Name: Amanda Morrall
Studio: The Yoga Tree
Years teaching: 10
Years practicing: 20
Favourite yoga style: Hatha
Favourite asana at the moment?
It’s hard to choose one, like walking into a bakery with all those eye watering treats. The one I default to when I’ve got the studio to myself is savasana. Slowing down seems to be my life challenge. When I teach savasana in class, I often quote BKS Iygengar who describes it as a master pose. It’s so much more complex than lying down and just resting the body. The real challenge of savasana is relaxing the mind in equal measure. Over time, and with the help of my meditation practise, I’ve learned to integrate the mental relaxation aspects with the physical so for me being a really busy person, savasana is good therapy. I love it.
Best thing about running a studio?
Without a doubt, it’s the community. Funnily enough when I opened The Yoga Tree, after remodelling the space, I set some strong intentions for what I wanted to create. Part of that vision was creating a sacred space that would help people connect with themselves (through the yoga) and feel like they were a part of a community. That’s exactly how it’s turned out. And when I think about what yoga has done for me, over the years, a major aspect was/is community. I’ve moved around the world a fair bit, and wherever I’d lived I’ve connected with a studio and from that met some amazing individuals and networks.
Because we are a small, boutique studio, I’ve come to know a lot of my clients personally. I know their triumphs, their sorrow, their challenges and their resilience to life’s inevitable ups and downs. Many were beginners to yoga when I first met them and they’ve really committed. It’s most impressive. As a result I’ve been able to witness some of the miracles on the mat. One woman I know has lost more than 40 kg. Another became fertile, after years of infertility. Many students initially present with depression, insomnia, vertigo and other medical conditions that subsequently are offset hugely with the yoga. It’s a privilege and an honour to be part of that journey. I get the most amazing Xmas cards too:)
What brought you to yoga?
As a professionally trained ballerina, yoga was a discipline that came naturally. I took my first class at a university gym in Dublin after a long gap from ballet. It felt familiar and really good to stretch. It probably took me another 10 years to penetrate the outer shell of yoga and explore its deeper roots. That is a lifetime journey and the one I’m emerged in presently. Asana is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a message I convey to my students often.
Who has inspired you on your yoga journey?
I’ve met so many wonderful people because of yoga that’s it’s hard to list them all. I’d credit Denise Ferguson, and her success as a business woman and a yogi, for inspiring me to give it a go on my own. That was six years ago when I moved to Auckland. I subsequently, met some amazing teachers and yogis including Perry Macdonald, of Ayurveda Health, Vincent Bolletta, Damien DeBastier (Samadhi Bali) for their authenticity in what can at times be a superficial world of fancy yoga pants, and Instagram cliches. There’s a lot of natural yogis I’ve met along the path who don’t call themselves yogis but who’ve also inspired me. These are people who really walk the walk of the yamas and niyamasa, who are self aware, who give back and are committed to making a difference in the world. You don’t need yoga pants to be a yogi.
How has it impacted your life off the mat?
I no longer separate my yoga on the mat and off the mat. I see it as one of the same. Vincent B helped me to see that I’d put a barrier between the two. I see my time on the mat now as play time ‘practise’. The tougher stuff is outside the studio where life tests your yoga. I credit yoga with increasing my bandwidth, so I can manage to do all the crazy things I do, and at the same time meet my responsibilities on the home front. As well as running the studio and teaching most of the classes there, I am still heavily involved in the personal finance world, working intensively in my partner’s business a nonprofit KiwiSaver called Simplicity. On the side I’m always taking on extra projects, public speaking, media commentary, and other events. And then there’s my two boys Connor and Liam…. Having teenagers means they’re way more independent now but regardless of their age, it’s still a BIG job being a mum. It’s probably the single hardest job but also the most rewarding. Yoga helps me balance it all.
Does meditation fit into your practice?
I was introduced to meditation about 20 years ago by a true master, and I feel really fortunate he was my teacher. Luang Phor Sirantharo is a Thai Buddhist Monk (close to 100 now I expect) who landed in Canada where I was living at the time. In his home country he’s a living legend, considered fully enlightened. The work he’s done is just remarkable. He’s built hospitals, opened dozens of child care centres, and meditation centres all around the world where he’s training an army of meditation teachers. He had this remarkable glow about him and in his company you’d find yourself smiling, feeling happier and calmer. That’s the sign of a real master. He had an amazing sense of humour too. He used to describe meditation as a fuel for the mind and his belief was there could be no world peace without inner peace. The starting point is always the individual. I believe that firmly too.
As I grow older, when my energy runs out for asana, meditation will become an increasingly important part of my practise. Same with pranayama.
Is there a mantra or quote that resonates strongly with you?
I had this one on my fridge for ages and it’s not a direct quote but along these lines and it’s attributed to Buddha:
“For a healthy life, don’t dwell in the past, don’t worry about the future live, live mindfully and fully in the present.”
What is your dream project as a yoga teacher?
Last year I ran my first retreat at the most magical place in Bali called Bambu Indah. I’d been there on a holiday years earlier and swore to revisit it and run a retreat. I did five years later. Intentions, when actioned, are powerful. My next big project is writing a second book. That’s been on my list for some time and it’s waiting for me. The first book I wrote, published by Penguin, was a personal finance book called Money Matters: Get your Life and $ Sorted. It’s a blend of my personal finance knowledge and yoga experience. Still refining ideas for the sequel…
One piece of advice you’d give a new student?
Give it time. I see so many people quit too early or else go too deep, too fast and then pull back. Your approach to yoga should always mirror yogic breathing: Slow, Steady and Deep. Consistency is the key.
What do you love about your part of New Zealand?
I live in Belmont on the North Shore. I love being five minutes from the beach where I can walk my dog without having to jump in a car. Very often I have the beach to myself near St. Leonards and it reminds me why NZ is so amazing in its natural beauty and isolation. Also I live a few minutes from Takapuna Grammar School where my kids go which makes life easier. I’m a 20 minute walk from my studio too which is pretty awesome.
Thank you so much, Amanda!
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© The Yoga Connection 2017