Where are you going? This is a question I find myself asking whenever I am sitting on the number 23, 52 or 70 bus heading in the direction of Kensal Road. The answer is straightforward: I’m going to Jivamukti Yoga London. The journey is a fairly long one, so the question that immediately follows on the heels of ”˜where’ is ”˜why’. London is a vibrant city that boasts a number of excellent yoga studios, some which require less of an effort for me to reach. Yet during the hour and a half of Cat Alip- Douglas’ class, I am reminded once again that the journey is a pilgrimage as oppose to a trek.
I sit on my mat, eyes closed and listen to Cat discuss her interpretation of the focus of this month; she is discussing the relative ease or difficulty with which we react to change. When an aspect of your life changes for the better, it is easy to embrace change because it is transformative. However, when an aspect of your life changes for the worse, how quickly you cut short that embrace and push change away as it suddenly becomes a destructive force in your eyes. To choose change feels empowering, to have it forced upon you feels debilitating.
Herein lies the strength of Cat’s teaching: the ability to frame a complex idea or fragment of yogic philosophy so that people from disparate backgrounds and lifestyle can understand and be united through it. As I stand at the front of my mat ready to begin the first sun salutation of class, I feel that each person is of single mind and purpose and yet is also linked to every other person. Cat insists on unity in her classes: as we rock back and forth to come up to a seated position, she asks that we pay attention to those around us and fall into a universal rhythm. The same is asked of us in the opening warm-up sequence, for- as she humorously but firmly points out whenever necessary- if you’ve decided to come to class, then you practice with the class.
Maintaining equanimity of mind, another recommendation she makes to her students, is not always easy. Cat devises classes that are challenging and that demand constant focus. The carefully considered sequences of the physical asanas provide an excellent setting for her students to practice the idea she has so simply laid out. The vigorous flow constantly provides the focused practitioner with opportunities to be put the theory to the test; whether it’s that you are being asked to do a posture differently or that you are finding it harder than usual to retain a steady breath, her quiet instructions and reminders “not to fight it” keep you working both externally and internally.
I struggle with twists, a fact that I am reminded of as she comes to give me a useful adjustment. Her classes are usually so full (Cat inspires a scarcity of floor space between mats and an abundance of sweat!) that these adjustments are a privilege and not a right, although she works hard to get to everyone. The constant in all aspects of Cat’s classes- be it her adjustments, her instructions or her insights- is precision. This firm foundation contributes to an environment where you feel safe and secure to delve deeper into your own practice.
Make the journey to Jivamukti Yoga London and check her out. By the time class is over, you won’t be asking yourself where you are going any longer, but rather, where you have been.
A few words from Cat Alip-Douglas on what teaching means to her:
“”¦ teaching, to me, means gaining insight through experience and honest introspection and then sharing that with whoever wants to listen and is perhaps ready to walk alongside me for however long the resonance allows”¦”