Yoga Interview with Jiveny Blair-West.

As humanity moves further from our natural state of living in relationship to the Earth’s cycle, many people from the West are finding solace in the practice of Yoga. This practice has many forms and modalities but all of them help us become more in tune with our bodies, stay present and reap the rewards of what it means to be human. In the past I have practiced Satyananda Yoga and I know there are many more ways of helping ones Pranic energy move through the body.

Today at Ru Vedic.org I have Jiveny Blair-West with me – an passionate life coach and gypsetting yoga instructor with over six years of experience in yoga. She teaches a dynamic fusion of Hatha Yoga, Kundalini Yoga and the Bikram series. This approach is aimed at bringing her students into alignment with their bodies and healing the spine through therapeutic back-bending and complimentary breathing practices.

In 2008 Jiveny started the LESS EGO / MORE soul blog where she shared the insights that have coloured her own personal journey of what she terms “fearless self discovery”. From this, she gained a lot of encouragement to move into the realm of personal coaching and began to help others manifest their ideal lifestyle through one-on-one mentoring sessions.

In addition to this, over the past five years, Jiveny has been traveling the world connecting with many different cultures. From the depths of the Amazon Jungle, to the wide expanses of the Sahara Desert she has been collecting information, inspiration and practical tools to help empower others.

Jiveny runs her personal website http://www.yoga.jiveny.com with the intention to share her knowledge with anyone who is interested in taking such a leap of transformation.

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Jiveny where to start? Where are your sights set for 2016 and how do you feel they will
facilitate your understanding of the Yogic Practice?

Mmm 2016…yum! Well, in addition to yoga, my passions lie with music, shamanic plant-work and travel and I love the way they all inspire and inform each other. This year I’m gearing up to head back over to South America soon with a definite intention to learn more about Pranic energy – which to me, is all about movement – and using movement to consciously heal, transform and more positively define one’s experience of reality.

Great! So, how has your yoga practice helped you personally?

To cut a long story short, many moons ago, I was quite discombobulated with life and went to see a
psychiatrist who offered me anti-depressants as a solution. I knew in my heart that was not an ideal option for me, yet it gave me the motivation to explore alternatives which eventually led me to exercise and nutrition. I had always been a little bit interested in yoga & meditation, but hadn’t yet found a style that I really connected with…Luckily there are so many different kinds of yoga in the world, it was only a matter of time before I found a practice that sparked my interest to go deeper. As I had hoped, yoga has become a very useful tool in regulating my mood and cultivating a sense of centred presence throughout the day.

Do you combine any other practices alongside your Yoga practice?

In addition to yoga, I eat mostly raw food, and enjoy fasting a few times each month. I find this helps to keep my mind clear, mood elevated and cultivates “non-attachement” – this idea of needing nothing, but enjoying everything.

Singing and playing music is my other meditation… I also have a great love for Pranayama (conscious
breath work) though I am still working on implementing that on a daily basis. I’m really astounded by the potential power of conscious breathing – perhaps even a little it scared by it! It is all very mystical to me…

Wow, it really sounds like you have quite an integrative practice, especially when it comes too
plant medicine, which is something I touched on with Pradeep’s interview. It seems like the
Amazonian approach has a great synergy and relationship when used together. Many
people I meet have a hard time taking up a daily practice – especially yoga. What do you feel are the baby steps to being able to commit to it each day?

I have to admit it didn’t happen over night… It started with the conscious intention – a desire to fully integrate yoga into my daily life. I found committing to regular classes with other teachers helped me to stay accountable and gave me a solid foundation so that I could confidently practice on my own. Investing money on regular yoga classes or in some cases committing my time in exchange also motivated me to follow through.

When travelling, there are always excuses I can use, but it really comes down to realising how beneficial daily yoga is for me and that there really is no excuse. All you need for yoga is a 1.5m square space! Last year I was couch surfing at people’s apartments in Europe and they’d sometimes find me practicing on their kitchen floor first thing in the morning. Or else, I would go to a nearby park and practice – yoga isn’t so common in Europe yet so that got me some curious looks.

I feel the key is to create a regular routine around it, as we are creatures of habit. I find practicing in the morning offers the least distractions. Once you set up your routine, it’s easier to stay motivated and eventually it feels like something is missing in your day if you don’t…

Still, life happens and I am not too strict about it these days. My daily practice ranges from just 15 minutes to 2 hours, depending on what I have going on that day.

My current mentor suggests that people practice at least 3 times a week – every second day at least – and I think that is a really reasonable place to start as it is enough for the body to start changing and seeing those results early on can help with motivation.

Does it stem from a good diet/lifestyle or does Yoga help you move into the capacity to
make life changing decisions regarding lifestyle?

That’s a bit like asking what comes first – the chicken or the egg? [laughs] Certainly yoga has led me to make better daily choices and really appreciate my body’s potential. As a result I want to take care of it as best I can…It definitely makes me more mindful of what I put into my body and I find myself craving less salty, oily or sugary foods as a result. Over the years I’ve learned how food has such a profound connection to our emotional state and mental clarity.

I see you have spent a good amount of time in India. What would you suggest people to look
for or be aware of when considering a place to go and study?

