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.)
I'd personally experienced how beneficial eastern holistic styles of massage could be, especially as a complement to regular Yoga practice; and in my teaching at that time, I used to enjoy giving hands-on adjustments. It was a natural progression from my Yoga teaching to begin exploring Thai Yoga massage, and during 2013-14 I took several introductory workshops in Thai Yoga massage in Devon. At the end of 2014 I travelled to the far north of Thailand to take an intensive training in Thai Yoga massage with the Sunshine Network, in the Ashokananda lineage of northern-style Thai., after which I began my professional practice. (I subsequently spent the winter of 2016-17 teaching Yoga and giving Thai massage treatments to guests and staff at an international retreat centre on a quiet island in the southwest of Thailand.) In 2017 I travelled to Portugal to train in Advanced Techniques for Thai massage with Hadadi School of Thai Massage.
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. My time on Maui was a major turning point in many ways: I realised I'd gone as far as I wanted to within the strictness and external validation of the Ashtanga path; it was time to embrace a more feminine, self-validating, nurturing approach. Exploring the island's rich Yoga culture, I had a profound heart-opening experience during my first Wisdom Flow class with Jennifer Lynn, whose joyful, heart-centred, inspiring teaching, rooted in influences blended Vinyasa, Anusara and Kashmiri Shaivism, became my daily class for the rest of my stay and suggested possibilities for my own evolving personal practice. 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.
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 nature spirit for both spiritual and personal healing purposes. 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 plant spirit medicine ceremony format inspired by Amazonian traditions. Subsequently, my journey and education with cacao continued independently for several years, guided by an ever-deepening relationship with the medicine through my own daily practices and sharing ceremonial cacao regularly for groups of women around Devon from 2018 onwards.
In early 2022 I embarked on further cacao training, this time with the Mayan Wisdom Project - as I align myself more consciously with the indigenous Mayan traditions, I wish to express my deep gratitude to and appreciation for my teachers Kajib Tzik'in Chuj (Jessica), W'ukub K'at Saq'ik (Jerico) and Yasmira of the Chinimital del Ka'kaw collective, to Tata Mario, Tata Juan and Tata Miguel, to Cecilia Mendoza Chiyal, founder of Ruk'u'x Ulew women's collective of artisanal cacao producers, and to Solveig Barrios, founder and guide of the Mayan Wisdom Project, for the priceless opportunity to listen to and learn from this wonderful group of indigenous Mayan teachers. (More about how I came to cacao here.)
As someone drawn to indigenous wisdom, it's my intention to share respectfully, authentically, with integrity and the permission of those who carry these teachings ancestrally. My original study background was in western philosophy (specialising in applied ethics, moral, social & political philosophy), and later in fine art (practice and history - especially drawn to the 19th/early 20th century European artists who were inspired by art from other cultures) - in some ways, I feel these earlier study interests continue to be relevant to the work and study I now do; hopefully helping me to navigate the waters of learning from other cultures respectfully and sharing what I have their blessing to share with sincerity.
On this ever-evolving path, cacao, meditation, Yoga and the natural world are my anchors. Besides my deepening cacao path rooted in Mayan teachings, Zen and Taoist 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, and expansiveness, gradually developing the energies of the heart, and always spellbound by the skies.