Hey yogi community,
As many of you will know, I’m so passionate about the true meaning and essence of yoga. And I was so grateful to be interviewed by Verve Magazine and asked some really interesting questions. I hope you will enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Namaste – Jen!
In the hurly-burly pace of life in the 21st century, we’ve cottoned on to the magic of yoga, but have we got it right?
According to Jennifer Allen, founder of Jayayoga, a centre for yoga and yoga teacher training, for most of us, the answer would be ‘no’. “People are so time poor, they want to de-stress, meditate and exercise in an hour after work,” she says. “Meditation and yoga are buzzwords the world has grabbed hold of and gone, ‘Yeah!’ As a result, some Western teachers are teaching yoga as a way to exercise rather than a way to shift mindset.”
No Pain, No Gain
“We’ve been living in an era of no pain, no gain so we ‘do’ yoga,” she adds. “Some people treat yoga like a fitness class and are looking for the total package which leads to one of two things happening: boredom or injury. That should never, ever happen.”
From Theatre To Yoga
A love and deep understanding of yoga came to Jennifer after a career as a performer. Originally from Washington, she was working on a cruise ship when she met her Kiwi husband Cameron. “He played in the band of the show I was in,” says Jennifer. Marriage followed six months later and a subsequent move to New York City saw Jennifer teaching pilates and yoga amidst her performing work. “I still loved the stage, but I was in my mid-20s, had a spinal injury and my body was starting to age,” she says. “Yoga allowed me to express myself in similar ways to dance without the high expectations and judgement. Back then I was all about downward dogs and handstands.”
Moving to New Zealand
The couple came to New Zealand for Christmas 2008 and never left. “Cameron wanted to do his postgraduate degree,” says Jennifer. “Those first five years were difficult. It was a culture shock, and my close family were there and I was here. It didn’t snow at Christmas, cars drove on the other side of the road and I couldn’t find what I wanted at the supermarket. Ten years on I’m a barefoot, beach-going Kiwi, and mum to little Kiwis Matilda (8) and Theo (4 ½).”
Byron Yoga Centre
Keen to do more yoga training Jennifer undertook a nine-week intensive at Byron Yoga Centre in Byron Bay. “It’s the longest running yoga school in Australia. John Ogilvie, the founder, became my mentor,” says Jennifer. “That was a turning point for me, I found my dharma (life purpose).”
Later, John invited Jennifer to join his teaching staff and she loved it. “Teaching teachers was where I was supposed to be,” she says. “Through pregnancy and newborns, I taught in Bali, Jakarta, and Australia. However, the travel began wearing and while I agreed with John’s philosophies, my own were forming partly due to my spinal injury, my other teachers, and my performing career.”
Studying yoga therapy with Maria Kirsten and women’s health yoga with Ana Davis also opened her eyes. “After pregnancy and birth my body changed, and I realised pre and postnatal was an area that needed expansion,” she says. “New mothers need permission to let go of expectations put on them.”
It was Cameron who suggested she start Jayayoga (pronounced Ji-a). “The name is an anagram of Jennifer Allen Yoga Auckland, but it’s also the Sanskrit word for ‘blessing’ or, in other languages, ‘hallelujah’,” says Jennifer. “The tagline is ‘safe sustainable yoga for life’ because no one should ever be injured.
“Yoga isn’t about putting your leg behind your head or bending like a pretzel, looking good in a pair of leggings, or juice fasting. The point of yoga is to open the body so it can breathe which naturally leads to meditation. Less is more. When effort goes the magic happens.”
The Essence of Yoga
“Do you need 90 minutes of power yoga? No. Will five minutes to relax and breathe work? Yes,” says Jennifer. “It’s that simple. All my teachers and I are doing at Jaya is offering suggestions to navigate your personal path of yoga. It doesn’t matter to me if you’re in my class to move with my offerings or spend the time lying on your back sharing the energy; it’s all about permission. People say, ‘Wow, that’s revolutionary.’ To me, it’s common sense. It’s about allowing the path of least resistance and surrendering to the universe.”
Jennifer is clear: “Everybody can benefit: women, men, office workers, builders, mothers, yogis, and most especially people who have shied away because they think they can’t do it. I hope over my lifetime we will deliver that message one studio and one teacher training at a time.”
Interview: Jenna Moore @ Verve Magazine