Yoga has come in and out of my life for twenty years. I would bring it back into my life when I noticed my body getting tight from other activities, such as running or cycling, and I would let it escape my life when my schedule got busy. One could say I had commitment issues. One day I had the privilege of watching Caroline practice and I was blown away by her strength and flexibility; I was inspired. I signed up for her classes just over a year ago and soon learned Ashtanga was different from any other style of yoga I had practiced. Certain things made far more sense to me in Ashtanga (I didn’t need to have gazelle legs to do downward-facing dog), while other aspects have challenged me both mentally and physically (getting past certain poses).
Like everyone, my life is full. I balance motherhood, a busy career as a writer, volunteer time in the community, physical activity and time with family and friends. I get to the Shala once a week, sometimes twice, but the other days I’m in my living room before the household wakes up, taking the time I need to focus on me and my practice. It’s my commitment to myself.
I came to the Ashtanga Bristol shala after turning 60 and taking stock of my physical state. I had good energy and felt relatively fit but had put on some weight and had the beginnings of arthritic pains in hands and an occasional dodgy knee. I’d attended yoga classes once a week for years and always enjoyed it but could never remember poses if I tried to do them at home. I wanted to find a form of exercise that I could continue to do for the rest of my life. Running hurt my knees and doing circuits at the gym didn’t appeal so I thought it was worth a try. I’m still here, almost two years later. I’ve never been a morning person but I get up now and enjoy it, my aches and pains are gone, I’m more supple and have lost since weight. These are the obvious physical benefits I’ve enjoyed and I now have a practice I can do anywhere for the rest of my life. I’ve discovered, in thinking about it, how deeply I’ve been affected by my practice at many levels and how important it is to me. Caroline is an exceptional teacher and I feel very privileged to have found this special place.
Having sporadically engaged in hatha yoga classes over the years, I was keen to develop my practice but wasn’t quite sure where to turn. A friend suggested I try Ashtanga and I was initially resistant – I thought the repetitive sequence would get boring after a while and that the practice might be too strong for me. However, I was persuaded to try one of Caroline’s Mysore style classes. I was nervous when I went to my first class as I didn’t know what to expect but Caroline was really encouraging and supportive from the beginning and really clear about explaining the postures and the way the practice slowly develops. It was great to start really slowly and have individual attention right from the beginning. The next hurdle was getting myself to a 6.30am class – something I swore I would never be able to do (too early for me! I need the sleep! etc…). Again, I thought I would test it out once and see how it went and it turns out (like a lot of things in life) it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be! I then started going early once or twice a week and trying to practice as much as possible in between at home as I started to realise the benefits of regular practice.
About 6 months after starting to practice with Caroline, I am now attending the daily Mysore classes and can see my practice slowly developing and changing. For me, one of the main benefits has been the grounding routine that the practice has provided. The combination of breath and asana also has a meditative quality which has been hugely beneficial for my overall mental health and anxiety levels. When I think how much my practice has already changed in just six months, I am really excited about what the future holds and happy to be patient as it develops.
I stumbled upon Caroline’s Mysore class about 3 months before my 40th birthday and I am so glad I did. I was a stressed out Mum with two small children and found dealing with the demands of Motherhood – the school run, tantrums, racing from one appointment to another – had put me in a constant state of fight or flight. I had little or no time to myself was constantly tired and had put on weight.
I came to class and slowly but surely started working my way through the poses of Primary series. I am naturally flexible but lack strength particularly in my upper body and core. I am happy to say that after a year of practice I am noticing big improvements, I have more energy my clothes fit better and I am much stronger. But where I have seen the biggest change is in my state of mind. I am calmer and more organised. I feel more in control of my emotions and am able to act rather than react in stressful situations.
I stumbled across Ashtanga by accident nearly 2 years ago. Having spent 11 years competing in Triathlon and running events, my body was complaining with injuries, and I eventually caught glandular fever. In a funny way, catching glandular fever at the age of 51 was a blessing as it made me take stock and I realised the sport of triathlon was taking too much out of me. I was also in the middle of the menopause and realised I needed to take better care of myself. Having tried a number of sports centre yoga classes they didn’t really work for me, but then I came across an Ashtanga teacher in Bristol by complete chance and I am so glad I did. From the first lesson my body and mind felt immediately better. For months I had felt physically awful and extremely tired; I run my own business, have 2 of my own kids in their twenties, 3 step kids also in their twenties and 4 grandchildren – I haven’t got time to feel exhausted!
