I began a self-taught Hatha Yoga practice in 1995 (using a 1960s book as my teacher), whilst studying Philosophy (western) at university. After graduation, I spent a few years living, travelling and working abroad (including Vancouver, New Mexico, Taiwan, Thailand & Spain - teaching English as a foreign language in the last 3). During these nomadic years, disillusioned with the western approach to seeking meaning, I developed an interest in Taoism, Zen and Buddhism.
A few years later, back in the UK, I focused on reconnecting with my creative energies, studying art formally for 5 years (culminating in a second degree, this time in Fine Art). Art college brought me to Devon, but after a decade of self-taught home practice, I connected with a wonderful & authentic teacher, Duncan Hulin, founder & director of the Devon School of Yoga, in 2005, and a deeper journey into Yoga and my own healing process began. From 2005 - 15, Duncan was my main teacher: his weekly Holistic Yoga classes incorporating kriyas, asana, pranayama, mantra, meditation and classical Yoga philosophy providing an authentic, grounded yogic education. In 2011-13 I trained as a Yoga teacher with him on the DSY's 500hr YTT. I began teaching in 2012, 6 months into the course. (Learn more about my approach to yoga here.)
During the years 2009-15, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga became my main personal yoga practice: I became a dedicated Ashtangi for a time, seeking out American pioneers David Williams and Nancy Gilgoff, Doug Swenson and local teachers such as Andrea Durant, amongst others. Ashtanga studies took me to Portugal, London and finally Maui, Hawaii, in late 2015. On Maui, I realised it was time to free myself from the strictness of systematised approaches rooted in external validation and the tendency to measure "progress" through ever-more challenging asana practice... l discovered a heart-oriented, creative and inspiring approach in Maui teacher Jennifer Lynn's Wisdom Flow Yoga classes, a fusion of Anusara, Ashtanga, Kashmiri Shaivism (a branch of Tantric philosophy), Vinyasa Flow and other Yogic influences. My time on Maui was a major turning point in many ways. I also connected strongly with the energy and natural beauty of the island and Hawaiian healing traditions, taking a private one to one training in basic lomilomi whilst there. (I'm also an experienced Thai yoga massage practitioner, having trained in the far north of Thailand with the Sunshine Network in 2014, and later in Portugal - though this is not part of my offering currently.)
After Maui, I returned to the UK primed to explore the energy of the heart and also wanting to tap into the vital energy of the natural world more deeply. I'd long been sympathetic to more animist perspectives, and interested in accounts of indigenous cultures using sacred plants in rituals to connect to spirit and receive healing; I was both interested in and wary of powerful entheogens, but had heard that cacao - the pure precursor to chocolate - was a gentle heart-opening plant medicine which could also be consumed in ceremonies.
I'd first heard about cacao being used as a plant medicine in 2014, but it wasn't till 2017 that I finally headed to London to participate in a cacao ceremony for the first time. The heart-opening medicine combined with a deep inner journey was beautiful and reminded me strongly of the opened-heart Maui feeling; I began to experiment with yoga workshops involving cacao, deepening my connection and getting a feel for whether I felt I could in time hold ceremonial space and share this medicine.
I felt a strong calling to go deeper still with cacao, so in spring 2018 I travelled to Ibiza for an intensive Cacaoista (one who works with cacao as a sacred plant spirit) apprenticeship training with Rebekah, the plant medicine practitioner whose ceremony in London I'd attended. This training offered a powerful initiation and immersion into working with cacao in a traditional plant spirit medicine ceremony format, based on Amazonian ceremonies using other plants. Subsequently, my journey and education with cacao has continued independently, guided by an ever-deepening relationship with the medicine in daily rituals, solo ceremonies, and through holding many ceremonies for others around Devon since 2018.
On this ever-evolving path, Yoga, cacao, meditation and the natural world are my anchors. Taoist and Zen philosophies continue to ground me, as does all the time I can possibly spend in nature! Following the Moon through her cycles of growth and decline also help to focus awareness on the natural harmony which underlies this cycle, beneath the appearance of constant flux - tuning into the patterns of the lunar cycle has been a great teacher in this sense, and a beautiful way to stay connected to and oriented within nature's greater rhythms and cycles. Always exploring how to cultivate that balance of groundedness, rooted in the earth; but also expansive, spellbound by the skies.