Interview with Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Clayton Horton
Clayton is an experienced and popular KPJAYI Certified Ashtanga Yoga teacher, currently living in Hong Kong. He studied with both masters Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and the Greensufi for a period of over 14 years. His practice and teachings are rooted in the KPJois Ashtanga Tradition and daily meditation.
Clayton’s teaching style is traditional yet light hearted and relaxed. Clayton believes that by practicing and living yoga, we can transform ourselves and the world around us.
According to Clayton, “Ashtanga Yoga is a complete and well-balanced system in which an experienced and skilled teacher can help any student ‘find their place’ within its structure regardless of individual challenges, aptitude and constitution.”
From 2001-2006, Clayton operated Greenpath Yoga Studio in San Francisco, California, USA. The studio was one of America’s first Green and Environmental – Friendly yoga studios. It was an inspiration with its progressive yoga programs, philosophies, events and authenticity. With Greenpath Yoga Studio and being a founding member of the Green Yoga Association, he helped to inspire awareness of Earth Friendly yoga practices, philosophies and products.
Clayton received the rare blessing of “Certification” from Sharath Jois in 2016 after making yearly trips to Mysore, India over a 20 year period. He received Level One Authorization n 2003 and Level 2 Authorization in 2010. He travels regularly in Asia, Europe and America to teach workshops, in depth trainings, retreats and kirtans.
ON THE PERSONAL SIDE…
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Oklahoma (USA) in 1965. I grew up involved in sports and outdoor activities. I had an interest in spirituality as long as I can remember. When I began to study Asian Philosophy in University, I was inspired to learn and the word “yoga” kept appearing in books and lectures. I was on the University swim team and we would stretch a lot 😉 I moved to California when I was 20 to train triathlons and learn to surf.
What brought you to yoga initially and when did you first fall in love with it?
It was in San Francisco in 1986 when my mother took me to a Pranayama class, I soon began to study Hatha yoga, then Iyengar, then eventually Ashtanga. My first trip to Mysore, India was 1996.
Where do you live and why?
I closed Greenpath Yoga studio in 2006 and began traveling and teaching in Europe and Asia. I now live and teach in Hong Kong with my Fiancé, Ambikha.
How has your yoga practice changed you / is changing you?
Pattabhi Jois and his grandson Sharath talk about how through consistent and long time practice, the 6 poisons that surround the causal (spiritual) heart begin to dissolve (anger, lust, greed, jealousy, delusion and laziness). For me, qualities like kindness, gratitude and joy are experienced more as years go by.
Why do you think yoga is becoming so popular in the West?
People are looking for meaning, joy and love in their life. A spiritual hunger exists. Immorality and greed is out of control in the modern world.
What does your personal practice look like?
I wake up around 3:30 am, go to the studio, sit and meditate a bit, then do my asana practice of 1st or 2nd or 3rd series for 1-2 hours then teach 3-4 hours, then some meditation in the evening. Karma yoga and Kirtan chanting are in the mix too.
In your own practice, what’s your favourite / least favourite asana and why?
Padmasana is my favourite. After being still for about 30-45 minutes, insight and true peace begin to arise. Try it 😉 Ekapada Bakasana in the Ashtanga 3rd series is very hard and challenging these days.
In your classes, what’s the asana you like to teach the most / least and why?
Padmasana meditation is the best. There is so much sattvic energy in the room and the students look beautiful.
Whose teachings have been a major influence for you?
My long time mentor and guru, Greensufi was a great example and teacher for me for many years. His favourite mantra was, “wake up!”
Who/What has been an inspiration in life for you and why?
Recently the life and work of Sri Sri Anandamurti has been a tremendous inspiration to me.
Have you ever heard of him?
What has teaching taught you?
To have patience and compassion for students who are not as crazy about yoga as I am.
Do you find that there is a question your students tend to ask again and again? If so, which one and what is your answer.
It is nice when they say when they say, “when are you coming back?” or “where can I buy your Kirtan CD?’ 😉 “How long did it take you to be able to do that pose?” tends to be a silly and awkward one.
For people who are on your TTC, what qualities do you think it takes to become a good teacher?
I have not given a TTC in a while, but usually the good teachers are excellent students for many years before they pride themselves in being a teacher. The good teacher is the good student who pays attention to what his teacher says and only needs to be told once of the correct technique. The good teacher is the one who knows it is their duty to serve humanity and raise morality and consciousness. The good teacher is the student who is crazy about living yoga, not just dreaming about yoga. The good teacher is the one who is kind to all of creation.
In which direction is your yoga teaching heading?
Inwards. I see myself teaching more of the internal aspects of yoga and meditation as I grow older.
If you weren’t teaching yoga, what would you be doing?
Playing guitar, surfing, swimming and working in some health related service industry.