Taking up Ashtanga has been truly life changing, I didn’t think anything could replace my love for triathlon, but it has, and the best thing is that I will never have to give it up as I get older. My claim to fame in my 53rd year is that I have began to master both headstand and full lotus so Ashtanga still gives me the challenge and sense of achievement that racing used to provide, but my body and mind are so much healthier, I am learning a completely new discipline, plus I am making some great new friends!
I first began practising Ashtanga in January 2011. At the time there was a lot of change going on in my life and I found myself seeking out some consistency/routine to help me feel anchored. A local studio had just opened offering mysore classes and despite practising yoga previously I was daunted by the prospect of practising the method and thought that I would never remember the sequence. That was over four years ago now and I have since found my teacher in Caroline along with an amazing community in Ashtanga Bristol. To have a teacher who believes in you is such a powerful tool. My body can move in ways I never thought possible, despite an old injury and the power of connecting with the breath that brings calm, stillness and clarity still amazes me. I love to start practicing at 6.30am before the world has truly woken up, it is magical. I have a full time job but the early morning energises me and sets me up for the challenges ahead.
I have been practicing Yoga (Ashtanga) for approximately 7 months now, and I’m not what you would consider your ‘typical’ yoga student. I do like a cider or two (or more) and I eat meat and takeaways (shock horror!) and love my Rugby, especially as a Welshman. As a kid I was very involved with Kung Fu and had an experience with Chi Energy which fascinated me, but I never followed up on my fascinations as I was to busy discovering the world of partying and girls and all the stereotypical things that come along with this….
I now work for the NHS (as a Mental Health Nurse) in a very demanding role which does not allow for much personal time, in fact my day consists of working from 9am until the time I finish which some days maybe midnight, and I have become consumed by the political beast called the NHS, especially in a world that wants more for less.
An extremely special friend of mine was practicing Yoga which I knew meant a lot to her and our conversations peaked an interest in me regarding Yoga and the effects that it has had for her. She invited me to come along and experience a class, which now I can say was the making of me.
I have never experienced Yoga before. In fact, I have looked in on many classes and thought, how gentle and new-age hippie type exercise it is, therefore discounting it for myself. I am the kind of guy who is all or nothing and I have tried several types of motivating exercising such as joining the gym, weightlifting, spin classes, running etc. Never discovering the right release or freedom of the mind that I have wanted and needed.
Given my Professional background you would have been mistaken for thinking that I was an expert in how to maintain a healthy balance of mind (I really do need to practice more of what I preach). I even went to the extent of speaking to my uncle (who is a qualified yoga instructor) prior to commencing my practice, and he laughed at me for starting to practice with such a ‘difficult’ type of yoga! But from the very first class, Ashtanga Yoga has allowed me to find the balance of mind that I have been seeking, as well as offering a very good and demanding workout.
Ashtanga for me seems a very logical and pure form of Yoga that resonates. I have become very interested in the philosophies and have even spent time in workshops arranged by Caroline to discuss and learn about these in a more in-depth way.
The Shala in Bristol (to which I travel form South Wales on almost a daily basis) – well, never have I found a place that makes me feel as welcome as I do here. All the guys in the Shala are amazingly friendly and I never feel any misgivings or judgement. I find Caroline amazing (along with her assistant teachers) and they are more than willing to spend time with the novices as well as the more experienced students.
I am extremely thankful for the very warm welcome to Ashtanga Bristol by all that attend, especially Caroline, and I have discovered a new lease in life since commencing my practice. In fact, since practicing with Caroline and having the privilege of spending time with Hamish and Ruth I hope to go on to Mysore in India in 2018 to practice with Sharath.
I really never saw myself as a yogi but I am well on the way to transformation from Welsh cider swilling, meat eating and smoker Dave, to a new and healthier and more balanced frame of body and mind (albeit one step at a time). I would highly recommend coming and giving it a go!
I first came to Ashtanga Bristol at a point where I was feeling quite vulnerable in my practice. My first and only teacher from Bath had recently told me she was no longer going to be teaching regularly, and it left me feeling bereft and a little lost. In whatever I have done in my life I have valued and understood the need to have a good teacher, and it was hard to lose one who had been so instrumental in growing my practice.
