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CLAIRE SHEPROW by CLAIRE SHEPROW
BEX FETHERSTONE EDITOR
BEEZ from 106STORIES CREATIVE DIRECTOR
CONTRIBUTORS AARON SANTORO ALESSANDRO SIGISMONDI BERTIL NILSSON BRIOHNY SMYTH CLAIRE SHEPROW DEAN DALTON DENIS LOCK ELEONORA ZAMPATTI ERIN PELUSO ESTELLE CARTLIDGE HAMISH MCCANN ISABELLE CHASSE
KATIE SILVER KIRA GRACE LA SOIRﾃ右 LIVERPOOL YOGA CENTRE LOUIS D'ORIGNY MATT GIORDANO MIKE FETHERSTONE SARA SHERWOOD SEAN YOUNG SHANNA CARROLL TIFFANY CRUIKSHANK YANNI DE MELO
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Rewind the Clock
YouTube Saved My Life
Master the Miniscule
his time last year we told you ‘New Year, New Yoga’ and since then we’ve had an exciting twelve months of bringing you the best of yoga from around the world. Now it’s 2016 and we’re ready for something new again, and so we’re creating a movement and inviting you to join. This year we’re set on launching ‘Embrace Movement’, a movement towards movement. And if that sounds nonsensical, here’s the lowdown! Although we’ll still be giving yoga plenty of love and attention, we’ll also be looking at anything that can get us all moving just that little bit more. So whether you’re into yoga, dance, gymnastics, circus arts, or you just want to be able to bend down to tie your shoelaces and carry your kid up the stairs, we’ll have something for you. We thought we’d kick off with a bang and so this issue we’ve got a heap of fun with acrobats and circus artists (p24), yogis (p28, p38 & p40) and a bit of saying goodbye to our yoga snobbery (p22). So share DRAZE with your dad who moans about his bad back, your flatmate who won’t get off the sofa on Sundays, and your work colleague who orders in lunch instead of walking around the block to pick it up and let us know how it goes. For 2016 it’s our resolution to get everyone to #embracemovement.
Bex Fetherstone Editor
Shanna Carroll by CLAIRE SHEPROW (FindOrion PHOTOGRAPHY)
Briohny Smyth by CLAIRE SHEPROW (FindOrion PHOTOGRAPHY) Wearing KIRA GRACE
Claire Sheprow Photographer interview
wner and lead photographer of FindOrion photography, Claire Sheprow talks to DRAZE about the art of movement.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
I’m really a gypsy soul, desperately torn between the city and the sea! There’s no place I'm not excited to experience and to photograph. For nearly 15 years I have been passionately photographing portraits across a broad spectrum of fashion, editorial, lifestyle and documentary projects. I’ve also spent 29 years of my life in movement-based training, pursuing ballet at first, then turning to modern dance and eventually finding my way into yoga. As my own yoga practice became an increasingly deeper presence in my everyday life, alignment and movement-based portraits have become a significant part of my photography work. How did you get into photography?
I first started taking pictures kind of by accident! In my late teens I was very invested in oil painting, sculpture, and charcoal drawing and so I signed up for a traditional film class just for fun. The moment I stepped into the darkroom I fell madly in love. I found myself spending every waking hour I could manage in the darkroom and thinking non-stop about photographs when I wasn’t making them. I felt a rush of excitement, alongside the peace and contentment you experience when a piece of your life falls into place. It was really just like falling in love with a person! How did you get into yoga?
Between dance and athletics I have always been very active and after retiring from dance, yoga felt like a natural progression. The daily commitment to flexibility and alignment training is much the same in both practices and I felt a similar mindbody connection and appreciation for the experience of moving our physical bodies. I was first introduced to a serious yoga practice by Cass Ghiorse, who was at the time teaching and studying
Isabelle Chasse by CLAIRE SHEPROW (FindOrion PHOTOGRAPHY)
Tiffany Cruikshank by CLAIRE SHEPROW (FindOrion PHOTOGRAPHY) Wearing KIRA GRACE
Anusara under Elena Brower. As I began to practise regularly with these two women, I was blown away by their intricate and expansive knowledge of the body, alignment, and functional movement. I loved the intense focus on alignment and refined movement in Anusara, however beyond that, I was introduced to the elements of yoga that were far beyond the physical practice. My teachers’ commitment to conscious living resonated deeply with me. What does movement mean to you?
For me, movement has always been connected to the idea of travelling, journey and growth. Yoga has set my focus on the idea of ‘conscious movement’; moving from a place of refined, nuanced and deliberate choice, rather than habit, in both my body as well as in my thoughts. At the same time, I’ve found that ‘letting go’ is also an essential element to movement. When you are dancing or practising yoga, there are points where you must allow your intuition to take over. Movement is a union and a balance of these two elements. Are your yoga and movement practices linked to your photography?
It is in my nature to allow everything in my life to be interconnected. There is really no part of my life that is not a part of the rest of it. What's special about photographing yoga and movement?
Human figure studies have been one of the quintessential practices of visual arts for as long as they have existed. From the earliest cave drawings, through renaissance oils and sketches, to modern painting as well, figure studies have always been a classic element of painting and drawing development. Turning the modern medium of photography on the human form carries all of the same beauty, challenge and reward. Photographing the form of the body is beautiful in and of itself, but photographing the body in movement is inspiring. For me, the challenge and the exhilaration lies in attempting to capture the vast depth of feelings imbued in a movement which could last for any length of time,
all in the split second of a camera shutter’s click. What do you think makes a memorable photograph?
I believe the connection between people and art is unique to each work and each person. There are pieces that, for whatever reason, communicate to a larger audience of people, pieces that move almost everyone, but ultimately each person is connecting to something unique, nuanced and intangible to the rest of us. I think at the core of of a memorable photograph is a piece that makes people feel something. Would you say that yoga and movement can be described as art?
Absolutely! I believe that all of life is art. Loving, dreaming, creating, communicating and moving. Everything we do in life can be done consciously, with design and with beauty. To step on my mat without bringing my attention to it as an art would be contrary to everything that I am. Do you take photos for yourself or for others?
The beautiful thing about photographing people is that the process of portrait-taking is really a conversation between myself and the person in front of my lens. The images we make are a record of that conversation. Every photo I take contains a huge part of myself and is most definitely somewhat of a self-portrait. I shamelessly allow my emotions to influence the way I connect with my models and the moods of my photographs. And at the same time I am absorbing the emotions and personality of my model. What results is a wonderful melding of both of us. I do a lot of different types of work and sometimes there are motives behind pieces; preserving memories, educating, affecting action or presenting an idea. Sometimes it’s just about spilling out what’s in my brain or heart, but it’s amazing how similar the joy and intimacy of ‘creating’ is, no matter what the larger objectives may be. What do you hope people will take from your photographs?
Really, I just hope my pieces make people feel something, anything.
Erin Peluso by CLAIRE SHEPROW (FindOrion PHOTOGRAPHY)
REWIND THE CLOCK Playlist
s time moves forward another year, we're shimmying on back to the 60s and 70s with some feel-good classics. Start the year with a smile on your face and a spring in your stride. Whether you're stretching it out or strengthening it up, wiggle your bum back a few decades in just 60 minutes. Turn up the music to accompany your movin' and groovin'...
Here Comes The Sun Nina Simone
Cry To Me Solomon Burke
3 x Sun Salute A
Move On Up Curtis Mayfield
3 x Sun Salute B
Another Day Jamie Lidell
Get Up Offa That Thing James Brown Superfly Curtis Mayfield Respect Aretha Franklin I Want You Back Jackson 5 Baby Love The Supremes I Can't Help Myself Four Tops Take Care Of Business Nina Seated Postures Simone Boss City Wes Montgomery Stand By Me Otis Redding Le Temps De L'amor Franรงoise Hardy
California Dreamin' Bobby Womack Che Vuole Questa Musica Stasera Peppino Gagliardi
Yoga Snobbery WORDS THE ACCIDENTAL YOGI
t finally happened, I forced someone to yoga. For over a year now I have been trying to come up with ever more inventive ways to get a friend into class. It started as nothing out of the ordinary, a quick ‘want to pop to yoga?’ text the day before a class I knew would would involve minimal chanting and therefore be least threatening. When that didn’t work I upped my game. I weaved a web of lies about a guy I knew she’d like on the mat next door and made him just intriguing enough that I thought she’d want to catch a glimpse. I fabricated studios offering ‘mates rates’ and free first classes and thought to myself that if she accepted I’d pay for her and keep quiet. I continued to fail and resorted to endless talk of how great yoga would be for her health, headaches, performance at work, sex life, relationships (insert literally anything here). Eventually I begged. She resisted for months, until last week when she’d had her fill of my whinging. So off we popped. I sacrificed my favourite mat and yoga pants in the hope that they’d persuade her to enjoy herself and we pitched up at a studio, me grinning like an idiot and her trudging along behind. This was going to change her life. The thing is, it didn’t. “It wasn’t awful,” she informed me afterwards as we scoffed our way through garlic bread at a post-yoga meal out (another shameless attempt at encouraging her to enjoy it), “but not really my cup of tea
either,” she finished. I was irate. She didn’t even feel strongly enough to hate it. And then came the saving grace…”You’re amazing though,” she nodded at me. I snorted through my pasta and said something non-committal about there being no such thing as being amazing at yoga, but secretly pride, and my ego, swelled inside me. And it got me thinking, why had I been so desperate for her to come in the first place? It took me a while to admit to myself that I had been plagued by what I have so often criticised as ‘yoga snobbery’, along with a healthy dose of overactive ego. I’ve often smirked at the girls with high ponytails, girlish laughs and green juices who talk cleansing and colonic irrigation as they don their couture lycra in the changing rooms. The yogis who leave class fretting about how the girl who skipped inversions will manage all week with her chakras so imbalanced, or plotting how to avoid inviting Paula to dinner because she doesn’t yoga and so she just doesn’t get them. Oh God, I’d become one of them. A part of me had wanted my friend to see me where I was most comfortable, but a bigger part of me had just wanted an excuse to make her see that I can do the splits. A part of me had hoped she would enjoy herself, but a bigger part of me was wondering if she was really worthwhile if she didn’t get yoga. Her indifference gave me no excuse to indulge in my own superiority. Lesson learnt. New Year’s Resolution: No Yoga Snobbery.
