My life journey has been consciously shaped by a search for meaning, creative expression and natural beauty in life; but subconsciously, by a deeper call to find healing & spiritual connection - with nature and beauty still at their heart.
MY YOGA PATH
I began a self-taught yoga practice in 1995 (using a 1960s book as my teacher), while studying Philosophy (western) at university. I spent a few years after graduation living and working all over the world, including Vancouver, New Mexico, Taiwan, Thailand and Spain. I moved around the UK a fair amount too, before finding some grounding in Devon, where I've lived (mostly) since 2004.
I moved to Devon in 2004, to continue my fine art studies; but in fact living in Devon finally unlocked the much deeper power of yoga in my life. After a decade of self-taught personal practice, in 2005 I finally connected with a teacher who so greatly inspired and helped me on my healing path: Duncan Hulin, founder & director of the Devon School of Yoga. Duncan's Holistic Yoga classes (incorporating powerful kriyas, pranayama and meditation as well as asana) became my anchor for the next decade! Duncan also introduced me to the incredibly therapeutic benefits of holistic bodywork: the first shiatsu treatment I received from him was something of a quiet life-changer for me in showing me how effective such therapies could be. Duncan's teaching and bodywork is very much oriented in a conviction that we can each learn to tap into and support our intelligent bodies in their healing process; an approach which resonates with me still, many years later! From 2005 - 15, Duncan was my main teacher, and 2011-13 I trained as a yoga teacher with the Devon School of Yoga. (I began teaching in 2012, 6 months into the course.)
During the years 2009-15, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga became my main personal yoga practice, and during my "peak Ashtanga" period in 2015 I alternated Primary & Second Series as my daily practice. I was a serious & committed Ashtangi for a time, seeking out American pioneers David Williams, Nancy Gilgoff and Doug Swenson, as well as local teacher Andrea Durant.
It was Ashtanga which took me to Maui, Hawaii, in late 2015 - but, just as I moved to Devon for fine art but instead connected with yoga, I travelled to Maui intending to immerse myself in daily Mysore-style Ashtanga, and instead found myself realising traditional Ashtanga was no longer for me, and discovering a more heart-oriented, feminine, inspiring, joyfully creative and philosophically satisfying approach in Jennifer Lynn's Wisdom Flow Yoga. I experienced a profound heart-opening in my first class with Jennifer: bowing the head to the wisdom of the heart was a powerful teaching for me. This felt like the summing up of my life's journey/challenge in a sense, and set me on the path I am still on - and through walking this path, I can share it with others from a place of direct personal experience.
Maui marked a major turning point in my life, for so many reasons. I experienced profound soul retrieval and heart-opening alongside the awakening of more personal empowerment on this special island: something deep in my soul connected strongly to the energy and beauty of this land. A series of realisations unfolded during my time there, in a way which felt almost fated.
Jennifer's hugely inspirational classes were a fundamental part of Maui's magic for me, and the island's rich yoga culture also presented me with a chance to explore the softness & nurturing of Yin and Restorative approaches to yoga, a much-needed counterbalance to the very Yang energies of Ashtanga and other strong asana styles. My journey of compassionate self-nurturing, self-validation and empowerment really began on Maui; and it was here, in this first experience of the loving energy of the heart chakra, that I began, unknowingly, a path back to reconnection with the sacred feminine which led me ultimately to finally connect with cacao plant medicine a year or so after my return from Maui.
LEARNING TRADITIONAL MASSAGE FROM HAWAII & THAILAND
On Maui, I also discovered a wonderful authentic lomilomi massage school & spa: Ho'omana; this place, and its lushly tropical medicinal herb gardens became a magnet for me. I received beautiful nurturing traditional lomilomi massage (traditional lomilomi is different to the "temple-style" or "huna" lomilomi style which is more widespread now), and was inspired to book some private tuition there to learn the basics of this profoundly spiritual and healing form of massage. I had already been a professional Thai yoga massage therapist for a couple of years at that point: I loved receiving Thai treatments in the UK, and found them similar to shiatsu in some respects, and as I enjoyed being hands-on when I first started teaching yoga, I loved learning to work more closely and personally to help release tension and unblock the flow of energy in the body, in a style which drew on my existing yoga experience. Experiencing authentic lomilomi however, I found myself longing to work more with this modality, in this spirit of aloha (being in the presence of the sacred breath of life); the energy of Hawaiian healing practices is infused with the indigenous spirituality of the islands and this is something I resonated with very deeply (and still do).
Post-Maui, my yoga practice & teaching has shifted away from particular styles & lineages and became more rooted in my own personal explorations...I spent the winter of 2016-17 teaching yoga & giving Thai-Hawaiian massages at a yoga retreat in Thailand and continuing to allow my yoga offerings to evolve alongside experimenting with fusion bodywork and a less forceful, more gently responsive approach than the traditional Thai style!
THE SPIRIT OF CACAO
As I opened to the call of my heart ever-more, I found myself also gravitating more towards nature-based spirituality. In the wake of my (non-cacao-related) heart-opening experiences on Maui, I began to explore cacao, a plant medicine known for its heart-stimulating/opening properties - first through making my own chocolate and then finally connecting with her medicine in ceremony in 2017. Following this, I began to experiment with holding "Yoga Cacao Nidra" workshops which included a little raw cacao and nidra. Cacao was calling loud and clear by this point, and in spring 2018 I undertook a sacred cacaoista apprenticeship training on an intensive, deeply affecting & spiritually impactful training on the peaceful north coast of Ibiza, with Rebekah, a plant medicine practitioner whose ceremony I'd attended the previous year in London. I held my first ceremony in April 2018 and have been holding regular group ceremonies for women ever since. Cacao has been a powerful teacher plant and ally for me; her medicine provided a missing piece for me, opening up a definitively spiritual, intuitive feminine path rooted in reverence for the sanctity of nature. Journeying with cacao has also deepened my meditation practice significantly.
Hawaiian healing and spiritual wisdom also continues to be a great source of inspiration and study - until I am able to return to Maui, I keep the connection through my personal studies (including a course on Ho'oponopono run by Ho'omana Spa's training school) and allow these teachings to filter ever-more into my various offerings.
I continue to explore ways to combine yoga, cacao, nidra, meditation, journeying and massage, lomilomi and other indigenous Hawaiian traditional teachings; and to share these healing teachings and practices to help not only heal physically, but emotionally and spiritually. I hope to inspire and assist others in reconnecting to the sense of what is sacred, what makes us feel truly alive, and truly in right relationship with ourselves and all other beings. This is really what I understand health and healing to be about, at the deepest level: the Hawaiian greeting which conveys so much of their spirit is "Aloha" - meaning "in the shared presence of ("alo) the sacred breath of life ("ha")"...