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THANK YOU BEX FETHERSTONE EDITOR
BEEZ from 106STORIES CREATIVE DIRECTOR
CONTRIBUTORS ASHIKA GOGNA DOMINIQUE DANIEL DYLAN WERNER JACOB PARIT NOOMEK JAMES FRENCH JUSTIN WOLFER KAREN YEOMANS LAURA KASPERZAK LINDSAY JESSUP LOCKEY MAISONNEUVE MAMASTE MIRANDA TODD OFFICER MILO
PAOLO SANCHEZ PATRICK BEACH PENICILLIN ROBERT STURMAN SARAH DEAN SARAH MCALEXANDER SOPHIA HERBST STEPH BIRCH TIAS LITTLE TONSILLITIS YULADY SALUTI
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photo STEPH BIRCH
Teachings of Tonsillitis by The Accidental Yogi
Strength in the Face of Adversity Feature
Dylan Werner / Patrick Beach / James French
by Steph Birch
Fly Baby, Fly!
by Laura Kasperzak
The Art of Power Yoga
Homemade Retreat by Sarah Dean
EDITOR'S LETTER The Story In Your Head
n recent months I spent more hours than I care to remember poring over ‘Scientifically Stretching’, by Thomas Kurz and for a short period, I was convinced that it was the answer to all my problems (not least because it contains hilarious photographs of men in the splits with glamorous eighties babes perched nearby). Mr Kurz understood that my great issue was my stubborn right hip, which absolutely refused to succumb to my flexibility demands. I loved Mr Kurz because he told me it wasn’t my fault, it was the natural set up of my bones and joints, and I felt better knowing that it wasn’t me that couldn’t do it, it was my bones. Then I spoke to super-yogi and cancer survivor Yulady Saluti (p32), and she burst my bubble. “Just because you’ve been through a double mastectomy doesn’t mean you can’t do full dancers pose, just because you’re missing a few muscles in your pelvis or your legs doesn’t mean that you’re not going to be able to press into a handstand. But if you say you’re never going to be able to do something, then it’ll never happen.” If you take only one thing from this issue, then take what Yulady says, “let go of the story in your head and just do it.”
Bex Fetherstone Editor
Officer Milo by ROBERT STURMAN
STUDIO STOCKISTS Thank you to all the studios who’ve supported us! To join this list contact firstname.lastname@example.org
LONDON: Triyoga Soho, Chelsea & Camden Jivamukti Yoga Kensal Rise The Life Centre Notting Hill & Islington Hot Bikram Yoga Balham, Fulham & London Bridge Yoga Haven Clapham, Islington & Richmond Fierce Grace City Evolve Wellness Centre South Kensington Stretch London Fields & Shoreditch Good Vibes Covent Garden & Fritzrovia The Light Centre Belgravia & Moorgate Yotopia Covent Garden The Power Yoga Company Fulham Embody Wellness Vauxhall Special Yoga Kensal Rise Yoga Centric Crouch End Lumi Power Yoga Hammersmith Samsara Wandsworth Yogarise Peckham Victor’s Lab Peckham Body Align Elephant & Castle Down To Earth Tufnell Park The House of Yoga Putney Oakside Yoga Honor Oak BIRMINGHAM Yoga Haven Solihull Yoga Sweat Town Centre LIVERPOOL Planet Yoga Absolute Yoga Bikram Yoga ABERDEEN Love Yoga
Tias Little by ROBERT STURMAN
ROBERT STURMAN Photographer Interview
dedicated yoga practitioner, artist and photographer, Robert Sturman’s photos are renowned for capturing something other than just bodies making shapes. Sturman’s work tells stories of beauty from around the world, as he says “I often think of Rumi who said, ‘I can’t stop pointing to the beauty’, that feels right to me.” Check out Robert's work at www. robertsturmanstudio.com and @robertsturman
How did you come to photography? When did you pick up your first camera? There were always cameras
around when I was growing up, but I received my first SLR at fourteen when my father dropped me off at boarding school. When I asked him what I should take pictures of his response was, “anything that you love.” To this day, that simple piece of advice has been the foundation and inspiration to all of my work.
How did you come to photographing yoga? Do you have your own practice? I took my first yoga class when I
was eighteen years old but it took me until my thirties to ask myself what kind of a life I wanted to create. I was an artist and my many of my heroes had lived lives of self-destruction. I wanted to explore what would happen if I took a different path. I wanted to be a meditator, a person who created art from a place of joy rather than desperation. Yoga seemed like a perfect companion for cultivating a life of benev-
olence. So far, it has been a successful experiment. What are you aiming to capture with your photos of yogis? I think that the expressive, poetic gestures of
the asanas are truly beautiful. With yoga, you can take any scene on the globe, from a prison to a concentration camp, and compose it with a figure in a deep and sincere pose, and so much light is created.
You've photographed yoga across the globe - where's the most inspirational place you've been? Africa was one of
the most exciting places I have worked. I had read photographic essays which had come out of Africa and most of them focussed on the terrible suffering. When I first heard about the work that the Africa Yoga Project was doing I thought that it would be the perfect opportunity to shed light on something extremely positive and healing that was going on.
From African orphanages to San Quentin Prison, you've photographed yoga in action despite all sorts of adversity. What were you trying to shed light on with these photos? I believe that the photograph is
the most powerful form of communicating ideas. There's something about yoga imprinted in an image, that allows us to see the asanas as a vehicle used by humans striving to reach excellence. The reality is, there are prisoners, police officers, soldiers, CEO’s, and every other type of human being, all waking up each day with the intention to be the best version of themselves that they can be. These are the people I aim to celebrate in my work.
You've also photographed some incredibly strong people - cancer survivors for example - did your camera capture what yoga did for them in those tough times?
My intention was to help them to rediscover their dignity. Together we created images of beauty that exposed their struggle, because they were proud of that struggle. It’s powerful to be able to show people how amazing they are. As human beings, we often spend so much time feeling that we’re inadequate, so if my work can make peo-
Robert Sturman by MAMASTE
ple feel that they belong, then I am doing my job. What's the story behind your favourite photo?
The truth is I create my favourite photo every day. This keeps it exciting to me – each day I wake up with a hunger to discover what’s next.
Do you take photos for others, or for yourself? I used to ‘take’ photographs until one day I realised that taking is stealing. Now I connect with my subject and through our shared humanity, we ‘make’ a photograph together. Portraits are not made with cameras, they're made when two souls make an agreement and enter into unwritten contracts. What do you want people to take from your work?
Artists tell the stories of our world, that's a re-
sponsibility. It's ironic that artists have a reputation for being destructive and crazy, when the reality is that we need to be extremely responsible because we are telling stories that last throughout the ages. Through my work I want to celebrate the beauty of our world and the people in it, rather than try to create a fantasy of a better world. How does yoga influence your art? I practise yoga to
remove the unnecessary. There’s a quote which says, "creativity is total relaxation" which is so true. I want to create images that expand how we think about things and bring a sense of connection to people from all walks of life, which is just what yoga does. Building awareness and connections is an important aspect of my work: we can create more light in the world by simply turning our internal lights on.
Jacob Parit Noomek by ROBERT STURMAN
SPRING PLAYLIST One World
ssue 2 was read by 30,000 people from 35 countries around the world! To celebrate we decided to put together our first One World practice playlist. Travel around the globe in just 60 minutes from the comfort of your own mat...
Nadia Nitin Sawhney
3 x Sun Salute A
Needy Girl (Radio Edit) Chromeo
3 x Sun Salute B
I Changed My Mind Lyrics Born C'est Comme Ça Féfé Amor Pa' Mi Sergent Garcia Le Temps Fail Son Affaire Sonith No Caminho Do Bem Tim Maia
Venga Jehro I Know, Didn't I Slimkid3 & Dj Nu-Mark Dans Tes Yeux Anis Soldat/Coлдat 5Nizza
Feeling Alright Rebelution Near Light Ólafur Arnalds
TEACHINGS OF TONSILLITIS WORDS THE ACCIDENTAL YOGI
“Be kind to your body because it’s doing so many amazing things for you every day”.
’m sat in bed writing this as I slowly but surely claw my way back to health after a particularly hideous bout of tonsillitis. Yesterday, before my course of antibiotics began, my boyfriend was doing his morning practise near my hole of grotty illness inside a duvet and just looking at him in plank made me feel sick, “how are his limbs even doing that? I will never ever be able to do yoga again”, I thought to myself as I mustered all of my energy to turn and face the other direction. I drifted in and out of sweat-drenched sleep, dreaming wacky dreams. In my awake moments I attempted watching trashy TV, but the characters danced around the screen and spoke at an abnormal volume. I cried when my mum called and asked me if I was ok, and I laughed when my aforementioned boyfriend pretended to be Marco Polo (no idea why) for ten minutes to try and entertain me. I was delirious. Now, as the antibiotics have started to kick in (I lost the will to live with my usual “my body can fight it” protests), I think I have learnt a lesson. I’d been do-
ing well with my ‘practise more, be more bendy, get stronger’ resolution, but I continued to get frustrated with myself when my strength waned, when my limbs wouldn’t stretch any further, and when my lungs ran out of puff. Did I thank my body when it put up with my endless attempts (and failures) at pincha mayurasana? No, I berated it for not being braver. Did I thank myself for coming to class every time I ended up on my mat at some hideously early hour of the morning? No, I was too busy asking why I didn’t do it more often. Why hadn’t I been grateful for what my body was already doing for me? Today, I might be allowed outside (gasp!), and tomorrow maybe I’ll manage a walk around the block. In a week I’ll be back on my mat, and I’m going to try so hard to take on board what I’ve been told so many times before: ‘be kind to your body’, because it’s doing so many amazing things for you every day. So what if you don’t make your yoga practice today, get over it and find something else to thank your body for, and that little bit of compassion can be your yoga for the day.