Eleonora Zampatti by CLAIRE SHEPROW (FindOrion PHOTOGRAPHY)
have always loved the circus. There’s something about the sickly sweet smell of caramel (I never know where it comes from) mixed with stage smoke that brings nostalgia. I’m not sure what it’s nostalgia for, perhaps my fantasy that I was an elegant aerial silk performer in a previous life, but it’s nostalgia nonetheless. You can imagine my delight then as I wandered into the old-fashioned, stripy circus tent, complete with wooden floorboards and glittery top-hatted ushers of La Soirée at London’s Southbank. My toes tingled with excitement and my inner acrobat artist threatened to burst forth and take over the stage. But then I saw said stage. I didn’t have my tape measure with me, but the round podium wasn’t that much wider than the height of an average-sized human being. How would all of the amazing feats I was expecting ever possibly be accomplished in such a tiny-weeny space? Disappointment overtook me, my inner acrobat sulked. And then the show started. A dazzling spectacle of twisting, bending, flying, balancing, trickery and mastery (with a bit of singing and some hilarious comedy to boot) and I couldn’t have been more awe-stricken. The tiny-weeny stage I had frowned at just moments before was suddenly filled with my idols, dangling from hoops, bending beyond belief, balancing on each other and generally having a lot of fun. They were the people I promised myself I would be after just a few more weeks working on my strength or flexibility (yeah right!), and that perilously small stage made them so close that I could almost touch them. It was small, intimate, yet spectacular, and I was a part of it. Following a blow-away performance, DRAZE decided to chat to La Soirée artists, Hamish McCann and Denis Lock, better known as The English Gents, who perform almost inconceivable feats of acrobatic skill, strength and balance whilst casually reading the paper.
24 KaylaDraz Ann bye.JASON REINHART
Can you tell us a bit about your backgrounds and how you came to be doing what you're doing?
D: We both came from competitive gymnastics and acrobatic sports. It is a fairly natural progression for gymnasts to move into the field of circus acrobatics. We met each other in Tokyo and decided to train together and put together a street performance show. It was on the street that our director saw us performing and asked us to join the circus. H: I was doing sports gymnastics from an early age and never considered it something that could lead to a career. All of that changed when I finished a degree in fine arts with a focus on sculpture and attempted to join the workforce. I got a job performing acrobatics in Japan and met Denis, who I perform with now. His background is blurry...from what I gather from whispered stories and that time I went through his phone, he was raised by wolves in Alaska and sold to the Merchant Marines where he learnt snake charming and bubble blowing. When I met him in Japan he had just escaped from an arranged marriage to the daughter of a Sultan. He doesn't like to talk about it. We put together an act for street theatre festivals and very soon after began working with La Soirée (then known as La Clique). What would you call what you do?
H: People in the circus call what we do ‘double act hand-to-hand acrobatics’. I mostly refer to it as ‘glorified stripping’. The pole act I do is a combination between Chinese pole acrobatics and, to be honest, stripper pole moves. Giving all of these skill demonstrations a theatrical context that connects with the audience is when it becomes circus arts. D: Yeah, I guess you would call it circus acrobatics. We're hoping you guys couldn't balance on each other's heads from the word go (otherwise there's no hope for us!)...to most people the things that you do seem like impossible feats, how do you build up to that stage?
H: Thanks! As you know there is a very intense training regimen to reach and to maintain the level
Bret Pfister by Bertil Nilsson
La SoirĂŠe Circus Arts
The English Gents by SEAN YOUNG
at which we perform. There are mountains of levels that exist beyond where we are and we are always looking to improve and add to the tricks we do. It keeps the training fun and we can continue to feel improvement, however incremental. D: Like anything you start at the basic skills and work your way up to more advanced manoeuvres. I think most people could achieve what we do with the right amount of time and dedication. What does your training routine look like?
