03 November 2010

Nancy Gilgoff's Ashtanga yoga workshop in Wiltshire

I recently had the pleasure of attending Nancy Gilgoff’s Ashtanga workshop, the only one she will be holding in the UK this year. I have practised with her on many occasions and it is always a privilege for me to spend time with one of the world’s most renowned Ashtanga yoga teachers.

Nancy was one of the first Western women to practice Ashtanga yoga with Sri Pattabhi Jois in India back in the 70s. She arrived at his shala with a lot of physical pain and, with the help of Pattabhi Jois, she was able to begin her wonderful Ashtanga yoga journey, which has now continued for more than 30 years. She was able to work through her physical pain using this physical form of yoga.

Nancy has also studied with the "silent sadhu", Baba Hari Dass, and will sometimes refer to his teachings. She says that what she learnt from him has also helped her as a teacher.


I missed the Friday evening led class, but I could tell immediately when I joined the Saturday intermediate class that there had been a few “add ons” in the Friday night practice. Nancy is very traditional in her teaching and made it very clear that some of the “add ons” were not Ashtanga and had no place in her class; all said in her usual calm caring way.

Having missed the first session I went straight into intermediate (2nd series). This brought up a lot of fear for me. In the previous few days, I had had some really bad news; that an old friend of mine had taken his own life and I had been grief stricken. When practising the primary series, in those few days prior to the workshop, I cried throughout the seated postures. My fear of back bending (heart opening) was that I might be overwhelmed, this thankfully was not the case.

Nancy is a very intuitive hands-on yoga teacher. Like her own teacher Patthabi Jois, she is able to feel what a student needs in their yoga practice and is able to assist them in a kind and compassionate way. I trust her adjustments and her experience; to know when to back off or to move forward in the yoga practice.

I had mentioned to Nancy when I arrived at the workshop that I had had a” difficult week” this was enough information for her to let me be. I worked through the back bending sequence and my personal grief in that workshop, allowing myself to stop where appropriate for me.

In Urdhva Dhanurasana I felt a a slight pain in my left upper chest (pectoral muscle) and I thought perhaps I had a minor injury, but it disappeared as quickly as it arrived. I think it was my body moving through and letting go of some of the grief.

I enjoy Nancy’s off-the-mat time as much as the practice. She has a lot of wisdom and is a householder yogi. She has a grown up daughter and has lived life, whilst continuing her dedication to her own practice and teaching; something I aspire to in my own life.


1 comment:

  1. Great blog posting. Very inspiring. Loved how she can intuitively know where you are and what you need - that is a great teacher. Cannot wait to study with her.

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