My name is Sophie Phelps although some know me as Sohan Sophie. Sohan Kaur was the name given to me by one of my teachers: Harbhajan Singh, also known as Yogi Bhajan.
I started actively practicing Yoga in 1997.
I discovered Yoga for the very first time in the early 1980s in France, where I grew up. That first class did nothing for me probably the teacher was not the right person for me at the time. Later, as I trekked around Australia, I met a fellow traveler who re-introduced me to Yoga, and it was then that I really fell in love with all that Yoga encompasses.
I kept up a committed practice every morning for about 3 months as I traveled on through Cotonou in Benin ( Western Africa ). But when I hit the road again without a teacher I eventually lost my practice. Very physical outdoor sports became more satisfying to me until I discovered Bikram Yoga when I moved to the US in 1997.
For 4 years I was dedicated to Bikram Yoga. When I moved from Palo Alto to Santa Rosa in 1998, I would regularly drive down to Novato or San Rafael to find a Bikram Yoga studio. (Now there are at least 5 in my neighborhood). But the key is that, without being aware, I brought into my Yoga the same attitude that I held in my everyday life. Now this is in fact an important point I will discuss later. When my life started falling apart, I started feeling that maybe their was more to Yoga than what I knew from the Bikram Teachings. This is when my Yogic Journey truly started. I began experiencing with various schools of Yoga. I went through my Iyengar phase with Clare Venet. But it was not any more nourishing to me than Bikram yoga. I started studying the mind, practicing meditation, taking various classes in Body and Mind development and awareness. Then one day I was lying in Savasana after some exhilarating movement in a class of Kundalini yoga when it all came to me. It was an epiphany. My Bikram Yoga teachers were pressing me to take the training to start myself to teach Bikram yoga. But somehow it did not feel totally right to me. And then, as I was lying in savasana in that Kundalini Yoga Class, I suddenly knew that I had to become a Yoga teacher, but something very different from what I had learned from all the Bikram Yoga practice.
I had discovered that they are 8 limbs to Yoga and that asanas is only 1 limb out of 8. And the 7 other limbs are just as fascinating, if not more, than the asanas.This is when I feel that I truly embarked on my Yogic path.
I took my first teacher training in Integrative Yoga Therapy with Joseph Le Page, in southern California. I started really learning how yoga works with the body, mind and spirit and how they are all interconnected. I started seeing howYoga is something very personal. Understanding that each person needs a practice adapted to their own body, personality, mind and spiritual journey. Ayurveda which is also part of Yoga, became also one of my interest. A couple of months later I went to New Mexico to take the teacher training guided by Yogi Bhajan to be a Kundalini Yoga teacher. Meanwhile, I would constantly take different Yoga classes and try different Yoga classes. I would go from one teacher to another, learning, learning.
Then the reward really came when I, myself, started teaching. Being able to make a difference in peoples lives. Teaching is what allows me to be truly whom I am. It brings the best out of me.
Through teaching I get my students to discover new experiences - in a
physical way - but also within the mind and the spirit. These last 2 are
truly where you start embarking on an adventure which never stops and just
gets more and more exciting. I use to be a travel agent writing customized
tours for private clients going to Australia or the South Pacific. I still
feel I send people off on a trip, but this journey happens here - no need to
go anywhere - it happens all within. I also use to be a Tour Guide taking
people on bike rides in Napa or Sonoma Counties. I would lead the group and
stop when ever I saw an opportunity to teach them something about the area or
just when I realized they needed a brake. I still am a guide. I get the
opportunity to open new avenues within you, to point you in a direction you
might have overlooked before, to show you new possibilities to start
investigating. I feel that being a guide is the only thing I can be. We are
all our own teacher. Only, we, can experience the realm of our body, mind and
soul; anyone outside of ourselves can only put down maybe some stepping
stones, shine the light in a direction which had stayed in the dark, but
ultimately we can only be our own teacher.
Sophie in India
Being of a very curious nature, I wanted to go to the source regarding yoga.
I had only ever studied Yoga in the US. I felt I could not fully understand
the extent of Yoga if I did not get to go to India. So early 2004 I set off
for a couple of months to Northern India. But when I was there I realized I
needed more time to go deeper in the experience of India. I was very lucky to
be able to extend my trip by another two and a half months. I studied under
several wonderful teachers. I got to live in an ashram in Rishikesh for 2
months. I did a couple of silent meditation retreats. I got to immerse myself
in the vibrations of Tibetan Buddhism by spending 2 months in McLeod Ganj -
where His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, has the Tibetan government - in exile -
I also got more involved with energy work through studying Reiki. Reiki is now also part of my daily life..