D: Training is pretty specific for what we do on stage. We train about six days a week. The base concentrates more on strength based training whereas the flyer's job is a lot more technical. H: It’s basically two sweaty guys bickering like secretaries. Does what you do ever scare you? How do you overcome this if so?
H: When we first started with La Soirée, that small stage seemed like an impossible space to do what we do, we got accustomed to it quickly but it was a very daunting feeling knowing that coming out of a trick at an unplanned moment could find us falling into spectators. This, of course, has never happened and in fact, these days the stage feels huge and 100% safe. D: We’ve done it for so many years that I guess we are just used to it now.
H: Live performance is about connecting with a crowd and leaving them with an experience they will remember. I like watching other circus performances whenever possible to get a feel for what the audience is seeing. Unlike sculpting, where you work alone for hours to create something that represents your artistic sensibility, a live performance is constantly shaped by the audience's reaction and every time you perform your art and the reaction to it is created anew. D: I guess we have to take time to find a way to present a physical skillset in a way that is entertaining, interesting and artistic. We've no doubt that your job does wonders for your body but what about your mind?
H: It can be a meditative experience on stage. I find myself reciting certain mantras when performing certain skills, normally just basic instructions for what parts of my body I should be concentrating on and what they are meant to be doing, or words from trainers that have helped in the past.
DRAZE is all about getting people to embrace movement of any sort, do you have any tips for someone that wants to get moving, or any tips for someone that's watching you guys and thinking "I want to be able to do that“?
Do you get injured?
H: Don't talk about the war. D: Unfortunately injuries come hand in hand with doing eight shows a week. Nothing too serious though, it is something you just have to try to manage.
D: Gymnastics is a great place to start, as it works the whole body in many different areas, including strength, flexibility and balance. You can lay your foundation there and then build upon it as you go. H: As you said before, there really is no hope for any of you! Just kidding! Really, it’s good to have attainable goals and do activities related to exercise and movement that you genuinely find fun so that it doesn't feel like work. Movement should be an escape and be associated with good feelings.
What you do is more than just a sport, it's an art and a performance. How do you turn body movement into an artistic performance?
La Soirée shows at the La Soirée Spiegeltent at The Southbank Centre until 17 January 2016. For tickets please visit www.la-soiree.com.
YouTube Saved My Life Yanni De Melo
Yanni De Melo by Alessandro Sigismondi
Yanni De Melo by Alessandro Sigismondi
was raised in Florida, near Miami and my family brought me up in an environment that embraced spirituality. I’m Brazilian and Portuguese and there is a type of philosophy that exists in that region, Spiritism, that meshes Christianity with philosophical points of view from the east. This philosophy believes in reincarnation and the afterlife, two concepts I find very interesting. My grandmother introduced a lot of these philosophical concepts to me very early on, and at twelve, I obtained my Reiki level two. I grew up with a foundation of exploring the idea of a broader consciousness, a supreme consciousness, and wherever my life took me, that was always embedded in the back of my mind. As I started high school I began to neglect the philosophy I had been brought up with. I became involved in the party scene and during college I became an exotic dancer. I had no sense of self-love. It was a period in which I was experimenting, trying to find myself, taking a lot of drugs and abusing my body. Right at the end of my time as an exotic dancer I wasn’t eating and I became very skinny. I’d get to bed around five or six in the morning and then get up at two in the afternoon the next day. I am incredibly lucky. A lot of people who lead similar lifestyles never come out of it. As my self-neglect peaked, I had an epiphany. No one was going to be able to change me, I was going to have to change myself. In that moment I decided to do something about it. After that summer, I went back to school and received an email from the Reiki centre where I had trained as a young boy. The email invited me to a meditation session and I took it as an opportunity to do something that was completely unassociated with my current lifestyle, perhaps it would serve as a stepping stone and help me to move forwards. I remember going there and meeting the young man who was running the session. He was just a couple of years older than me and was
playing a didgeridoo with a beautiful sound, nothing like I had ever heard before. After the session we started chatting regularly and he introduced me to Shamanism. He invited me to a number of gatherings on the beach and at the time I thought it was just going to be a bunch of hippies, but the more that I got to know these people as friends and the more that I got to experience Shamanism, the more I began to realise how mind blowing it was. The experiences my new group of friends exposed me to allowed me to forgive myself and made me realise how lucky we are to be alive, how precious life is. From that moment on, I decided not to take my life for granted, I knew that I had to seek something else. The word yoga kept coming up. I didn’t know much about it, but at that moment, I felt that yoga meant a unified consciousness of some sort. Yoga was a way that you could bring people together. As soon as I went back to college I signed up to my very first yoga class. I’d never been to a class before so I didn’t know what to expect. I knew there would be movement based on postures and flexibility but I was very narrow-minded. The teacher came in and she was very sweet, relaxed and laid back. I wanted to be her. I wondered how she was so connected and together. After that first class, I’d never felt better in my life. I saw that through breathing and movement you could cultivate so much energy and potential in yourself and I was fixated on yoga from that day forward.