Ashika Gogna by ROBERT STURMAN
Patrick Beach & Dylan Werner photo KAREN YEOMANS by MIRANDA TODD
MEN TALK YOGA An interview with men.
ven the briefest of delves into the historical vaults of yoga will throw up the fact that yoga was originally a male-only zone. Why is it then that we’re bombarded with images of lycra-clad women showcasing serene smiles, perfectly ponytailed hair and ultra bendy bodies? We’ve got Sweaty Betty and Lululemon, but are still shamefully lacking in any male-focussed yoga brands (Sweaty Sam, Liamlemon? I think not). Thankfully, things are starting to shift, limber ladies are slowly losing domination (hurrah for equality) and the world of yoga, now endorsed by footballers, boxers and rockstars alike, is finally becoming an acceptable place for men to test their balance. Draze chatted to Patrick Beach, Dylan Werner and James French, guys who got bendy and never looked back (except in full wheel). How did you come to yoga? D: I was first introduced
to yoga in 2001 as a part of my martial arts training, but it wasn’t until almost five years ago that I stepped into my first real yoga class. I was honestly just trying to meet girls, but after my first real class I loved it so much that I’d forgotten why I came. Like most people, what brought me to yoga isn’t what
keeps me in the practice. P: I started practising yoga on the kitchen floor of my parents house while my mum cooked dinner. Growing up I played a lot of basketball and I was so stiff from constantly training and competing that sitting on the floor had become quite a challenge by my
by women but stereotypes are definitely changing. Many of the great and most popular teachers in LA are men and I’ve had classes where the guys have outnumbered the girls. Many guys still haven’t caught on to yoga but that’s changing slowly. P: I don’t believe men are overlooked
DYLAN WERNER early 20s. I was single at the time too, so there were definitely some hopes of meeting girls in class! When I began it was all about the physical practice, but now for me it is really about having the practice to calm the riot in my mind, true mindfulness is the key to freedom in my opinion. J: Back in 2006 I was acting in a production of Twelfth Night which was touring India. We were based in Udaipur and every morning we practised with this wonderful old yogi who couldn't speak any English. Back then I practised martial arts too and initially I was only interested in the yoga as a tool for gaining more flexibility and preventing injury. As I continued to practise, I noticed my body was getting fit, but I also saw that my mind and soul were getting fitter. I later returned to India and trained as a vinyasa flow teacher and also discovered Tantra, which is a big part of my practice now. I'm continually astounded by how vast and varied the world of yoga is: the more I learn, the more I realise that I know nothing at all. Why are guys so overlooked in the yoga community? D: Yoga is still dominated
in the yoga community. Rather, men are overlooked by large companies who make yoga leggings and bright sports bras. When I first began practising I found inspiration from male yoga teachers like Phillip Askew, Brock Cahill and Simon Park. I watched them move with a total sense of effortless grace and they made me want to understand how I could create the same movements in my body.
There are loads of guys who think that yoga is 'stretching' or just for girls - what would you say to that? D: First of all, if you want to be
strong, you have to stretch, I could go on about that forever! I think what actually keeps a lot of men out of yoga is being afraid of being shown up by their female counterparts. It can be emasculating for a man to be dying trying to hold down dog because they don’t have enough shoulder flexibility, while the girls around them power through it. P: It’s a stereotype which, thanks to social media, is slowly changing. Instagram gives people the opportunity to see so many different yoga students, with different body types, share the way that they practise. People are so used to other sports, that when they hear “I’m going to play basketball, want to come?” they can
photo KAREN YEOMANS photo DYLAN WERNER
instantly identify in their mind what that activity involves. Before, people couldn’t do that with yoga because there are so many different styles and so it was surrounded by some sort of mystery and wariness, but now people are starting to become more aware of yoga and what it actually is, which is a beautiful thing! J: I wouldn't blame them for thinking that, but guys should remember that one of the most famous definitions of yoga is "yoga is the quieting of the fluctuations of the mind". If you think your life and your loved ones would benefit from you learning to quieten your mind, then come and give yoga a try. If you don't suffer from this problem, then you probably don't need to come, in fact, I'll come to you and you can tell me your secret!
you lot - did you start off like that? P: Haha, I don’t know what I started off like, as a yoga student probably really uncoordinated and awkward! I think that the competitive nature of most of the sports we play when we’re growing up puts people in that mindset of being the best, and yoga requires totally the opposite mindset. Learning to understand those things has been an interesting journey for me. D: Honestly, yes. I came into yoga very strong from rock climbing, but it wasn’t until practising yoga that I really started to unlock my strength potential. Back then I couldn’t do any of the cool handstands or arm balances that I can do now. Who gives a shit what people think of you, what matters is what you think of yourself and yoga helps you feel better.
PATRICK BEACH What part does 'strength' play in a yoga practice? P: Strength is so relative. I
think the more you practise, the more yoga becomes about strength of mind, having the strength to stay focussed, not tie yourself to the expectation of what you did yesterday, or what your goal is for tomorrow. Yoga is all about the true connection to the self, sometimes strength comes up because that is what is needed, but other times compassion or patience are needed. I truly believe a consistent yoga practice will strengthen the elements of the self that are needed to navigate the paths that we walk.
