Meet Graham Burns

Meet Graham Burns

Tell us a bit about yourself…

I live around 20km west of Lisbon in Portugal, and have been a yoga teacher since 2001. Before that, I spent many years working as a lawyer in a large commercial lawfirm. Pre-pandemic, I lived in London and taught regular classes at The Life Centre (Notting Hill and Islington), and at Triyoga in Camden. 

In 2008, I went back to school to study at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), specialising in ancient Indian religions. I received my MA in 2010, then embarked on research on the Upanisads which led to me receiving a PhD in early 2019. I also lectured and supervised dissertations on the SOAS MA course in Traditions of Yoga and Meditation, and taught undergraduate Hinduism at SOAS from 2014 to 2020.

Now, I teach regular classes and Sanskrit courses live online. I have also taught yoga history and philosophy, Sanskrit, and meditation on the Yogacampus yoga teacher training programme for many years, co-teach the Yogacampus meditation teacher training, and am the yoga philosophy tutor for Yoga Scotland. 

My yoga teaching reflects the many styles which I have encountered over the years. I think of my asana style as relaxed, but fluid, and try to keep classes creatively sequenced, with an eye on their energetic as well as physical effects. Prāṇāyāma and meditation are integral parts of my practice and most of my classes include these as well as āsana. Many years ago, I was recognised by the London Evening Standard as a top teacher of yoga nidrā.

Outside yoga, I am a bit of a foodie, a cricket lover, and a keen traveller.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I don’t think there is such a thing! But they probably all involve too much time in front of a computer…

How did your yoga journey begin and what inspired you to become a yoga teacher?

I was bribed to attend a class at The Life Centre in Notting Hill by my partner in the late 1990s. Despite my initial misgivings, with a body stiff from years of sitting behind a desk and playing sport, I soon became a regular, in class two or three times a week, and started going on yoga holidays and to yoga workshops. I was fascinated not just by the physical benefits, but also the mental impact – yoga made me feel so much better in myself at all sorts of levels. I quite quickly felt deep down that I could teach, so, when I had the chance of a sabbatical from my job in 2000, I spent several months in India, and also went to the United States where I met such amazing teachers as Richard Freeman, Erich Schiffmann, and Shiva Rea. During that year I also took the short teacher training course at White Lotus Foundation in California, and realised that I really could teach. After I got back to the UK in 2001, I got into teaching regularly, initially alongside my day job, and, from 2004, full time, while continuing to train, primarily with Rod Stryker.

What inspired you to specialize in your practice?

I am not sure how much I do specialise! But I have been keen on history since school days, and have been very drawn over the years to studying the complex historical and philosophical background to yoga. This is what led me back to university in 2008, and these are the areas I chiefly focus on in teacher training. 

How have you seen yoga benefit your students?

I think that that is more for them to say than me. But I would like to think of an increased awareness of themselves and of the world around them, as well as a few obvious health benefits.

What is your favorite quote or life motto?

One of my teachers, Richard Freeman, once said ‘The world is a yoga studio.’, and that has stuck with me ever since. Yoga is not just something we do on our mat, but should influence the whole of our life.o Tom

What’s coming up for you in 2024?

All being well, a new intake of students on the Yoga Scotland teacher training course in the autumn, my annual yoga weekend in Sussex, more meditation teacher training, and some more time for me, including a trip to São Tomé e Principe… though I do have an idea for a book, which I would like to pitch to a publisher at some stage.


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