July’s Yogi of the Month is Jeff Thomlinson (Harshad) from Trinity Yoga Center . Jeff and his wife Sonya not only teachs at Trinity; they own this beautiful studio. Bringing one of the first yoga studios to Kelowna there have been many to follow but Trinity has stood the test of time. This beautiful studio with amazing teachers offers Kelowna a wonderful tranquil space to practice. Jeff’s knowledge and experience is a gift that he shares with a dash of humor. Here is a little insight into Jeff right now!
1 What does yoga mean to you?
Well, I could give a pretty good textbook answer I think. Or better yet, go deeply in to the word yoga itself. Boring. To me it is an enquiry; can I live in this moment of creation unfolding, simply as a witness, simply as God’s eyes and ears and body, enjoying this crazy unfolding of what is…
2 When did you start yoga and how did that come to be?
I started in 1980. It was a bit of a mystery. I grew up in a small logging and fishing town on the Washington coast. There was NO yoga; there were flannel shirts, and trucks with hunting racks in the back window. Good hard working people for sure. I was about to go in to the US Navy, afraid, thinking I was going off to war (WW3). I needed help. I had chosen to join the Navy, otherwise I would have gone on to junior college to major in bong making probably. I found a book on yoga, just in a secondhand store. Wild. I truly believe Swami Kripalu put it there. I think it was Richard Hittleman’s book 28 days of yoga. I dove in. I practiced all by myself, for hours every day. Had NO idea what I was really doing. Hurt my neck in headstand. But…gave myself a lifelong gift, the seed was planted. I have practiced since then, voraciously.
3 Where and with whom did you study with?
Ooh, another question I could give a long answer to. MANY great yogis and yoginis. Being that I lived at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Heath in Massachusetts for many years. Kripalu is where all the major teachers would come to put on their workshops. Lots of good stories there. Lots of reality check. Seeing and hearing someone teach a certain way, and then see them behind the scenes in ‘life’ way out of integrity. It was sad a bit, but also inspiring. It called me forward to represent yoga in a real way. It also made me very aware of when an authentic yogi/yogini showed up. For example, Erich Schiffman, Richard Freeman, Richard Miller, or Esther Myers and Dayashakti (bless their hearts, no longer in the body). Each gave me gifts that I often utilize; humor, non-judgment (a practice), grounding, spaciousness.
4 What kept you coming back to the mat and has that changed over time?
Freeing myself from the mat. Being a type A, old weekend warrior, I used to try really hard. I am pretty strong, and tried to do all the ‘advanced’ postures back in the mid 1990’s, and got to a wall. Even with the most amazing teachers, I wasn’t going any further. I could see it was my mind ‘trying’. So I moved my attention off the body and form, and deepened my meditation. That freed me from the old patterns on the mat, and now I can just be myself, however my body shows up that day.
5 What does yoga bring to your life?
Freedom from the pre-programming that formerly ran my life.
6 How has your practice evolved?
Again, I think practice began in the body, transitioned in to exploration of mind, and now is teetering in pure awareness at times.
7 How might you and/or your life be different if you hadn’t found Yoga?
Yoga found me, it was inevitable.
8 What is your “can’t do without” favorite pose?
Any pose that allows me to get in to it, and build some intensity, to be able to build prana and then let it go, kick open the dam, and let it flow!
9 Tell us about an asana you struggle with!!
I don’t struggle anymore. I am not sure how that sounds, but ‘there is no try!’
Uchita, she is courageous, honest, and committed to the path of surrender. I am not choosing her just because we are married. (Ok, ok, maybe a little!)
11 What tips can you offer beginning students for a safe practice?
Until you levitate, you must be in relationship with the ground. What is touching the ground is it safely placed, and supported? To ensure the posture above it can receive the breath and prana can flow.
12 How about guidance for beginning teachers?
Let the students teach you. Look, listen, and feel them. There is a lot of communication coming from them, even if they are not speaking. Use that information, versus being in the ‘agenda’ of what you have decided to teach. 13 What few steps do you think a yogi can take today to tremendously improve their practice?
Come do our yoga training! I guarantee it is a life changer!
14 Where are you teaching now and how can we find out more about you?
TrinityYoga.ca Trinity Yoga Centers in Kelowna (Gordon Drive) and Vernon (28th Ave); Facebook.com/TrinityYogaCentre
I first explored yoga in 1980, just prior to joining the US Navy. It was a little miracle that I found a yoga book in my hometown of Hoquiam, WA (a blue collar logging and fishing town). Eventually I luckily found a teacher, Vasudha Joyce Orr, a longtime Kripalu style instructor. I devoured the unique practice and deepened with the leadership of an experienced teacher and I began teaching at the YMCA in Bellingham, WA, in 1991. During the early 90’s I studied extensively with Yogi Amrit Desai at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, MA. Eventually I returned to my hometown and opened my own yoga studio in Aberdeen, Washington. Later I pursued a natural attraction to massage as a means to serve my developing following of yoga students, and I graduated from Alexandar School of Natural Therapeutics for massage in 1996. While living at the Kripalu Center Sonya and I attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City, a vanguard in the field of holistic nutrition and health, graduating in 2003. This began a passionate inquiry into mentoring, and coaching, as an additional tool to support yoga students. Then I began creating programs and teacher trainings which assist developing yoga teachers. I currently co-direct the 200, 300, and 500 hour training programs through Trinity Yoga Center.
With the commitment to continue the study of yoga, in all its forms, I have studied with many international yoga teachers and scholars including: Erich Schiffman, Richard Miller, Stephen Cope, and others. Most recently I have developed a deep connection with the teachings of Mickey Singer. As well, I am thrilled to be reconnected with Gurudev, Yogi Amrit Desai, who continues to be a teacher and a connection to the powerful Kripalu lineage. I now reside in Kelowna, BC., am a dad to Ananda and Leela, and ‘staff’ to our cat Ella. I hope to bring a bit of irreverence and reverence to my teaching and philosophy of life.