Not all guys are as muscly and toned as
What would you say to guys (or girls) who are afraid to go to yoga because they don't look 'perfect' or they don't drink green smoothies all day? J: I’d look them in the
eye and say that yoga is about many things but not about how we look. It's about realising that we are not alone, that we are all connected and part of something greater than ourselves. And when they looked back at me like I was nuts, I'd tell them that yoga will either give you a six-pack or it'll teach you to love the belly that you have....either way you're going to be happier than you are now so just come and practise.
Some people would look at some of your crazy postures and feel like they'd never be
Patrick Beach by PAOLO SANCHEZ
able to achieve that. How much time and dedication has it taken you to get to that stage? D: Pattabhi Jois said, “Practise
just as important as what’s going on for an experienced practitioner in a more complex pose. Theres a famous quote I like, "yoga is not about touching your toes, it's about who you are on the way down".
and all is coming.” You can achieve almost anything if you put the time in. I practise everyday. I study anatomy, I study kinesiology, I watch Youtube videos. I learn everything I can then I apply it to my own practice. And then I repeat it over and over and over until I can do what I wanted to do. If you think you’ll never get there, then you’ll end up being right. People try to measure the practice in years. It’s not years, but hours. Lots of hours, everyday! P: I think almost anything is achievable for anyone, it just depends on how much time you want to invest in it, whether it is in yoga or anywhere else. We are all naturally predisposed to certain things coming easily to us and other things being a total challenge. Often it’s our expectations of not being able to do something which hold us back. Our mind is far more powerful than we give it credit for. J: We sometimes need to be reminded that being good at a yoga posture doesn't make you a better person. My teacher Max Strom likes to joke with us "hey check out that mean guy doing the splits" or "oooh look
When you become a yogi, it affects everything you do. I couldn’t imagine my life now if it wasn’t centred around yoga. P: Yoga has made me a more con-
at that depressed lady with her legs behind her head". What is important, is what’s going on inside. For a beginner, the focus and commitment it takes to stand on one leg is
scious person. I’m more connected to who I am and how I treat people. We all create the world we live in and working together to create the best reality for everyone is some-
Do you ever fall over?! D: No, never. I’m perfect. Haha, of course I do! I try to push myself to my limit all of the time and when I do, I fall. I also fall out of poses like half moon or even tree pose sometimes. I like falling. It means I’m trying! P: Haha, sure, who doesn’t! If you practise something new or start to create more space in your body the poses change, which can lead to a few hiccups here and there. The body is different every day, the level of focus is different every day, we all work to find consistency with it, but one of the best things about yoga is that it’s ok to make mistakes. Just as long as you don’t take out all the other people in class when you fall! Does yoga seep out into the rest of your life? D: Haha! Yoga is my life.
JAMES FRENCH 24
James French by SHOTBYDOM (myyogalondon.com)
thing I really believe in and what I try to share with yoga. J: The yoga mat is like a microcosm of the rest of our lives. The way we deal with challenges and adversity in our practice reflects the way we deal with them off the mat. We can learn an awful lot about ourselves through our practice and from there we can start to make changes that will filter down into our ‘off-the-mat-selves’. But what it really comes down to is this: when I practise I feel good, when I stop I don’t feel so good. So I practise. It really is as simple as that. And finally, Patrick, how do you keep your beard and hair looking so neat, even when you're upside-down!?
D: Yeah Patrick! How do you look so good upside down? P: Haha who knows! My beard has a mind of it’s own, over the last few months it decided to stop growing down and just go for sideways. If it ever starts to fall into my face when I do handstands I’ll have to have a chat with it, but until then I’m going to keep letting it live a nice, well-trimmed life!