Yanni De Melo by Alessandro Sigismondi
Yanni De Melo by Alessandro Sigismondi
At that time I decided that I wanted to become a yoga teacher, I was set on it. I feel differently now. What I really want now is to experience yoga, but I’m so grateful that that first training took me to where I needed to be. The training was a broad overview of yoga and, as we dipped our toes in many different styles, I found ashtanga. I knew I wanted to explore ashtanga much more deeply so I began to watch videos on YouTube and ran into Kino McGregor’s videos. A bit more digging around and I found that her studio was just twenty minutes away from me, so I signed up for one of Kino’s workshops. I immediately fell in love with her, the way she was teaching and the way she was connected to her practice, so I signed up for their one-month intensive programme, which led me to the yoga apprenticeship programme I’m currently on. I’m so fortunate to be on the path that I am on. I cannot imagine where I would be right now otherwise. Recently, filmmaker & photographer, Alessandro Sigismondi, decided to make a film of my practice. When he told me he wanted to call it "YouTube Saved My Life”, I thought that there was real truth in that. It taught me to change how I was thinking and how I was feeling about the world and to express and connect with my emotions in my movement. I’m now content and more accepting of what happens in life. The practice of yoga is metaphorical. When you come across a feeling during your practice, you search for the contrast to that feeling for balance. Your ego starts to break, you become more accepting to what happens around you both on the mat and off it. I’m very humbled by this and so grateful for this experience. To watch 'YouTube Saved My Life', created be Alessandro Sigismondi and starring Yanni de Melo visit wearedraze.com Yanni De Melo wears Tapsaya Yoga Shorts and Dharma Yoga Pants both by OHMME.
Yanni De Melo by Alessandro Sigismondi
Master The Miniscule With Matt Giordano
ou might think that life is unfair when you learn that yoga teacher and super-duper acro yogi Matt Giordano had a career as a musician before he burst onto the bending and stretching scene. “One of those people that’s just good at everything,” you might say. But Matt Giordano is a man with a philosophy, one he learnt during his musical career, and I’m beginning to think that it might just be the key to his success. “My philosophy,” Matt tells me, “is that if you take tiny segments of anything and master them, you can add all of those tiny segments together to make a bigger picture.”
“Many musicians have this big goal; where they want to be or what they want to do. It’s such an overwhelming view that we don’t know where to begin and so we dabble in a lot of areas trying to grasp at anything that looks like the bigger picture, learning it a little and then moving on to the next thing,” Matt explains. “What happens then is you forget - you learn one thing a little and the next thing a little and then another thing, and by the time you get back to the first one, you’ve forgotten how to do it. You never grasp the whole of that big picture you had in mind.” And as Matt and I discuss, it’s the same for most walks of life. Whether we’ve got our heart set on learning Spanish, mastering pottery or staying balanced in that handstand, it’s pretty normal that we chuck ourselves in at the deep-end, burying ourselves in dictionaries, getting covered in clay and knocking over the bookshelf as we fling
ourselves up into that handstand (hopefully not all at once). This can get pretty frustrating and eventually, we give up. Or, even worse, we look wistfully upon those superheroes who can speak Spanish and throw together an artisan pot whilst balancing on their hands, and lament our inability to ever get there. And of course we never do get there, because it seems so impossible that we never even try. “The concept I work on is to focus intently on something miniscule and master it completely,” Matt explains. “When you master something completely, you never forget it and so when you move on to the next thing, you’re building on what you already have.” Sounds logical enough, right? But the problem is we want to be rock stars right now, straightaway, or we won’t bother. But perhaps we should rethink. “When I applied this concept to my music,” Matt tells me, “I probably progressed further in a year than I had in the previous six or seven.” Following his move into the world of yoga, which was sparked by a need to escape the high-stress environment of being on tour, Matt decided that he would experiment with allowing his music philosophy to seep into his yoga practice. After weeks, months and then years of bombarding his stepmum and yoga teacher with questions and immersing himself totally, Matt began to teach, and that’s when his philosophy really came into its own. “People who’ve never been to my class before prob-
