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Yoga Girl // The future of the yoga retreat industry Inclusive yoga // Plus-size yoga

Stopgap Dance Company

// Exhilarating dance productions from disabled and non-disabled artists

Cirque Du Soleil // Interview The 7 Fingers // Contemporary circus trailblazers

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Beez and Bex founded DRAZE in 2014, placing a spotlight on exceptional stories, with the aim of encouraging more people to embrace movement. With the help of incredible contributors, DRAZE online is opening up to become the space for user-submitted stories covering dance, yoga, circus arts and funcitional fitness, with DRAZE magazine acting as a digest for a selection of these articles. If you’re interested in submitting your story to DRAZE online visit and click the submit your story link.








Contents 12

Editor's Letter

Circus // Dance


The 7 Fingers



Lady Luck



Stopgap Dance Co



Cirque du Soleil



Plus-Size Yoga



Laruga Glaser



Yoga Girl


Editor's Letter


t the beginning of February 2016 my ‘no can do’ list started something like this: I can’t dance (find out why on p26), I can’t handstand (extreme FOFO* ruining my YOLO** spirit) and I certainly can’t do the splits (my hips are physically different to every other human being’s didn’t you know?) This month I’ve had illusions (and excuses) shattered and that’s what issue 9 of DRAZE is all about. From speaking to inclusive dance company Stopgap (p26) to learning about the burgeoning movement of plus-size yogis (p40), I’ve come to learn that there really is no such thing as ’no can do’. So do me a favour. Today, write out your ‘no can do list’ and photograph it (tag @wearedraze if that kind of thing floats your boat). Then tomorrow, rip it up and get on with it. Let’s check in with each other in May, maybe share some more photos, and see where you’ve got. #embracemovement

Bex Fetherstone Editor

*fear of falling over **you only live once



Photo by Alexandre Galliez

The 7 Fingers

Les 7 doigts de la main

Photo by Alexandre Galliez

Co nt em po ra ry cir cu st ra ilb l az er s


irst formed in 2002, contemporary circus company Les 7 Doigts de la Main, takes its name from a play on the French ‘the five fingers of the hand’, an idiom used to describe distinct parts united tightly and moving in coordination towards one common goal. More than ten years since they came together under that title, Les 7 Doigts de la Main, or The 7 Fingers, are using their unison to create their very first fusion movement show. Triptyque, showing at Sadler’s Wells in London in April, is a three piece fusion of The 7 Fingers traditional and beloved circus arts with the art of dance. Samuel Tétreault, performing artist and artistic co-director of Triptyque, explains that there is some natural affinity between contemporary circus and dance, but that The 7 Fingers wanted to explore this relationship more deeply and push the boundaries of movement further than ever before. “The three pieces blend aspects of contemporary dance and contemporary circus arts, with a view to creating a hybrid physical vocabulary and a new choreographing language,” Samuel tells Draze. The 7 Fingers team brought in three expert choreographers, Marie Chouinard, Victor Quijada and Marcos Morau, for each of the three pieces, along with professional dancers to work alongside circus artists, to create Triptyque. In doing so they have, for the first time, created a show by exploring the creative worlds of two completely separate genres. “We wanted to cater for a circus audience just as much as for a dance audience,” Samuel says, “in a way that both of these audiences would feel at home when watching, but would also get to venture into something completely new to them.” To achieve this goal, the show progresses from a first, dance-influenced piece, through what Samuel calls a “fifty-fif-



Photo by Alexandre Galliez



ty hybrid piece”, and ends on a circus-focussed note, however elements of dance and circus are weaved together throughout to create new forms of movement that express the unifying theme of the show; gravity. “I wanted all three pieces to talk about our relation, as humans, to gravity. I wanted them to explore this force that pulls us down, the force that we have to fight every morning when we get out of our beds, but that is also essential to the work of the dancer and the circus artist,” Samuel tells us. Samuel talks through his fascination with the dialogue between the downward pull of gravity and the body’s way of escaping it, and how he harnessed and manipulated elements of both dance and circus to explore this. “Dance and circus arts are a constant dialogue with gravity, every jump, every trick, every pirouette. It’s all a game of creating and harnessing air time or of finding stillness in the face of opposing forces.”

Photos by Alexandre Galliez

“Our first piece is closer to something from the dance world and involves less acrobatics,” Samuel explains, “but it’s an exploration of movement on crutches and the way in which having four limbs connected to the ground impacts on the dancer’s relationship with gravity and finding freedom from it.” The second piece continues this exploration of movement and gravity by turning the artists upside-down.


“We wanted to see how we could work with the resistance of gravity in the same way as a dancer would but whilst being on our hands rather than on our feet,” says Samuel, “it was a concept that created some pretty unique challenges.” Samuel goes on to explain that whilst dancers can continue practising all day, hand-balancers get tired much more quickly. “Once you've been on your hands for a minute or so, your arms are shattered, they need a couple of minutes rest before you can get up and practise again. When you’ve been doing that, practising and resting, for half an hour, your day is pretty much done,” Samuel laughs, “your arms can’t take any more!” For this section of the show then, research was key, digging out clev-

er ways to create movements or bring ideas to life through careful thought rather than hours of trail an error practising as you would if you were dancing on your feet. “We also experimented with using different pivot points for the artists to move their bodies around, it was about the quest for perfect balance and immobility in one sense, combined with the movement of dance. It was a really interesting paradox to explore,” Samuel recalls. The third piece of the show, as Samuel explains, incorporates more circus elements than the others, including trapeze, vertical



Photo by Alexandre Galliez


ropes, juggling and a unicycle to boot, but is still heavily influenced by the presence of dancers. “When we were putting the show together, if we were working with a piece of circus equipment - the aerial straps for example - one of the dancers would come along and propose something that no circus artist would ever propose,” Samuel recalls, “it really opened new possibilities and for that reason it’s a circus piece unlike any other that we’ve created before.” What makes The 7 Fingers different to most other circus companies is that their aim is “being close to the audience”, both literally and metaphorically. Rather than transporting viewers into another world, The 7 Fingers want to use movement to draw audienc-

es in and get them to shift their perspective on what they already know. “We want audiences to feel at home, to look at what we’re expressing with the movement of our bodies and feel that they’ve been there before, that something similar has happened to them, but that now their whole perspective has shifted and they’re seeing their own experiences in a new light on stage.” Triptyque, by Les 7 Doigts de la Main is showing at Sadlers Wells Theatre on 1 & 2 April. For more information and tickets go to www.



Photo by Alexandre Galliez

Photo by Alexandre Galliez

LADY LUCK Playlist


n honour of International Women’s Day on 8th March, we thought we’d celebrated by movin’ and groovin’ to some of the smoothest ladies we could find. Step into spring with this hour of lucious lady vocals, from the techno beats to chilled-out tunes, and from fresh faces to coveted classics, we’ve got it covered. So whatever your moves look like, turn it up and embrace your inner femme...



Arm's Length Kacy Hill

Warm Up

Gold Kiiara

3 x Sun Salute A

Next to Me Emeli Sandé

3 x Sun Salute B

Ain't Got Far to Go Jess Glynne

Standing Postures

Cheap Thrills Sia Gangsta Kat Dahlia Better Off Emily Vaughn Heartbreaker Alice Russell

Seated Postures

Anchor Sophia Black Sunny Days Janelle Kroll Devil Side Foxes Flowers Willow Big Boy Charlotte Cardin

Finishing Sequence

We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off Ella Eyre Ocean Eyes Billie Eilish Clever Gains Zuzu



n a d p a g p o St

y n a p m o nce c

Exhilarating Dance Productions

Photo by Chris Parkes


love to dance. But when it comes down to it I’ll be the second to admit (my boyfriend beats me to it as the first), that I’ve got two left feet. I’ve always blamed my height. My limbs are long you see, and so when I try and flail them around in what could conceivably be classed as dance, they get too far away from the control centre and misbehave. Laura Jones, artist at integrated dance company Stopgap chuckles at me as I try valiantly to explain this to her. “There is something almost primal about the act of moving to music,” she explains, “if you’ve go the passion and the enjoyment then it doesn’t have to be about exactly how it looks.” Easy for Laura to say, she’s been dancing for as long as she can remember, quite literally. “My very first memory is a dance-related one,” she tells me, “I guess that’s where it started.” Or maybe not so easy. Having decided to take her childhood hobby a step further, at the age of fifteen Laura began to dance more seriously. With the idea of turning her passion into a career she embarked on a journey that started with a professional dance qualification. But right in the middle of her studies Laura went through a life-changing event. A spinal bleed left her paralysed from the

28 KaylaDraz Ann bye.JASON REINHART

chest downwards. “Having been quite active with dancing it was a real shock to have to deal with. It was very hard to cope with the change that it forced upon me,” Laura recalls. It didn’t stop Laura dancing for very long though. She found a dance workshop for integrated dance - incorporating both disabled and able-bodied dancers, and decided to give it a go. “I thought that if I still enjoyed it then I had to go for it,” she explains. “It can be very easy when an event like that happens, to retreat and cut yourself off, to think ‘that’s it, my life's never going to be the same again’. You’d be right to think that your life is never going to be the same again, but wrong to think that it’s necessarily a bad thing. That’s where the thinking needs to change.” Laura recalls her tutors being fantastic at encouraging her to get back into dance, despite the challenges. “I had to learn everything from scratch,” she says, “all in a new body. I had to work out how to be a dancer again.” And she did. “It made me more determined in a way,” she tells me, “if I could overcome what I perceived initially to be a barrier to dancing, then there was nothing