Enjoy classes with Patrick & Dylan from your own home Get strong, hone your inversions and improve your yoga practice through workshops and masterclasses from Patrick & Dylan via Cody's fitness videos. Build strength and develop the skill to perform advanced bodyweight movements and complex transitions with Patrick & Dylan's True Strength Inversions Bundle. For more information check out www.codyapp.com
Patrick Beach & Dylan Werner byPAOLO SANCHEZ
THE ART OF POWER YOGA By
photo STEPH BIRCH
t took months of smooth-talking coos from a friend to get me to try yoga. As a former athlete, I was not into this hippie, heavy-breathing, fall-asleep type exercise (yes, I judged and I judged hard). I longed for power and strength to boost my endorphins, a healthy junkie, if you will. I was an avid runner, tennis player, and reformer-pilates chick who loved a kickabout in the park with the guys. I loved competition. I loved to sweat. I loved the achy-sore feeling in my muscles after a good cardio session. And I was most definitely not interested in ‘trendy’ fitness classes. After much begging from my dear aforementioned friend (and the tantalising promise of a post-class beer), I finally bought the cheapest yoga mat I could find and begrudgingly purchased ten classes for $10 at my local power vinyasa studio. One Tuesday evening, I walked into the studio and let my floppy mat unfurl, looking around nervously and watching friendly faces chatting with neighbouring mats. Beads of sweat were starting to form before the practice even began, and as my nerves increased, so did my judgment. “What the hell am I doing here?” I thought, as a sweet-faced, tattooed and dreadlocked blonde waltzed over to my mat and introduced herself as the teacher. She requested my name. “Who me?!”, I thought. Yes, me, the newbie, ‘Fresh Meat - Alert!’ plastered across my forehead. Class began in child’s pose and my mind continued to run wild: “here we go, retiring for some shut-eye with a bunch of sweaty strangers. Repeat: what the hell am I doing here?” And it’s from that shaky starting point that something magical happened. Before I could finish questioning, sweat poured off my nose and down to my kneecaps, to my fingertips and to all of those lovely, smelly creases that don’t need mentioning. I begged, internally and often; “for the love of god, please take us back to child’s pose!” I couldn’t keep up with the class or with the words. “Find your breath” sounded
Ashika Gogna by ROBERT STURMAN
like a scientific formula in a foreign language and as we collapsed into savasana, I wanted to vomit, to laugh, and to cry. And then suddenly, I wanted to come back. I couldn’t explain what had happened, but I felt high and powerful and spent. That first painfully-wonderful yoga practice was years ago now and since then I’ve completed soul-connecting, love-encompassing, asana-infused yoga teacher trainings and my own practice has shown me how beautifully powerful I am. Yoga has taught me to identify the power in my muscles; I say a mental hello to limbs as they begin to shake in postures, I feel strong in my chaturanga push-up and I can physically see back, leg, arm and core muscles that have added new shapes to the contours of my body. This muscular power has brought a certain awareness of my own body and the messages it can convey, my posture is straighter, taller and my shoulders slouch less and less as the years go by. Through muscle power, I’ve gained the more subtle strength that comes with self-confidence and pride. But my practice has shown me other kinds of power too. It is in the moments that I allow myself to surrender, to let go, to slow down, that I am most powerful. Power is not only identifiable in muscle mass or force, but also in our ability to face ourselves, to be present and authentic, and in our ability to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. So often, we are running, hiding, living ahead or behind of ourselves because we feel inferior to the life choices we’ve made. We allow other people to fuel our beliefs and desires and fear of what we really want, what we really need and who really are becomes first choice. But no light exists without moments or years spent in darkness. It is in my pains, aches, and struggles (both physical and mental), in clawing my way out of black holes, that I have ended up in moments of light - and these moments are where I find the power that continues to move me through the endless tunnels of life. It is not easy to step away from what we think we are, what we think we should be and to actually look at our real selves and battle what’s in there. Yoga is a continuous process of breaking ourselves wide open and facing our struggles. Sure you can feel strong in your muscles and strong in your core, and that physical power is great, but it is within us that our true power lies. When we practise, one day we’re upside-down without a care in the world and the next it’s a struggle to touch our toes, but if we can allow that to be ok, then when we practise we’re really saying: “hey, this is me, this is who I am today”, and that is real power.
photo STEPH BIRCH
STRENGTH IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY
Yulady Saluti & Lockey Maisonneuve
Yulady Saluti by ROBERT STURMAN
ulady Saluti looked me straight in the eyes and told me, with a great deal of sincerity, that she saw cancer as a gift. Having had several relatives who have gone through the raw and often unbearable pain of various different types of cancers, some pulling through and others sadly not, I honestly thought she was mad. I’d been hoping to speak to a cancer fighter, a woman who’d battled the endless stream of drugs and chemo and won. The woman I’d had in my head was strong and stubborn and stuck her tongue out at cancer whilst balancing in a headstand. But here she was, and she wasn’t telling me that she’d sucker-punched cancer in the face, but that she’d gracefully accepted it, got rid of the packaging, used what lay inside and then mindfully placed it aside once its sell-by-date had passed. At first I wanted to be confused by her attitude, annoyed even, but then Yulady, diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago, explained her reasoning and I realised that she possessed a strength even greater perhaps than that required to sneer in the face of a life-threatening illness. “As odd as it might sound, I saw it as a gift I’d been given in order to be able to share my experience with other people, to help somebody else later on. That’s what got me through it.” Yulady decided to set aside her desire to jump to the ‘why me?’ conclusion, and instead chose to power through a hideous experience by focussing on how she might use it to help others going through the same. “One of the first things I did when I found out about the breast cancer was to google ‘double mastectomy’, I wanted to watch stuff about it, to read stuff from people who’d already been through it, and I found that there wasn’t a whole lot out there. There was definitely nobody who had documented their whole journey from day to day, and that was what I wanted, I wanted to know what was going to
