Whistling and singing I am delighted to present to you the first of the Yogic Luminary Interview Series with yoga  teacher and writer Eve Grzybowski. 

Before we met in person, Eve taught me some invaluable lessons via the multimedia version of her book the "Art of Adjustment', which I bought just after I started teaching yoga. I remember jogging down the beach listening to her finely depicted, encouraging explanations about the ethical principles and techniques of yoga adjustments. 

I slapped my hands against my cheeks when I realized that Eve's 'YOGA SHED' (that I dreamed to visit at least once in my life) was only 1.5 hours drive from my new home on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales. I am keen yoga shedder ever since and try to make my way up to Mitchells Island as often as possible. 

What I love about her work is that no matter how big the class, Eve gives her full attention to each and every student. She encourages you to move through the matrix of motion and stillness with the meticulous focus of a conservator. As her student you will be so much in love with your piece of work that you may forget time and space entirely, leaving the mat with the invigorating residue of insight, pride and joy.  

In this interview Eve shares interesting insights about her personal yoga and meditation practice, beginners tips, an anxiety pacifying yoga sequence and her view on stressing less and living wholeheartedly. 

1. How do you befriend your body?

Before befriending one’s body, I think “getting acquainting” with it is the order of the day. Saying, “g’day”, “how’re ya goin’”, “what do you need in this moment”? This approach can relate to lots of activities: eating, drinking, recreating, doing asanas, socializing, working, and making love. Once I hear what my body is saying to me, I’m ready to befriend it by meeting its immediate needs. I try to tune in as much as I can remember (with mixed success!).

2. Describe your yoga practice - remembering that yoga is union, and not just asana. How do you live yoga on the mat, and off the mat? How many classes do you teach, how often do you practice, how do you take yoga off the mat?

This is such a good question. I’m always interested in what yogis do in the way of yoga practice. It’s certainly an evolutionary journey, being on the yoga path! What I did in 1971 hardly resembles what I did in my studio this morning.

My yoga practice goes for about 1.5 hours, soon after I wake up. I do a variety of asanas, making sure to include inversions – headstand, shoulder stand, halasana, setu bandhasana, and viparita karani. In my ideal practice, I do pranayama at the end, after relaxation, and then I sit for a few minutes.

My aim in practising is to cultivate equilibrium in my mind and body and take this into all my relationships. “Yoga off the mat” for me is where I put into practice the Yama and Niyama. My biggest challenge is learning to be non-reactive in all my thoughts, words and deeds. Marriage is a great arena for me to practice Ahimsa. My husband is always one of my best teachers.

3. Is meditation part of your practice? If so, in what way?

I don’t practice meditation on a cushion. My version of meditation is paying careful attention. I do this in my yoga practice, in doing my work as well as possible, in brushing my teeth, and in communicating and listening.

4. What tips would you give a brand new yogi about doing practice?

a. Roll out your mat.

b. Sit on it.

c. Do that at approximately the same time every day, to the best of your ability.

d. Do what you can, even if it’s only a little.

e. If you can’t figure out where to start, quiet your mind and let the poses you come back to you.

f. Use yoga books and DVD’s, YogaAnywhere practice cards to inspire you.

g. Most of all, remember you don’t have to do it well at the beginning. You just start. 

5. Favourite things?

Ooh! There are just too many to choose one! Donald Moyer’s, Awakening the Inner Body is right up there. Donald writes clearly and in depth about how to make the physical practice of yoga deeper and more satisfying. Besides, having met him, he’s just a humble, lovely person.

I should say, too, that the first yoga book I wrote, Teach Yourself Yoga, still holds up well after 15 years as a beginner’s all-round text.

I enjoy a site called myfiveminute yoga.com. It offers friendly advice for growing a yoga practice.

There’s a great centre, Darwin Yoga Space, which I like for its beautiful decor and fine teaching of the principle teacher and director, Carol Baillangeron. The climate is great, too, especially when we southerners are feeling the bite of winter. The premises are purpose-built carved out of a large warehouse space, with luminous tongue-and-groove hard wood floor, lemony walls, and a tropical garden outlook.

Style of yoga:
Call me old-fashioned… I’m not much of a “flow” girl and not too good at hot’n’sweaty. I like my props. I like to take time getting into a pose, settling, and then coming out at just the right time. In fact, I like long timings in poses. I keep coming back to the rigour of Iyengar-style because it moves me from my vata dosha jumpiness to interiority and stillness.

Oh, I’ll have to name at least five: Adho mukha svanasana, Sirsasana, Sarvangasana, Urdhva Dhanurasana, Viparita Karani.

Sequence – Here’s one that works well to pacify anxiety. It’s from our YogaAnywhere Tool Kit.

·      Tadasana

·      Uttanasana

·      Adho Mukha Svanasana

·      Pincha Mayurasana

·      Adho Mukha Vrskasana

·      Paschimottanasana, head supported

·      Dwipada Viparita Dandasana on a chair

·      Sirsasana

·      Sarvangasana, supported on chair

·      Halasana, supported on chair

·      Setu Bandha Sarvangasana over bolster & blanket

·      Viparita Karani, supported on bolster(s)

·      Viloma 1 Pranayama

6. How can people bring yoga into their everyday?

When you have been touched, inspired and moved by yoga, it is bound to overflow into your everyday life. You make healthier choices relating to diet, exercise, relationships with others, how you work and how much, how you recreate. Then, you reach a point where the energy you generate from your yoga practice is available not just for your own healing, but can be directed out towards humanity and the planet.

7. What is one thing that today you are grateful for?

All of my life!

8. How do you slow down and smell the roses?

I plant gardens! Digging helps to ground me.

I moved from the city to the country three years ago and, to be honest, I’ve noticed my life has gradually become busier over this time period. No one is immune to stress, even self-proclaimed retirees! Creating balance is a life-long challenge, just like coming back to being in the moment and watching each breath complete itself.

9. Any ideas on stressing less & enjoying more?

Live in Nature’s lap, breathe fresh air, buy fresh food and cook with joy, make friends and family a priority, feed yourself on inspiration, love unreservedly and receive love unabashedly.

We all know yoga teachers as a whole tend to burn out a lot. We know that activists tend to burn out. How can we funnel this passion and energy into the world but also keep our fires and tapas burning brightly?

This last year I gave a workshop on this very topic at the Yoga Australia conference. It’s a sad truth but human beings don’t often know their limits until they go over them. However, with yoga as a tool, we might just get the pendulum to not swing as wide, and, perhaps with grace, we  can even learn to make it balance on a five-cent piece J

10. How do YOU live a wholehearted life?

I keep creative juices flowing in whatever way makes my spirit soar: singing, dancing, drawing, making things with my hands, writing, reading, gardening, socializing with old friends, and meeting new friends. I love playing games like charades, bridge, and scrabble. This year I went up to Bellingen for a week and learned printmaking. Here’s my first attempt at making a pebble mosaic for our garden path.

...and any last comments/thoughts?

Thanks so much for the opportunity. I live for sharing yoga!

Eve is well known in the yoga world. Her yoga experience spans nearly 40 years. She founded two schools, Sydney Yoga Centre and Simply Yoga. Author of Teach Yourself Yoga and The Art of Adjustmentshe also writes for yoga magazines and journals. Eve has been a yoga teacher trainer since 1990 and sees training individuals to teach as the best way to promote yoga in the world. In 2012, to her surprise, she co-founded a new business YogaAnywhere for helping yogis do personal yoga practice: www.yogaanywhere.net

Eve writes about yoga and the country life at: eveyoga.com

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