Thirteen years ago, I stumbled across Jivamukti yoga whilst travelling around Thailand. I was on something of a working holiday, playing the piano and singing in various hotels in order to also live in them and wear tailored suits in the evening. In between hotel gigs, I would trek for days at a time outside the main cities so I could discover a Thailand that was not subject to Western pop music and pre-choreographed muay thai.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was actually in Thailand searching for something for more than distraction or entertainment. Since my teen years, I had practiced yoga in various forms. My first forays into the ashtanga primary series left me in a fumbling, sweaty mess but with incredible clarity of mind. The first time I heard the term ‘ahimsa’ was through my association with ISKCON, as was my introduction to the concept that music can actually be yoga too. And the Ananda Marga yogis showed me that sustainably and activism were actually part and parcel of a yogi’s life.
It wasn’t until I met Casey Gramaglia – my first ever Jivamukti yoga teacher – that I realised that all these precious teachings could come together seamlessly in one method, even one yoga class. Casey had put a sign up at the front of an ‘exotic bar’ called Stairway to Heaven (or something like that) in Chiang Mai. It said ‘Real Yoga, upstairs’. And so I walked upstairs. And there was Casey preparing to teach class. He was friendly and approachable. However, what impressed me most was Casey’s ability to thread teachings from the yoga sutra relating to ‘ahimsa’ into the actual asana class. And yet in the end, he modestly deferred this gift to his teachers, who I would later come to know as Padma-ji (Sharon Gannon) and David Life. I became enamoured by this unique and yet authentic method and realised that I had been waiting to climb those stairs a very long time.
It took another four years to find a Jivamukti Yoga teacher back home in Australia, Katie Manitsas (now my dear friend) and another two to get myself to Jivamukti Yoga Teacher Training at Omega (on the first DAY I remember thinking, my God, these are my PEOPLE). Two-and-a-half years after that I was ready to take on the apprenticeship program, under the expert guidance of Jessica Stickler at the New York centre.
Seven years after the absolutely transformative month-long experience at Omega, I am preparing to be a mentor at the first ever Jivamukti Yoga Teacher Training in India. To say that I am honoured to do this is an understatement. I have learned so much about my place in the world in the last thirteen years because of my gurus, Padma-ji and David. And I cannot wait to serve them once again, in this unique capacity.
The 2015 Jivamukti Yoga Teacher Training, India, is taking place at Govardhan Eco Village, run by ISKCON under the guidance of Sri Radanath Swami. It is a place where bhakti, ahimsa, meditation, self-study and nadam are not just experienced but lived to the highest ideals. I look forward to hearing your story and sharing this incredible experience with you.
Jai Sri Krishna