Updated: Apr 15
I first met George at Nuffield in Peach Close in Cheam in the 90s. I did not know anything about yoga then; I had signed up to the fitness centre, mainly to do the gym workouts. And then, I noticed all these people waiting outside of a hall ready with their mats to go into a class. I got curious, so tried the class the following day; a small man, softly spoken with a short beard was teaching yoga. I got hooked.
His classes were oversubscribed even then. I remember finding the uttanasana, the forward fold challenging, blame it on tight hamstrings! The downward facing dog was strange at first, it all seemed to be so unnatural! I remember the walking squats around the hall - would not be able to do that now with sensitive knees! We were taught the 'rabbit' posture where the head is upside down, but hey, it felt ok, especially when I found that sweet spot at the top head which is flat. The first steps towards headstand in those days.
When George left Nuffield I followed him to another fitness centre...’teacher stalking’ you could call it...but, hey, his classes were too good to miss. When he first introduced the Earth Salutation - which to this day remains one of my favourite sequences - I found it very calming. George would lead us into it and then silently left us all to follow the movements, listening to the sound of each others’ breathing. The whole sequence repeated again was hypnotic, leaving me with a sense of balance and contentment. George was the conductor of an orchestra directing our healing breaths as musical instruments, playing in unison.
When George knew that I was studying to teach yoga, he would sometimes show me how to adjust others in a group class. There were mishaps though! One day I was doing garudasana, eagle pose, and he tried to adjust my foot wrapped around the calf and such was the tension in my body, my whole trunk moved involuntarily forward and my garudasana hands slapped him on the head! There was a lot of laughter all around the class! From the early days, George would often pair us up to do different postures. He introduced the myofascial release balls (the 'spikey balls') to the classes, to massage hands, arms, and feet, to balance. During practice, he would marvel at our postures, compliment us on alignment, etc. and he would say that if he could, he would take a picture, to show that everybody can do yoga! He would play his many singing bowls at the end of the class during our relaxation and everybody just loved it. George recently gave me a book when I told him that I was studying the BWY Gentle Years Yoga module. He encouraged me to be content when I had to stop doing inversions for medical reasons. Whenever I used to call around his house to borrow books, bolsters, my mat (forgot in class) we would spend ages chatting about yoga, workshops, cars, his trips, his hobbies, etc.. I never saw him cross, sad, euphoric, although at times he would come to class with a mischievous smile on his face, and you knew to 'expect the unexpected'. In one of the last practices, he took us all to a slow walking meditation for about 10 rounds of the hall. Only George would do that! Sadly, after contracting the virus, George passed away in hospital 2 weeks ago. There is an Indian say: when the pupil is ready for yoga, the teacher appears. I am grateful for all the years of teaching, for all the patience George showed, for all the knowledge he was so willing to share, for his counsel, when there was something troubling me. Recently I had to cover one of his classes on an emergency; afterwards, people commented that he was an hard act to follow. And so he is. He leaves a void that will be difficult to fill. Without knowing at the time of writing what the future held, I wrote on my Facebook page on 17 March: The theme 'connections' has resonated with me for over a year now...time and time again I used 'connections' in my yoga work and practices. Today, it feels stronger than ever before. We are seeing truly how we are all connected in the world, in our own little community and how these connections can make us or break us. One of my yoga teachers ends his practices with the words "In my thoughts, in my speech, in my heart - We are one". I now understand the full meaning of it. It has taken only more than 20 years." But in the end, I got it, George, I got it!