“There is something almost primal about the act of moving to music”

Bret Pfister by Bertil Nilsson

Photos by Chris Parkes

else stopping me.” This whole process helped Laura to adapt to her new circumstances, to accept and love the way that her body is now, and to learn how to work with it in new and innovative ways. Laura joined Stopgap Dance Company in 2001 and has been dancing with them ever since. The inclusive dance comapny create exhilarating productions for national and international touring, employing both disabled and non-disabled artists and finding innovative ways to collaborate. “Difference is our means and our method,” says artistic director and choreographer Lucy Bennett, “a sense of pioneering spirit and collaboration are really important in our company.” Laura explains more to me about how this ethos works. “We are interested in the individuals in the company and what each individual can bring. We really look at each person’s strengths and weaknesses and how each person comes together within the environment of the studio.” She goes on to explain that artistic director, Lucy, studies the interactions, not just of the different physical bodies of the dancers, but also of their minds. “We really focus on the challenges that those interactions bring up but also the possibilities that they cre-



Stopgap create exhilarating dance productions for national and international touring, employing both disabled and non-disabled artists and finding innovative ways to collaborate. ate,” Laura explains, “Lucy spends a lot of time watching the dancers in the studio but also during breaks, at lunch, and in any other spaces that we come together, she really picks up on characters and develops a lot of the pieces from what she sees.” Laura is keen to tell me however that it's not just about bodies and movement and working out the logisitics of choreography. “We create art,” she tells me, “just like any other dance company. The aim is to create quality pieces of art, no matter how that’s done.” Stopgap prides itself on “using different physicalities, experiences

different bodies and the challenges of the dance itself. But these are challenges that Laura describes as highly positive and advantageous. “We’re more creative,” she explains, “we can’t just go into the studio and think ‘ok here’s the dance, off we go’. Instead we have to really think about how it’s going to work.”

Photo by Chris Parkes

and learning styles to find innovative and alternative ways of expression and movement.” In other words, it’s not about disability, it’s about difference. Laura goes on to tell me that the beauty of creating art in this way is that “the pieces come from the dancers, rather than a dance piece being laid onto a bunch of people who happen to dance.” So what about the challenges that this ethos surely presents? Laura explains that firstly there are the physical challenges - venues with no disabled access, travelling internationally in places that are not always developed to cater for

But, as Laura explains, the second, and perhaps bigger hurdle, comes from the outside. “Perceptions are improving but they are definitely still a challenge,” Laura tells me. She explains that the barrier can come from both within the profession (think venues, agents, etc.) and from the outside, namely audiences. “Often people think that only those with a disability would be interested in coming to watch one of our shows, or that it’s a specialist thing that wouldn’t be relevant to them.” Actually though, as Laura explains to me, Stopgap is for anyone. The pieces are accessible and most importantly, they are art. So what about my two left feet then? Laura recommends that anyone who fancies giving dance a go should just go for it. “I do it because I love dancing,” Laura says, “to dance and to enjoy it is a wonderful thing, and not worrying about how you’ll look or what people will think is very empowering.” She recommends finding the right teacher and the right class. “You need to be comfortable,” she tells me, “and to be very critical about whether what you’re doing is meeting your needs. If you’re embarrassed in the class, then it’s not meeting your needs and you should change it rather than soldiering on.” If you’re still not satisfied though, then maybe Stopgap’s new dance syllabus will help. Alongside running youth groups that cater for varying ages and abilities, the company are also piloting a new syllabus, IRIS, the aim of which is to make dance more accessible. Laura explains to me that the syllabus is


flexible, and so whether you think you have two left feet or you have a disability that is hindering your access to dance then IRIS might just have something to offer. “IRIS uses a student-centred approach to learning. The syllabus enables teachers to respond to their students' aspirations, learning styles and physicality by having flexibility within set exercises,” the IRIS syllabus introduction explains. “Can you keep me and my two left feet updated about that?” I ask Laura. She laughs but I’m not actually joking this time. I gave ballet a go once in university and gave up after I was told my springing looked more like the aftermath of an electric shock, but maybe dance is something I could access afterall. We finish our chat and I turn on the radio and wiggle my way downstairs to make a cup of tea. Now where did I put those ballet shoes?

Stopgap are currently working on a new piece, ‘The Enormous Room’, which will premier in 2017. Keep your eyes on www.stopgapdance. com for more information.



Photo by Chris Parkes

Cirque du Soleil Amaluna An interview


he first time I saw a Cirque du Soleil show I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. The human beings in front of me took on a dream-like form as they bended, balanced, climbed and catapulted across the magnificent set that had been laid out for my enjoyment. What I was witnessing wasn’t possible in the world I knew - I had been transported into a magical land where gravity was something people remembered from long ago and where the human body

knew no boundaries. This, was the circus. Transfixed within the world to which I had been transported, it never occurred to me what a complex machine the circus must be. Never did I imagine that just one show could comprise of over 100 cast and crew from all over the world, including not just performers, but trainers, artistic managers, technicians, medics and chefs to name just a few. It didn’t cross my mind that a whole team of people


had painstakingly designed every tiny detail of what I saw, including literally hundreds of costumes (some complete with hydraulic pistons it turns out), chandeliers, winches, and over a mile of on-set branches. All I knew is that I was in love. DRAZE was lucky enough to be able to chat to two of the people behind the amazing feat that is a Cirque du Soleil show. Marissa King and Rachel Lancaster, both members of Amaluna, a show that invites the audience to a mysterious island governed by Goddesses and guided by the cycles of the moon, tell us what it’s really like to run away with the circus... Marissa King - Gymnast on Uneven Bars What age did you start gymnastics and how did you get into it? I became involved in gymnastics at the age of eight after watching a gymnastics display at my local secondary school. From then, I joined their small gymnastics program and eventually moved to a bigger facility. Eventually, the only thing I wanted to do was to be in the gym, to be training and to be improving day by day. I was successful in making the Great British team at just 15 years old and this led me to compete on the international stage, both in the European and World Championships and as well as in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. During these years I achieved my childhood ambitions -I reached my peak within the sport by the age of 17. Did you always want to become a Cirque du Soleil artist? It had been on my mind since I saw my first Cirque du Soleil show, Zaia, in Macau. I was 22 and after my competitive gymnastics career, I still felt I had some fuel in the tank and that I could explore a lot more acrobatically. As a gymnast, I felt somewhat



limited by having to conform to a set of rules in a bid to score points. I had always had an urge to look at other means of artistic and acrobatic expression and Cirque du Soleil seemed like it would give me the freedom to create and to mix my previous career as a gymnast with my love for acrobatics. It quickly became the next chapter in my life that I wanted to pursue and so, once I had graduated, I put all of my time and energy into making this a reality. It was a long and somewhat gruelling process having to wait for the right opportunity within a show to arise, but I was lucky enough that it happened eventually, that I was the ideal candidate and that I’m here now. What is the life of a circus artist like? We generally stay in each city between six and twelve weeks, with around a week off between locations. Travelling certainly has its perks, I love the fact we're not settled and we’re regularly on the move, you get to see the world doing something you love and perform in front of thousands of people. But the schedule can be fairly gruelling at times; training involves working on your specific act, but also helping with other rehearsals, video sessions, and much more. On top of this we typically perform between eight to ten shows a week. Outside of this, there is an element of freedom to explore other disciplines. A lot of us really try to make use of our days off and the breaks inbetween cities to do other activities that are not related to circus. This is my way to unwind, rest and get some mental recovery before going back to work once again. That’s the beauty of touring life and the benefits definitely far outweigh the challenges. What would you recommend for someone interested in getting into gymnastics or circus arts? Find your local club, pop in and give it a try! Gymnastics is a beautiful sport that provides an incredible

foundation for achieving whatever you want from a sport, whether that’s to pursue sporting excellence or just to remain fit and healthy. Like any technical sport though, it's not easy and you definitely have to dig deep when times are tough or things aren't going so well. You also often have to make other sacrifices to achieve your ambitions, so it is essential you make sure you’re having fun in doing it. What's your favourite part of the job? Three things: seeing the world, being on stage and working with this cast every day. I feel extremely fortunate to be constantly travelling and to be exposed to the world and places that are filled which such great history, tradition, and culture. I also love to be

on stage and to bring joy to an audience each and every night. As if that wasn’t enough, we have a wide array of incredibly talented artists on our show, all with such interesting stories and with inspiring and unique ways of carrying out their work. This motivates me to continue pushing boundaries, to mature and to develop into the best artist I can be. Rachel Lancaster - Artistic Director How did you become an artistic director for Cirque du Soleil? I started out by studying Dance at Trinity Laban in London. I was a professional dancer for the first part of my career, working with Maxine Doyle from


Punch Drunk and with Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures. While working for New Adventures I became the company dance captain, assisting in the creation of new shows, restaging existing works and managing the work on international tours. While I was studying for my masters, Cirque contacted me to see if I would be interested in working for them and I joined the company in 2011 as the Assistant Artistic Director for Corteo. I was offered the opportunity to take the Artistic Director position for Amaluna in early 2014. What does the job of an artistic director involve day to day? The primary responsibility of a Cirque artistic director is taking care of the show presented on stage every day. It’s fifty percent rehearsal direction and fifty percent managing the wider team in collaboration with the technical director and the company manager. This involves many elements: casting, rehearsing new artists and the maintenance or evolution of the acts in the show. The full team work closely together to give the optimum experience to our audiences at all times. Can you tell us about Amaluna? Every Cirque show is created by a different team and each set of peo-



ple bring a unique chemistry to shape and create what ultimately becomes the theme of that show. The original conceptors for Amaluna were Diane Paulus and Fernand Rainville. Amaluna is a love story between the two main characters, Romeo and Miranda, and it takes its theme and context from both The Tempest and The Magic Flute. The story takes place on an island inhabited by women and creatures, ruled by the matriarch Prospera. As part of Miranda’s coming-ofage celebration Prospera conjures a storm, causing a shipwreck which brings men to the island. A predominantly female cast was one of the driving ideas behind the show’s evolution and Amaluna is seventy percent women. Most circus shows have the opposite ratio but Diane and Fernand wanted to create a show celebrating women’s power and femininity. What goes on behind the scenes regarding helping the artists to maintain their level of performance? The artistic team’s primary role is to support the artists. Our team includes stage management, acrobatic coaches, physiotherapists and an assistant artistic director, all supporting 47 artists. Everyone’s focus is to continually improve and evolve. We have a team with hugely varied backgrounds, all striving for excellence in what they do. Maintaining a level of performance is not enough and so to improve we work holistically, supporting artists with improving their physical strength, their health and nutrition, their acrobatic development and ensuring that they understand what their role within Amaluna’s story is. What's your favourite part of the job? Working with such incredible individuals and helping them to achieve their goals. Cirque Du Soleil's Amaluna is returning to the UK later this year and in 2017. Visit www.cirquedusoleil. com/amaluna for more info.

Photo by Erika Reid

Plus-size Yoga

“I’ve got what I call bigasana,” Dianne chuckles, “all of me is abundant.” // Part of the inclusive movement series


ianne Bondy, body positive activist and yoga teacher, laughs as we chat about what got her into the inclusive yoga movement. “I’ve got what I call bigasana,” Dianne chuckles, “all of me is abundant.” Dianne’s aim is to empower people around the world - regardless of their shape, size, ethnicity or level of ability -

to get moving. Dianne has been practising yoga since the age of three, when she used to join her mother in the basement of their house and follow along with poses that her mother preformed out of a library book. More than forty years later and Dianne’s practice is stronger than ever. So, what sparked her in-


terest in a body-positive, inclusive yoga movement? “I went into a studio one day,” she explains, “and the woman behind the reception desk looked at me and said ‘you must be kidding, you know this is going to be hard right?’ I couldn’t believe it,” Dianne recalls. “Yoga studios can be pretty intimidating in the first place, and here I was, having got through the door, essentially being told not to bother.” Dianne realised how off-putting this could be for anyone who might be uncomfortable with their body - big or small - or for anyone who felt that they didn’t conform to the idea of a ‘typical yogi’. It was a similar experience that pushed Brit, Donna Noble into the body positive movement. Having practised and taught hot yoga for a few years, she stumbled upon an article by a plus-size journalist who had gone to take a yoga class. “Her entire experience was horrible,” Donna tells me, “she was the largest person in the room and everybody in the class stared at her, whilst the only person who should have been looking, the teacher, ignored her every move.” Something about that article sparked an interest in Donna and she got in touch with a body-positive activist. As she began to connect with the body-positive com-



munity she realised that she had been stuck in a yoga bubble, unaware of all the hidden prejudices and preconceptions that acted as a filter to getting students into a studio class. “I was merrily going along thinking that I was doing a great job teaching whoever walked into my class,” says Donna, “but this movement really showed me that there must be thousands of people who, for whatever reason, weren’t managing to make it into the studio. I started to think, ‘how am I getting to those people?’” Donna began teaching plus-size workshops in studios, however she noticed that it was difficult for students to pluck up the courage to enter a studio when they felt so self-conscious of their practice. “Once I realised this,” Donna tells me, “I started to think more innovatively. I ran Instagram challenges and published classes online.” The beauty of this is that anybody can access Donna’s expertise whether they’re in the city, the countryside, the UK or Uganda. And Dianne totally agrees. “If people aren’t coming to yoga,” she tells me, “then we

need to take it to them. People feel much more comfortable accepting something new if it’s brought to them within their own space. That’s where things like online classes can become a real gift.” Dianne explains that if plus-sized individuals are not entering movement spaces like gyms, personal training spaces and yoga classes, then teachers are not thinking about how to adjust to different abilities and different bodies. It creates a vicious circle which needs to be broken through dialogue, imagery and body positive conversations. Both Donna and Dianne chat about the need for more diverse yoga imagery. “I began to see images on Instagram of plus-sized women doing poses that I certainly couldn’t do,” Donna recalls “and I realised that there is a huge lack of diverse imagery in the movement community. The plus-sized practitioners were out there, but I never saw them, it proved me that there was a need for plus-size teaching.” Dianne agrees and she laughs as we chat about her latest Penningtons video ‘Who says plus size women can’t?’, which shows her floating her way through a hardcore practice alongside slogans such as ‘plus-size women have no balance’ and ‘they’re too heavy to lift themselves’. “I wanted to put myself out there as a person in a larger body practising yoga, so that other people could look and see that the practice could be for them too,” Dianne tells me, “the more I read and learnt, the more I understood that this practice was about the union of body and spirit but also about the union of diversity. That’s really what started me thinking about what yoga for all would look like, how we can make something that people can connect with and how diversity can be something that we celebrate in yoga.” Both women explain to me that it’s not just about size or weight. Really, it’s about understanding the many issues that people might have when they come onto the yoga mat, and about being more sensitive to those issues, so that yoga can be accessible for everyone. “I have been really blessed to be born into and to maintain a larger body,” Dianne tells me, “and this

has meant that I have had to figure out how to do poses that I saw performed by one type of body, in a different body, by using the things around me; chairs, walls, tables, blankets.” Dianne started out her yoga teaching journey as an Anusara teacher and very early on she learnt what she calls ‘the power of the prop’. “I spent most of my time using my yoga mat as an asana lab,” she explains “thinking ‘how do I break this down for somebody who can’t hold their body up, for somebody who doesn’t have a leg, who isn’t flexible?’” Dianne recalls her teacher training, where she spent a lot of time paired with a student who had been in an accident and had a leg amputated. “I spent a lot of time figuring out how to cue to a person who was missing a limb, how to tell them to step back with their right foot when they didn’t have a right foot. It really changed the way I looked at yoga,” she explains. Donna has also shifted her perspective. “Before I viewed props as something for people who weren’t very flexible,” she tells me, “now I love them, I see them as a tool to get somewhere. I have my own issues with my body and now I see these issues as interesting challenges to be overcome with props, adjustments and study.” Study is


key, and Dianne tells me that she spends many hours in her ‘asana lab’ “figuring out how I would do a pose if I couldn’t move certain bits of me.” Dianne started out by renting a church hall in her local area. “Twice a week, six of my neighbours would come to practice,” she recalls, “then six became twelve and twelve became twenty four and before I knew it it grew to the point where I was teaching six classes four days a week out of this church hall.” When things got too big for Dianne to handle in her little church hall, her husband persuaded her that she needed to take things up a notch and acquire a permanent space. Initially reluctant, Dianne eventually agreed, but remained determined to keep the space accessible. “A lot of studios require you to observe silence, and I can totally respect that,” she tells me, “but I know how intimidating it can be. I wanted my space to be all about the community, and so I painted it in bright colours, I encouraged people to talk and to laugh, both inside and outside of class. Sometimes the studio is super loud,” she laughs. Donna and Dianne think that there are still big changes to be made in advertising and fitness



imagery. “When people see a fit body they shouldn’t be thinking of a body that looks a certain way,” Dianne explains, “they should be thinking of a body that looks their way. “When people can see bodies that look like their own doing the practice, that takes away some of the fear of the unknown, because right there is something that they recognise.” Ultimately though, both women think that once they’ve managed to get someone on the mat, it will be the practice, and not studio space, Instagram or imagery, that will offer them whatever it is they need. “Yoga is so much more than a physical thing,” Dianne says. And Donna agrees, “we create our world,” she tells me, “you wake up one day and you have £10 in your bank account and you think ‘let’s see where this takes me’. The next day you might wake up thinking ‘oh my god, what am I going to do, I’ve only got £10 in my account.’ The £10 hasn’t changed, it’s your perception of it. And that’s the same whether we’re talking about your view of movement and exercise or your view of your own body. If you can breathe, then you can do yoga. Whatever else you need is on the inside.

Photo by Erika Reid

Laruga Glaser


hen I arrange my chat with Laruga Glaser, who I’ll be speaking to from Sweden, she tells me that any time before 7.30pm will be fine. She needs to make sure she gets to bed for 8pm. That’s right, 8pm. Welcome to the life of an ashtangi. And a pretty impressive ashtangi at that. With nineteen years of yoga practice under her belt, Laruga is one of Sweden’s leading ashtanga teachers and heads up a Mysore programme at a studio in Stockholm. Looking at Laruga’s pictures it’s hard to believe that she wasn’t born onto a yoga mat doing the splits, but apparently, she wasn’t. Laruga tells me that she has been interested in spirituality and philosophy since a young age. It was this fascination that would eventually lead her to yoga, both as a philosophy and as a practice, but the practice didn’t start off quite as graceful as it might look now. “When I look back at my practice when I started, I was working from books and from videos and I was probably understanding less than fifty percent,” Laruga recalls. “We all bumble through the practice in the early stages

Laruga Glaser by Alessandro Sigismondi

and that’s fine. As long as we can find a sense of mystery and fun within that and as long as we can laugh at ourselves, then it’s all good.” Despite her bumbling, Laruga tells me that she felt a sense of connection to the practice, and that when her yoga helped to alleviate seemingly unsolvable back pain during her university years, her connection to the mat was solidified. After many years of sustained practice, Laruga entered into teaching and now brings over twenty years of experience instructing body movement to her students. Laruga reminds me that she is still very much a student though, “I tell my students ‘the only difference between you and me is that I’ve practised more’. It really is as simple as that.” Laruga explains that although she understand why people get ‘yoga-fear’ when looking at pictures or videos of experienced yogis, she thinks that the most important message to get across is that it’s not really about the body. “Yoga is using the body as a tool to get somewhere else, and to that end it doesn’t really matter what it looks like.” Although I agree with Laruga, I have to admit that I’m still intim-



idated by the concept of rocking up to the class of Laruga’s choice, a Mysore ashtanga class. A Mysore class is essentially a guided self-practice, where you arrive and work at your own pace and level with some input from the teacher. This traditional form of teaching differs from that of the ordinary city studio class in that there are no step-by-step instructions that students follow as a group, instead postures are introduced and taught one at a time to students individually depending on their level. To an outside observer a Mysore class might seem like a space where everyone in is silently getting on with their own thing and everyone most certainly knows what they’re doing. But Laruga is keen to correct that myth. So is a Mysore class not totally intimidating and unsuitable for beginners? “No way,” Laruga laughs, “the beauty of Mysore is that students can be taught at their level of ability, the practice can be translated to the needs of each student. There’s a perception that it’s for advanced student, which is totally wrong, it’s the place you learn.” Laruga goes on to explain that, yes, you need to learn the practice, but that you do so with the help and guidance of an experienced teacher and in a way that

Laruga Glaser by Alessandro Sigismondi

Laruga Glaser by Alessandro Sigismondi

resonates with your body. “I’ve never had someone who couldn’t learn the sequence,” she tells me, “and you’re certainly not expected to know it when you walk in, it’s called a practice for a reason.” Laruga explains to me that teaching is always happening in a Mysore class and that from time to time you are being told what to do. The teacher is there as a guide rather than an instructor and so if you’re just beginning and you need a lot of guidance then that is what you will be given. The teacher then gives the student the skills to be able to maneuver themselves into the practice and become their own guide. Laruga explains that Mysore also teaches students a certain sense of responsibility for their own practice, an aspect that she values highly. “For some reason I always liked the term ‘practice’,” Laruga tells me, “it’s like you have to do something to experience what yoga is, it’s not just about adopting rules, and Mysore certainly teach-

es you this.” Laruga tells me that she oftens hears of people avoiding Mysore because they want to be told what to do when they attend a yoga class. “When I hear that I think, ‘Really? You don’t want any responsibility for your own development?’ The journey of yoga is all about responsibility for yourself,” she explains “and about recognising where changes need to be made, then making them. If that applies to the mind in yoga then why not the body?” For Laruga, having responsibility for your own practice is probably the most important thing to learn in yoga. “In a Mysore setting you are given the skills to do that. It’s highly empowering, so get on with your practice and let it do its thing.”


In conversation

Rachel Brathen by Ben Kane

n with Yoga Girl


ith close to two million followers on Instagram alone it seems odd to me that Rachel Brathen, aka Yoga Girl somehow remains accessible, relatable and real. As I scroll obsessively through her posts though (when I should really be writing this), it becomes clear just how she manages it. Yes, her photos are full of idyllic sun salutations on a pristine Caribbean beach and full of frolicking around in hand balances with her pet goat Penny (I’m not kidding), but read the often-lengthy descriptions that go along with them and you see another side.

eating brightly-coloured fruits pristinely arranged in jam jars whilst I’m scoffing peanut butter on toast, this is a refreshing change.

