Yoga experts take holistic holiday at Elbow Beach
Yoga experts Richard and Kirsten Agar Ward both graduated from Oxford University in the UK, but decided to forgo traditional careers and commit to a slower paced life.
The couple now own and operate Bath Iyengar Yoga studio in the UK, and are invited to teach throughout England, and other parts of the world.
They were recently on Island to lead three intensive Iyengar yoga workshops with Elbow Beach’s new custom yoga studio.
Iyengar is one of the most widely practised yoga methods in the world and is based on the teachings of yoga master BKS Iyengar of Pune, India.
The couple, who were joined by their nine-year-old son Saul, said they were “honoured” to teach in Bermuda and impressed with the small following.
The Agar Wards are strong advocates of the ancient discipline, said to improve flexibility, concentration, posture, strength, self-confidence and mental/ spiritual calm.
“What appealed to me [about yoga] was it was not only presented as for the body, but also for the mind and the soul, so that idea appealed to me straight away,” said Mr Agar Ward.
He first learnt about yoga while reading a book at age 14. He went on to study modern history at Oxford University and started attending Iyengar yoga classes in his second year.
In 1977 he graduated from the prestigious university. He said he was then at “that stage in life” when you’re searching for what to do with the rest of your days.
“Teaching yoga wasn’t the traditional Oxford career path, but my feeling was this is what I really want to do, so following my heart I didn’t let my head come into it. I didn’t think I have to have this kind of salary or this position. I was in love with yoga and followed my heart.”
His wife stumbled on yoga in a similar way. She had graduated with an honours degree in experimental psychology from Oxford and was looking for a non-academic hobby. For a while she was juggling her career as a successful chartered educational psychologist and her yoga practice. But in 2000, she decided to take her study to the next level and began teaching yoga full-time.
The couple met while serving on the Light on Yoga Association committee in the UK. Together they have been operating their centre in Bath, UK for ten years.
They have studied under the discipline’s founder BKS Iyengar and completed an intensive course to be certified by the Iyengar Institute in Pune, India.
Mrs Agar Ward said: “I was always interested in spirituality in a broad sense in various ways, but I think I am a better person then I would have been if I didn’t do Iyengar yoga. If you stick to it, it makes you the best you can be.
“It taught me to maybe not get so drawn into the general trials and tribulations of life... I am not saying I am a perfect person, but I am calmer, have better concentration and more drawn to what’s good in life.”
Mr Agar Ward said yoga also helped people develop a more mature outlook and encouraged them to keep away from “impure” things, like alcohol or drugs. It also transcends cultural and economic backgrounds, according to Mr Agar Ward. “If you have a class of people it doesn’t matter if someone makes a million dollars a year or has nothing, you see them as just people.”
He agreed yoga has in many ways become comercialised, but encouraged followers to pursue it wholeheartedly to reap the full benefits. “It’s true yoga has become so very widespread and has become a household word. One doesn’t want to criticise people, but just try to encourage them to make their practice better and their understanding closer to what the sages were trying to communicate, which is that yoga is for the evaluation of people.
“It’s not just for weekly exercise routines or looking younger, all of which has an appeal, but really essentially it’s a spiritual activity. The health is a by-product, but you have to teach people at the level of their interest. Most people will come into yoga wanting to be fit and healthy but you hope over time they understand it’s really something for the benefit of humankind for people to evolve and find spiritual purpose.”
Mrs Agar Ward said it also aims to teach people to be happy, healthy and live a more fulfilled life. “For me it was a natural extention of psychology; it’s just an Eastern method. It’s about what makes you tick. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. It becomes such a big part of your life, you can’t imagine life any other way.”
Useful websites: www.bath-iyengar-yoga.com/; www.bksiyengar.com/.