Photo supplied by Dan and credit to Jack Paul White.
I had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Dan recently at a workshop he ran in Ireland – all things handstand and inversions. Dan is a Cardiff based yoga teacher and teaches workshops internationally. Not only is Dan a really great and knowledgeable teacher, he is also fun, welcoming and a really down to earth guy. I was delighted to get to chat with him about his yoga journey, his love for inversions and also how yoga has benefited and helped him on a personal level. I hope you enjoy reading and I really encourage you to go and practice with Dan if you get a chance.
How did you come to yoga?
I first came to yoga about seven years ago. I have always loved movement and exercise but I felt I wanted something more.
I started to look into different ways to calm my mind and to get past anxiety, which is something that I would suffer from. So initially it was more of a practice of meditation and breathing to help me overcome that anxiety.
Did someone initially suggest that you practice meditation to help deal with this anxiety?
My mother has been practicing yoga for many years so I come from a family that is interested in a mindful and conscious way of living. My parents have always encouraged me to pursue this path of yoga, and to really look into things – like anxiety- when they came up in my life and that has helped me a lot. I then just turned into a yoga and mindfulness addict, in a positive way and I haven’t looked back.
Did you have an idea of what yoga was before you started to practice?
I knew that yoga was good for mobility, flexibility and relaxation and idea at the beginning cartier bracelet love price
was that it was just breathing and stretching. I guess I had initially come at it with a sort of tunnel vision, but I have since come to realise that anything can be yoga, if you have the right outlook.
After a couple of years of my own practice of mindfulness and meditation it just naturally transitioned to the addition of a physical asana yoga practice. When I was training to be a snowboard teacher in Canada there were free yoga and pilates classes so I went to these and I have been practicing yoga ever since.
How has your idea of yoga changed throughout your practice?
Firstly, from a physical perspective- I came to understand inversions and handstand practices as a way to bring a mental focus into being present in your body, because- mentally- you can’t be anywhere else when you are practicing these. I started to see that as soon as you take that focus you get from inversions into other parts of your life, you can be so much more present because you haven’t got all of this stuff in your mind distracting you.
I had spent a lot of my time wishing I had done things differently or being anxious about whatever was to come, but that is a prediction because we never know how things are going to turn out. I began to notice that during conversations with friends or family I would be glazed over because I wasn’t fully there with them and that is not how I wanted to live. Yoga and meditation brought me back to being present with the people I loved. That was my initial understanding of what yoga is and what it can show you.
Later on when I was completing my teacher training it really helped to open me up to seeing the potential that yoga can have to help one person at a time and the knock on effect of that. Through yoga helping you to understand yourself, you are more present to other people and their perspectives. That is what I love about yoga, you share your practice and other people share their practice. I learn from my students all the time and I learn from other teachers, which is so great about this community – we all share with one another. There is always more to learn, an ever changing journey.
Furthermore, there were three books which I read that took me onto a deeper personal journey; they were The untethered Soul by Micheal A singer, The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz and The Power of Now by Ekhart Tolle.
The more I started to read and understand, the more I started to question why I wasn’t combining the practice of movement and stretching with meditation and the other less physical aspects of yoga and bringing it into a full practice – which is what yoga is; the eight limbed path.
Did your lifestyle change when you got into yoga?
Initially I became vegetarian, which was a big change for me. I became vegan for a long time but ultimately that didn’t work for me for health reasons. I know there are people who may not agree with that choice from an Ahimsa point of view, but I think there is a certain amount of self respect in taking care of yourself while being conscious of others and other choices that may suit best.
I have given up alcohol because I found that it doesn’t really align with where I am at, especially with getting up early and teaching. For me, waking up the next day and feeling the effects of alcohol didn’t feel good. You get used to feeling present and feeling good on a day to day basis and when you take the yoga off the mat into something else, you feel good about that and a hangover doesn’t feel good.
I’ve also recently been working with a nutritionist in Brighton; Dominic from Origins of vitality, and he is such a well educated guy who works with individuals based on their own bodies and has helped me understand so much about what I need. This has helped me to become more in tune with my well being and my own health – more sleep and more water, for example.
I guess a yoga practice is about understanding what feels good for you and what doesn’t and listening to that intuitively- as well as actually doing it. If I want to have some cake I’ll have it or if I wanted a beer I would have that – it’s not something that is strict or regimented because I feel that if you are in a place of control and want to enjoy yourself then go for it, life is for living. Everything in moderation and I guess that works for me right now.
And mentally, did you find your lifestyle or attitude changed?
I became more understanding. The ego is a constant practice and things like anger and jealousy, but the more I become aware, the more I don’t have a problem with apologizing or admitting when I am wrong.
I still have triggers for anxiety. I can be fine for a long period of time and then my habit of meditation might slip and I step back into old habits or ways of thinking. I guess that is a reminder for me to be consistent and to practice what I preach. It takes me less time to feel grounded again and to come back but I think it is something that I will always be working on.
I like to think of these habits as our suits or our masks that we put on when we felt uncomfortable or were afraid of change and then we continue to hold onto them. To look at where, anger for example, comes from we start to realise that something has triggered this old habit inside of us and it is a gradual process of getting rid of these old masks and reactions to find out who we really are.
I am much more open about who I am and in sharing that, as well as being much more open to who other people are and where they are at. Through teaching different people and bodies from all walks of life, I have come to recognise that you see all these different bodies that all have a different experience, but yoga is universal and that is what the amazing thing is.
In the past if someone didn’t enjoy the way that I offered or shared a class I would get offended, an ego thing. Now I understand that if what I offer is not for them, then someone will offer a class that is suited to what they need. There are so many teachers and so much to learn that you will naturally align with different styles and different people.
I don’t think my fascination and love of yoga would be there if I wasn’t constantly learning and understanding things from a different perspective.
What is you background in yoga?
I started with Ashtanga yoga and then practiced yin and restorative. My teachers ,Marian Wells and her husband Ron, come from an Iyengar background. They are amazing teachers and they run teacher trainings in Costa Rica, which is where I trained. Iyengar is very alignment based and about understanding how and what I should feel in my body and I like to combine that with a vinyasa flow – slowing it all down and taking the time to feel the postures and understand why or what I am doing.
I love the dynamic nature of inversions or back bends and the more yang side of Ashtanga yoga, for me movement is a form of meditation. I find it hard to sit for meditation unless I have done something dynamic to get into my body and internalise a bit more.
I am also training to be a life and transformative coach and will eventually work into therapy. My own life coach taught me a phrase – “There is another devil for every level”. in that just when you feel like you have it sussed, something else comes up and there is always another lesson – you step into the chaos with yoga, except you choose to step into it and not ignore it.
This is, at least from my understanding, is yoga.
So do you teach yoga and how have you found that experience ?
Yes I teach full-time in Cardiff and I am now teaching workshops on weekends and hopefully starting to teach more internationally.
I hope to combine travel and teaching because my joy is in meeting new people and seeing the world. I love my students back in Cardiff and hope to continue to teach them for as long as I can, but for my own growth I would love to keep moving forward.
With yoga and my lifestyle and rehabilitation coaching I wish to be able to help people who may need some guidance with looking at the whole picture, looking at their aspirations or even just some help to start over. Coaching can facilitate an environment for you to come to understand yourself more, what you want in life and to find out what your core values are so as to choose a path that aligns with that.
Is there anything else that you would like to say about yoga?
If you want to – practice yoga !
I have had such a positive experience from it that I think no matter what reason you have for coming to a practice or a yoga class, you will always take something from it. No matter where you start or why you start it will all come full circle, whether it be for the physical aspect or for the meditation, eventually it all comes together.