And so it was with a little trepidation and a fair bit of nerves that I came to Caroline one morning in April of 2015, but from the moment I entered the shala the aura of calm and steady focus that she created and held had a deeply grounding effect on me. I did my practice, receiving a few adjustments and a couple of words of guidance. It was one of the most peaceful experiences of Ashtanga I’d had and I knew I would be returning.
And I did. Each week I would travel over to Bristol to practice with Caroline. There is almost always a certain magic the first or second time you practice in a busy shala, which after a few visits usually wanes as you become more used to it and the difficulties in your practice make themselves heard through the quiet. Yet here the magic just seemed to intensify. Each time I came I felt more focussed, more calm, and more amazed at what was possible with the right approach. A few words are so much more powerful, and an adjustment so much more meaningful, when they are given with real thought and consideration, as Caroline does.
At the time my husband and I were in the process of trying to buy our own house. Looking in Bath felt lifeless and unexciting, but once I started to come to Bristol and practice with Caroline, we decided to change our location and move as close to the shala as possible! I am now only five minutes away and it was the best decision we ever made – being able to practice daily as part of a traditional Mysore programme is a huge gift and I feel so lucky to have found my way here.
I have practiced and trained with some of the leading Ashtanga teachers in the world, and in my very humble opinion Caroline equals them all. Her communication is so clear, and her understanding of the practice and the tradition runs so deep, that wherever you are in the practice, you feel your progression and understand the journey that you are making. As a mother of two, she above all people knows how to make daily practice sustaining for life, and this shows in the number of dedicated students she has. I had previously quite often felt drained by my morning sessions, but I now feel energised and strong, and surprise myself daily with what I can manage. Caroline has taken me, subtly and with calm precision, further into the practice than I ever thought I would go. I am hugely grateful, both to her and to all the other students at Ashtanga Bristol for creating and holding such a magical space, and I look forward to the many years of growth that await us and our Ashtanga family.
I began Ashtanga yoga by accident in my mid-50s. I signed up for a led Hatha yoga class and after a few months, inadvertently walked into an Ashtanga workshop. From the first movements, I felt it I was hot-wired into a dynamic & current yoga lineage. I couldn’t believe the difference, and have never done another form of yoga since. I started slowly with one class a week. After only a month of this, Luke Jordan came to town (I was living in Ireland) and boy was I in for it! It was a 2-week every day 6.30am marathon. I arrived with my Ashtanga chart & very limited experience. He didn’t allow my “cheat sheet” and insisted I maintain Ujjayi breathing throughout. I stayed up late memorising the sequence, soaking in a hot bath. It was very intense, but from then on I was hooked.
When we moved to Bristol last year I frantically googled for a teacher, and to my relief found one person fully Authorised – Caroline Simpson. I emailed her from Ireland and she said she just started teaching at home. How amazing that in the last year it has grown so quickly. There is now a beautiful shala open 6 mornings a week. And as if by magic, there suddenly appeared 3 or 4 quality assistants to support her at the shala. This has come about, I believe, because of Caroline’s dedication to her own practice and her close connection with her teacher Sharath Jois. The Ashtanga community in Bristol is growing by leaps and bounds. I can’t express how grateful I am for the support, expertise, corrections & encouragement. I’ve recently entered my 6th decade and can thank Ashtanga for a daily link to joyful vitality. The yoga practice just keeps on giving.
I am a Bristolian and have practiced Ashtanga for many years. In all those years there has never been a daily morning Mysore class, or traditional teacher, in my city. It felt like only myself, Caroline and a handful of others did this practice here.
I always knew in my heart that Caroline – with her dedication and faith in the practice – would be Authorised by Sharath at KPJAYI, and I was overjoyed when in 2014 she was. I knew if anyone was going to make a go of setting up a successful programme in my home city it would be her. And now, with consistent work, dedication and devotion, she has created a growing, supportive community for us all to benefit from.
My story is complicated by the fact in 2011 I began to get pain in both knees, which resulted in them both being operated on in 2013. My practice disintegrated, and without a teacher I felt totally lost, became disenchanted with my practice, and honestly felt like I would never step on my yoga mat again.
