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Yoga with Alexis Gulliver: Journey on the Flying Carpet

Journey to the healing world of ancient Yoga teachings with yoga instructor Alexis Gulliver.

What are the current projects of YogaUni?

We started the YogaUni project in 2014. Because we thought students would love the convenience of practicing at home or on the go. Being able to log in at any time from anywhere in the world to take lessons from their favorite teacher is a great way to stay connected with yoga and each other despite their busy schedules. It's also very helpful to be able to choose classes at their own level about the area of their body they want to focus on at home, whenever they're convenient, without the hassle of commuting. Our dream was to provide this opportunity.

To be honest, we didn't gain many members at first. People said they didn't find the idea of doing yoga at home appealing enough. Now, look what happened during the quarantine period… We all have to be at home and the whole world is doing everything online or learning from online sources. A great opportunity for YogaUni; because that's what we always believed in. In addition to offering many online lessons in our video library, we also started to offer live broadcast classes for students to attend. In addition, we are currently providing online Yin Yoga tutoring. Students these days are seeing how effective online education can be, and YogaUni is in a unique position to give them exactly what they need.

What do you pay attention to most when combining different types of yoga in your practice?

I think of every yoga class as a flying carpet ride. It should slowly absorb you, allowing your mind and body to transition from what you did that day to yoga. As practice accelerates, the flying carpet rises higher and higher, helping you see new, unexplored places within you. As you move with the breaths on the yoga mat, you need to look down on yourself as an observer. The lesson should end in a way that you can finally put you down and relax and digest everything you've experienced. Takeoff, flight, and landing should be beautifully combined, allowing students to see what they're best at. When I create a lesson, I try to combine different poses to create this magic for each student, no matter what style.

What are the advantages of online yoga other than being able to do it easily from home?

There are many benefits of online yoga that I would like students to keep in mind. When you go to a group yoga class in a studio, the instructor sets the pace, difficulty level, and focus of the day. This combination may not be what you need that day, but you still need to follow the lesson with the class. When doing yoga online, you choose the level and style to make sure the class is suitable for your needs for the day. 

For example, let's say you have a backache. You can filter videos that will help with your back problems. Another great advantage is; time and speed. Classes in yoga studios are usually an hour or more; moreover, time is required for coming to the studio and returning home. Let's say you only have half an hour before dinner at home. By filtering and selecting only 30-minute lessons, you won't miss a great yoga practice that you'll actually give up because you don't have time. That's why I think online yoga makes students more consistent with their practice. In addition, the practice at home, especially for beginners or those who think they are doing the movements wrong, allows them to progress comfortably at their own speed and level. They feel safer with no one else around. For example, many people tell me that they don't do yoga because they are inflexible. Online videos, without the presence of an observant teacher or other students, are a great start to being flexible.

It's also great that online yoga brings you together with teachers you wouldn't normally get a chance to practice with. I have been doing my own practices from home for 15 years; clear proof that I think these online channels are a great way to do yoga. 

While you have been teaching yoga for years and continuing to learn it yourself; What unforgettable experiences have you gained?

I think this is the biggest thing I've learned in a long time, how much I don't know. I don't realize how little I knew, especially when I first started... When I first started teaching, I loved yoga based on my personal practices and wanted to share this experience with others. I was not conscious of how to create lessons that would fit all different students and different needs. When I think about the lessons I took 16 years ago, I am amazed at how I could even teach a class. I was just directing the students according to my feelings in my own body. Over the years, after teaching hundreds of classrooms, I have had the chance to get to know many different types of students. After seeing different ages, body types, disabilities and needs, I now see how I can create lessons for students that both want and need them. It is truly incredible to witness both how I have changed as an instructor and the ongoing transformations of students during this process. This evolution is my most memorable experience as a trainer.

Has your favorite type of yoga changed over time?

My favorite style in yoga hasn't changed over the years. I am still most attached to Vinyasa Yoga. These days, compared to my twenties, I realize the value of slowing the rhythm of my practice a little. Simple, classic poses have become my very close friends. In the past, I always wanted to do poses that were quite difficult, like the Pretzel pose. Now I rely on the simplicity of the more basic poses to take good care of my body, and more importantly to create a place for my mind to rest in the pose. It's like relaxing and calming down while spending time with your best friend. 

Are yoga, meditation and breathing separate; Do you see it as one whole? How can people at different levels in yoga combine these elements?