ably turn up for the first time and think ‘what on earth is this guy doing?’” Matt laughs. “I focus so much on technique that by the time we’re half way through the class we’ve done pretty much nothing in terms what people might consider to be a traditional asana practice.” Instead of teaching a pose and then moving on, Matt teaches “specific body mechanics”. He then applies those mechanics to the asana much later on in class, using the asana as a platform for learning rather than as an aim in itself. “I’m really quite demanding as a teacher,” Matt tells me, “I talk to my students a lot. As we work through a movement I ask them to focus on a particular muscle group and notice whether or not it’s engaging. I don’t just want to work through a set of verbal cues and then move on, I want to actually know if each person feels something in that muscle group. Then we go through the same with bone structure. I want yoga to be about coming to experience something in your body and then reflecting and thinking about whether you are actually experiencing that. I get my students to listen, act, feel and then repeat that process over again.” Matt tells me that if he get can students into a meditative cycle of listening, acting, feeling and then repeating, by the time they’re fifteen minutes into class, the students are no longer thinking about what pose they want to get into, instead they’re totally connected to their bodies and what’s going on inside. This can have huge benefits in breaking down the mental barriers that can stop us from doing certain things with our bodies. “By the time students get to doing the big move that they thought they would never be able to do, they realise that that can do every single component involved and so they definitely have it in them to do the bigger thing,” he explains. Matt gives the example of teaching a back-bending workshop, where his students will spend so long on
miniscule movements that by the time they get to the actual back-bending they are “no longer thinking about the backbend that they normally do, the sensations they normally feel or the shape that they normally see in the mirror. Instead they’re thinking about all of the techniques they have gained. Then all they have to do is come out with those same techniques and they will come out with a whole different practice, a whole different backbend.” Matt also talks a lot about the body and how he sees yoga as a process of learning about your own body. “It’d be a real shame if you spent six years doing your asana practice and you learnt nothing about your body,” Matt laughs. “You might know how to do King Dancer Pose but what happens when you want to use your body for something else? You’ve taken nothing from your six years except that you could once do King Dancer Pose. Who cares?!” To Matt, yoga is a journey of learning, an opportunity to understand the body rather than the asana so that you can do whatever it is you want to do with your body, both now and in the future. And so what about Giordano’s famous acro yoga practice? He tells me that the same principles apply. “You can be an acrobat with the mindset of a yogi, or a yogi with the mindset of an acrobat,” he tells me. “So many acro moves are quite daunting, and often very impressive to look. That means that many people are frightened off. I ask so much from my students in terms of attention and focus, that it diverts their ego from thinking ‘I have a pose I want to do today,’ or ‘I’m scared of that.’” Matt explains. And it’s that focus that Matt’s philosophy brings that he values above everything. “Anything is yoga,” he tells me, “yoga is a mindset and an experience of pure presence. You can practise yoga within anything you do. Whatever your sport, practise it in a way that will give you a lifetime of awareness of the body that you’re in. If you do that then you’re not just practising a sport, you’re practising yoga.”
Eleonora Zampatti by AARON SANTORO
Eleonora Zampatti Interview
Eleonora Zampatti by AARON SANTORO
ince the day we had our first long-distance phonecall, Eleonora Zampatti felt like a long-lost best friend. With Eleonora I didn’t need to be ashamed that I hadn’t touched a yoga mat for a week, or embarrassed that I'd skipped sun salutes in favour of a coffee and a buttery croissant. Despite her out-of-this world practice and countless appearances as a ‘prized-yogi’, she was honest about her own struggles. We gossiped whilst sat on the floor and I felt not a hint of abashment that my cross-legged seated position wasn’t looking too hot. When we caught up on Skype a couple of weeks later, she rocked up with a towel on her head and a cat in her hand. As we got to know each other and finally met in person, it struck me that Eleonora happily shattered the illusion of the ethereal yoga teacher who floats in and out of classes on an invisible carpet of superiority. Instead she made yoga seem simple and obvious, something as normal as breathing. As our current and spectacular, cover star, Eleonora talks to DRAZE about her journey into yoga and how that journey, more than any fancy posture, is actually what yoga’s all about.
How did you get into yoga?
