When I was in high school I always imagined doing work that I loved. And so when I was 16, I moved back to England to join the British Army. My father suggested I get a trade, so that I would have something useful if (and when) I left the army. And so, I became an armourer someone who fixes guns.
Since I'd left school before graduating, I continued my education in the army via correspondance course. I discovered that I loved doing math. I also discovered that I loved studying via correspondance course.
Just after the end of the first Gulf war, I left the army and moved back to Canada to attend university. I studied Systems Design Engineering.
Because I was in a Co-op program, I alternated four months of work with four months of study. I spent a few of my work terms in Ottawa where I developed a love for speedskating. I loved speedskating so much that after I graduated I moved to Calgary, Canada because they had an oval there.
After a few years in Calgary, I started taking acting lessons. I took part in several plays. Around the same time I began teaching yoga.
It took me about three years of teaching yoga before I finally realized that I enjoyed teaching yoga. Up until that point it was a way of making money until I was "discovered" as an actor.
I taught for about 6 years in North America before things went belly side up. I had a load of credit card debt and moved back to my parents not knowing what I wanted to do with myself. I declared bankruptcy.
Initially I thought of going to China because I loved doing Tai Ji and painting Chinese calligraphy, but a friend suggested that I might like Taiwan a lot more. And so I moved to Taiwan, teaching English for a year before falling back into teaching yoga as a full time job.
As a yoga teacher my training began with Rockney White in Calgary. His main teacher at the time was Larry Schultz of It's Yoga in San Francisco. And so I trained a little bit with Larry too. Later I got the chance to take part in one of Andrey Lappa's classes. This was in Chicago. I then later took part in two of his teacher trainings.
I'd say that Andrey was my most important teacher in that he gave me the tools I needed to teach myself. One of those tools was Dance of Shiva, and the other was his framework for Universal Freestyle Yoga.
After moving to Taiwan, I continued my study of Tai Ji (as well as Chinese calligraphy) and that too was an important part of my training. Where from Andrey (and my study of calligraphy) I learned how to break the body down into clearly defined elements, and the importance of it, from my study of Tai Ji (and in particular, studying with one teacher, Teacher Zhan) I learned how to be present at a deeper level.
Over the last 13 years, from the time I moved to Taiwan, my focus as a yoga teacher has developed into teaching my students to become smart yogi's. Rather than following standard recipes for doing poses, I teach them to feel their body and adjust it internally so that they can find the best version of their pose from within. I teach my students how to operate their body more efficiently, more effectively, in anything that they do.
A lot of my experience and understanding of the body has come from fixing my own body. I've had knee pain, collapsed arches, wonky hips, low back painwinged shoulder blades. And I've been fairly tight, i.e. not very flexible. And all of these problems I've learned to fix from learning to understand my body. (And that's a reason for the large sensational yoga anatomy component of this website.)
Ironically, the muscle control techniques that I learned from dealing with knee pain are where I really began to improve my flexibility. And so a large part of what I teach is how to use muscle control techniques to improve flexibility as well as to deal with pain. And I apply the same techniques to lifting weights and even to running. (After not running for 20 or so years, my knees and hips are finally at a level where I can run again. I have to be aware while I run, and make adjustments, but I can run again!)
As well as building and designing this website, I've also written a book. It's about getting into the flow and is called Know to flow.
How is this relevant to yoga? I'd say that being in the flow, or being in the present is when we are actually doing yoga. The key defining characteristic of a yoga pose isn't it's shape or it's alignment. It's you being present in your body while you are doing whatever it is that you are doing. And that is a large part of why I teach muscle control in my classes, in my programs and in my private sessions. It's a simple way of becoming present or of entering the flow.
I've also designed and built a Chinese dictionary app with a unique lookup system. (I first started work on the database when I first moved to Taiwan, 13 years ago.) The dictionary is designed to make Chinese character lookup easier. Why is that important (and how is it relevant on a site about yoga poses?)
When you can look up Chinese characters easily, you spend less time on trying to figure out how to look up the character. You spend less time thinking.
Thinking is the opposite mind-state to flowing or being present. Instead of thinking about how to look up a character, you can get on with the important stuff, learning it.
(Note that thinking is just as important as being in the flow. You actually need both mind-states to learn. That being said, you may have not ever learned how to be present or get into the flow, and so to get the benefits of both you need to focus on them one at a time. And since you've had lots of practice thinking, now's a good occasion to practice being present!)
And so a lot of what I teach (and how I teach) is based on the idea of reducing the need to think while you are doing yoga poses or exercises. Instead of trying to figure out what to do, you can get on with doing it. In this way, you steadily build up your understanding.
When I moved to Calgary, I thought I would train as much as possible, and go to the Olympics, and of course, win a gold medal. That "dream" defined who I thought I was for a long period of my life. It's what made me move to Calgary. But then I wondered, if by chance I did win a medal, what then? Life had to be more than working towards a single moment in time.
I've spent the last ten or so years working towards middle splits. It's a challenge (one of many). But, because each time I do it I focus on feeling my body, on controlling it, on learning it, because of that I've enjoyed the journey. The destination, or having a destination in mind, is important, but equally important is the experience of getting there.
For a list of the various "smart yogi" programs that I offer, check out Smart Yogi store. You can also read on to find out about online privates.
If you are interested in taking a class with me, I currently offer "virtual" classes via skype or facetime.
Sessions are live which means you can get personally tailored instructions and exercises. And if there are things you aren't sure about or don't understand, then you can ask questions. And I can then explain in a way that you understand.
At the end of each session I'll send you videos of exercises covered so that you have a record of the exercises so that you can practice them when you have time. Note that a lot of the muscle control and body awareness exercises can actually be practiced anywhere while sitting or standing, so you have a reduced range of excuses for not practicing.
Class types can range from simple muscle control exercises that you can do while sitting or standing to implementing those same exercises within yoga poses or stretching positions.
Classes can be once or twice a week (recommended in the beginning) or once every two or four weeks with a customized program included.
Virtual sessions are $98/hour.
Use the intercom app on my learn to understand page to get in touch. Let me know why you want a personal session or set of sessions. Is it to deal with pain? Poor function? Simply to learn yoga or body awareness? We can talk via email to discuss whether private sessions would be a suitable option for you or not.
If you are more of a self-starter, then I highly recommend any of my books or videos here on the Learn 2 understand.