I have been waiting for this interview to materialize for quite some time now. Christine May is a very well-established, beloved, and therefore quite a busy yoga teacher. It makes me very happy to be able to finally present this work for the Barcelona Yoga Conference 2017.
Christine May teaches Prana Vinyasa Flow®. For those of you not familiar with the method, it is a very dynamic and powerful Vinyasa Flow practice, created by the California-based Shiva Rea. As Christine explains below, this method is different from other Vinyasa categories because of its emphasis on the integration of the practice with the ever-changing circumstances of life and the cycles of nature. It is based on both the traditional approaches (Tantra, Ayurveda, Bhakti), as well as some modern developments in the healing sciences (Somatics).
It seems to me that this method fits perfectly with Christine May’s background and interests. Before starting on the yoga path, Christine has harbored a deep-seated passion for Taoist and Buddhist traditions, which she later turned into an additional profession becoming a Healing Tao Instructor with a true master in the field, Mantak Chia.
As Christine writes: “Yoga for me includes everything that can help me and my student’s evolution and growth”. A truly multi-disciplinary perspective! Christine, together with her mentor and friend Shiva Rea, represent a rare category of yoga teachers/healers, who value approaches that are inspired by the diversity, dynamism, and the ultimate intelligence of Nature.
A: What is Prana Flow® and what makes it different from other Ashtanga or Vinyasa Flow methods?
C: Prana Vinyasa Flow® is a revolutionary and transformative branch of Vinyasa Flow Yoga founded in California by yogini, fire-keeper and sacred activist Shiva Rea. It is based on Tantric Philosophy, Ayurveda, Bhakti, and Somatics, and it can be seen in the light of evolution of the vinyasa yoga system, focussing on a quantum approach to the body.
As life is ever changing, this system perfectly reflects the cyclic and dynamic nature of life. Prana Vinyasa Flow® integrates traditional and innovative methods in approaching the body, supporting it, teaching us to trust our body wisdom and finding true embodiment in the process. There are as many solar (active), as well as lunar (receptive) practices. For example, at winter Solstice the practice will be completely different in comparison to the Summer Solstice or the beginning of spring. We welcome diversity and all levels in the Vinyasa Krama methodology, and we offer a space that is accepting to where everybody is, no matter what background.
A: What is it the most valuable element in the Prana Flow® method? Why do people who practice it claim this method to be so powerful?
C: The Prana Flow® method offers a lot of diversity as does nature and life, with up to 64 sequences based on the 5 elements, integrating the life’s cycles and honoring nature that is seen as a reflection of our inner world. The system includes up to 40 Namaskars for the Elements, the Chakras, various deities (gods and goddesses) adding ways of expression and bhavana (feeling states) beyond Surya A & B and the Classical Namaskars. The classes include moving meditations, Mudra Vinyasas, Mantra Sadhana, Sahaja (spontaneous) Flows, Kriyas as well as still meditations and reflections. As the people in the Western world are quite linear in their thinking, this yoga approach can really help them to reconnect to their fluid nature as joyous, moving and breathing Beings. The structure behind this method was crafted with an intention to support our return to the natural innate rhythms, as well as the beauty and simplicity of life. It is an integrative approach to the art of living and embodying yoga.
A: How would you describe your teacher Shiva Rea and your teacher-student relationship?
C: Shiva is my long time friend, mentor and a great inspiration on my yoga path. I value her dedication and authenticity on the path as well as her innovative, creative and wild spirit. She is a true fire-keeper who has inspired many people to live a more integrated and balanced life. We know each other more than 18 years from my California years. I am honored to have been the first European Teacher offering Shiva’s Modules now since many years, as well as 200 and 300, 500 hour Prana Flow® Trainings here in Europe, mostly in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, but also recently in Belgium and Netherlands.
A: Besides Shiva Rea, who were your major influences on your yoga practice, as well as on what and how you teach?
C: Yoga for me includes everything that can help me and my student’s evolution and growth. In the very beginning Maty Ezraty and Lisa Walford, with whom I did my Yoga Works Teacher Training, initiated me into this path. Additionally, I have practiced quite a bit with Seane Corn and many other inspiring California-based known and unknown teachers for many years.
Before I started yoga I was already very interested in the Taoist and Buddhist traditions, so these practices over the years have also influenced and supported my teachings. As I am deeply in love with the wisdom behind the teachings from both traditions, at one point I decided to become a Healing Tao Instructor with Mantak Chia, one of the few remaining masters in the Taoist tradition.
My teachings are also inspired by the Diamond Approach from A. H. Almaas, my wonderful teachers Turiya Hanover and Rafia Morgan, who trained me in Somatic/Holistic Counseling and Relationship Counseling. Other inspirations are: Osho, Pema Chödrön, Thich Nhat Hanh, as well as the feminine wisdom teachings of various paths.
A: Regardless of the method, what is the goal of yoga?
C: For me personally, the path (not the goal) of yoga, is really about learning to understand myself on the deepest level, the idea that the Being that I am is not separate from the world, but rather, among with all the other beings, is a part of nature and this big breathing living universe.
Together with other paths, yoga gives us tools to dissolve separation and to move beyond our mental conditionings and the subsequent limitations that we put on our ways of living, being and thinking towards inner freedom and truth. My body is my temple and a vehicle in this life, so I have to honor, nurture and bless it with love, but at the same time understand that I am not my body, but pure consciousness.
A: What do you find to be the most challenging aspect on the path of a modern yogi? How have you learned to overcome this challenge?
C: To really stay present with everything that shows up and to understand that everything I see on the outside really is a representation of my inner world. I have no goal to overcome this challenge but see it as a journey of exploration, inquiry and becoming more intimate with myself and life.
I find it beautiful that life is like the changing weather, so I don’t try to change or control the weather, instead, I try as much as possible to stay present, open and accepting, no matter what shows up. I do not believe that goals help our development on the spiritual path, it is rather the process of letting go of our goals and trusting the process that help us.
A: What message of inspiration would you like to leave behind you to the yoga community?
C: “You are perfect as you are!” I believe that instead of trying to improve oneself, it is much more fruitful to practice acceptance, self-love and tolerance, allowing ourselves to flow with the ebbs and tides of life. Knowing that there will always be shadow and light, we should allow ourselves to stay present in the moment, and this is exactly what can move us closer to the freedom of Being and the Beauty of life. Life should be a Celebration! Om shanti! Love love love.
Christine will be teaching the following classes during the BYC2017: