On 19th – 26th August, 2016, Shreays Yoga India is welcoming Heather Morton for an annual retreat. This highly-respected yoga teacher passes on her big love for yoga to her numerous students. In the previous article Heather described in detail the retreat, who it is for and what will that experience be like. In this article Heather tells us a bit more about herself and her incredible journeys she took on her path so far.
Please describe the most unusual experience you have ever had in India
I have had so many unique experiences it is difficult to narrow it down to only one. However, when I was conducting research on Yoga in education, I spent a lot of time with Indian families in Mysore. I was welcomed into their homes, attended family weddings and learned about their concerns and hopes. These first-hand experiences gave me a deeper perspective into their culture beyond that of a tourist and student, but as a friend. During my thesis research, I also visited the children at school. One day at lunchtime all the children took out their containers and began eating. Upon seeing that I did not have a lunch each of the children handed me a piece of theirs. The most touching moment was the torn chapatti a little girl gave me who shared all she had.
On a more glamorous side, I have stayed in palaces and fortresses and enjoyed a solo camel ride in the Thar Desert. But the most daring experience I ever made was cycling alone from Pondicherry to Auroville. I rented a used Indian bicycle that did not have any gears and cycled 17 kilometers in one direction. For anyone who has travelled in India the road conditions can be hazardous as I shared the road with motorists and animals.
Please describe in a few words who you have studied with?
Being a teacher of yoga is also about being a student. For the past 18 years, I have returned annually to India to study under my teachers. Here are a few words on my greatest influences.
- First teacher
- First India
- Ashram life
No matter where I go Sivananda-yoga remains the foundation of my understanding of yoga. I keep a picture of Swami Sivananda on my meditation altar to remind me of the first steps I ever took in Yoga. It was the first time I lived in an ashram, chanted, learned to read Sanskrit and heard about the yamas. Starting in 1997, I enrolled in all the Sivananda training programs that eventually lead me to India.
Shri K. Pattahi Jois
- 4:30 a.m. class
- Silent Meeting
When I met Pattabhi Jois it was before Ashtanga-yoga had gained notoriety. I was among 7 other students as Guruji taught me the primary series pose-by-pose. During registration I had also sat with him in silence. It was as if he were looking into my soul and not my body. Guruji told me things about my practice, which were amazingly accurate for having not seen me practice. Practice with him was tough, invigorating and life-changing. He gave me the faith I could do anything if I also had faith.
Swami Veda Bharati
- Silent retreat
I met Swami Veda by accident at a conference in LA where I was presenting my Master’s research on Yoga in school. He told me he did not believe in coincidences and invited me to a private meeting in his hotel room. Swamji discussed the invaluable lessons of yoganidra (yogi’s sleep). After being initiated into the Himalayan tradition with a personal mantra, I travelled to Rishikesh to undergo a 5-day silent retreat. This period of silence marked a turning point in my spiritual journey.
By train, I travelled to Kolkatta to meet the only daughter of the late Burmese meditation teacher Dipa Ma. I visited Dipa in the same apartment she had shared with her mother. Hundreds of students from all over the world came to receive Dipa Ma’s blessing and practice vipassana. Just before I left, I was given a picture of her mother. Dipa told me, “She is your mother too. Not only mine.”
- Yogi’s life
Yoga students used to say if you want to see God and learn the philosophy of yoga then you need to meet BNS Iyengar. Still teaching in Mysore, he is one of the last living Masters from the Krishnamacharya linage. I studied pranayama under him with the feeling he was not actually teaching me anything about the pranic force. Like a gentle grandfather, Guruji was revealing the secrets of living a yogi’s life.
- The story
The first thing Vinay expressed was how he looked forward to practicing with me. He is the quintessential teacher; standing beside me during each step and making me feel like his school is my haven for practice. Vinay teaches a system of Hatha-yoga in which the pranic force dictates the vinyasas. During class he always said, “That’s the story,” which meant I had correctly linked the breath to the asanas and gazing points.
What others are saying about Heather?
“Heather inspires me through the physical but motivates and trains me to work on the deeper states of the mind.
Her individual instruction also connects us on a level that not all talented teachers are able to do. ”
~ Shamira Ishmael, Toronto, Canada
“I had always dreamed of travelling to India. Heather inspired and encouraged me to make my first trip last year. She made it feel like it was totally accessible. For a long time, I have been interested in spirituality. I really don’t believe I could have chosen a better place to practice than at Shreyas and with Heather as my teacher.”
~ Andrea Wood, Toronto, Canada
For bookings and concerns please contact – http://www.shreyasretreat.com