Mmm India… Well let me start off by saying that I don’t think you have to go to India to be a yoga teacher. As much as I enjoyed the country, I found the way they seem to bottle and sell “spirituality”
quite disquieting and it can be hard to find a genuine teacher amidst it all…

As foreigners, we also have to recognise that it is a fascinating but entirely different culture and not everything they teach translates as directly as you might expect. For those who really do feel called to India, I would recommend setting aside at least 3-6 months there so you can really sink into it and find a good teacher from the ground. Luckily, in Australia and all around the world now, there are so many great courses available that can train you on a very practical and holistic level.

A basic tip for anyone researching courses online: Contact past students directly and find out how they felt about the course before committing, as websites can often make things look better than they are.

Did you ever get to a point where your yoga practice started becoming too much of a discipline?

I don’t feel so. Over the years I have learned to hold space for who I am and where I am at. If I really don’t want to do yoga one day, then I don’t and I will sit back and observe the effects of that choice. More often than not, if I have a period without yoga its because life has just swept me away and I feel the lack of movement as a loss which motivates me to get back into it, because it just feels so good! For me, practicing yoga is a form of self-love and honouring the times when I can’t allows me to practice self-acceptance. Both are important.

There must come a moment when you say no “I don’t want to get up at 6am and stretch, I’d rather sleep today” How would you suggest people move past this stage? It is definitely one of my biggest hurdles when considering doing Yoga every morning…

Ha, that was me yesterday morning!  For most people, I don’t think its necessary to do yoga at 6am every morning. While in the past that worked for me as there is little distraction that early, these days I just practice whenever I wake up, be it 8am or 9am. And, if I do decide to skip it in the mornings for whatever reason, I set the intention to find  time for it in the afternoon/evening which is a great debrief for the body, especially after spending the day  sitting at a desk or driving. On the days when I feel less motivated, I’ve learned to just start with an easy posture that I do feel like doing – rather than going through a whole routine. After getting past that first posture I usually find myself drawn to continue.

When it comes to diet, do you have any regimes that you have found assist with the yoga
practice? I hear you’re on the raw vegetarian diet, does this help your ability to be calm?

Not eating before yoga is important, which is why it helps to practice before breakfast. In the mornings I like to start by oil-pulling, then I will have a warm drink of honey water or lemon water – that helps to wake me up. After that, I do my yoga, and follow it with a healthy breakfast like a fruit salad, smoothie or a home-made acai bowl. I know the raw food diet is controversial to some, but it’s definitely changed my life for the better. Becoming vegetarian really helped to clean up my mind – it was quite astounding actually to find more peace and clarity inside my head when I stopped eating meat. It got me curious to understand more, which led me to research and experiment with a vegan diet and then raw food.

I know some people have trouble with vegan and vegetarian diets and I think they fail particularly when there isn’t enough emphasis placed on fresh fruit and vegetables. My own process with food has been stripping back to simplicity – foods straight from the plants, processed as little as possible – 3-4 main ingredients per meal. Over time I have found myself less addicted to food and more delighted by it. If you want to know the secret to life – eat more fruit!

Do you undertake and other specialised dietary program? This is coming from the Ayurvedic aspect of my understanding of food and its ability to assist in the clearing of stagnation (Tamas) from the body.

There are so many paths you can follow when it comes to food and there are even more opinions to conflict and confuse you out there. I found this very overwhelming once upon a time, but over the years, I’ve cultivated a practice of really listening to my body – trying a specific food and then sitting back and observing its effect on my being. I love learning about the health benefits of foods, herbs and spices but only put into practice what I feel really works for me. I think it is common in this day and age for food to become an unhealthy addiction that actually ends up taking more energy from the body than it gives. I think that in truth we need to eat much less than we think we need to thrive. Less really is more, which is why I find fasting such a powerful practice for resetting the body.

Have you had interest or encountered any similarities with the Ayurvedic diet while in
India or in Australia?

I have been curious about Ayurveda for years and how it could be integrated with my raw-food diet. I particularly love working with spices and herbs for better digestion. I am also a strong believer in using food as medicine and love the alchemy that is involved.

What is the school of yoga that has drawn you the most? I have recently seen you did a workshop on acro-yoga? Is that correct?

Yes, I had great fun co-hosting a workshop with my friend Paula who is an amazing Acro teacher! It is a form of yoga that I am relatively new to, but I love that it gets adults to practice and play together. In answer to your question, it’s hard to choose a particular school of yoga – there are certainly some I resonate with more than others but they are all closely related…

Which one seems to take the lead role in your teaching/practice?

I love the dynamic movement of Kundalini Kriya Yoga, the emphasis on presence throughout a challenging environment that one gets from Hot Yoga, the sense of peace that comes with pushing beyond the limitations of the mind through Yin Yoga and the delicious presence that is provoked with Pranayama… These are the particular elements I like to share with my students in my own classes.

I like the way you seem to float between different practices and see the importance of all of them without being too involved in any one. It’s always great to keep your awareness open!

Yes, I love to approach yoga like a curious child who just wants to play… I love to challenge myself
to explore new possibilities through movement and it is really inspiring to see my body change in
response, becoming stronger and more flexible with every day.

Thank you Jiveny for you time and thoughts.

I really love what you are doing and hope we can all benefit and learn from what you have to offer.

 Jiveny is available for yoga classes, workshops and private mentoring sessions (online and in person) as she travels around the globe. To find out when she will be in your part of the world, follow her on facebook or sign up for her newsletter at www.yoga.jiveny.com”

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