Yin and Yang with Simon Low

Aug 26th, 2017

Simon Low, BWY (British Wheel of Yoga) and Yoga Alliance (E-RYT 500) teacher, is the Principal of The Yoga Academy offering foundational and continuing education to yoga teachers and students in the UK and internationally. After a career in the music industry based out of London, New York and Los Angeles, Simon undertook training as a yoga teacher 24 years ago with renowned yoga teacher, therapist and author Dr Larry Payne at Samata International in Los Angeles, California.

Simon’s studies were augmented from the beginning with his training in macrobiotics, bodywork and psychospiritual enquiry. Simon’s foundational yoga teachings are informed by those of Sri T Krishnamacharya and his primary students. Simon’s current teachings reflect his continued training and ongoing studies with international teachers in many forms of Hatha and Classical yoga, traditional Chinese and eastern medicine, Chi Kung, ancient and contemporary healing methodologies, centredmovement, psychology and physical therapy. Simon is an ongoing student of AH Almaas’ Ridhwan School, but his primary teacher lives within himself, a relationship he continues to cultivate with the help and guidance of his current teachers and practice. He inspires others to cultivate the same relationship within themselves and their own yoga practices. Asana talked to Simon about his yoga journey and teachings.

The Transformation

Asana: How did you discover yoga?
Simon: My Chinese acupuncturist recommended a local teacher to where I lived in Los Angeles to help with my ongoing lower back pain. I was a trifle hesitant initially, knowing little about yoga at the time. But my first group class was like “coming home”, which is an initial feeling I believe many people also experience when first practising yoga.
I was completely hooked and quickly dived in to the exploration of yoga under the expert guidance of Larry Payne and Estelle Jacobson at Samata Garden.

Asana: Was it a hard decision to give up your successful career in the music industry to devote your time to yoga?
Simon: By the time I started yoga in any meaningful way, I had already left the corporate music business and was primarily studying and experiencing a broad spectrum of health and healing modalities for body and mind, which were both undergoing major shifts in alignment.

When I was young, I always wanted to be teacher. However challenging it may have been during the early years, I appreciated every class and every student as they each taught me how to become a better teacher. Triyoga’s opening and ongoing popularity has been deeply satisfying also, and now the Yoga Academy brings joy and adventure too.

I dabbled in the music industry for a few more years in LA and then back in London, but yoga was calling me to focus more on teaching others. I miss the expense account, and the artistes and their music, but I am happier and more peaceful now, and I hope I am helping others to experience peace and happiness in their lives too, whatever their chosen profession or circumstance.

Asana: Looking back, what has been the biggest transformation for you? Simon: I simply could not cite one single transformative moment as I was blessed with a whole series of inter-connected associations and adventures over a few years.

But without doubt, on my journey yoga created a renewed sense of self, and brought cohesion to my curiosity, studies and practices. Finding the right teacher for you can be transformative too. I was fortunate to be in LA when yoga was blossoming with new teachers and studios, and Larry Payne was very supportive.

The Practice

Asana: You are best known for Yin and Yang Yoga. Why do you consider the combination beneficial? Simon: One word: balance … (in all things).

Asana: Would you say that your practice is influenced by the Iyengar system and Chinese qigong? Simon: Yes indeed, but I have been influenced by many teachers of yoga, movement and mediation at one time or other, sometimes in great depth. These days, my teaching is mostly influenced by the research and exploration with Yoga Academy teachers, sharing our findings and developing safer, subtler, and more effective practices.

Asana: How important is alignment in your practice? Does one have to be flexible to align the body better? Simon: Alignment is very important, and needs to be the foundation of all teaching. Finding the appropriate alignment for your body takes practice, patience and expert guidance, as your body is always evolving.

Flexibility, if indeed, that is something that your unique body does need to cultivate, may improve ease and precision in alignment, but it needs to be balanced with the cultivation of strength and stamina. A more linear asana practice is best balanced with circular and spiral movement patterns, and alignment is equally important in both.

The Teaching

Asana: What has been the greatest satisfaction for you as a teacher? Simon: When I was young, I always wanted to be teacher (actually, over that time, one of History, Cricket and Rugby… while I thought I would be a Formula 1 racing driver on the side!). However challenging it may have been during the early years, I appreciated every class and every student as they each taught me how to become a better teacher. Triyoga’s opening and ongoing popularity has been deeply satisfying also, and now the Yoga Academy brings joy and adventure too.

