A regular yoga practice has been in and out of my life since I was 23. I didn't really understand much about it - except that is was mysterious and I liked it.
In 2011 I was in india chasing this mysterious dream, In an ashram in Kerala. I made the decision I to would train to teach yoga. I sat in hope of meditation and asked for some type of guidance in where I should train once back in New Zealand. Google gave me the answer and I started my training in 2011 at the NZ School of Yoga with Mike and Sharon Byron-McKay.
Modern Yoga and western ideas have morphed yoga into what we see today. Everything and nothing. So many styles, opinions and 'traditions' coming together to create something for everyone. In my honest opinion I think its pretty amazing and a lot more accurate than having 'one way' as the only way. Life is crazy, modern life is especially crazy and humans are a mystery. So finding what works for you through different stages of life is helpful (even though sometimes the simple overwelming number of choices can create more anxiety).
Yet I am here to talk about Lineage, Yoga lineage and why it is important. Its easy to speak about the umbrella lineage of the practice and jump over several middle men speaking of Patanjali, and the big modern day teachers such as Patabi jois and B.K.S. Iyenger. Yet what about all the wonderful (and sometimes harsh) teachers, guides, and instructors that are in between. Sharing knowledge and wisdom and at the same time changing, challenging and theorising on what yoga is for them, their students and the community they work with. Because yoga was not designed for globalisation the practice is and will continue to change its ideals.
My first real and very humbling experience of Yoga was while in India with a Yogi I meet in Goa who taught, shared and inspired me in many ways. I can easily say my life would not have been the same without his influence. For this I am forever grateful.
Yet bigger than this was coming home to NZ to train with Mike Byron-Mckay. I always new I wanted to train on the land I would teach as I believe community context plays a huge factor in what we share to our students. It is important to grow and understand where we are actually from and how this will influence teaching and sharing anything.
Mike is not originally from NZ but has been teaching here for around 30 years. Mike himself started his training in 1982 with Martin Jackson in Sydney. Mike's harsh, strong yet hugely compassionate nature has supported many students on their yoga journeys. He practices in the style of B.K.S Iyengar and stays strong to this practice for himself (as he trained along side Iyengar, as have many wonderful NZ teachers).
I trained under Mike for a year (2011/2012) - It was an incredible year and I could never have imagined the strength, grace and beauty my body and soul would fall into. Don't get me wrong Mike is not an easy man - Infact he seems to resonate very strongly with the harsh teachings of Iyengar himself. This style and attitude as I have heard from many others who trained with Mike in the earlier years has toned down a lot as this harsh teaching style in NZ is pretty controversial to say the least. We live and operate culturally very differently to what I understand and saw myself in India.
Yet what shines through about Mike is his commitment, love, empathy and compassion for others finding their Yoga selves. Discovering the grit, challenge and determination for not only yoga poses but life. Truth isn't pretty but its worth it.
I hadn't seen Mike for several years after my training ended. Due to unpleasant circumstances involving the studio. I can honestly say this had nothing to do with Mike or his teaching and delt with the grief of leaving a space that was so darn special for me. In speaking with many other students of Mike It is clear to me that I was not the only one who had this experience.
The intention of this blog is for an honest, open tribute to a man who carved a legacy in the Auckland, New Zealand yoga community over the past 30 years. I have collected stories and tributes from past and current students I wish to share.
Truth Isn't pretty ~ being real will set you free ~
Stories for you Mike.
The following blog posts are stories, words, letters acknowledging Mikes work in the community.
There are so many others out there who have practiced along side and trained with Mike over the past 30 years. Stories of love and compassion and stories of the more challenging harsh times.
What triggered this post was bumping into Mike in our local Cafe, he looked very unwell - in fact was out for the day from the hospital.
After contacting others who were close to Mike at the time I discovered his life situation had taken a turn for the worse. In more recent months in true Mike style he has created his yoga lifestyle around him, even as the Yoga schools have closed down, Mike continues to practice and share in the ways he can.
For everything you have shared and taught Mike, Thank You.
Everyone who shares, offers a glimpse into their personal experiences and gratitude... For all their stories and time taken I am incredibly grateful.
I was delighted to receive a piece from Paul Barton in Rotorua who has shared his life long experience being in the yoga world as long as Mike..
The final piece from Paul takes us a little deeper, living and breathing the world of yoga in New Zealand his musings are offering a deeper perspective into the reality of modern yoga and the 'industry'. Mike was known for his harsh teachings and yet he was following a thread of tradition and self discovery. There are always new boundaries to test... space for change, refinement and acceptance.
If you or anyone you know would like to add something for Mike to receive please send to Nicole@rawyoga.co.nz