I’m so excited to introduce you to one of my most influential yoga teachers and friend Agi Fry, creator of Agi Ageless Living! I first came to Agi’s Gentle Yoga classes in Honolulu, Hawai’i while injured, and they included many senior citizens and folks with assorted injuries and physical limitations. What struck me was how she was able to provide many effective modifications and variations to yoga poses, meeting participants where they were while providing support and challenge for all.
I grew stronger and more balanced through Agi’s yoga classes, was able to keep dancing and teaching (and riding a motorcycle…), and was inspired to pursue my long-time desire to do a yoga teacher training once I moved to Germany in part due to Agi’s influence. She has an intuitive way of knowing what students need and also skill in seeing what they are capable of beyond their fear, current challenges, or perceived limitations.
A lifelong learner, Agi is always deepening her knowledge and experience and passing it along to students. Most recently her online hub is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/agisagelessliving/ You can also direct questions, inquire about her Somatics Booklet, or get a link for a free class with Agi by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
On the podcast, linked below in audio and video formats, we talk about what brought Agi to yoga, her lineage of teachers and connection to yoga philosophy, using it as a tool to balance the nervous system, relax, and heal, student-centered pedagogy, bringing things forth from the inside rather than putting them “on”, recovering from pain and trauma, her flight from the Hungarian revolution as a child, balancing multiple responsibilities and interests, bucket lists, and more.
Pocast 079 Audio on Spotify
Agi Interview Video on YouTube
Video Chapter Time Stamps & My Highlights
00:00 I introduce Agi
Getting into Yoga, learning to relax:
02:00 Agi started practicing yoga in the Napa Valley in 1978, at that time the poses were all taught in Sanskrit and she just had to try to follow along imitating the shapes the instructor made.
“After having stretched and then gotten to the relaxation, it was the relaxation that said to me, ‘you gotta do this,’ because for the first time in my life, there was just enough parasympathetic/sympathetic nervous system unity, that I could relax. That’s what brought me to yoga, that ability to balance the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system and see the result of that in my mind… it was an aha moment.”
03:38 Yoga lineage: Iyengar Institute was leading force in yoga in the area (Pattabhi Jois came later), Angela Farmer and others provided new perspectives, 10-day silent retreat with Goenkaji from Burma (traditional Buddhist meditation) changed the whole relationship of the body and the breath, started working with teachers who were a little less strident, not ego-driven, many other teachers, month in an ashram in Fallsburg, Himalayan Institute. Danger of teaching postures rather than students, our shared value of student-centered instruction.
“In general, you do have to watch that. If you’re young and you’re able to do the postures, you think you’re doing yoga. […]There was breath training and there was some philosophy, but that really didn’t compensate for the over-emphasis on these postures well, or at least the American versions.”
8:20 “It’s a lifetime journey and if you look at it that way it kind of changes your need to hurry.” (This is something I say to my own students again and again, because I know how frustrating it can be to try to “achieve” the poses and we can tend to forget it is about the process in this moment and not superficial outcomes).
Asana, Pranayama, Meditation & Philosophy
10:34 Asana as preparation for breathwork and meditation:
“If you’re doing really good work with your asanas, if you don’t leave the breath out of it, then the pranayama already starts the purification, because every time you’re inhaling and exhaling and connecting it to the body and watching, and you know watch where the breath is, watch where the breath is. Then already when you sit down to do pranayama you already have a little understanding that the pranic body is huge, it’s bigger than the physical body, right? You can feel that. And then the body with the physical yoga (or even somatic yoga) you to let go of those tensions so that the body cleanses naturally.”
Person-Centered Teaching & Learning
11:17 Observing & bringing things forth from the inside, focusing, rather than “putting things on:”
“It isn’t a force thing. We always want to put everything on ourselves, right?, instead of watching what happens: ‘What happened when I did that, trying a pose? My whole chest opened, what happened there? I had the capacity to breath from the base of my spine to the top of my chest…I couldn’t do that when I came into class…’”
11:46 “Then when you sit down for meditation, you are prepared because your body–we are not meditating per se, we are getting our body ready for that–we are growing that field. You know, we’re doing what the Bhagavad Gita [classic yogic philosophy text] did: you have the body as the field and you cultivate it, cultivating the body to do the opening, to do the meditation, to do the release. It’s not the other way around. In the west we think we can control it, we’re going to put it on our body, and we’re going to just do it.”
“It’s that idea that we’re cultivating this field, which is our body, for all of these practices which then bring us home. And then we have creativity… we’re not locked down, we’re flow, we have confidence, we have things that we can’t get other ways.”
Sustainable & Sustaining Practices
14:11 Cultural ideas about aging, sustainable practice:
“Coming to a place when you’re 72 and feeling like, ‘ok, I’m really not aging in ways that I thought I would be’–because we all hold that aging concept, right? The culture looks at old people and they’re leaning over, and they have a cane, and they can barely walk, and they’re shuffling their feet–you know that aging concept is all over the world and nobody gets free of that–but if you can stop that then you will see what the power of the yoga stuff is, yoga the breathing stuff, the meditation.”
Moderation: ”It doesn’t have to be this massive amount like people think, even if you just do it for 20 minutes a day. People think ‘ugh, I gotta do it for two hours… The beautiful thing that I love about the philosophy is: the body wasn’t meant for that, it was meant for nice stretches, and detoxifying and breathing, it was meant to eat the right food, it was meant to meditate… it wasn’t meant to like (panting) ‘I am the yoga marathon.”
Ideas about aging, expectations, approaches to yoga sequencing – exhaust the body and then rest at the end, or pauses between poses, relaxing without exhaustion, keeping focus on the breath.
20:37 Conscious relaxation vs. exhaustion:
“Exhaustion is not the same as conscious relaxation. And savasana is meant for conscious relaxation, you know it’s part of the yoga nidra kind of concept where you’re still awake, but you’re going deeper and deeper and deeper.”
21:39 Incorporating yin and restorative yoga styles, feeling good:
“You want to feel good and you want to feel free! The whole concept of yoga is to create freedom in the body and in the mind and in the whole experience.”
Aging Successfully through Yoga & Somatics
22:42 Yin Yoga & Somatics, Aging and Pain: even though Agi’s been teaching and practicing for decades, as she got older her body felt more limited, but she has since discovered solutions.
23:23 “I’ve always felt very committed to the physical aspect because it leads so well into the wisdom, you know in my mind there’s no separation. So the somatic work, I started that because I really couldn’t get relief for my neck. I had seen yoga therapists, chiropractors, and everybody else … and I started working with a somatic teacher and instantly it changed.”
24:23 Thomas Hanna’s theories on trauma, stress; difference between yoga and somatics: in yoga you’re stretching and in somatics you go to the source, you contract that source, and then you let it go, which lengthens it.
26:35 “The promise of somatics is that you will wake up the amnesia in your body, the Sensory Motor Amnesia, that has locked down just from natural living more than forty/forty-five. Those contractions happen all the time, we don’t even really notice them: the contractions in the neck from at the computer, the long muscles of the back when you’re sleeping… all of those contract, and the simple exercises are to release those, let the body know ‘ok, we’re still here, we need your attention.’ Now when you have a trauma or an injury, that solidifies and there is really this whole process (of very simple exercises) to calibrate: ‘ok, we’re going to make this sensory-motor loop, I need you to get some information here, we’re going to open it up and then we begin to be free.’”
Trauma Responses & Finding Inner Freedom
27:41 “It starts to bring that lightness to your body, that same kind of inner freedom you feel like everything is flowing, because when you’re young it doesn’t make any difference how much you weigh, right? You just feel weightless and free, right? But we have a huge expectation that we’re going to get old and we’re going to be somehow crippled… its not successful aging.”
29:42 Traumatic responses: Agi remembers escaping from Hungary during the revolution (as a child she Flew to the US on one of Eisenhower’s planes!), can get triggered by experiences such as fleeing California wildfires, had never released that trauma, the Somatics Basic SEven provided relief.
32:52 “That’s the miracle of being with yourself in an attentive way and also then recognizing how trauma can really affect your body.”
Awakening Intuition & Inspiration
33:25 “As you progress in this work, you get inspired, and it’s not your thinking, you just get downloaded: ‘here, say this.’” (aha, she too gets intuitive hits!)
33:39 Her future website will be a platform for travel blogging, including posting about somatics stuff, family heritage, we talk about balancing all of our interests and passions, she feels better when working, giving to students, contributing to society.
36:58 “The beauty of it is, you know, sitting with yourself and this will help. The practice helps, because I’ve been doing meditation online with my students too and this has been really helpful, and doing that is really just to sit with yourself and know what is really important now.”
38:42 What she’s up to now: in Tahoe, changing rental laws, bucket lists, renewing citizenship in Hungary, a small country of 10 million people, but a big culture, would like more experiences there and in Europe.
Reach out to Agi at email@example.com for a free class and discover what yoga and somatics can do for you!
Questions for Inquiry
- Do you practice yoga? If so, what brought you to the practice and what keeps you going?
- Have you experienced any somatic modalities?
- What have you healed through yoga or other movement practices?
- From what pain are you currently seeking relief?
I’d love to hear your answers by direct message on Instagram @ablythecoach
Blythe C. Stephens, MFA, Bliss Catalyst, she/they
A Blythe Coach: helping multi-passionate creatives dance through their difficulties & take leaps of faith into fulfillment through coaching, yoga, & dance education
DISCLAIMER: A Blythe Coach recommends that you consult your physician regarding the applicability of any recommendations and follow all safety instructions before beginning any exercise program. When participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in this exercise or exercise program, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself.