Meet Dan Peppiatt, the founder of ‘Yoga Like Water’. Dan believes there is a perfect form of yoga for everyone and that we just have to trust ourselves to find it! He teaches widely at studios across the country to both students and existing teachers of yoga, bringing his ‘Yoga Like Water’ 200 hour Teacher ‘Untraining’ to Devon and London. He also runs North Devon Yoga Centre with his wife Gemma and a team of fabulous local yogis.
Dan Peppiatt took up yoga over twenty years ago after a variety of physical symptoms resulting from anxiety. He now uses that personal experience to help others.
I will always have anxiety as an integral part of me. I used to think that was a weakness, but now I see it as a strength. I can’t get rid of my anxiety, that would be ridiculous. It has been with me for as long as I can remember, but I have learned to relate to it very differently. It means I can empathise with other people that are suffering from all sorts of complaints, not only mental, but because of the effect that anxiety had on my body, I also empathise with physical ailments. The ways that yoga has helped me to deal with it are tools and knowledge that I am able to pass on to others. If I hadn’t had to use them myself, I would never be able to vouch for their effectiveness.
Dan spent many years as a science teacher after a stint at medical school and combines his teaching experience and scientific background to explain things in a clear, logical and non dogmatic way.
I never finished medical school. I just couldn’t hack being shut up with so many books to read! However, I came from a normal working class background: my Dad was a plumber, yet I ended up living with and studying with people from all classes and backgrounds. I have always been able to talk to anyone from a brain surgeon to a five year old, my 95 year old cockney nan to academics. I have never seen anyone as being above me or below me. I don’t ‘teach’ yoga but having been a school teacher, I am pretty well able to understand what people need and simply encourage them to trust themselves.
Yogamatters caught up with Dan to find out more about the thinking behind ‘Yoga Like Water’ and what this looks like in practice in his life and teaching.
How did you come up with the name ‘Yoga Like Water’? What does this phrase mean to you?
‘Yoga Like Water’ was born from a number of sources, all of which were very important in my life. I had always loved water: I surf most days down in North Devon, I freedive, we raised our two children on a boat. My lifelong hero has always been Bruce Lee and one of his famous sayings was ‘Be Like Water’. His philosophy was very similar to mine when it came to yoga and it all just fitted perfectly.
How do you see yoga as a very personal thing, an individual path, and how does this concept fit with all the ‘schools’ of yoga available today?
Yoga is a very personal thing. There is only one correct path for each individual and that is the path that comes from within them. No-one else can tell us what our path is and no-one can walk it for us. The various systems and schools of yoga provide a ‘gateway’ to set us on the path. The important thing is that we remember that they are just that..a starting point; they aren’t an end in themselves.
You’ve said that ‘yoga becomes life and life becomes yoga’. How has that been true for you in your own life?
I have always been very able to tap into the ‘flow state’. I have done everything that I have ever wanted in life and I can honestly say that I regret nothing. Yoga is present in every aspect of life. There is something to learn from every second, every incident, every thought that we think or word that we say. We just have to listen out for the lessons and grow from them.
How is it possible for a human being to be ‘formless and shapeless like water’?
I have no idea. The concept applies more to mental states. We don’t attach to anything, we aren’t fixed in our opinions, we can adapt to any situation, we can be strong as a waterfall or soft as a raindrop. It has a great deal of taoist undertones. The very concept is as elusive as water. If you try to hold onto it, it just slips through your hands.
You describe ‘Yoga Like Water’ as a ‘non style’ and an ‘un-training’. What does this look like in practice?
That’s a great question! We make a huge effort not to ‘systemise’ anyone, if that is even a word. We bring in teachings from not only yoga but a massive range of disciplines: asana, martial arts, slackline and parcour; meditation, the flow state, deconcentration and systema; pranayama, freediving. You name it, if it has value…and everything does…then we add it into the mix. Our only aim is that the students find their own authentic way of facilitating yoga and practising it themselves. The last thing we want them to be is a secondhand copy of us; we want them to be a 100% version of themselves.
What is the difference between a yoga teacher and a yoga facilitator?
You cant teach yoga, it’s as simple as that. The concept that I could teach you something as internal as yoga is ridiculous. Sure, I can teach someone to sit quietly, breathe in a certain way, make amazing shapes and balance on their hands, but that isn’t yoga. What I can do is facilitate and assist the journey of self understanding in others. Helping others to trust that they know what is best for themselves, not a distant teacher or guru.
What role does meditation play in your own life and how do you incorporate it into your teaching?
I try to practise meditation in whatever I am doing. Sitting down and meditating is all well and good, but like asana, it is just a means to an end. The ideal situation is that everything becomes a meditative process, whether you are washing up, eating chocolate or just breathing. Humans have an uncanny ability to slip into the ‘flow state’ when they are totally engrossed in an activity. That’s why I return to climbing, freediving, surfing, skating and so on, because the complete concentration makes it so easy to merge in the moment.
What is your vision for passing yoga onto the next generations?
Yoga is an organic process. It always has been and always will be. How we practise now is unrecognisable from how yogis would have practised 100 or 1000 years ago. That doesn’t mean that we are right or wrong, it’s just different. What we are leaning towards now though is a version of yoga often passed on by ‘teachers’ who don’t really understand it themselves and many more who certainly haven’t deeply investigated what yoga means or why they are passing on the things that they do. I want the next generation of yogis to be free, to realise that yoga isn’t limited to a mat or a studio, that it is OK not to Om of you don’t want to. They can rewrite the rule book because there is no yoga rule book.
To find out more about Dan Peppiatt and his ‘Yoga Like Water‘ 200 hour Teacher ‘Untraining’ in Devon and London, visit www.yogalikewater.com.