Next weekend Mullumbimby hosts the first Spirit Festival. Practitioners, yogis, dance teachers and spiritual masters gather from around the globe; but before we shine the light on them, perhaps we should focus on our very own internationally acclaimed yogi, Louisa Sear.
What is it about yoga that first attracted you? I was very young when I was first attracted to yoga. It was how it made me feel; I felt more at ease, more connected to my self and at peace when I practised it.
How did you move from student to master? I never did move from student to master. You are always a student, as it is being a student to life that is all, simply living yoga every day to the best of one’s ability; this is a moment-to moment-practice. There is always something to learn and see being a student.
What obstacles or challenges have you had to face in yourself to move forward with your practice? I have had to face many challenges, too many to write here. Yoga Sadhana is designed to bring forth that which does not serve you, so these hindrances can be removed; brings to light aspects of yourself that cause suffering; brings awareness to when you are not present to what is. So there have been plenty of revealing awarenesses.
So I guess the challenging part has been acknowledging this, when your awareness sheds light to the shadow, and then having the courage to make the change, which may simply be just not getting involved in the inner dialogue.
Our old ways of operating, old beliefs and conditioning can be very seductive and comfortable to stay with, so for me it takes courage to resist this. I have had to look at the way I relate and operate in the world; what are the motivations behind my actions and words – a lot of the time realising that my past motivations were driven by insecurities, old conditioning- or ego-driven. All these things and many more have needed to be addressed so I could move forward.
What do you think are the major misconceptions people have with regards to yoga? I guess people think that it is purely some form of exercise, and others think that is like a religion, and also a lot of people make judgments of what yoga is, by its teachers and what they teach, and practitioners of yoga who may not yet fully understand or who misinterpret the essential teaching. Also one of the main misconceptions is people think that to practise yoga you need to be ‘detached’ from worldly things, emotions and feelings.
As a teacher, what is it that you offer to your students? I hope to offer only what I have experienced and know from my practice/life. This sharing of an understanding of knowledge, or truth, has been around since the beginning of time. As yoga teachers we share this in a particular form, but there are many other forms it is shared in.
I hope to offer a space where students can find themselves again, to look within with self-love and -acceptance. It may seem hard to imagine that maybe doing a simple posture can bring us closer to knowing ourselves, and bring more peace of mind, but it can!
Who was the teacher who most inspired or touched you? Well, I know you want to hear that such and such is my most inspirational teacher, but I have to refrain from singling out one person, as this is not my truth, and in my heart I would feel that I had left out so many. There are too many that I could not even begin to remember. Most days I come across someone that I can learn from: animal, nature and everything else in between!
How has yoga changed you as a person? It has definitely brought more peace and acceptance. It has brought an awareness that never leaves me; even when I forget it is still there. A sense of connection and self-love and respect for life and everyone that is in it. More compassion and understanding. It has made me more humble, as it has started to strip away my pride and insecurities. It has changed the way I look at life. It has changed how I relate to people. So many changes and many more changes to come!
What is it about your particular approach that is unique and being sought all over the world? I would say that the Yoga Arts approach is to really bring yoga into our life, so it is our life, encouraging living in connected presence with ourselves. We are more concerned with using tools that support this, instead of focusing on historical information and complex philosophical terms that many do not understand. In our training we teach the methodology of asana and pranayama and all other yogic techniques to be understood and practised for the individual. We emphasise knowing oneself; from this place greater understanding is experienced and from this place one can go out in the world and share what they have learnt. We have a comprehensive curriculum in all aspects of yoga.
Tell me about Yoga Arts – what is the organisation and what role does it play? Yoga Arts now is a small team of dedicated teachers, who have many years of practice and teaching experience behind them. We all have a passion for truth and have all experienced the benefits of practising certain yogic tools. We have also learnt from practising in ways that have not been beneficial, so we can now guide our students from our firsthand experience. When I first started yoga and teaching there was not much yoga happening in Australia and the rest of the western world. So I began to practise, not fully understanding what I was doing. At Yoga Arts we hope to be able to guide students so they can grasp the understanding much quicker without having to make the same mistakes that I made.
The role we play I do not know exactly, but we aim for it to be a supportive framework through the courses, to guide students.
How do you marry being a businesswoman and a yogi? It can be a constant challenge at times, as earning a livelihood is necessary, so it is always finding a balance that serves me. I am fortunate that my work is my love.
I make sure that I have enough time for my own practice and evaluate all the time how much I can do without losing myself. It is a constant learning experience, and now I have simplified a lot, I say No to many apparent opportunities, and teach only a few courses and retreats a year. I feel more authentic, if I can manage myself in the most optimum way – then I have much more to share and give from this place.
To the best of my ability I run my business with the ethics and integrity of yogic principles. I have always said that running this business has been one of the most profound spiritual experiences, because you have to deal with so many things in business and deal with so many people on different levels, so it has been a great opportunity for the latent old beliefs and states of mind to arise.
Business is a part of life; whether you work for yourself or for someone else, it is not separate from yoga, so whatever one does in life, even be it business, that this state of yoga/union is aimed at.
Is meditation always easy for you? What are the benefits of a still mind? No, meditation is not always easy for me. Sometimes easy, sometimes challenging, this fluctuates all the time, this is the nature of the mind. And a key to this is not to focus on whether it is challenging or easy but just to be with what is. A still mind is essential for peace and to be free from suffering. I am not talking about the functional mind that we need to live our daily life and to go about our business. But the finite mind that can be constantly distracted with repetitive old dialogue. There are many different practices of meditation; any that will support you in stilling the mind is good (not distracting). Eventually meditation is aimed at being in the living of life in every moment.
What will you be presenting as part of the Spirit Festival? I will be teaching an Asana class, focusing on breath and stillness in motion, encouraging everyone to work to their own levels and needs.
Friday 17 to Sunday 19 February in Mullumbimby.
Tix and program details on www.spiritfestival.com.au