We sat down with Eric Monkhouse, leader of a previous Yoga and Music retreat here at Xinalani. It was a week of fun, sun and yoga in a jungle paradise, where freedom and spontaneity made new friends, as the adventurous members of our warm-hearted group. Our lives could use a big dose of joy, growth and profound self-expression every once in a while… we totally recommend you to join him on future adventures with us! And since Eric has a unique approach to teaching yoga, we wanted to know more about it. Here you go, enjoy!
Xinalani: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with us and allowing our readers to learn more about you and your upcoming yoga retreat. Tell us, how were you first introduced to yoga?
Eric: I was a personal trainer and massage therapist in an exclusive health club/spa in Surrey, England. There were regular yoga classes taking place and I dropped into one with Sue Delf and I loved it immediately. She had such a soothing voice and understanding of the body. I studied under her for many years and we became very good friends. I have yet to meet a teacher with such humility and generosity.
Xinalani: Tell us a bit about your teaching style. How do you combine DJing and yoga?
Eric: I teach Vinyasa Flow yoga with an emphasis on liberating creative energy through movement and voice. This means I will spend more time on inspiring what the pose feels like rather than how the pose should be set (aligned). Although I have studied alignment, it is not my strong point, go to an Iyengar class for that. Music, for me, acts as a unified sound wave current, which I encourage people to ride, much like riding a wave in the ocean. I use various rhythms and frequencies to evoke certain moods and feeling states. As a rule, every class will start with silence, an invocation, then an escalation (building of charge), numerous peaks (often in beats per minute such as house or trance music) followed by a de-escalation or discharge – the relaxation response. I find the musical key (eg. B flat, C sharp etc) of every track and use iTunes cross fade and edit function to deliver seamless and harmonic transitions.
I have been experimenting for many years the sounds that produce theta and delta brain waves which correspond to deep levels of relaxation and meditation. Deeper than sleeping! The did gierdoo is an instrument that I often play which seems to be the most effective in reaching an underground reservoir of healing regeneration. We will have plenty of opportunity to bath in these sounds for savasana, as I walk around and direct the sounds intuitively into the subtle/energetic body.
Eric: You will hear a kaleidoscope of psychedelic journey music – acoustic and electronic. Even now, I feel myself bristling at the effort to “straight jacket” my music into a genre(s). I have collected music for over 20 years and am on mailing lists of all the new age labels like Six Degrees and White Swan. Every track I play has an intention behind it. I rarely play songs with English lyrics, so as to keep the cognitive distraction at a low level. I like pulsing electronic music with soul, heart and dare I say, “balls” (this correlates to the root and second chakra).
Xinalani: How important is music in your life?
Eric: Music is an incredible gift we have as human beings. It is the vehicle of spirit. Even the wind blowing through the trees is music. I would say it is the driving force of my life.
Eric: Yoga has not change my life significantly. Yes I got strong, flexible and even completely healed serious shoulder and knee injuries from playing rugby. However, I realized that rugby nor yoga helped me express more difficult emotions like resentment, rage and grief. In fact, yoga aided to keep these emotions bottled up inside. I was the well-manner, polite yogi – always with a big smile, but underneath there was a lot of unresolved negativity/conflict. I don’t need to go into the story here, but these darker, shadow energies got worked out with a particular form of psychotherapy called Rechian Character Analysis (Wilhelm Reich’s work), with a vital component of bodywork in a sound proofed, padded room. With a growing understanding of how my character served to defend against intolerable feelings and then having full permission to express these feelings in the room with an attuned therapist was life changing. Some people need to learn “containing” practices – yoga is ideal for this. However, it felt like I had been contained (repressed) my whole life and a more spontaneous, vital energy needed to be released. Before therapy, this energy release (mainly anxiety) tended to be symptomatic, resulting in endless dating games and never finding joyful commitment in any intimate relationship (including work). To my despair, no amount of asana, controlled breathing, ecstatic dance or hot-spring soaking was going to break this entrenched pattern. Rather than chase the seductive expressions of expansion, I realized I had to deal with the contracted states of shame, guilt and humiliation. This is not what you want to hear in a yoga class, is it? Well, it’s real and everybody has their own story to tell. Yoga can be the entry point to self discovery, but for me, there needed to be a little more heat and intensity.
After two and half years of therapy, I decided I needed to learn this art and become a therapist. I am in my last year of Masters study in Integral Counseling Psychology at the Californian Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco. I am also receiving training (2nd year) in Rechian Psychotherapy at the Orgonomic Institute of Northern California. It is my intention to integrate these two streams of thought – western psychology with eastern philosophy (tantra and hatha yoga). My class is an offering to at least scratch the surface of these two great rivers.
Eric: The above. And then rinsing it all in the ocean – sitting on my board waiting for the next set.
Xinalani: What is your main goal for the next year ahead?
Eric: To finish my masters and start a private psychotherapy practice which focuses on the mind body (somatic) connection.
Xinalani: If you could spread your love of life with the world, what advice would you give from your own personal experience?
Eric: Imitate the people that inspire you. But at some stage realize that that is what you are doing and do something wildly different. Then realize this could well be a reaction. Do this as many times as necessary until you find your own unique voice, within your own community and your own sense of Self.
Eric: My retreats can be very deep if that is your intention. They can also be transformative, if that is what you’re ready for. They can be a wonderful way to recharge your batteries. For some, life long friendships are kindled. It’s an ideal time to reflect on your life and literally burn off physical or mental stagnation. You can learn to surf on the ocean and then apply the same principles to your mat. Over the years of leading retreats, I have learned to maintain a very safe and solid container, whilst trusting the numinous quality of the group dynamic.
Check out my website for some free music podcasts to download
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