Rachel is quick to point out that her life isn’t perfect. She shares the ups and the downs with her followers, publicising raw emotions, even when they’re not pretty. In an age where we’re surrounded by the edited versions of people’s lives, where everybody’s no-makeup selfie looks better than I think I’d manage on a red carpet, and where everybody else seems to be

And so Rachel founded oneOeight, an online platform that aims to share the personal arsenal of lifetools that she’s gained from a daily yoga practice, meditation and leading an alternative lifestyle. Rachel goes on to tell me that on the day that oneOeight launched, the highest-viewed classes weren’t the handstand tutorials or the core strength classes, instead they were the classes about grief. “oneOeight is a place where people can heal,” Rachel explains, “it’s about giving people the tools to work on themselves, whether that’s through yoga practice, meditation,

“I went through a lot of heavy personal things last year but I didn’t have anywhere to go,” Rachel explains. “People reached out to me because they resonated with the fact that I was honest about what I was going through.” It’s an honesty that has inspired millions across the world to connect with Yoga Girl and ultimately with themselves. “I get thousands of emails from people asking for advice, support or urgent help,” Rachel tells me. “I thought it would be great if there was a community with real teachers and experts, who knew how to provide support for people who need it but who aren’t yet ready for faceto-face help,” Rachel recalls, “so my main goal was to provide a place for people that supported different types of healing.”


healing or food.” With her online studio for yoga, meditation and nutrition launched, Rachel spied an opportunity. We’ve all heard our teacher’s talk about ‘yoga off the mat’, but sometimes it’s easier said than done. Rachel strongly believes in each individual’s possibility of influencing the world for the better and with oneOeight in full swing, she realised that there was great potential in the community around her. What if she could harness that powerful group of people, the people striving towards a better self, and get them to work together and strive towards a better world as well? There are one hundred and eight beads (oneOeight) on a mala, the beads for the self. Then there is the guru bead, the 109th, the bead that signifies a pause of silence, gratitude and acknowledgement. Founded by Rachel, along with childhood friends Olivia Rothschild and Leticia Reyes, 109 World is a platform that aims to use the power of a community invested in improving themselves, to create positive change elsewhere. Rachel and Olivia have been friends since high school. As Rachel moved away from Sweden and was building a huge following



on Instagram, friend Olivia was studying Social Entrepreneurship. During their many chats, Rachel would speak of the importance of being a positive influence and a good role model and both friends shared a passion for bringing about positive change. So they set about finding a way to combine their passion for doing good within local communities, with Rachel’s ability to sell out yoga retreats. 109 World was born. 109 World allows followers to “engage in creating positive impact in a way that fits their lifestyle.” So what does that mean exactly? Having decided on seven urgent global causes (clean water, the environment, world hunger, animal rescue, female empowerment, children and education), 109 World will be launching seven social mission trips. Each trip will involve working with already-thriving local projects on the ground in India, Aruba, Rwanda, Nicaragua, Colombia, Brazil and Latvia. Rachel explains the mission trip as “a yoga retreat with a difference.” The difference being that “instead of lying on a beach in Aruba, you get on with your karma yoga and you work at whatever project is behind that particular mission.” Each mission will harness local expertise to tackle a pressing

problem in the region and will aim to create measurable, local, positive, social change. In the 109 days leading up to each mission the 109 World platform will launch an online campaign, aimed at raising both funds and awareness for the cause. “Each member of the community is able to contribute in a way that makes sense to them,” co-founder Olivia explains, “whether that’s by actively joining a trip, by spreading awareness, or by taking action in everyday life. Through 109 World there is a way for you to make a difference.” Rachel explains that oneOeight subscribers will recognise their favorite teachers from the site in each of the different 109 missions. “Each teacher from oneOeight gets the opportunity to host one of the 109 World mission trips every year, encouraging their own oneOeight followers to get involved.” 109 World’s first mission trip takes place this April in Nicaragua and focusses on bringing safe, clean water to the community of Playa Gigante. The initial mission will be followed by #109Education in Latvia, #109Children in Colombia, #109Animals in Aruba, #109FoodSecurity in Rwanda, #109Women in India and #109Environment in Brazil. And with her number of followers growing each

day, as far as Rachel is concerned, the sky’s the limit. “Over 1.8 million sets of eyes and index fingers scroll through Yoga Girl’s every handstand heartache and happiness, for me that comes with responsibilities,” Rachel explains, “a responsibility to make use of this influence.” Using the power of social media to advance social

missions, with 109 World Rachel, Olivia and Leticia want to change the world’s concept of philanthropy. 109 will empower individuals making a change to themselves to come together and make changes in areas of critical need. “There are no random acts,” Rachel and Olivia explain, “we are all interconnected. What we do to Earth, we do to ourselves and what we do for ourselves, we do for the Earth.”

Rachel Brathen by Ben Kane

Three cutting-edge choreographers take on circus arts

The 7 Fingers Marie Chouinard Victor Quijada Marcos Morau

1 & 2 April


Sadler’s Wells Theatre 020 7863 8000 Angel

Issue 9 • Mar/Apr 2016  

Featuring yoga, dance & circus arts. Inside this issue, exhilarating dance performances from non-disabled and disabled artists: Stopgap Danc...

Issue 9 • Mar/Apr 2016  

Featuring yoga, dance & circus arts. Inside this issue, exhilarating dance performances from non-disabled and disabled artists: Stopgap Danc...