I have always been into fitness, but getting me onto a yoga mat has really been a progression, a journey. Before yoga, my relationship with fitness was mainly directed towards losing weight and to the eating disorder which I suffered from. I was very pushy with my body and I never trusted it or thought it could do anything worthwhile. After growing up in Italy, when I first came to the United States, I needed to enroll in a school for my visa. I had been teaching aerobics for a long time, but my health had deteriorated and I was really not taking care of myself. For my visa I decided to enroll in a dance school, which I thought I would love, it was all ballet and contemporary and we had to take twenty classes a week. To be honest, I hated it! The schedule was fucking crazy and when I wasn’t killing myself in my ballet and contemporary classes, I had to fill the gaps with other classes. Well, there was no way I was
going to take extra modern or ballet classes, I just wanted to get away from them, so I started to do some flexibility training and some yoga-type classes that were aimed at dancers. I didn’t really want to take the classes, I wasn’t enjoying myself, and so most of the time the yoga teacher and I just sat together and chatted. She talked about yoga to me but I didn’t get the spiritual thing and the movements were really not doing it for me. I just brushed it off and thought ‘nah, this is not for me.’ One day, after a fight with an ex-boyfriend, I walked past a yoga studio and wandered in to take a hot yoga class, just for something to do. I had never even heard of hot yoga, but what the heat combined with the postures did to me that day was incredible. I couldn’t touch my toes but I still felt amazing. When I came out, my mind and body were both totally drained, but I felt like I had created a space inside of myself that I hadn't even known existed. I started practising like crazy and just two months later I went and did my teacher training! I suppose in that way I can’t say that I had one transformative ‘yoga moment’. It was more like I kept bumping into yoga and eventually, I couldn’t ignore it. It was then that I figured out that yoga was something that actually really worked for me. After years of running, jumping, pushing and doing everything I could to get in shape, I suddenly let go of that pushy effort and yoga transformed my body in a way that all of those extremes never had. Now, I am not practising yoga because I want my body to look a certain way. I used to be obsessed with my body, I wanted to have the body of a ballet dancer, not an inch of fat, ethereal and skinny with lots of bones showing. I was starving myself and doing everything I could to lose weight, it was a very aggressive way to approach fitness. Everything changed with yoga. Yoga taught me to forgive myself and I learnt that I didn’t have to suffer anymore. What does your personal practice look like at the mo-
Eleonora Zampatti by AARON SANTORO
In terms of the asanas, my practice is actually getting lighter and lighter, but at the same time I seem to be getting stronger and stronger. This is such an interesting concept for me and something I’m learning from working with Irene Pappas. She has taught me that you don’t need to work on having super-strength to get into something like a handstand, instead you need to be more vulnerable and work on your flexibility, you need to create the space in your body so that you don’t need to jump or to push or force your body. I’m learning that you need to be flexible in order to be strong. I was already at that point emotionally - yoga had helped me to understand that you needed to be vulnerable in order to be strong emotionally - but I am only just getting to understand how much this applies to your body as well. I also think that my yoga practice right now is a lot of watching and looking. I watch people practise and watch people taking my classes and I learn a lot from them. I learn so much about transitions and body mechanics from watching how other people are managing their own bodies. I am generally really bad at stillness so it’s been a hard journey for me to learn to be still and observe both myself and others. My practice at the moment is a lot of grounding and flexibility. A lot of simplicity. You do a lot of cycling too right?
Yes, a lot! I started to cycle out of necessity, I actually didn’t like to bike at all but I had to get around somehow. With a bit of practice though, the experience of biking has become not just something practical but something beautiful too. I guess that’s sort of the same as my experience with yoga. When I bike I have to deal with the wind, the sun, the cold temperatures and it gives me a chance to see where I am and where nature is. The moments on my bike become moments of pure connection with the environment and with myself. I don’t meditate. I am afraid of meditating, afraid of stillness and of looking within my mind because there’s still so much
trauma from my life left there that I still have to deal with. I’m working towards meditation with my asana practice, but for now the bike has become my meditation. I have hours within the day where I get on my bike, I move my body, and everything else gets erased. Yesterday I was cycling and there was an incredible sunset. I stopped to look at it and got my phone out to take a picture, but then I thought ‘hang on, I have another ten minutes when I could actually just stand here and watch this with my own eyes. Fuck the phone. Let me stand here and be in the moment and watch the sunset.’ More than anything the biking taught me to shutup and listen! What would you say is your style of teaching?
Dramatic! Actually, I would call my style lyrical, I move from one pose to the next in a very gentle way, moving up and down to peaks and troughs. I don’t want my students to jump from one pose to another, I want them to really feel and to connect, so I place a lot of emphasis on the emotional journey my students are taking throughout the class. Whether that’s feeling connected to the earth, or experiencing discomfort and annoyance, it’s all about observing these emotions and connecting with them to understand who we are. You’re not in my class to get into a headstand. You are in my class to get to know yourself. I understand why students want to get into specific poses because I want to get into them too, but I also want them to understand that whether you get into wheel pose or not doesn’t change your life, it’s the way you view your journey there that counts. If you get into a headstand when you thought you never could, then you can do a lot of other things too. And if you fall a hundred or a thousand times and never get there then that’s ok, you’re not failing, you’re just moving through the poses. It’s ok to fall if you stand up afterwards. It’s not the pose itself, it’s what it takes you to get to that pose. That’s your journey and that’s something that nobody but you can teach.
