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KYH Student spotlight: Interview with Ariaal Ashley

July 27, 2021

How long have you been practicing yoga?

Answer:  53 years on and off

How did you get started? What brought you to Iyengar Yoga?

Answer:  When I was 21, I lived and worked in both England and Switzerland.  When I was in Zurich, I worked as an “Au pair” and was required to a learn the German Language and not just “Swiizerdu╠łtsch”.  While attending evening classes, I met an American Draft Dodger and we developed quite a friendship. 

Not long after meeting him, I went over and knocked on his door and he called for me to come in.  When I opened the door, my jaw dropped as I saw in amazement, my friend in a headstand.  He asked me not to talk because he was just finishing his “practice” and I could barely contain myself with all the questions I had.

The long and short of the story is that he ended up giving me two books, one was an original publication of “Light on Yoga” and the other was “Yoga, Youth and Reincarnation” by Jess Stearn.  I learned from him some of the basics and was hooked forever.

By the time I got back to Canada in 1970, any kind of Yoga Class was rare to find, so I began my own practice.  However, within a year I met my future husband and off I was, travelling back to England for a year, then becoming pregnant just before returning.  As fate would have it, I started watching Kareen Zebroff and magically connected with her.  She and I did a whole show on practising Yoga when I was about eight months pregnant.

I was asked by a local church if I would teach a class for those interested and I was astonished at how many people came and kept on coming.  I used “Light on Yoga” as my ‘bible’ even though I was not a ‘real’ teacher.

What has Iyengar yoga done for you as a person??

Answer:  Iyengar Yoga birthed in me a deep desire and need to “go deeper” into body, mind and spiritual awareness.  I began to focus on the subtle distinctions of the slightest shift in my foot and how it changed the nature of my “standing poses”.  I began to become very aware of how I walked and how I stood.  I loved to feel the new sense of balance I was cultivating, the sense of “total integration” I experienced with certain poses and the emerging strength and flexibility I was developing.  All of these attributes I have maintained to some degree or other, progressing on into unexpected areas of new awareness and delight.

The discipline of Iyengar Yoga, practiced over all these years has, I believe, helped me to blossom into who I have become, maintaining a youthful vigor with an attitude of “joi de vivre”.

What elements of yoga are you passionate about?

Answer:  Increased focus, heightened enjoyment when my body is responding to my gentle prompting, and the ability to sit quietly.

What were your initial impressions of Iyengar Yoga? 

Answer:  I was smitten…love at first glance!

How do you include yoga in your daily life now?

Answer:  As I enter the twilight years of my life in “Crone Mode”, I am constantly reminded to stay present and in harmony with both my body and mind because all we really have is the present moment.  I won’t delude anybody by saying that this aging process is fun and delightful and have had many nurturing talks with my Teachers about “accepting where I am at now and that my practice changes as I change”.  Without their stabilizing effect in my life, I would be constantly pushing myself to ridiculous goals.

What is your favourite asana?  Least favourite?

Answer:  LOL!  That’s easy!  My answer is Viparita Karani and Chair Supported Adho Mukha Svanasana.  If you had asked me 10 years ago, the answer would be totally different! 

My least favorite now is Vrksasana because I am taking a medication that interferes with my balance and, as the “over achiever” that I am, this is unsettling.

In what ways are you involved with the Kelowna Yoga House aside from taking classes?

Answer:  I am now called the “Head Gardener” and am in the process of totally transforming the gardens surrounding the Kelowna Yoga House.  For me, this is a work of love and vision, not only for KYH but for the neighbourhood in general. I have begun to develop relationships with people from all walks of life in the neighbourhood and know many of the people connected with the Metro Community next door. 

What is your history with KYH? What brought you to the the Kelowna Yoga House?

Answer:  I had been practising Iyengar Yoga in the Seattle area.  When I returned to Canada in 2013, I knew I would be moving to Peachland and looked up Iyengar Yoga Studios in Kelowna.  I emailed the Kelowna Yoga House and Krisna answered.  I WAS HOOKED!

What message would you like to share with others?

Answer:  My deepest abiding truth is this:  “Every life is a destination unknown:  a journey of tragedies and triumphs which ultimately allows us to discover not only the world around us, but more importantly ourselves.”

 

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