interview conducted by Kate Prince
Maria Kirsten is the creator of Yoga for Grownups, a system of simple, smart and fun movements, which are broken down into steps and which make yoga accessible to all, whatever age. With this system, she helps people to enjoy being in their body while making yoga pertinent to everyday life. Maria’s work is centred on yoga as a form of intelligent movement and looks at how to make powerful poses and practices of yoga safe, simple and accessible to all. She is based in Lennox Head near beautiful Byron Bay in Australia where she runs classes which get people listening to their bodies and finding pleasure and joy in the connection. She has also released a DVD which is available at www.yogaforgrownups.com and is planning to run a workshop in the UK in the future.
What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
I drink hot lemon and water. I love the feeling of the warmth moving through me and hydrating and cleansing my system first thing. I am convinced it keeps my system ticking over nicely. After that, I roll around on the floor to stretch out.
What do eat you for breakfast?
Either bircher muesli which I make the night before, with grated apple, loads of seeds, and sometimes a drizzle of maple syrup. I am not a big fan of dried fruit, so I cut fresh fruit and berries onto it in the morning for a beautiful contrast of flavours. I love yogurt or avocado and scrambled egg on gluten free toast. All our produce is local and free range and spray free.
What is your work place like?
It is amazing, with the ocean one side and a tea tree lake the other, wooden floors, and the ageing charm of an old Australian surf club. It has a very calming feel and is perfect for yoga.
What do you eat for lunch?
Not much, fruit, nuts, or I make a late lunch my main meal of the day… I like to eat two main meals a day rather than three, so I will have breakfast, small light lunch and dinner, often when my kids get home from school. We all seem to be starving at about 4 pm and happier if we eat then.
Do you snack? If so, what on?
Almonds, apples, and crunchy veggies, which I chop up and carry in my bag however, sometimes dark chocolate as a lovely treat.
What do you have for supper?
I have salad and something with protein. I eat animal protein because I get really low in iron if I don’t, but the family loves tofu and tempeh as well. I like my food light and fresh in summer, but wholesome in winter. I love a winter risotto. My mother-in -law taught me a beautiful simple, lemon risotto, with a few greens through it and flaked almonds.
What is the healthiest thing you do every day?
I do yoga every day, whether that is doing yoga poses or sitting in meditation. I swim in the sea almost day, either in Lennox Head or across Byron Bay. I love the feeling of gliding through the water and the rhythm of the breath. It makes me feel like a dolphin.
Why did you create Yoga for Grownups?
To provide a true beginner experience for middle-aged householders to help them to discover yoga and become empowered to be their own therapists. I realised, after years of teaching, that instructing people into poses was not what was needed; I needed to teach people to explore poses. I try to get people to switch of their intellect and really feel what is going on for them. It is wonderful to watch them start to trust themselves again.
How does Yoga for Grown Ups differ to other yoga programmes?
We always start with breathing and rolling around on the floor to get people connected to their bodies before things get hard. I love to encourage people to laugh and have fun, close their eyes, forgo the pressure to perform, and to find a work completely without pain. That doesn’t mean things don’t get intense, but people need to learn that pain in the joints is a sign of faulty biomechanics and potential injury.
What do you like best about yoga?
How simple a tool it is to help me look after my body and mind; it makes me happy.
What is your favourite yoga pose/movement?
I do a wide legged easy twist and an arm opening twist every day, but when I have had a juicy long practice I love revolved triangle pose and shoulder stand.
What is your least favourite pose/movement?
Kurmasana, otherwise known as Tortoise which involves dropping your chest to the floor and putting your arms under your leg, it totally messes up my upper back. I no longer even try. I am also opposed to silly dangerous poses that put people at unnecessary risk.
Is there anything you do every day without fail?
A good quad stretch.
Which celebrities would you like to have in one of your yoga classes?
It would have to be American yoga gurus Jason Crandell, and Judith Lasater, Colin Farrell or Meryl Streep.
What is your biggest luxury in life?
I treasure time with my family and a wonderful monthly massage.
What are the three things can’t you live without?
My family, my yoga practice, and my mental capacity.
And what do you go to bed thinking about?
Nothing, I am lucky enough to be a good sleeper. If I am thinking, I either get up and do whatever I need to, or do a practice in the dark and then climb back into bed.
What is your motto in life?
“Do a little a lot instead of a lot a little.” I find that often people either do nothing they do too much. I am a big fan of doing a little something every day. I walk as much as I can, rhythmically and joyfully, and I try to do a short yoga practice every day; I think of my yoga practice as a small act of love for myself.