These three areas can be studied separately, but I think they all support one another. They fit together like puzzle pieces and take you to experience the moment in yoga. his breath; We use it in meditation to calm our mind, and in yoga to get in and out of poses. On the other hand, when you do yoga, you make your body more comfortable to meditate on. So each component supports the other. I think one element makes you interested in the others. Therefore, you can start with any and find yourself doing all three. I believe that the yoga that I teach and experience is a meditation in motion, energized by the breath.

How would you summarize the transformation that yoga has created in your life in three words? 

Health, happiness and peace.

Can we say that upside down yoga positions help against aging by harmonizing with the power of gravity?

In classical yoga teaching, it is thought that there is an essential fluid in our head called Amrita. A drop of Amrita to the fire; that is, when it falls into the stomach for digestion, it is considered that the person aged one year. In this case, theoretically, if you spend time in upside down poses, you will prevent Amrita from falling into a fire and thus aging. It's your decision whether to believe it or not; but the idea behind this belief is that yoga slows down aging. I'm not sure of a direct effect, but I think it creates a higher awareness of nutrition, quality sleep and self-care, all of which help the signs of aging appear later, such as the formation of wrinkles. Yoga also teaches us to accept, rather than fight, aging, which is inevitable eventually.

Among the YogaUni videos, which one is the most popular and why? 

I have a YogaUni class called Hanuman Legend. It tells the story of the Monkey King Hanuman and his journey to save the queen. It's really fun to tell this story while doing the poses. Hanumanasana; a difficult pose in which you sit with one leg in front and the other behind. It represents Hanuman's dedication to saving the queen. We reflect this idea of devotion by giving our full attention to the pose while doing the yoga pose. Students find this motivating and inspiring for their personal yoga journey.

Can you share a few yoga poses where you feel strong?

The pose I teach students to make their bodies stronger: Plank Pose. Not only is it a great tummy booster, it's a pose where you get support from your arms, so they get stronger too. During this pose, students are required to take deep breaths and move their consciousness from head to toe throughout their body. In this way, they also exercise their legs. 

Another pose I can recommend is the Goddess Squat. In this pose, we open our feet 45 degrees outward and bend our knees down so that our hips and knees are in line. In the fitness world, this pose is called the Sumo Squat. It's a great pose to increase your stamina while strengthening your leg muscles. If you keep your spine wide and your chest up, you will also work your muscles to have a correct posture. 

What are your morning and night rituals to make you feel good? 

Quarantine is a great time to develop useful routines. In the morning, as soon as I get out of bed, I drink organic apple cider vinegar and water. Then I meditate for 20 minutes first. Then I do a series of breathing exercises by Jain Yoga Expert Achrya Shree. These two things are my priorities for having a mindful day. If there is something else that I must do early in the morning, I wake up earlier than that. After my workout it's finally time for a good coffee. 

I end my night with a calming herbal tea. This is usually Rooibos tea. I meditate for another 20 minutes before I go to bed. Because I find such peace, I want it to be the last thing I do before sleep. I find routines help a lot to develop good habits. I start with small goals and expand as I get comfortable with whatever I'm working on. 

How does the perspective on yoga change according to different countries and cultures? Do you observe specific ideas or behaviors for yoga followers in Turkey?

The first thing I noticed when I first moved to Turkey was that students were more interested in learning about meditation than those in the United States. A yoga teacher in America often tells students to keep their eyes on their mats because students compare themselves to everyone else in the class. Their culture is more competitive. I have never had to make such a warning in Turkey until now. In my trainings in Istanbul, students do not bring competition to the yoga class and do not push themselves too much; I've always enjoyed it.

I've also watched them become more and more interested in healthy eating, the relationship between nutrition and exercise, and the impact the two have on their lives. It's not just yoga; Among the people in Turkey, I really like everyone who walks, runs, goes to the gym and makes time for fitness. The most negative feature I see in Turkish students is that they smoke a lot. I am completely against smoking for many reasons. Smokers are now rare in America.

Yoga is about breathing and using the breath to increase your energy. Smoking reduces our breathing capacity. It also has side effects such as premature aging on the skin. I don't want to sound harsh, but it is an important message to state that I am against smoking. I want all my students and everyone in Turkey to have a long, healthy and full life.

Photo credit: Jessica Gulliver

Alexis Gulliver – Yoga Instructor

Gulliver, who received his undergraduate education at Michigan State University – The Eli Board College of Business Supply Chain Management, received a 200-Hour Yoga Association Certificate from YogaWorks. Working as a yoga instructor for many years, Gulliver founded YogaUni, a web-based yoga, pilates, meditation and fitness platform, in 2014.


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