The Journey to Yoga by Anthony Middleton.

Since aged 8, my entire life has been in some way connected to exploring, understanding, training and controlling the body, both other people’s and my own. Beginning in the gloriously glittery, lycra-clad yet incredibly demanding and strenuous life of an international acrobatic gymnast, I had learnt a great sense on control to generate muscular force and power, whilst also supporting and caring for the actions of my acrobatic partner-in-sequins, as I would throw her into the sky, hopefully to catch her safely and ‘wow’ the judging panel from the various countries who had become my adversaries.

The gifts of physical prowess and control over fear were most valuable as I made the transition from sport into art, training and working as a professional dance performer and choreographic artist. Since 2009, I was rewarded for my efforts in training, having the pleasure to work with some truly inspiring artists in the UK and overseas, yet interestingly the competitive aspect, deeply rooted in me from those gymnastic years, was lurking in my subconscious mind, which in honesty is also quite a beneficial tool in such a complex industry.

Whilst living in London, at this point exploring my own creative language and making dance pieces for my developing company ‘theMiddletonCorpus’, my future-wife, the truly divine Isabel Slingerland, introduced me to Yoga, her new passion.

My initial resistance to the idea, driven by the surreal stigma that still haunts the Yoga practice for many men in the world, I was reluctant to head to the studio, to waft my arms around, chanting Indian mantra, with a crowd of ladies. I’m sure this isn’t so unfamiliar for many out there, that find it easy to pass a judgement on something they know little about.

How soon this changed.

I remember taking my first breaths, sat on my mat, truly hearing my breath, free of design or falsity that one employs when dancing. I could feel how my breath was actually very weak, unstable and wasn’t in any way supporting my body in its actions. As we begin to pass through our various Asana, bending forwards to touch the toes, I was so thrilled that I could. It was of course still a working process, there was still those competitive elements to the practice, I wanted to do the hardest postures, be the deepest in the stretch, be the longest in the headstand. But as I continued to practice, particularly heading to some truly inspiring teachers in various studios across the capital, I was introduced to more of the philosophical aspects of the practice. I came to understand that Yoga isn’t the posture, it’s in the entirety of my existence both on and off the mat; the controlling of my breathing (Pranayama), my choice to arrive at the studio (Tapas – discipline/commitment), my choice to devote that practice to someone else (Ishwara Pranidhana – devoting practice to another), my decision to listen to what my body asked for (Swadhyaya- study of the Self in all its form). This understanding has gradually enabled me to calm the competitive aspect of my practice, to realise that Yoga isn’t an achievement, its a constant flowing process of change, and that Yoga teaches us to simply observe, be conscious of our body and mind and to enjoy every moment of this changing existence (Santosha – contentment).

But then there came the even greater revelation, that every other person in the studio was ‘present’, all aiming for the same thing, all sharing their practice with me, sharing their time with me, sharing their silence, their mind and body training and cleansing with me. I became aware that Yoga isn’t even something ‘for me’, it’s ‘for us all’.

I completed my 200hr teacher training at the Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas, in 2016, receiving a wonderful introduction to the practice of Hatha Yoga and initiated into my spiritual name of ‘Ganesha’ (the remover of obstacles) by the divine Swarmi Swaroopananda. My choice to follow this particular teaching and training, was to delve deeper into the philosophy of Yoga, which is particularly in depth with the Sivananda lineage. Following my training, I have attended workshops and masterclasses with a wide range of practitioners from various lineages and approaches to both philosophy and Asana (postural practice), most recently with Ana Forrest (Forrest Yoga), Simon Borg-Olivier (Yoga Synergy) and Jules Febre (Jivamukti Yoga), who have truly inspired my practice and lit a burning fire and will to share the wonder of Yoga practice with all those in our local community and beyond.

I’m thrilled to be joining the Yoga Kula team, teaching various Pop-up classes and teaching the Sunday afternoon Hatha Yoga class (3:30pm-4:45pm). In this class, I will endeavour to offer an opportunity for every practitioner, no matter what your level of experience, an opportunity to explore and delve deeper in to the process of connecting, observing and listening to the physical body, cultivate positive and uplifting energy and a greater connection to all those that share that experience with you. 

I hope to see you on the mat soon,

Namaste,

Anthony

(Ganesha)