happen from point A to point B, I wanted to know every litttle detail in between.” And so that’s what she did. On May 9th 2012 at the age of 32, Yulady Saluti was diagnosed with stage 2b breast cancer. Just a couple of days after her diagnosis she began documenting her journey with a video on Youtube entitled ‘I have breast cancer’. “I’ll be posting, hopefully every day, about what it is to live with my husband, six kids, and breast cancer”, she tells the camera as she lays in bed. “Right now we know nothing - you will be learning with us. Anyway it’s Saturday, so I’m going to get up and learn about cancer.” Yulady’s entire journey, from diagnosis to a double mastectomy and subsequent chemotherapy, as well as her incredible strength of mind and body, is documented on Youtube and Instagram, but she explains to me that her outlook hadn’t always been so positive. Surgeries and hospitals were nothing new to Yulady, who was born with a tumor in her colon and had already undergone twenty operations and lived with a colostomy bag for over four years. As a single mum in her early twenties Yulady waitressed during the daytimes and bartended throughout the night to support herself and her daughter. After her first colon surgery, facing huge medical bills and a thought process something like “what the heck? My life sucks right now” Yulady found cocaine. The next months were a continuous cycle of working and partying until her reality no longer mattered and after a stint in rehab a new, but equally continuous cycle was born - this time partying, entering rehab and recovering, only to get sick again and therefore sad again and start the whole hideous process over from the beginning. And then she found yoga. “I remember laying in my first svasana and thinking ‘I’m home’”, Yulady recalls. Less than a year after
Yulady Saluti by ROBERT STURMAN photo
that first class she trained as a yoga teacher and has never looked back. Yulady explains that yoga came to her, as so often seems to happen, at a very dark time, and that it taught her to let go of the future and the past and to focus on finding something positive in any given situation. Yoga showed her that we all have the ability to change our thoughts and our reactions to situations and in that way, we all have the ability to change our lives. “When I went through all of the issues with my colon I didn’t have yoga and I got very depressed. I was completely lost. I turned to drugs and alcohol and wasn’t a very nice person, I’d lost faith in everything that I believed in and all I could think was ‘why me?’ When I found out about the cancer though, I had been practising yoga for nearly seven years. If I didn’t have yoga I wouldn’t have survived the cancer ordeal. It made me look at things differently.” Through the documentation of her journey through cancer, Yulady hopes to bring awareness to women about the importance of checking their breasts every month and to promote discussion around hidden topics like breast cancer and mastectomies. She also hopes that through teaching and promoting yoga she can show anyone going through something seemingly unfaceable, that despair is not the only choice. I speak to another yogini, Lockey Maisonneuve, who knows only too well the story of facing the unfaceable. Having also undergone a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer, Lockey stumbled into yoga with the simple aim of increasing the range of motion in her shoulders after her operation. I’d wanted to talk to her about how yoga had helped her through the cancer and its aftermath, but instead our conversation went something like this: “Do you want me to talk about my cancer or about my other story?” Lockey asked me. “When
photo Lockey Maisonneuve by ROBERT STURMAN
you say your other story what are you referring to?” I replied. “Well there’s two stories”, she explained, “the first is the cancer of course, which most people can bear hearing about, but the second is a real doozy, it’s a little uncomfortable, so I don’t know if you want to hear about it?” Lockey went on to explain that having been introduced to yoga after her double mastectomy, she noticed that it was impossible for her to lay still in svasana. “One day I tried so hard to lay still that I ended up crying. I honestly thought I must be going insane”, she said, “why would anyone cry in yoga?” But the more she practised the more emotional baggage she felt resurfacing, and this is where her second story came in. “Both of my parents were alcoholics,” Lockey explains, “and one summer, when I was eleven, my mother sent my sister and I to go and live with my father in Florida. My sister explained to me that our mother had decided that she didn’t want to be our mother any more. While I was living with my father, he invited men into our home and they would pay him a fee to abuse and rape me, and that went on for two or three years. Eventually I went to live with my grandparents and they saved my life but I blocked the whole experience out and became a very angry person.” Lockey tells me that she had accepted her constant state of anger as an unfixable product of a destroyed childhood. She’d seen a therapist and was deemed to be ‘well’ and ‘moving on’, but the anger remained. After suffering through cancer, another thing to be angry about, yoga (and svasana in particular) made Lockey notice that she struggled be alone with herself, but she also noticed that the more yoga she did, the less angry she felt. “I couldn’t even muster up the anger any more,” she tells me. Then one fateful day, on a yoga retreat in Bali, the retreat leader came to ask Lockey how she was doing. “Yeah I’m great”, Lockey told her “the funny thing is…” and she blurted out her whole story. “You really never know who’ll end up coming on these retreats. Do you want to sit with me at breakfast?” was the retreat leader’s frank reply. “In that moment,” Lockey tells me, “I felt like someone had accepted my story, but clarified that it wasn’t what was happening to me any more. That gave me the strength to move on.”
Lockey Maisonneuve by ROBERT STURMAN 41
It was after this that Lockey decided she wanted to dedicate her life to yoga and to teaching people how to face adversity, of any kind, with the strength that yoga can bring. For Lockey, yoga is all about teaching people how to be with themselves and to feel like they’re in a safe place. “There’s so many people that don’t realise that you can find your own safe place, no matter what’s going on around you, inside of yourself.” And Yulady’s perspective couldn’t be any closer. We’ve gone off topic and are talking about what she calls her “inability to poop” because of the issues with her colon. “I found out just a few months ago that the issues with my colon are irreversible, and I’ll be getting a permanent colostomy bag this month. It’s funny how before I had yoga, I hated my colostomy bag so much. It was the problem, the only problematic thing in my life, and now, it’s the answer to my problems. Yoga has completely changed my perspective on things.” Yoga was the light in both Lockey and Yulady’s darknesses and it allowed them to let go. “When you see someone else practising, you don’t know their story, so don’t judge yourself against them”, says Yulady. “I’d told myself that I’d never be able to do certain things after so much trauma to my body. I had a story in my head about missing muscles and being too weak, but now I can do things I never would have imagined before.” Whether you want to give up smoking, stop being cross with your neighbour, or you’re desperate to nail your crow pose, “if you can be compassionate with yourself and allow yourself just a little bit of growth every day, then you can get wherever it is you’re aiming to be”, Lockey tells me. “But if you say that you’re never going to be able to do something, then it’s never going to happen.” As Yulady says, “let go of the story in your head and just do it.”
