A lifelong practice with Abbie Galvin

by Ritual mind | body | breath

Transforming your life through personal practice: 40+ years of Yoga with Abbie Galvin

How did you initially find yoga, and what motivated you to stick with it? 

I found yoga when I was young, a teenager, and loved the movement of it, the way it was different from anything I had seen or done. It initially seemed exotic and at the time it wasn’t mainstream at all. The “culture” of it was so different, a little scruffy, it seemed subversive. BUT…..after a while even as a teenager, the teaching of it, the Guru culture, was a turn-off for me, how paternalistic and authoritarian and sexist. There was very little exploration or questioning, or personal empowerment. This led me on a search for yoga that was less culty and more personally enhancing. It took many years before I found Katonah Yoga where I was able to experiment and  contribute to its repertoire and to teach with  a more communal flavor. 

What has been the most profound piece of Yogic Philosophy that has impacted you most deeply?

Our theoretical material is both magical and very practical. First, what I  use as a big idea in my teaching and personal practice is the notion of Great Nature and how to harness it for the development of personal nature.I reference and use ideas from Chinese theory, from Geometry, from Origami, and from anything and everything I read in literature, poetry, and philosophy.  The idea that we are making the unconscious more conscious as we physically practice also appeals to me in that we change, alter, amend,

Shift perspective both mentally and physically as we reference an ideal rather than use our habits or compensatory skills. I also love how we play with our lunar nature (innate potential) and our solar nature(what we acquire) in order to access our stellar nature (our soul). In this way we discover ourselves, how we play with time, and what we are meant to be doing here.  

What part of this practice do you find most challenging and difficult? 

I don't find it difficult at all, I find that it enhances my life and contributes to my longevity. It is life itself that is “difficult” and “challenging”. I find yoga a technique to mediate and moderate myself in order be in the world, relationships, and inside myself, better. 

How is your practice different to when you first started? What has changed? 

When I first started yoga there was very little FORM for precision being taught, and we were just flopping around doing our best to follow the teacher's cues. My practice was messy and difficult since I wasn’t flexible. It took me years to fully embody my practice as it is now, with form and flow and technique that is refined and has levity in it. One of the big thresholds for me and for my body was the theoretical principles of movement, of living, of yoga, of how bodies are meant to fold and fit and function, and not just “do my best”. So once my mind was just as engaged as the body, my practice and my life changed which is why I began to see that there was indeed something to teach. For example, when you open a wrist joint you are also addressing your neck. The more you flip your wrist around the better you can plant your hand. And the better the hand is planted the more functional the wrist joint is. And because bones are mostly water, we want to do all of this to flush our joints thru with energy.

So that what really changed for me was to open up my frame of reference from  doing poses to addressing, playing, adjusting, refining a practice and way of thinking. 

How would you describe yourself as a teacher? 

I love my students, I love our practice, I love teaching; For me yoga is about living life in a certain way that is formal, conscious and kind, and I believe that making good contact and being able to read a room is paramount to giving each person a loving positive experience. 

I just remember that everyone wants to be seen, touched, moved, understood with a sense that they belong in the room with you….and that my job is to inform students well and help them open up their imaginations to see more, experience more connections, perceive more possibilities, all in the service of their well being. 

How would you describe yourself as a student? 

Learning is everything. Whether its a new language, a new word, a challenging concept or meeting a new person, each thing I learn is an opportunity to pull something new out of myself. And to remember that there is always a chance for a new insight, an A-ha, a revelation with each experience. Because wherever you can “go” in your mind, in your body, with someone else, there is an experience to be had. 

Has there been a specific teacher who’s impacted you the most? Why?

Nevine Michaan has influenced me most as a teacher. When we met she was the first teacher I’d had with a great brain, a wonderful practice, and someone with whom I could relate to as a person. We worked together for many years using the practice and its ideas as our template. We experimented, we tried things, we practiced daily, we created a community, and we set out to train teachers in the art of teaching yoga and living consciously. I learned that to be a teacher is to be a mentor, a model, and to listen and observe well; that we all learn by reflection with others rather than telling students what to do, or cuing them, bossing them. 

Have you ever fallen out of love with Yoga? If you have, what did you do to find that love again?  

I haven’t fallen out of love with yoga, but I think that we fall out of love, or lose our mojo with our lives, our motivation to progress in our lives without techniques for self-cultivation. I think that when someone says they “fall of out love with yoga” that they need a more dimensional way of playing with material so that their practice is enhancing their lives and informing their imagination. Most of what I hear is that the mechanics of yoga isn’t sustainable. And what most yogis aren’t taught, is the way inside themselves to build an interior life which will enhance and empower their personal  circumstances. Our bodies are merely the container. How we reside inside of it is the esoteric work of the implicit, that which is not seen. That is where the spirit, or the Shen can be found and expressed. 

Aside from Yoga, what are some personal practices that you have? What has been the biggest help to you? 

The biggest help to me is to be consistent; as a mother, teacher, and with myself in my daily

Practice. My home practice and the consistency of my teaching has been the most help to me with everything else I do. Writing thoughts and feelings is a ritual I find soothing. Reading literature is something I do every night. Long distance walking has become a new love, which I find meditative and rhythmic. 

What do you wish people understood about yoga?

That good technique, over time, with repetition, will change you. This takes great patience

With oneself, and a true respect for your future. Good technique, that which is universal, formal, following a real recipe, can heal and change you, while personal technique holds damage, which is the nature of the personal. It is without a template, a map, a musical score.

It requires talent or luck rather than skill and consistency. Much like learning a language, first we learn grammar and  then sentences before we are fluent enough to have a real nuanced conversation with puns, wordplay, jokes. So that eventual good yoga should have levity, dimension and joy.

Is there a teacher who’s classes we really need to try and why? 

Go everywhere, do all kinds of yoga, try all kinds of techniques, learn to swim, read poetry, learn to cook, play with all kinds of people, travel, sing………

What are you currently reading? 

I read everything…..

What are you currently listening (music, podcasts etc) to? 


Your favourite quote/poetry/mantra etc. 

I don't have a favorite quote but I love David Whyte, Ursula K. Le Guin, Rudolf Steiner, and a gazillion other philosophers and thinkers and artists who influence me everyday and every minute of my time here on earth. 

Where can we find you, your classes, retreats, workshops etc 

See our website TheStudio.yoga where you’ll find our workshops about how to use your time well, body reading, face reading, restorative yoga, home practice, our digital platform of pre-recorded classes so one can practice any time at their own pace and pleasure, pranayama, and of course trainings in Katonah yoga theory and practice at our studio in NYC, in Baltimore, in Boston, in Dublin, in Berlin, in Frankfurt, in Cologne, in Detroit.