But then one day Caroline emailed me to invite me back to practice, starting with a beginners class. What has happened since has been the most transformative and life changing thing to have ever happened to me. Although I feel my knees will never completely heal, with regular practice at Ashtanga Bristol not only has my practice returned to how it was pre- surgery but it has become stronger. I have learned to practice intelligently and with sensitivity towards my body. Above all, I have begun to feel real acceptance of myself on my yoga mat, which is now reflecting in all areas of my life.
Now I am just so grateful to have a dedicated space, with a brilliant, caring, and knowledgable teacher, where I can go every weekday morning, take practice and feel peace.
I first started Astanga when I was 46, having been a dedicated gym bunny for years. I likened the practice to ‘Jane Fonda meets the Buddha’ (for those who can remember the aerobics craze!) I never thought I would give up my grapevines for down dog, but I was immediately bitten by the Astanga bug! Having studied with a number of teachers over the years, I have found in Caroline Simpson an empathetic teacher, with great patience, humility and knowledge. She allows you to find your own path into the practice, whilst retaining its authenticity. In following Astanga, it is important to honour its teachings and philosophy; Caroline’s experience and Authorisation keeps the practice pure and relevant. Caroline has created Astanga Bristol, the only Mysore programme in the area, with dedication, and she and her assistants provide a safe, non competitive and supportive environment in which you can develop your practice, whatever your age, ability or experience. Astanga has sustained me through the vicissitudes of life so I love my regular practice at the Shala and can truly say that I learn something every time come off my mat.
I had been to various yoga classes, irregularly, before my first class with Caroline around 6 months ago. I had read about the Ashtanga method and found Caroline listed on the KPJAYI site. I felt a little self conscious at first coming to the Mysore style classes. Having to begin my practice without being led by a teacher in unison with the rest of the class was foreign to me, but once you get used to it it’s great to be in a room surrounded by people of all levels focussed on their own practice, with Caroline busy assisting everybody individually as they need. No other yoga class has offered me the same amount of explanation and individual attention.
It’s a method that makes complete sense to me. Learning from the beginning, step by step has allowed me to take what I learn at class and practice myself at home, which is something I had never done before. I am already so much stronger and more flexible than I was only 6 months ago – and that’s without practicing as much as I should be! It’s amazing how quickly regular practice starts to work on your body. I wouldn’t say it’s always enjoyable. It is a challenging practice, but it’s rewarding and for the first time I feel determined to stick at it. Caroline is a very dedicated, enthusiastic and encouraging teacher which plays a big part in that. I am very happy to have found Ashtanga Bristol.
I discovered Ashtanga whilst on holiday (I had just turned 40) when I randomly met a yoga teacher who invited me to come and watch her practice. I was amazed at her strength and focus on her mat. I had never done any sort of yoga before (I didn’t even know anything about the different styles of yoga!) but my husband had always thought that I should try it. I found a local teacher and went to a led primary class which was an hour and a half of sweat and confusion – but I was curious for more.
I have always loved exercise (weight training, running and mountain biking) but something was missing. I had become a parent and tragically lost a parent during a very short space of time – both of which changed my life enormously and still ten years on I was struggling through a difficult personal journey. Although my Ashtanga practice started as a physical activity, it has developed into something much more than that for me. I think that Ashtanga has so many benefits for everybody, it’s not an extreme ‘sport’ which is only for very fit and flexible people. It takes time, dedication and determination to build a strong and healthy mind and body.
Rolling my mat out every morning, looking forward to some time dedicated to myself is something that I am so grateful for. Caroline is an inspirational teacher who gently guides you on a clear path and I am beginning to believe in myself, at last!
Having been a rock climber for 50+ years my body was tuned to specific strengths, fingers clawed from clinging to small holds, toes misaligned from too tight rock shoes, shoulders tight from power pulling. You get the picture. Then along came Ashtanga yoga and slowly slowly my body is healing. Caroline’s workshop in Sheffield was inspirational.
I see my mum practicing Ashtanga yoga wondering what the funny chants at the beginning of the practice are for. So I had a little go and it was quite fun making some shapes with my body. I play lots of tennis so I need to run a lot and have strong muscles.
Then when we were on holiday we went to a yoga studio which had a golden retriever dog sat at the front of the class. It was very hot and sweaty and afterwards I loved playing with Joe the dog! My favourite part is the headstand which I am getting good at. The hardest bit is lying down at the end as I want to fidget!
Ommmmmmm (I like that bit too!)