Yulady Saluti by ROBERT STURMAN
photo LAURA KASPERZAK
FLY, BABY, FLY! By
hen I first started yoga about 18 years ago, I never would have imagined that there was a entire Jedi-like world out there in amongst the incense and yogic breathing, full of crazy arm balances and inversions of almost any shape, size and variation that you can imagine. Handstands were familiar to me from years of gymnastics, however the pretzel-like balances of the physical yoga practice were not. It wasn’t until about seven years into my practice that I was finally introduced to my first arm balance, the famous crow pose. Most of you who are familiar with my instagram (@ laurasykora) are probably wondering, ‘was it easy for you?’ And the answer to that is really quite simple…“Hell NO!” I slid off my arms, I sported huge purple bruises on my triceps, I face-planted and most annoyingly of all, I got frustrated! For longer than I can even remember my crow pose might as well have been named ‘the squashed frog’ pose. The good news is that as time went by and I practised
more and more, my squashed frog slowly unsquashed itself, and eventually my crow was born, and with more time still my bakasana (crow) began to fly higher and for longer. Here are my best tips and tricks to get your crow soaring! Creepy fingers… Yep, I said it!
A solid bakasana starts with its foundation…the hands and fingers! Spread your fingers wide to create a sturdy base to balance on. Engage your creepy fingers by activating all the way up through your fingertips to grip your mat hard. As you start to move into arm balances and inversions, it will be your ability to really engage up through the fingertips that will enable you to keep your balance and prevent you from falling forwards. So engage your “creepy fingers”, and think of me when you do! Hug it in or strap it up!
Balancing solely on your hands can be a daunting task and can feel pretty much impossible to the best of us. Another key component to crow pose, is the slight external rotation of the upper arms and the hugging in of the elbows. When you bend your elbows to make a shelf for your knees in crow, they should remain huddled right next to your torso. Squeezing the arms in ultimately activates the serratus anterior muscle which runs underneath the armpit and along the first eight ribs on the side of the body. This muscle is crucial in stabilizing the arms and shoulders in crow. If you find it tricky to keep the arms hugging in, use a yoga strap or a belt. The loop of the strap should be as long as the width of your shoulders and be placed right above your elbows. The more you round, the lighter you feel!
Now that you have started to practise arm balances, you are probably more than accustomed to some lovely big bruises on your triceps. One reason for this might be that you are dumping your full weight onto your arms (think squashed frog again)! As you push the ground away (activating those creepy fingers), round your upper back, pull your navel up towards your spine and pull your heels up towards your buttasana (yep, that’s your bum!) These small actions will lessen the weight you feel on your triceps. One of my favorite exercises to practice this motion and to help build core and arm strength is the ‘tiger curl’. Start off in downward-facing dog: on the inhale lift the right leg high into the air and on the exhale shift forwards and hug your knee tightly in towards your chest whilst pulling your heel up and rounding your up-
Laura Kasperzak by ROBERT STURMAN
per back. Keep pushing, hugging and rounding as you connect your knee to your nose, holding each position for three to five breaths. Return to downward-facing dog and start all over again on the other side! Birdie perch it!
Creepy fingers? Check. Tightly squeezed arms? Check. Rounding the upper back? Check. Engaging the core, heels up towards your bottom? Check. Check. Knees nowhere near to staying on your arms? Uh oh… One of the reasons we practise yoga is to become more flexible. The more open the body gets, the easier some poses will become. Tight hip flexors can make getting your knees high up towards your armpits a real struggle. Instead of giving up or avoiding this arm balance, give your crow a perch! The simple act of elevating your feet a few inches by placing a block underneath them will give you the little bit of added height you may need to get the knees up towards the armpits and to find your balance. Whatever you do… don’t look down!
One final nugget of advice…don’t look down! If you are fearful of face-planting or falling forwards, looking directly down is likely to shift your weight slightly towards your head, therefore making it more likely that you’ll end up off balance. Glance slightly forward of your hands so that the crown of your head is lifted. Fly it higher!
