40 years teaching yoga
John was educated at one of the great universities of the world. At St. John's College, Cambridge he read for the medical tripos: Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology followed by a degree in Veterinary Medicine.
John has taught Yoga for the past 34 years. He received his original training from Silva Metha in London in the 1970s, and soon after had contact with B.K.S. Iyengar each time that Iyengar visited the U.K. John then began to take courses and classes in Poona, India.
After 9 years of training in London, in 1983 John moved to Norfolk with his family. There he founded 'The Norfolk Iyengar Yoga Centre', a place where one could have both daily practice or stay during weekend intensives. The Center became a reference point for Yoga Iyengar for 20 years.
My First Encounter with Yoga
We have to go back nearly 50 years for my first encounter with Yoga. My wife had started going to a class and encouraged me to go along with her. I was skeptical, reluctant to join in and sat watching, until the relaxation when the teacher insisted I participate. The next week I was there with my blanket! Within two years I had joined the teacher training class and been lucky enough to be taught by B. K. S. Iyengar on his visits to London and been given his approval to teach his method.
After a Privileged Education
At the end of a long privileged medical education with it’s scientism, malignancies, and pharmacologies, I really felt lost, unable to find a compatible way to fit into the world. The academic subjects barely touched on the understanding of health and prophylaxis was vaccination. With a head stuffed full of an enormous vocabulary, of concepts and techniques, from lectures and book learning, I was left with a longing for immediacy and the phenomenology of perception. It was a time when my generation was attracted to the experiential spirituality of eastern cultures and when Yoga came along it offered me a way forward. A sense of vocation, a way to make a meaningful contribution to health and wellbeing with what I saw as one of the finest systems of physical education available to mankind. It was obvious that the spiritual dimension was essential to wellbeing and a regular practice was a key to countering the numbing stresses of life and particularly of urban life. Teaching in London in those early years was a great apprenticeship with big classes and people of all shapes, sizes, ages, colours and creeds.
Our Family Life
With three young children the requirements of our family life needed to change, and we moved from London to Norfolk, to the countryside about 150 Km away, acquired an old farmhouse, built a Yoga studio in an outbuilding and more bedrooms, and opened our doors for weekend retreats and local classes at the Norfolk Iyengar Yoga Centre. For over 20 years we averaged 24 weekend retreats a year. Before we knew it the children had grown up and left home and the next big change followed. We closed the Centre, sold the property, split the proceeds and my wife and I went separate ways.
Chreode Yoga Equipment
Ever since the London days I have supplemented our income by making and supplying Yoga equipment. Chreode Yoga Equipment has over the years supplied thousands of wood blocks, bolsters, backstretches etc. I still have a workshop though the output is much reduced. In one’s late seventies one’s energy declines! But the last few years has been a time for writing. It seems that one requires solitude in order to listen to the voice within, for it to appear on the blank page. The longer one goes on teaching a similar openness to the voice within must enable an authentic evolving process. So there is no lesson plan, there’s no named method. no knowing what’s coming. When writing one does not know the next paragraph when teaching one does not know the next class. You cannot ask where it comes from. There is no answer.
Models of Bones
I always carry to my classes a bag full of plastic models of bones. They are a great help in understanding the structure of the body, extending our language in the defining of detail. Language that guides focused attention to specific locations where the germination of intelligence transforms the shape, the alignment, the integration of the postures. Locations where intelligence can exert control and liberate freedom.
So my numbered days are blessed with pranayama before eating in the morning and asana before teaching. The kitchen of life and the business of life occupy the spaces between.