I travelled for most of the eighties. Margaret Thatcher and Duran Duran did their thing while I worked my way round north, central and south America, back to India, Nepal, China, Japan and, at last,Tibet. Whenever I was back in the UK I'd return to John Hawkins for more Yoga classes, but most of the time I was practising on my own - on beaches, in caves, in dormitory rooms, on hotel roofs, in Japanese Shinto shrines - wherever. My grass Yoga mat and the breath were the only permanent items on the agenda.
I travelled with the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads and BKS Iyengar's Light on Pranayama. Settling upon Hong Kong as a base at the latter half of the eighties, I started to teach Yoga - just the asanas - to a small group of friends. I did not charge, but they brought small presents in the form of fruit, which seemed traditional and agreeable to me.
The group grew, grew too big even for my large and empty living room on Lamma Island. The classes moved to the beach, but still I was loath to charge. In 1989 I fulfilled a long-held dream, and went to Poona to study with BKS Iyengar for two months. I was a little shocked by the severity of the teachings, but as Danielle says: ‘They pull you apart but they give you the knowledge to put yourself back together again.’ True. And I found something amazing there, some acquaintence with the heart of the matter which resides beyond description.
Back, eventually, in Hong Kong, the Yoga classes on Power Station beach continued. I had no qualifications, but then, not many people did. This was pirate city, a whole hunk of barren rock stolen from the Chinese in exchange for an opium addiction - aims and objectives were perhaps just creeping into the world of professional English teaching, but I was doing this for fun, and so were the students. My favourite place to practise was there on the beach, at dawn or dusk, and the waves became an undertow to all Yoga practice. Even today, whenever I am talking people through relaxation, I hear the waves on the beach in the far distance.
Now I know about Pratyahara, about drawing the senses in so the pleasant scents of incense and flowers, the enchanting song of the blackbird at dusk and the gratifying feel of an all-natural Yoga mat beneath one's body are just distractions from the essence of Yoga's goal. However - there are steps, always steps, to take, and though I no longer live near the sea, the beach - at sunrise or dusk - is still the perfect place to do Yoga. The sound of the sea and the feel of slightly damp sand, even the slope of the beach - are all stepping stones towards the shore where the sound of the sea is no longer heard.
Then, rather abruptly, I met Bradley and became pregnant. Rather taken aback that I now wanted to sleep most of the time, I continued to practise but something changed. Everything changed. I was a different person. Where had bionic Wendy gone? Lost, gone forever. On the Never-never land of Lamma I grew up, got married, returned to the UK, had two more babies and learnt by trial and error how to adapt my previously strong practice to the three very different pregnancies.
I thought someone, somewhere, had all the answers to how to adapt Yoga practice for pregnancy. This was not so, but I continued practising and learning, drafting and re-drafting my book Yoga for Pregnancy as I surfed the hormonal riptide of pregnancy and breast-feeding.
Returning to the UK was not an altogether pleasant experience: it takes about ten years to be accepted by a community here, rather than the ten minutes it took on Lamma, and we all felt odd and out of place. I was only at home on my Yoga mat. Knowing that I couldn’t or shouldn’t teach here without a qualification, I embarked upon the British Wheel of Yoga diploma course with Derek Thorne in 1996. It was a wonderful course: formalising the philosophy I had been reading for years, learning how to modify postures to suit the many maladies from which the people in the UK seemed to suffer (they were so much healthier in Hong Kong) and meeting like-minded people who had found a home in Yoga was the key. I became a full -time Yoga teacher, and never taught English again.
As any Yoga teacher knows, our society has a great demand for Yoga now. In the beginning I did not discriminate, and said ‘Yes!’ to everything. I have taught children, old people, people with learning difficulties and in wheelchairs, pregnant and post-natal women, people in the water, in saunas and on beaches.
Our planet is a giant petri dish which allows Yoga to be cultivated in all conditions. This interweaving is Tantra.
Maybe it's time for a change.