Once you’re able to successfully hold your crow pose, you may be looking to take it higher by straightening your arms! As you begin to straighten the arms, your shoulders will start to move way forward of your wrists. When this happens, all of the above actions will need to be slightly exaggerated in order to become fully stable and solid. It is imperative to press into the earth and activate every one of your creepy fingers, squeeze your arms in tightly to stabilise your shoulders, round your upper back and engage the abdominals to pull the knees high. Remember that yoga is a journey and these things almost definitely won’t happen overnight. But a little practice every day will eventually keep those faceplants away. So, breathe, smile and enjoy the ride! @laurasykora
photo LAURA KASPERZAK
HOMEMADE RETREAT By
n empty week in early January lay ahead. A window of opportunity before my new job began, begging to be filled with something worthwhile; I wanted to pack my diary with pastimes other than eating, buying expensive coffees and procrastinating endlessly in front of a computer screen. A retreat in warmer temperatures than those of the average British winter sounded ideal - white sandy beaches and a limitless stream of yoga classes to keep the muscles stretched and the mind serene. A chance to cleanse myself and start the year refreshed, a bit more bendy and with a healthy tan to boot. But the heady combination of sun, sea and sandy vinyasas doesn’t come cheap. I’d done the maths about fifty times, trying to tweak the numbers in ever more inventive ways, but the computer (and the bank account) most definitely said no. It was when I could tweak no longer that I came up with my master plan. As normal, I decided to fill my week
with eating, buying expensive coffees and endless procrastination in front of a computer screen. But I also decided to fill it with yoga. I figured that if I put my mind to it, I could achieve at least the physical benefits of a daily yoga practice, and with a bit of luck, the mental ones too. I would design my very own DIY yoga retreat here in London at a fraction of the cost of one overseas. I’d swap sand and sun for stamina and strength-ofmind (and let's face it, some ‘invigoratingly’ cold winter mornings). I’ve been doing yoga on and off for about four years now. My first tentative classes - where I judged myself against the regulars, whose bodily contortions seemed better suited to a circus act - were followed by a trip through India which culminated in a week at the Sivananda Ashram in Kerala. This experience set in motion an unavoidable desire to attempt the contortionist antics of my classmates. But equally
important, if not more so, came the desire to bring the wider principles of my yoga practice, which were most definitely lacking (and who am I kidding, still are a lot of the time), into my daily life. I regularly reflect on my few days at the ashram and long for the same peace of mind and flexibility of body, so I looked again to Sivananda to build my homemade retreat. The ashram teaches four hours of yoga a day, so I decided that’s what I would aim for. I created a combination of classes - varying lengths, styles and locations, taking advantage of studios’ unlimited passes and off-peak prices. The week began with my first early morning studio class where I warmed up by candlelight and settled down to svasana as the morning sunshine filled the room, the teacher’s meditative practice set me up for the day ahead. I made every one of those classes that week. I did hatha yoga. I did dynamic yoga, core yoga and yin yoga. I did hot yoga. I visited five different studios and took classes from eight different teachers. I tuned back into the benefits of breathing exercises to improve my practice (though this was hindered somewhat by a crappy cold that rendered one nostril redundant). I ploughed on - yoga pun intended. I am not particularly flexible. My lower back is like a plank of wood, my hamstrings are of fixed length and I’ve got a dodgy hip. Regular yoga has, in the past, helped me to overcome these limitations, and I hoped that the same would happen with a week of intense practice. And whilst my hamstrings protested without fail at each folding bend, by the end of the week, my hip pain had reduced and I felt my body was strengthening in a more balanced way than it had been before. I took inspiration from an hour with Mia Sung Kjaergaard, a teacher whose gentle nature seemed to radiate through the class. Her approach to start-
ing the new year being kind to your mind and body resonated deeply and I left feeling refreshed and positive about the coming year. At the end of my week I felt happier and stronger - of body and mind - than I had in a long time. If I take away anything from my homemade retreat, it’s the benefit of starting the day with some time for yourself. Stillness of mind and body is a rarity when you’re living in a hectic city. It might be in a class, it might be at home, but taking a little time each morning to find that space and stillness more than pays for itself. I did drink expensive coffee, I did procrastinate and I even watched an episode of 'Murder She Wrote'. But that was the beauty of it. I challenged myself to find the benefits of a retreat with the space, time and money that I had available. And in a way, I think the long term benefits are much greater than if I had travelled to a far-flung yogic heaven. I have found new teachers I can return to regularly, I know I’m capable of having a daily practice and that I can fit that practice into my schedule even when I’m working. I have learnt to build my practice into my routine rather than kidding myself that I have to go to India to get the benefits. When the following week began with my new job, it also began with an hour of yoga. And I intend, as the yogi instagrammers would say, to do #yogaeverydamnday. It might be ten minutes, it might be sixty. But it will be yoga. Sarah took classes at:
London Fields Yoga www.londonfieldsyoga.co.uk Yoga Place www.yogaplace.co.uk Triyoga Soho www.triyoga.co.uk Light Yoga Space www.lightyogaspace.co.uk Stretch www.stretchlondon.org
Justin Wolfer by ROBERT STURMAN
Published on Feb 28, 2015
Published on Feb 28, 2015
Strength In The Face Of Adversity - Featuring Laura Kasperzak, Patrick Beach, Dylan Werner, Yulady Saluti, Steph Birch, Robert Sturman and m...