Asana: Do you notice any difference between a yoga student in the west and the east? Would you focus your teaching differently to cater for their needs, flexibility etc? Simon: Eastern students have a tendency toward great flexibility, often instability, in joints such as the knees for example.
I do teach from a slightly different perspective in many different countries.

I notice cultural differences that impact upon the classroom, and my respect and understanding for the students of the country I have been invited to teach in will influence the focus of my teaching. I will always focus on what the majority of students clearly need at any given time.

Asana: We note that you advocate variations to some “traditional” asanas. Do you sense resistance and how do you overcome that, if any? Simon: I think it is common to experience resistance from students whenever “change” is requested … especially in the traditional bread and butter poses such as the Virabhadrasana postures, and Trikonasana. The mind can saboteur our authentic enquiry at such times, as we are confronted by our attachments to tradition and systems.

The Charity

Asana: Can you tell us about the Hope Foundation, for which you are a patron?
Simon: My role is to raise awareness in the worldwide yoga community to the wonderful work the Hope Foundation conducts in north-east India.

With India’s rise in economic potential, people assume that financial support is now present and available for such people. Sadly it is not.

Originally founded in Ireland, it is now a well-established charity providing homes, education, clothes, healthcare, training and emotional support to the abandoned street and slum children in and around Calcutta, India. We have homes for girls, boys and women rescued from the streets, railways, and the sex and slave trades. There are also two free hospitals, night ambulances, day care and health centres.

With India’s rise in economic potential, people assume that financial support is now present and available for such people. Sadly it is not. They rely almost solely on charitable organisations such as the Hope Foundation, which rely solely on donations, and fund raising events.

I have included below a few web and Facebook links that relate to relevant 2013 Hope Foundation events and current internet based pages to give you an idea of what we do, when and why.

Asana: Do you introduce yoga into the Foundation? Simon: With an amazing group of volunteers, Vikki Stevenson, Ruth McNeil and I have run two Yoga Garden Party events in the UK – the first in Wimbledon in 2011, and last year at Bore Place near Sevenoaks in Kent. This year, Yoga Garden Party is at a stately home in Hampshire called Avington House. We also help organise, support and attend the annual fund raising lunch at The Dorchester Hotel in London.

There are fundraising yoga and walking holidays in India, lots of events which can be found on the websites and Facebook pages, and teachers sometimes dedicate classes to raise funds for the Hope Foundation. Teachers often visit the homes when in Kolkata, and you can have beautiful experiences dancing and practising yoga with the children. I have a lovely memory of teaching a group of 8-12 year old girls Flying Dragon on the roof of their home after they had demonstrated their yoga with the biggest smiles I have seen in any sala.

Asana: Do you agree that “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving”? How can our readers contribute to the Foundation? Simon: Nicely put. And I absolutely agree. My first hand experience of the work in Calcutta was all I needed to dedicate time, energy and funds to this wonderful and essential charity.

Readers can contribute by voluntary work at the homes, centres and hospitals in Kolkata, sponsoring a child, charitable donations, and in other ways I mentioned earlier. If anyone would like to get in touch with me to align a yogathon or fund raising event anywhere in the world, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Only a fractional percentage of funds are diverted to the London and Dublin administration offices and teams, which has always been a very important consideration for me. Together we can make a big difference.

Details of the Hope Foundation can be found at:
Contact Simon: yoga@simonlow.com

Asana appreciates Simon’s sharing of his experience and knowledge amidst his busy schedule of study intensives, workshops and rejuvenating yoga retreats around the world. Through the conversation, we note Simon’s passion of creating a harmonious combination in his practice and teaching through Yin and Yang Yoga. With his unique and personal teaching style, he emphasises a balanced approach that informs and enriches all styles of yoga. Yin and Yan Yoga offers fresh vitality to yoga practice, kindness and respect to the human form, transformative breathing practices, and for the mind – the space for peace and tranquility.

Simon’s style can be best summarised by his student’s comment, “Simon has a number of qualities, all of which can be found in many yoga teachers but rarely are they all found in the same yoga teacher. He has a breadth and depth of understanding of yoga asana that few teachers I have met can match, combined with a deceptively easy teaching style that presents the information in a readily absorbable manner so that you almost don’t realise you are learning, but you are.”

Readers can check out Simon’s popular DVD, ”Yin and Yang Yoga with Simon Low” (Acacia), which was released in 2007. Visit www.yinyogaapp.com for his Restorative Yin Yoga App.

Asana Journal

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