Yogi Spotlight: Jo Tastula and Stu Watkins

Posted by Hom Yoga on

By Vicky Arundel

We check in Jo and Stu for a chat on yoga, their inspirations and what students can expect at their upcoming workshops.

1. JO, WE FELL IN LOVE WITH YOU THROUGH YOUR ONLINE CLASSES ON YOGAGLO, BUT FOR THOSE STUDENTS WHO MIGHT NOT ALREADY KNOW YOU AND YOUR PARTNER STU, HOW WOULD YOU BOTH DESCRIBE YOUR TEACHING STYLE AND PHILOSOPHY?

HELLO! ☺ My teaching style is radically different to Stu’s and I sort of want to keep his style as a surprise! My first teachers were all very strict and through that dogmatic approach I found myself getting injured time and time again. My approach to teaching is quite the opposite. I like to guide students towards a compassionate edge and enter into a practice of curiosity and self-inquiry. So there is an equal emphasis on the body, mind and spirit.

2. WHAT KEEPS YOU INSPIRED? ARE THERE ANY PARTICULAR TEACHERS, BOOKS OR BELIEF SYSTEMS THAT HAVE INFORMED YOUR YOGA PRACTICE AND TEACHING?

Jo: Motherhood is my current inspiration and the teachings of the divine mother in all of her various forms. I’m more inspired than ever before in breaking through any self limiting paradigms and being receptive, open and present!

Stu: Ram Dass’s teachings resonate deeply with me. The wisdom, honesty and humour of his approach to yoga have helped me immensely in taking the yoga practice beyond the mat and into my life. Jo and our daughter Solé are my two biggest inspirations, and you know what? The biggest teachers in my life right now are the people who challenge and confront me. They magnify and mirror the parts in me where I can do yoga more deeply.

3. HOW HAS YOUR PRACTICE EVOLVED OVER TIME AND WHAT DOES YOUR SELF-PRACTICE CURRENTLY LOOK LIKE?

Jo: In the 1990s and 2000s, my practice was very physical and I had the luxury of having a daily yoga practice from anywhere between two to three hours! Now, seeing how all of my spare time has been gobbled up by a little person, I consider every moment to be my yoga practice and on the rare occasions that I get to step onto my yoga mat, I let go of agenda and listen to what is needed and connect to guidance.

Stu: Very similar answer to Jo. Over the years it has evolved from being mainly just physical to now much more devotional.

4. WHAT WAS IT LIKE JOINING THE NEW WAVE IN CYBER YOGA CLASSES AT YOGAGLO, AND WHAT OPPORTUNITIES/CHALLENGES HAS IT PRESENTED TO YOU?

Jo: When I first joined Yogaglo a lot of my peers thought it was a bad idea and that it wouldn’t work. But here we are seven years later and still going strong. It’s a wonderful tool for students and teachers alike to develop a strong home practice and not to miss out on their practice if they can’t make it to class or are traveling. It’s given me the opportunity to connect with amazing yogis across the globe. I’m very grateful.

5. HAVING TAUGHT BOTH IN THE US AND HERE IN AUSTRALIA, DO YOU FEEL THERE ARE ANY DIFFERENCES IN TERMS OF THE YOGA INDUSTRY AND IN THE EXPERIENCE OR EXPECTATIONS OF STUDENTS?

Jo: Yoga defies culture and gender boundaries and there is a commonality between yogis everywhere.

6. IN RECENT TIMES THERE HAS BEEN AN INCREASED SPOTLIGHT ON YOGA AND INJURIES, PARTICULARLY AFTER A CONTROVERSIAL NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE ENTITLED ‘HOW YOGA WRECKS YOUR BODY’. HAVE YOU EVER INJURED YOURSELF IN YOUR PRACTICE AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?

Jo: Yes, I have injured myself – numerous times. However, I’d also like to add that I’ve injured myself playing netball, basketball, gymnastics, karate, hiking, surfing, getting out of bed, hanging out the washing, tripping over my own feet and sneezing. Yoga is a physical practice and the nature of anything physical is that there is a certain wear and tear to the body. However, people are getting injured unnecessarily through poor technique and not listening to their bodies. We need to debunk the myth that there is anything inherently magical about yoga poses and in particular, difficult yoga postures. What is good for one person may not be good for another. It’s not a one size fits all system. As a community we need to stop glorifying difficult postures and get back to the roots of yoga philosophy, which is about awakening to the sacred.

Stu: Yes, for years I kept pushing through injuries, until a shoulder reconstruction forced me to slow down. Gradually since then I have become more intelligent with my yoga practice and have deepened an intuition as to how to improvise poses that aren’t working, and also discern for when maybe asana isn’t necessary for my yoga practice on a given day. For me, it was a progressive quietening of my mind that allowed me to be at peace with sometimes needing to slow down. During that process of quietening the mind there have been many injuries. Each injury has forced me in a deeper wisdom of what yoga is. It seems pretty common in the West with our obsession with the physique, that it often takes occurrences like this to get us more intelligent with our practice. Injuries aren’t necessary, but if the injury arises it can teach us a lot too.

7. WE’RE RUNNING TWO HOM YOGA TEACHER TRAININGS THIS YEAR – WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU’D KNOWN WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED TEACHING YOGA THAT YOU KNOW NOW? ANY WORDS OF ADVICE FOR OUR NEW TRAINEES?

Jo: Teach what you practice and always be a student. The 200 or 300 hours of teacher training is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve been practicing yoga for nearly two decades and teaching for 10 years, and I still feel like I’m a novice. I am an eternal student of yoga.

8. WE’RE REALLY LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING YOU BOTH HERE AT HOM YOGA SYDNEY. CAN YOU GIVE US A FEEL FOR WHAT STUDENTS CAN EXPECT FROM YOUR CLASSES OVER THE WEEKEND?

Stu: A balance between intelligent and intuitive use of asana, a deepening of your connection to breath and sound, and a humorous, sincere and candid observation into our interiority. This combination of physicality, intentionality, divine sound, pranayama and meditation seems to be a pretty optimum way to continue the unfoldment of yoga.

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