Last week, (when it was still relatively sunny and warm) I met up with Graham for a socially distanced coffee and catch up in the park.Graham teaches Vinyasa to Yin (currently online) every Wednesday at 6.15pm at Finnieston Yoga Shala.
As we sat enjoying the sunshine and the attention of various four legged friends I asked him how he got into yoga practice and teaching…
C: When did you first start yoga Graham?
G : I’ve been practising yoga on and off for about 13 or 14 years. I started doing something called ‘mindful movement’ at LA Fitness – it wasn’t yoga as such but it gave me a feeling at the end of the class which my gym practice didn’t, which led me to go and find out more about yoga. I remember me and my partner at the time used to do sun salutations together on a Sunday morning – it was our thing! Then I was introduced to Seasonal Yoga when it was above Peckhams.
C : Yes ! Where I first met you – I keep forgetting that our paths crossed a long time ago.
G: We used to occasionally bump into each other at Sainsburys in Crow Road – that awkward moment in the supermarket aisle ” oh hi…” whilst reaching for the biscuits..
C: Haha – yeah I remember. Must have been at least 10 or 11 years ago!
G: I think I fell in love with yoga initially because I was quite bendy and I found it easy – I thought “ooh I’m quite good at this!” and that got me hooked .. and then I came to your class and I wasn’t that good! Because it was really challenging – as a male that went to the gym my hips were tight and a lot of the postures seemed impossible – but I still left feeling better than I ever did after a normal gym class.
Seasonal Yoga was what I always did. I remember being moved on from the beginner’s class – the next class up was really busy and me and my friend were the only guys there..and it was the summer time ..seasonal yoga in the summer is essentially modified ashtanga yoga. I still remember the one class where I had never sweated so much in my life – I was absolutely dripping! That was my first experience of a dynamic, physically demanding practice. I fell in love with the ashtanga style and that was when I started to go to your class.
C: Thursday nights!
G: Yes I would get to Janu Sirsasana C and think “what?? do what with my ankle?” and marichyasana got to me then too! After that for a period of time I dipped in and out of yoga. I kept injuring myself at the gym and the seasonal yoga in winter was slower and felt nicer on my body (and my injuries!). I disappeared from yoga for a while when my job role changed ( I travelled a lot) but I would still occasionally do a yoga video in my hotel room . Then I started intermittently practising at home – I had the printout of the primary series so that’s . what I did. The same thing every day – simple. I was given David Swenson’s book and learned more from there.
A year before I was made redundant I concentrated my energies and put the effort in to find out more about yoga. I was introduced to pranayama and meditation.. then I rediscovered ashtanga through mysore practice and suddenly everything kind of ..changed.. because that moment when you walk into the studio for your first mysore class is an experience..! You walk in and people are all doing what seems like their own thing.. and it was the middle of winter, it was dark and it was cold outside but I came into the room and it was like..( gasps)
C : like a sauna??
G: Yeah, and people were making strange noises (well, breathing!) and doing their own thing and then the chant gets introduced..so all these bits of yoga that were on the periphery…I had always enjoyed yoga for more than the physical practice but I didn’t know why…..and it was ashtanga yoga that gave me the answers to that. Then I did my teacher training which took an even greater dive into it all…. I was then introduced to Yin yoga with Gem – after the intensity of the ashtanga practice I needed it!
I still have a love for vinyasa because that is what I teach and it allows me to be creative but the ashtanga gives me grounding as a teacher and it gives me MY yoga.. I’ve realised in the last year that the 200 hour teacher training is just a foundation and that really if you want to teach yoga you need to be doing yoga all the time and the practice that gives me that discipline is ashtanga..because I’m constantly learning about the human body through my body and I have to turn up and DO it and go through the struggles myself . And in the learning and overcoming ( of struggles) it helps me to understand and pass that knowledge on to others. And it’s the same with Yin Yoga – you can only teach yin if you practice it yourself to really understand how to allow people to switch off and be quiet and judge how far is enough. I recently completed Gem’s 50 hr Yin TT – it really helped me particularly to understand the significance of language when you teach – because yoga is not about getting into a pose for the sake of getting into a pose – it’s about understanding your body and honouring your body ..and using the right language to convey that as a teacher is important.
C: What can people expect from your Vinyasa to Yin Class?
G: It’s a vinyasa class so I like to build a bit of heat . We always take a moment at the start of class for a bit of breath work to allow us to tune into ourselves. I then like to take people into quite a creative vinyasa style class where we sweat and generally there’s some sort of humour.. (at least I laugh!) .. We build heat then bring it down into a relaxing Yin. . so there’s heat, humour, laughter, then we take it down. It’s a dynamic flow that can be quite challenging but there’s options for everyone.
C: Can a beginner come to this class?
G: A beginner can definitely come to the class! I always ask at the start if anyone is new and if they are they can follow me – those that know the poses can take them further. There will be a challenge, but there are no expectations in the class, there’s no ego, it’s not about hurting your body but respecting where your body’s at. It’s a fun, flowing dynamic class going from moving continuously in the vinyasa section to slowing down and tapping into the yin tissues (the connective tissues – bones, ligaments, joints and fascia) in some juicy long holds. You’re putting them under some stress to allow them to stretch. Yin will strengthen the parts of your body that need to be strong to support any yang or heat building practice. The challenge in Yin is to be still and hold the position but I still give people options for that as well. That’s why I like Vinyasa to Yin because it goes through the physical (Yang), then we support and balance that physical practice with the Yin.
The one thing I miss when I teach online is music as I can’t really play music through zoom – it sounds like we’re under water!
Vinyasa to Yin with Graham Munro
Wednesdays at 6.15pm