Tias Little: the educator
Tias Little reveals his passion for yoga; a great mystery to that which is outside language, yet always somehow available inside.
Tias is committed to teaching yoga as a contemplative path, leading to greater sensitivity, tolerance and deep understanding (prajna). His approach to the practice is inter-disciplinary, passionate, intelligent, innovative and full of insight. His teaching style is unique in being able to weave together poetic metaphor with clear instruction filled with compassion and humour.
What, when and where was your first experience of yoga?
I started in London! My mother was a student of Silva Mehta's and practiced in St. John's Wood in the late '70s. So I practiced Iyengar yoga for many years before doing Ashtanga Yoga. Now my practice (and teaching) has grown very subtle and internal.
What made you decide to move from student to teacher?
It is my calling to teach. Both my father and brother have been teachers at the university level. So I consider myself an educator, not simply someone who will show yoga as a "how to" experience. I have a gift with language (it is a hand-me-down from my dad) and so love the craft of teaching.
What teaching tip has had the biggest influence on the way you practice? And the way you teach?
I think the greatest tip is the advice to stay yoked always to my role as a student. It is important for me as a teacher to be a student, and so I stay on my edge by realising how much I do not know and by having the passion and curiosity to just keep learning.
What does your own self-practice involve?
I spend considerable time in meditation practice. Sitting helps me build kapha and the earth element. This is crucial for me for I travel a lot and have a very full teaching schedule. Sitting helps be to drop into a psychic space of open mind and open heart. My movement practice is slow and internal. I like to move like a lizard! I am definitely of the slow school and believe that yoga today, for the most part, is done too quickly. By slowing down we can notice what is happening, observe sensation and track our interior experience. Through slow and exact movements one can feel the pulse of life through the nadis.
If you only had 10 minutes to practice, what would you do?
I would do movements to insure the health of my lower back. I came in part to yoga due to back pain, and so I need to carefully protect and strengthen my back. I also do poses to support my brain function; poses like shoulderstand, dog pose (with head supported), and wide angle forward bend (prasarita padottanasana) with head supported.
Who/what is the biggest inspiration on your yoga journey at the moment?
My inspiration is sharing notes with osteopaths and cranial-sacral therapists. The way these practices map out the subtle body, like the brainstem to spine connection, is really fantastic. I think the descriptions of the cranial rhythm and the fluid potency described by these disciplines, dovetail with the ancient yogic teachings on kundalini.
What role does yoga play in the way you live?
I like to think that I lead a life of total mindfulness. It is an ongoing practice to stay connected to what I call "the flow of presence".
What do you hope your students experience when they practise with you?
I hope that students are able to sense and feel connection to a great mystery, to that which is outside language, yet always somehow available inside. I like to use a lot of metaphor and poetic description when I teach and I hope that this enables people to touch upon the presence of something vast, spacious and tender inside.
Which yoga text could you not live without?
The Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra - the Buddhist Heart Sutra.
What’s your favourite yoga pose to do and to teach?
My favourite variation of shoulderstand, done with support, so that the pose feels light, like a feather...
Describe the meaning of yoga in 10 words or less.
The now that is arising now...and now...and now...
Tias will be teaching Yoga of the Subtle Body: Exploring the Physical and Energetic Practices of Yoga; a 5-day intensive in London from Sunday 12th February to Thursday 16th February, and Opening the Pathway of the Nadis on Saturday 11th February.