Is the myth true about Leo being the KING OF THE JUNGLE?
Of course!… But maybe you’re asking the wrong person 😉
Would you say that you are a typical Leo – generous and kind, energetic, strong will power?
I would say I can be like that, but it depends on the abundance of my own energies, and the situation, and how much my Scorpio ascendant is getting involved!
I have seen you on stage a few times and you seem to love being up there, a true entertainer.
I do enjoy the freedom of being on stage, freedom from all the normal limitations and projections. It gives a chance to experience other realities and energies that I might not be confident to express in normal life. I used to avoid performances like the plague when I was younger, until I got involved in music and played in bands where I could hide behind a guitar and my long hair! But it was only after joining this yoga school that I really discovered what performing was about and started to learn what it meant to embody greater energies and even consciousness – to be a channel of what the audience needs to receive. That is what I love – being able to live far greater realities, growing through the process and helping others to grow.
Have the characteristics of your star sign amplified or changed in anyway since you started practising? I’ll mention a few of them here:
Kind and big hearted
How dare you ask such an impertinent question! Yes, they have amplified… Actually it’s been a process of becoming more aware of what those qualities are, and their significance. I didn’t know that much about astrology before, so through the yoga and tantra courses I have become much better informed and seen how these qualities, at least the positive ones, fit into a larger picture of nature’s cycles. One thing I don’t always like about astrology is how some people learn a little bit about it and then think they know your entire personality: ‘Oh you’re a Leo, you must want to lead …’ etc., etc. and pigeonhole you, but then on the other hand I will sometimes find myself playing the Leo role, just because I think that is what people expect – or someone needs to do it. When I’m not playing the part though, I’m quite a private person and enjoy my own space. Generally I have tried to move towards the more positive qualities, which is in fact allowing my Leo soul to express itself ever more fully – it just makes me happy!
Recently in the tantra teacher training course, we were split into groups according to our signs and tasked to create a performance exemplifying those characteristics. I have to say that this was one of the most healing, nourishing and transforming things I have done in a long time!
You are also one of the yoga teachers in our school. How does it feel to teach in such a wonderful environment?
Well as you said, it is wonderful. To be able to work in an environment and teach something, that truly resonates with your soul and everything you want in life, is all that anyone could hope for!
Do you see changes in some of the students that you teach? How does that make you feel?
This is one of the most rewarding aspects – to see how your students grow as a result of the teachings they receive and the aspiration that develops inside them when they start to see that these things genuinely work!
Not dissimilar to the type of initiatic theatre mentioned earlier, teaching also involves opening as a channel to powerful energies and higher consciousness, which is shared with the class through the heart connection you all have, so obviously you become close, like a spiritual family as you journey together on the path.
(The teacher training course is a wondrous adventure! It is open to students in the 3rd year and above, in case anyone is feeling inspired from this!)
I have to give a mention here to the yoga class I have spent the last three years with. We will be going our separate ways at the end of this year so that I can take the new first year group in the autumn, and honestly it is a sad moment! I’ve grown very fond of them indeed, but I think they know that…
Where and how did you discover yoga?
Well, being half-Indian you might imagine that it came through my mother, but she actually grew up in a Catholic family who would have raised her to regard all things yogic as for ‘heathens’. Not a view she holds now, but other than cooking lots of lentils, knitting and going to gentle yoga classes like many people did back in the 70s, she wasn’t exactly steeped in Indian mysticism! Somewhere inside me though the Indian soul was whispering, and pushing me to understand the meaning of life beyond the mundane. This culminated when at the age of 28, my life took an abrupt change of direction (all the astrologers will be saying ”Aaah, Saturn returns” and giving each other knowing looks!). My relationship, band and job all ended within a month of each other and I was given the opportunity to do something completely different. I had a very inspiring summer, free to follow many inspirations, and began to receive all kinds of answers and realisations about life which went straight into my journal! Naturally, this change wasn’t easy at first but I helped myself by becoming alcohol-free and vegetarian, and doing lots of yoga classes – mainly Iyengar and Ashtanga at the time – and this is what got me through. I had always had a calling to teach, and now I had found something worthwhile teaching, so by that December I was on a plane to India to become a yoga teacher! Other than that, I had no itinerary, but as is Mother India’s way, she revealed a very beautiful and inspiring journey for my soul, that kept me there for 18 months during which time I stayed in many ashrams and monasteries, on courses and retreats, sometimes studying, sometimes teaching, and during this time I met a senior teacher from this school and also several faces you will still see at Tara in London and Oxford today.
Were you already looking for a spiritual path before this?
Yes, but without really knowing where to look. As a teenager I used to try and work out the point of it all, but the mind alone can be a cold and dark place, easily tending towards nihilism until it is warmed up and grounded in truth by the heart (but this didn’t really happen until many years later – actually when I began practising yoga and started to feel ‘whole’ for the first time in my adult life). Initially I was drawn to the music and mysticism of the 60s – I still regard Hendrix as my first real teacher, the first to open my eyes to other realities, but it’s all too easy to get lost down that particular rabbit hole! Then I was drawn to martial arts, enjoying the coming together of physical and mental discipline, knowing that it was based in spirituality, but never really finding it being taught in that way. Unfortunately, in those days, I had the same experience when trying to find a genuine yoga class – they all seemed to focus on the physical side without any real understanding of the spiritual reasons behind it. I didn’t really find that meaning until I got to India – until I went to the source!
How has yoga changed your views on life?
Well I can honestly say that only through yoga and tantra have I found a meaningful view of life. Before there was just confusion and ignorance. It’s the only ideology I’ve found with a broad enough perspective to explain and put meaning into every aspect of life. It’s perfectly logical really, if yoga is the path of union with the infinite, with godly reality, with ultimate truth, then of course it can explain everything – nothing can possibly fall outside that remit, beyond the interactions of consciousness and energy. All other sciences, philosophies, even religions to some extent are limited, partial truths because they only consider part of the picture. This is something I have come to believe because I have never found anything, nor can I imagine anything, that can’t be explained from the perspective of tantric yoga.
When we align mind and heart with truth and love, there can only be one outcome… need I say more?!
Could you describe the highlight or the moment when you knew that this is your path, or some of the moments that you remember as life changing?
That was a very clear moment for me during my first trip to Romania for the spiritual summer camp in Costineşti 2001, just after I came back from India.
A bizarre set of circumstances took me there, involving Magdalena and three chance meetings in England and India over two years, an amazing tale of synchronicities which we don’t have space for here, but one I told in the UK summer camp this year.
It was the first time I had really met the Romanian heart of this yoga school, also the first time I met Grieg, its founder, and I was struck by the wholehearted strength of these people who seemed somehow free of a lot of the emotional baggage I saw in many of the spiritual seekers in India. It seemed like the spiritual ‘tourists’ I met were just running away from themselves or issues in their lives, going to India and learning many amazing truths, but not transforming any of the core problems, hence the baggage. I think a lot of this was due to the lack of meaningful ways of incorporating sexuality and desires into spiritual life so that a lot of fundamental issues relating to who we are as men and women are left unresolved to fester away beneath the veneer of being a ‘spiritual person’. Some part of me had always been looking for tantra, without knowing exactly what it was, so meeting these people who seemed so complete due to fully accepting their desires and incorporating them into their spiritual life made me feel like I had found my spiritual family.
The precise moment was an evening on the cliffs overlooking the Black Sea, just as the sun was setting with a beautiful peach sunset and sparse flocks of birds traversing the huge sky. Wonderful angelic music was playing as we waited for Grieg to arrive to start that evening’s spiral meditation. There was such an expansive warm aura of love and contentment, coupled with excited anticipation for Grieg’s imminent arrival and the evening’s events, that I felt like I was getting a glimpse of Satya Yuga, the coming age of enlightenment and universal spirituality. It was one of those undeniable moments when my soul was singing…
Do you have a favourite technique or asana? Is it the lion pose by any chance, or nabhiasana or mayurasana as they amplify the energies of the sun which rules the sign of Leo, or to say it better, is ruled by Leo? 🙂
Nabhiasana and mayurasana are wonderful postures for awakening the inner fire and gaining wilful control over the emotions. I can even say that mayurasana has saved my (emotional) life on some occasions or in challenging periods. I also enjoy simhasana – the lion pose – for its alchemising effect of transforming the lower instincts into higher capacities and elevated states, and the Leonine nobility that brings. Leo is seen as the ruler of the zodiac, its source of life, and through the connection to the Sun, somehow closest to the spiritual heart, although with some strong ego challenges to overcome in reaching it. I would have to say that my favourite moments are when, in meditation, I get glimpses of just how close that spiritual freedom can be, a glimpse of the birthright of the Leo, if he can just stay humble!!
Is there any wisdom that you can share with us while we have you here?
Be happy… Hakuna matata!
You’re the only one getting in your way, so accept yourself, realise your biggest issues are normally covering your greatest treasures, and allow yourself to be happy. It’s your birthright!!
So says the King of the Jungle… 😉