05 Jan MEET OUR TEACHERS – SHIRLEY SHIVHON
Shirley is an American yoga teacher raised on the beaches of southern California. She finds her inspiration in nature and living a simple life in Tuscany. She is a yoga teacher, retreat coordinator, and ayurvedic practitioner, and her daily meditation and yoga practice greatly informs her work as well as her life.
Shirley, how did you first come to know yoga?
I have been practicing yoga on and off since early childhood. I remember my aunt had practiced yoga when I was a child and I would goof off and do poses with her. Children’s bodies are flexible, and I thought it was a fun game to put my body into strange pretzel like positions with her. Over the years I practiced on and off and enjoyed how yoga made both my body and mind feel.
What is your approach to yoga?
My approach to yoga is that it is an all-encompassing lifestyle and a spiritual discipline. Yoga is much bigger than the physical practice on our mats or at the yoga studio. For me yoga is a daily practice. I try to apply the wisdom of yoga at all times, and in all areas of my life. The word YOGA means union and when we are practicing yoga, living yoga, we are able to know and see clearly that we are connected to something much bigger than ourselves.
What do you think is fundamental in yoga practice?
I think a sense of play or fun is fundamental to the practice of yoga. When we are able to relax our bodies and minds, to strip away social conditioning, and to even allow ourselves to be childlike, we can tap into our inherent sense of joy. There is an abundant amount bliss inside each of us and I want to facilitate opportunities for my students to connect to that inner bliss. Ultimately everybody wants to feel happiness. Western culture tells us that we will be happy when we buy that new dress, or attain something outside of ourselves like our lover’s approval and love, but that sort of happiness is fleeting. Real lasting happiness is already within us.
What’s your favorite asana – or practice – (if you have one)?
My favorite asana is Savasana. My yoga practice is a combination of ashtanga vinyasa yoga, vinyasa flow, power yoga, yin, restorative, and meditation. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the tradition of yoga and all of it’s different schools. There is no right or wrong yoga in my opinion, all the different schools or approaches are simply roads that lead to the same place… bliss.
What do you look for in a yoga studio?
More than anything I look for a yoga studio that has heart and is not just a place of business. I look at how I feel when I enter the space and when I leave it. I look at the people who are there and whether they are happy. I look for community. I look for a place that feels warm and where I can allow myself to relax and know that I am safe to be vulnerable on the mat. I look for instructors who are educated and authentic, instructors who practice what they teach and teach what they practice.
What would you advise to someone trying yoga for the first time?
I would tell a new student that it’s okay to be a little nervous. Trying anything new can be intimidating and showing up is usually the hardest part. You don’t have to be very flexible to do yoga, anyone can do yoga. All the poses have multiple variations and can be modified for all levels to enjoy the benefits of the practice. Listen to your body and never force anything. Yoga is not a competitive sport and your peers are not looking at you or judging you. As for classes, read up on descriptions. Yoga classes come in many different forms, from slow, relaxing yin to very dynamic fast paced, muscle burning flow classes. Find something that matches what you’re looking for, and try out a few different styles to see which you prefer.
Learn more about Shirley here