Catching up with experienced triyoga yoga teacher Anna Ashby is always a pleasure. She’s always moving forward on her yoga journey, always learning and developing, always involved in something new and exciting. To remind yourself of where Anna was at a year ago, have a read of ‘Anna Ashby – yogi, dancer, teacher and human’. When we heard about the new projects at triyoga that Anna Ashby’s involved with, we couldn’t wait to ask her about it all.
It’s coming up to a year since we last spoke. What have you been learning and how have you been developing in your own personal yoga journey?
My study and practice has been driven by preparation for the triyoga Advanced Teacher Training which started in April. A lot of my time has been spent reading, reflecting and writing about what I feel is important for the modern yoga teacher to investigate and consider as they develop their teaching. So, of course, that means I’ve been critically self-evaluating my own teaching, contemplating what works, what doesn’t and why – considering how to best to hold the space in a yoga class that links back to and respects the yoga tradition, while simultaneously empowering each individual in the class to reflect on their own unique experience of yoga and how that relates to an individual sense of place and purpose. For me, this means teaching from a non-dogmatic stance that takes into consideration the diverse cultural and religious backgrounds present in the learning environment, especially in a city like London.
Working with the different faculty members on the training has been hugely rewarding as we cross-pollinate and exchange differing ideas and views on yoga and its teaching. The thrust of my personal reflection revolves around the role of the modern yoga teacher and her/his place in contemporary society and as it relates to the original yoga. I’m interested in ensuring that modern teaching of yoga accurately includes the essential teachings and relevant practices from the tradition. I’m particularly interested in Tantrik philosophy and finding the language and methods that work best in supporting people facing the challenges which arise from modern living.
Just today, I read a story from the BBC that stated one in four UK teenage girls are ‘depressed’. One. In. Four. I feel yoga holds a key to helping everyday people unlock a sense of meaning and purpose in a world that appears to be rapidly disintegrating into a culture of ‘otherism’ (as defined by Grant Samms) and faces the reality of climate breakdown.
You talked about the new 500 hour teacher training that you’d been working on. How has that developed over the last year?
It’s happening. A year ago, it was in its early planning stages. It has started now with 35 amazing teachers who are keen to dive deeper into their practice and teaching. It’s been wonderful meeting teachers from all different backgrounds and styles and, together, engaging in a revealing dialogue about what’s happening within the greater yoga community. We practise, study and discuss the different aspects of teaching which includes refined alignment of the postures, the philosophy informing the practice, as well as the art of teaching, considering how people learn best. There is an intent to creatively envision how we can develop our collective role in supporting the people we teach in understanding better and experiencing the power of the yoga practices.
A year ago, you said there’d been ‘an explosion of interest in yoga, but this has been more physically driven, I think.’ Do you still believe this is the case or have you seen any kind of shift in the last twelve months?
You still have the physically driven aspect of yoga practice dominating popular culture, but I do feel it’s changing. Seminal work on translating key scriptures from the yoga tradition, as well as research on the evolution of modern yoga, has been happening within academic circles making the teachings, practices and history of yoga more accessible than ever before. As a teacher, it’s been a problem knowing where to go to find authoritative and accurate translation of scriptures with non-biased commentary. This is changing and I find it terribly exciting. James Mallinson and Mark Singleton’s new book entitled ‘Roots of Yoga’ is an extraordinary collection of clearly translated sources and commentary regarding the teachings and practices of yoga across the differing schools. It’s a resource that’s been much needed.
At the triyoga™ studio in Camden, you’re starting up a Teachers’ Practice on a Tuesday afternoon. London’s first ever Teachers’ Practice. How did that come about?
My good friend Genny Wilkinson-Priest was the motivating force behind this class. She is a teacher herself and the yoga manager at triyoga. Recently, she went home to New York and attended a Teachers’ Practice taught by the lovely Nikki Costello. She was struck by the focused learning environment and the sense of connection she felt amongst teachers across different styles wanting to learn and be in a class focused on their own practice. There was a strong sense of community and a feeling of shared purpose. She immediately came home and decided London needed this too. So she thought of me. I loved the idea, and we made it happen.
Who are the sessions for?
Teachers, teachers in training and experienced students.
What will the sessions include?
Alignment based āsana practice, prāṇāyāma, and meditation with yoga philosophy woven throughout.
What are you hoping to create through this innovative practice?
A non competitive learning environment for teachers that includes all the practices of yoga, as well as a sense of shared purpose and community.
On 9 October 2017, triyoga™ Shoreditch will open in the heart of East London. How are you involved in the pre-opening event on the Friday before?
Along with a select group of other teachers teaching a particular style of yoga, I will be teaching a restorative class for this event. This day is by invitation to the press and other ‘influencers’ within the yoga world and it offers a chance to taste the different kinds of classes we will offer, and see the new triyoga centre which will support the offering of yoga in East London.
Anna Ashby will always continue to work on the art of teaching yoga in a way that combines postures, philosophy and modern living, because that is what she has a passion for. If you’d like to join her on this journey, then check out her Teachers’ Practice on the triyoga class schedule.