Mystical Burnings

I like to defy categorisation, but for the purpose of this blog, let’s say I’m a yogini, dakini-in-training, part-time writer and photographer who lives in London.  I’m passionate about travel and my yogic path has taken me to sacred places in India in pursuit of yogic philosophy and Buddhist wisdom.  Many people think that Yoga is just gymnastics and have lost sight of its true purpose – to control the mind, diminish suffering, and attain enlightenment (or perhaps reclaim sanity). So, these ‘Mystical Burnings’ posts are a selection of writing and photography of a spiritual nature. Just as being in a sacred place, or in the presence on a spiritual master, can purify one, these essays symbolise a kind of mystical burning, or devotion, an inner self-discipline (tapas) that burns away impurities and kindles the sparks of divinity. They mark the journey inwards and are a metaphor for the inner limbs of Patanjali’s Ashtanga yoga.


Y O G A 

I teach Ashtanga and Vinyasa Flow Yoga in London and on international yoga retreats and workshops, including Yoga Teacher Training in Goa and Nepal. Ashtanga is taught in the Mysore tradition of Sri K Patabbhi Jois, and Vinyasa Krama, or Hatha Flow, is an intelligent linking of poses rooted in classical yogic traditions that explores the physical, mental and subtle aspects of the practice. I consider Sri T Krishnamacharya to be the Grandfather of modern yoga and endeavor to teach all 8 limbs of ‘classical’ Ashtanga in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (200 B.C.). I’m a believer in the sacred power of yoga, the awakening of the Kundalini, and the transcendent path to Self-Realisation that Tantric mystics describe as a journey to the Divine through reverence and perfection of body, breath, mind and spirit.

Yoga philosophy is integrated with asana and breath to explore the inner/outer techniques of Vinyasa Yoga that transform the mind and body, accelerate personal growth and illuminate one’s highest potential to find purpose and meaning in life. I aim to reveal the spiritual path underlying the practice and the technology to stabilize the mind, so we can shed the veils of Maya perpetuated by the ego, glimpse at our true nature and liberate ourselves from suffering. My approach is a deep physical and psychological practice that moves beyond a mere physical experience to make the spiritual yogic inquiry authentic and relevant to real life. Throughout my yogic journey and teachings, I keep an open mind about the practice and try not to succumb to dogma. The ultimate aim of yoga is love, liberation and freedom. Moksha.

I’m a certified member of Yoga Alliance at the highest level, E-RYT 500, and am certified at RYS-500 to offer Yoga Teacher Training. For full details: Elton Yoga | Teacher Training


M E D I T A T I O N 

I have studied various meditation techniques over the years and completed a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat in Myanmar (Burma) in 2006 and Dhamma Dipa (Hereford, UK) in 2009. I am interested in all forms of non-dualism including Self-Inquiry, the direct path to liberation, based on the teachings of Ramana Maharishi and visited his ashram in Tiruvannamalai, India (2009). Currently, I’m studying Tibetan Buddhism with Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche. I’m most honoured to be a student of this great spiritual master and most grateful for his ability to point me in the direction of my inner guru.


P H O T O G R A P H Y 

I try to integrate yogic techniques into my photographic process. For me, photography is a physical and spiritual act that uses Dristi (gaze) to ‘see’ through the veils of Maya (delusion), and filters of my conditioned ‘view’ towards the emptiness of Self, or the pure essence of what is expressed. Photography is a spiritual journey that involves substantial physical effort, in a similar way that I put effort into my yoga practice. I’ve trekked through tropical rainforests in Guatemala, ski toured across glaciers in the Canadian Rockies, climbed 5000 m mountain passes in the Himalayas, endured the heat of Native American sweat lodges and cold silence of Vipassana meditation in Myanmar. Whether I climb a mountain peak, onto the roof of a Buddhist monastery, up the 650 stone steps to Shravanbelagola, watch the sunset from a Buddhist cave, or rise before dawn for temple meditation, I believe that the effort it takes to get somewhere makes the experience of fully being there more profound. It also takes me to a deep place of witnessing my reactions to difficult situations.

I try to practice Santosha (contentment) and be happy with what I encounter in the present moment, rather than wishing the angle of the sun was different or I had chosen a better view. The big challenge is not to be greedy and insatiable in taking the images, but to practice Aparigraha (non-covetousness). Photography, like yoga, can easily pull you out of the present moment and thrust you into an act of obsessive desire for perfection and covetousness of the moment. It can be so seductive sometimes I feel I haven’t really experienced the moment unless I’ve captured it. Then, I turn off my Nikon and Leica D-Lux 5, look inside in Self-Inquiry (Advaita Vedanta) to quiet the grasping ego and empty my mind.

Ultimately, my intention with photography is to reveal the spirit of the place whether that is found in the Himalayas or the intrinsic devotion of a stone carving. I try to see the essence of the subject in front of me. I want to communicate the sense of AWE that I feel in sacred places, the decisive moment when I lose all sense of Self for a brief moment and merge with the view, into a blissful samadhic state like when the yogi is absorbed into the One. The great cinematographer, Vilmos Zsigmond, once said, “Photography is writing with light.” For me, the light is the Guru and photography is a spiritual journey to merge with the divine light within.

My photographs have been published in Rough Guides and Fodor’s, as well as international magazines like Namarupa, Yoga Journal, National Geographic, Esquire, Marie-Claire, The Times, Sunday Times, The Guardian and Home & Garden. My photography is represented byAxiom Photographic Agency / Designpics in London.

To see my photo website: Elton Photography


W R I T I N G 

Before being a full-time yoga teacher, I worked as a freelance writer/editor/publisher. I was a travel writer for Rough Guides and Fodor’s, and my articles have been published in a number of international magazines. I was the editor of Dance Connection, Canada’s magazine for contemporary dance, and Last Issue, an interdisciplinary arts magazine, and have written extensively on dance and contemporary art. During my tenure as Editor of the Banff Centre Press, I published Chinook Winds, a chapbook on contemporary Aboriginal dance and Why Are You Telling Me This?, an anthology of creative non-fiction. In 1990, I received a MacLean Hunter Scholarship to write an essay on Antonin Artaud for Literary Journalism program at the Banff Centre. All in the Family, my memoir documentary on adoption, was broadcast on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporations program Ideas. I also wrote Banff’s Best Dayhikes, a hiking guide in the Canadian Rockies.