You don’t necessarily have to meet someone in person to instantly like them but Kundalini yoga teacher Maya Fiennes is one of those people, I think .)
As I like yoga and have been practising it on and off for 10 years I keep an eye on new classes, certain teachers and new yoga books and DVDs. So last year, as I was browsing the shelves at Waterstone’s something made me take a second look at the book called ‘Yoga for real life‘ and as you can see from Maya’s book cover, she is very hard not to smile back at. Since that day the book ‘lives’ on my bedside table and I dip into its pages on a regular basis.
Why do I like it so much? It’s very colourful for one- the pictures are so vibrant, they instantly cheer you up on a gloomy day, Maya’s advice is very down to earth and she covers a lot of issues important to women like you and I, like detoxing, love & relationships, children and finding joy (those are just some of the chapter examples).
There are chakra explanations, related poses and yummy smoothie recipes-my personal favourite is ‘Visionizer’. This book calms me at some times and offers insights into myself at other times. I also sometimes do her DVD practise, even though if I am honest, chanting has never been my thing, and God knows, I tried. ‘Om shanti’ is the only mantra I am really good at but that is just me .)
I was supposed to see Maya at her recent appearance at the Body in Balance workshop at Olympia, but something else took precedent and my opportunity was lost or was it? I did manage to send Maya my questions and she very graciously replied, so read for yourself below and I sincerely hope that you will join her yoga fan club.
Questions and Answers with Maya Fiennes:
Please tell me a little bit about your background & childhood. Who, among your family, influenced you the most as a person?
As a child in Yugoslavia I wanted to play the piano as far back as I can remember and at the age of six I was enrolled at the Skopje Music School. From then I sensed the purpose in life. I was very shy as a child and would not talk much; all my emotional expression came through music. My father died when I was twelve and my mother sadly passed away just after I got married more than 15 years’ ago. I have a brother who is a doctor and still lives in Croatia. My mother was my greatest influence in so many ways, but especially in teaching me how to be a Woman.
You lived in London for a long time, did you initially find it difficult to ‘adapt’ to a different mentality, being Slavic?
Yes, it was different. The Brits are not as temperamental as us the Slavs, but soon people learned how I am and actually often found it very refreshing so I didn’t change. I was considered “exotic”. I am who I am and then I realized I was influencing them and we complemented each other. With the years and family I calmed my temper whilst my British friends have become more alive.
How did you come across yoga and its practises? Why, in the end, you chose Kundalini?
I was looking for something to help my concentration and focus in my classical piano concerts, when I stumbled upon Kundalini Yoga, having previously tried all forms of yoga. My connection was immediate; the re-balancing of my energies so strong that I have not left it since.
How did regular yoga practise change you as a person and as a woman?
The practice makes me appreciate myself as a woman. It also helps me to accept my power and makes me happier and at peace with myself. The internal fight is now much less influencing my life – I have learnt to let go, and by so doing making much stronger advances in life.
You book ‘Yoga for real life’ is unlike the majority of yoga books that I have come across-it’s truly beautiful visually and gives wise and insightful advice-how long did it take you to put it together and do you plan any more books in the foreseeable future?
A few years’ ago I felt very strongly that I wanted to communicate to my students not only in practice and via a TV screen, but also through the written word. I thought that if I used my life story as the basis my readers would be able to relate better as to how Yoga can make your life infinitely better, more complete and more worthy. I had a great team around me, including a publisher, a co-writer and photographer, so together we made Yoga for REAL Life happen. Given the response to my first book I am hoping to write a few more books in the not too distant future.
What inspires you as a yoga teacher and how to you continue to evolve, as many yoga instructors choose to stick to a specific ‘format’ with classes becoming monotone.
The beauty about KY is that there are so many sets (more than 1000) so I always learn more and am therefore able to teach more. It never gets boring. These sets keep me enthusiastic about each workshop and the constant change is very exciting. Routine is stagnation; I don’t like rules so Kundalini Yoga is perfect for me as it is free and flowing.
What are your thoughts on practising yoga during pregnancy and when do you think it’s a good idea to introduce children to yoga?
Yoga can be practised during pregnancy, although the more physical kriyas and the breath of fire should be avoided. Warm ups, mantras and meditation are excellent ways of keeping the flexibility and connecting with the child within.
Children should not be introduced to Kundalini Yoga before the age of 6/7 as up until then their breathing is not fully developed and thus they will not be able to appreciate the benefits of the yoga. However at that age Kundalini Yoga can be an excellent tool to help children learn how to focus and concentrate.
The proverb in your book ‘Don’t follow the guru-you are the guru’ really resonated with me and made me pause and think. However, in life many people take this ‘literally’ and end up treating others with contempt or disrespect-do you have any advice on how one can learn to be in tune with himself/herself, be truly grounded and compassionate?
I am a great believer in Mantras for meditation and I would recommend everyone to chant ONG SO HUNG (available for download on my website, www.mayaspace.com, for 11 minutes for 40 days – that is when you will feel truly grounded and compassionate.
You use chanting in your DVDs and talk a lot about it in the book. Why do you teach it as part of your discipline? Why is it such an important element for you? Does it have anything to do with your musical background?
As mentioned above I really believe in the power of Mantras. It is an essential part of Kundalini Yoga and yes my musical background helps as I am able to use the power of my voice. Mantra is a most powerful tool as it opens the door to meditation. Mantra is a sound vibration, which helps to bring your whole body in a higher frequency that resonates with the frequency of the Universe. It clears your mind from negative thoughts and promotes the natural healing properties that the body has. That’s why specific mantras can act as our healer. The practice of mantras can change your experience of life, filling each day with enthusiasm and creative energy. A mantra can make the impossible possible.
At the end of the day what makes you feel fulfilled as a woman and as a mother?
To use yoga as a tool to be more patient with my kids and as a mother. Equally important, teaching my yoga to help my students help themselves. I am constantly rewarded by amazing feedback from my students as to the effects yoga is having on them. That is extremely fulfilling. At the end of the day, like all mothers, I love spending quality time with my kids.
How often and for how long should you practise yoga to achieve noticeable benefits for mind and body?
A minimum of 3 times a week on an ongoing basis. The yoga needs to become part of the lifestyle to have a proper effect.
What makes a good yoga teacher, in your opinion?
One who connects properly with students, cares about them and shares everything she knows.
Are you different in daily life to yourself as a yoga teacher? What are your best qualities?