Amy Hughes, Ashtanga teacher and practitioner, is a recent addition to Meadowlark and the Morning Mysore team. In this post, she shares her yoga journey and the teachers who have inspired and helped her with her practice so far.
As a recent addition to Meadowlark’s team, I was asked to introduce myself. I am a yoga student of 20 years, teacher for 13 and a dedicated Ashtangi. I recently finished the third series under the awesome instruction of Meadowlark’s own Sarah Durney Hatcher, and my teacher John Scott. Whilst many Ashtangis come with physical aptitude, I forged notes to avoid PE throughout school and was born with two left feet, suggesting that exploring the advanced series is possible for anyone with a soul on fire for this practice. My developments are best explained through my teachers.
Number One: My Mum
My mum got me to the mat in my tumultuous late teens, though the first family photos of me showing off my headstand are at age eight; my pallid pins aloft, skirt around my ears showing my pants to all and sundry. In India, they often say your mother is your first Guru, and when I chant to my teachers I remember it was her kind hand that held mine and walked me into the light of yoga when I was in the dark.
Number two: Bridget Woods-Kramer
In 2004 I met Bridget Woods-Kramer, the only certified Anusara Teacher in the UK and a senior teacher at Triyoga, London. Back then, she worked between London and an old chapel studio next to Cornwall’s only cathedral. We Cornish students practiced to her beautiful voice and the bell-ringers next door, a divine energy was with us one way or another. I taught for her at the chapel and assisted her in London and abroad for three years. Whilst Bridget and her shala are a halcyon memory, I left Anusara a few years before the founder was exposed for various immoral practices. It was good to learn early that complete devotion and reverence are degrees of esteem for Gods not humans.
In 2007 I went abroad for two years. I climbed to Everest Basecamp, met the Dalai Lama and hung out with the street dogs in Varanasi. One winter I even lived in an ashram (run by the spiritual guru of senior Ashtanga Teacher, Rolf Naujokat) in Haridwar, northern India, mostly chanting, meditating, and studying philosophy with a few basic asana. My favourite karma yoga job there was shaping cow dung into (in my case heart shaped) patties to dry out to keep a 50 year old dhuni fire smouldering between our daily puja. Modern studio karma yogis don’t know what they are missing.
Number three: John Scott
In 2008, at the tail end of that trip, I met my current teacher John Scott at his then home – a beautiful retreat in New Zealand. I knew instantly that everything would change from here. John became my teacher; at the end of my stay he said, ‘You need to stay longer’, and that sealed it. The Ashtanga method provided a structure and discipline which were a tonic. I came home and stuck a scrap of paper on the wall next to my bed with Patanjali’s sutra 1.12 ‘Abhyasa vairagyabhyam tat nirodhah’ (Practice and non-attachment stop the fluctuations of the mind) and practised with a new virya (energy). I have continued to study, apprentice and teacher train with John and will be assisting him at EcoYoga this September.
Number four: Myself
Due to the fact that John no longer has a home shala, before landing at Meadowlark I learnt to be a home practitioner, to be self-motivated and wait to gain new instruction and insight when I saw him. Practicing alone without a Mysore shala is humbling, revealing and helps to instill a belief in the teacher within. As a younger practitioner I was eager to please, whilst this surrender is powerful and one must have a teacher lineage or parampara, I have learnt to trust my instincts and intuition and don’t like the Ashtanga Police or zealots.
Yoga has helped me to choose a life that is financially modest, but time rich; low tech, low stress with plenty of literature, nature and practice. It has given me a light heart and a lot of laughter (often at myself). One of the fruits of the Ashtanga practice is the global community, it means we can arrive in a city with no friends and find people to practice with. I feel blessed to have arrived at Meadowlark. I love the energy of the community who practice in the Sun Studio in the morning and savour it all the more having practiced alone for so long. Sarah is a phenomenal teacher, surely the next addition to my list. Thank you all for giving me and my practice a home.