changed over the years, and if so, how?

CA: The frequency of practice and intensity has changed. I ‘m now exploring the poses deeper and have a better understanding of the alignment and how to activate the body in different asanas. On the other hand, the more I am learning the subject, the more I realise there is much more to learn. As I have become more aware of my self, the more I have started to learn to attune my practice to my own needs and capabilities.

FL: Are there any methods of yoga that you have tried that ‘weren’t for you’ and why?

CA: I’ve tried various methods before finding Iyengar yoga and got something out of all of them at the time. I can’t say there’s anything I’ve tried that I have a big aversion to.

FL: How long do you think someone should practice yoga before they become a teacher?

CA: In the Iyengar system, you need to have practiced with a registered Iyengar teacher for a minimum of 3 years and your practice has to be judged to be of sufficient standard to apply. Teaching is a big responsibility and I think there needs to be an understanding of the practice before it can be imparted to others. Like with any subject or art,  you wouldn’t be able to just go out and teach it without having some knowledge of it.

FL: Who is your most influential teacher?

CA: Alaric Newcombe has been my main teacher and teacher trainer now for the past 7 years and has been a major influcence for me. I learn from him all the time. He’s very creative and helps give me the courage to push further when I can’t see this for myself. I also have been taught by Marco Cannavo for a number of years and have a lot of respect for him and the way he teaches. I went to Geeta Iyengar’s convention in 2009 which was inspiring and I hope to get to The Ramamani Iyengar Institute in Pune in the next couple of years. In the last 3 years I have also studied with Christian and June Pisano in France and the U.K.who again are very inspiring and interesting teachers.

FL: Do you incorporate spirituality into your teaching?

CA: Spirituality is a personal thing for people and has different meanings for individuals. I don’t feel that you can teach spirituality as such but I do feel that yoga encourages you to look within for the answers.

FL: Have you had any major injuries and how has that affected your approach to teaching asana?

CA: I haven’t had any acute injuries as such, but I am working with chronically stiff/round  shoulders that I have had ever since I can remember. I’m not naturally flexible so I think this can help me assist others who may have similar issues.

FL: Do you have a meditation practice apart from asana?

CA: I might sit for a period of time observing my breathing after a practice. I also find the asanas can be a form of meditation in action. Because the practice focuses in so much on what areas of the body are being activated or what needs to be activated, I am not thinking about other things. This I find really appealing about Iyengar Yoga as for the duration of time I am in a class or practicing, I am in the moment.

FL: How important is diet for your yoga practice and in general?

CA: This is work in progress. I’m still exploring what is best to eat for me. I think what I eat can have an impact on how I feel mentally and physically in the practice but I don’t have any hard and fast rules.

FL: What was the last workshop you attended?

CA: I went to  a very interesting New Year workshop with Alaric over 5 days this year.

FL: If you had only one book on yoga, what would it be?

CA: I regularly revisit Light on Life by BKS Iyengar.

Cathy’s quiet, friendly and empathetic demeanor will be welcomed at Indaba Yoga in Marylebone, where she’ll be teaching the Iyengar Foundation Course.

#cathyalison #indaba #iyengaryoga

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