Eleonora Zampatti by AARON SANTORO
Let Me Start With A Confession Mike Fetherstone
et me start with a confession. One of which I am not especially proud. I confess, dear reader, that I have wilfully spent my ‘short’ 54 years on this fair earth managing to avoid the dreaded yoga, despite the repeated protestations of some of those around me. The subject has been mentioned by those in the know at home, at work or, God forbid, even at the gym. To be honest, I had formed the view that it was little short of a mysterious, semi-religious cult, practised by the wealthy and the overindulged or by fervent zealots and crazed aficionados of a dark art, and that it was best left that way. Instead, I have been a runner, running for many years, but struggling constantly with
injuries that now seem to hang around longer than they did when the flush of youth was still upon me. The remonstrations from those around me for not having a go have grown with each new and debilitating running injury. Yogis barked words such as ‘flexibility’, ‘core strength’ and ‘meditation’, all of which seemed a little far-fetched when I was struggling to put on my own socks without running the risk of sustaining a catastrophic injury in my one-legged hop around a darkened bedroom on a winter's morning. To me, flexibility was something you have until you begin to go bald, after which you bid it a fond farewell.
Eventually, I am ashamed to admit, the pressure from those close to me became too much and I was persuaded to attend my first yoga class at the Liverpool Yoga Centre on Great Crosshall Street in Liverpool. I figured that if I went once, everyone would see how little I had enjoyed it, how much it had caused me to suffer and how my every sinew had been needlessly strained. Finally the calls for me to join this quasi-religious sect, as I then saw it, would come to an end and I would be left in peace to live out my life in ever-increasing pain, until the day I needed a Zimmer Frame just to go to the toilet. It was therefore with a high degree of trepidation that I landed at Liverpool Yoga Studios on a cold, damp and grey December morning, the weather’s bleakness matched only by my own. First impressions matter and I have to say that, as I stepped out of the arctic gusts which howled up from the River Mersey, and into the warmth of the studio, my senses were gently massaged by the softly sweet smell of burning incense and a beguiling welcome from behind the reception desk. The reception looked nothing like the dank and smelly cave I had imagined and my initial reservations were just beginning to diminish. Then I was informed that the class I was attending was not only hot yoga, but also came with the alarming name of Fierce Grace. I had no idea what this was but was convinced that anything with the word ‘fierce’ in the name was bound to involve multiple ruptures, torn body parts, embarrassing leakages, or a combination of all three. Before long, I found myself in the yoga space itself. I was advised that it was normal for men to attend the class topless, but I had no intention of exposing my white flesh for all to see. Instead I opted for a terribly flattering running top, from which my overextended stomach threatened to explode. I was flanked on all sides by mirrors, which adorned each of the studios walls. The sight that beheld me as I entered nearly had me on the floor…that is until I realised that the overweight, sweaty and deathly
pale man in the mirror was in fact myself, a distressing realization at such an already traumatic time. As I steadied myself, I was assaulted by the heat. I had been vaguely aware that this was a hot yoga class but had not anticipated the torrent of sweat that dribbled down my balding forehead before I had even managed to lie down. Our teacher entered and, garbed only in a pair of shorts, introduced himself to the class. Normal enough you might think, but I was pretty unnerved by the comparison between his sleek and sinewy torso and my own puff pastry replica. Before I knew it, we were straight into the session and the next hour and twenty minutes passed in a blur of downward dogs, child’s poses and other mysterious sounding flexes, stretches and poses. My muscles strained, my fat bits wobbled and my glasses resolutely refused to remain on my nose. On several occasions I had to withdraw momentarily from the action as I fought for breath, but when I flailed our teacher joined me to assist in encouraging a number of my body parts into positions they simply refused to adopt when instructed by me. The class eventually wound up after a final ten minutes of contemplation and I left the studio in a daze of sweat and exhaustion. I sat on one of the benches in the changing rooms to gather my thoughts. I was puce with effort and somewhere between exhaustion and elation, but there was something else, as unexpected as the rest of the morning. I knew that I had crossed to the dark side and I knew that I liked it. I knew that I would be back. I knew that I had somehow managed to enjoy the experience in a way I had not previously thought possible. I had entered the world of the yogi and was a changed man. I walked back to my car with a warm glow and a skip in my step. A rare occurrence indeed! For the full review of Mike's experience at Liverpool Yoga Studios go to wearedraze.com
byAARON AARONSHEPROW SANTORO(FindOrion PHOTOGRAPHY) CLAIRE Eleonora Zampatti by SANTORO
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