Joey Miles is one of the teachers visiting Purple Valley this season. He came to Purple Valley last April, and fell in love with the place, and Purple Valley fell in love with him. We had a little chat with Joey, asking him about inspiration and yoga….
Joey will be coming to Purple Valley in November 2014 🙂
1. What brought you into yoga? Why Ashtanga?
I started a daily yoga practice when I was 17 years old, it was my new years resolution. I wanted to quit smoking, get more flexible and improve my posture to have better presence on stage (I did a lot of drama). I also felt a bit lost back then, and something made me think yoga would help, so I started copying hatha yoga poses from a book. A year later at Goldsmiths University I went to my first ‘yoga class’ and it was ashtanga based. I loved it and replaced my old sequence for the primary series. I didn’t give the style any thought – it is just what I was exposed to. Looking back it was perfect for me to start at that time in my life.
2. A little about your back ground.
Besides Yoga I did a lot of juggling and circus arts, physical theatre and martial arts. I was quite a high energy kid and I grew up in Oxford so I was exposed to quite a liberal and tolerant culture – I was a teenager in the 1990’s so I caught the tail end of the rave culture and free party scene. Eastern iconography and the whole ‘escape from samsara’ kind of caught my attention there in the rave and dance culture, but of course they offered no method of how to practice. There was emphasis on altered states of consciousness and the mystical experience but nothing to ground me – hence my need, age 17, to find a grounding practice. Having done martial arts I realized a physical practice was required, it worked!
3. Tell us little about your time in Mysore.
As soon as I finished my degree I raised some money and went to Mysore, I was 22. I was already assisting Hamish Hendry at AYL, and he was there during my first trip. Having 3 months in Mysore and going back to the beginning of the practice, then re-learning everything pose by pose was a great experience. Although Guruji was then in his 80’s and teaching in quite an active way, Sharat was my teacher – he really pushed me to my limits and transformational changes occurred in me physically, emotionally and spiritually. I had always been drawn towards Buddhism and Buddhist meditation techniques that did not contradict my atheist or material world-view. But studying, memorising and chanting parts of the Bhagavad Gita and various Sloka’s slowly seeped into me, in a way it was during that trip I took my first Darshana. (You see the divine everywhere, in everything – it is kind of hard to explain!)
4. How would you describe your way of teaching, what is specific for it? What are you emphasizing?
I try to be supportive and encouraging. I enjoy bringing sound and detailed alignment principles to the asana practice. I ask some really simple questions – why do you practice yoga? My approach depends upon the student and that is why I have such a passion for Mysore style. This practice does take time. When appropriate (such as during a retreat environment) I also take great pleasure in leading students into stillness (sitting meditation practice).
5. From where/who do you get your inspiration when it comes to yoga and teaching?
I am inspired, obviously, by the lineage of Krishnamachaarya, Pattabhi Jois and Sharat. I owe them a great debt. I also feel deeply touched by Hamish Hendry who taught me how to do this job and hold space for people’s practice, he was my mentor when I was starting out, and he still really inspires me. Alaric Newcombe and the Iyengar method have been a huge source of insight. Alaric taught me to see clearly, he would ask: What direction is this part of the body moving? I had no idea, but he patiently showed me how to see directions of extension in modern postural yoga. Carlos Pomeda is a big influence, he teaches meditation and yoga philosophy which such enthusiasm and skill. His rigour is infectious! Other inspiration comes through Julia Cameron’s method in ‘The Artists way’, Gabriell Roth’s 5 rhythms dance practice and …. Everywhere really. It is in our job description to stay inspired and share that!
6. Last year you came to Purple Valley for the first time, what did you like most about the place.
I love the South Indian location, the warmth, the scents the sounds. The Shala itself has absorbed the sadhana, you can feel that when you walk in, its oozing out the walls and that feeds the soul. Those Sri Yantra designs on the wall are pretty great, I went to the market and took one home for my practice space! The sounds during the sunrise when we begin practice make you feel like you’re in the jungle – try chanting ‘jangalikaayamane’ during the opening chant and you just taste it. That makes me smile and fills me with enthusiasm. The people at PV are wonderful. All the staff were so kind and helpful – one guy from the kitchen even came to class (I have forgotten his name) – a place where they let the staff come to class just feels right to me. The students were a joy – witnessing students relax – as they did at PV is a real treat. The food deserves a mention – outstanding. The walk through the garden to the shala, past roaming chickens and beautiful plants and flowers – The evening cinema / just being outside at night, in the warmth was pretty fabulous. Not sure what I liked best, but those were a few of my favorite things.
The below video is of Joey, practising at Purple Valley, Advanced A…. or 3 series…