Benji Adeyemo’s class literally clanged my life! I started yoga with Ashtanga, my first, intense introduction to yoga, with a teacher who was goddamned tough, and not in a good way. That was followed by years of trying this and that. Then one day I was invited to a Bhakti Flow class (created by Rusty Wells) with a teacher called Lucy Hammel. It combined all the elements I had unknowingly yearned for – heart-opening asanas, gentle but dynamic flow, strength-building exercises, and all to the soundtrack of world music, R&B, soul, jazz.
I sought out a Bhakti Flow class near me, and I found one at NYSY Studios. At that time I felt really down and out in my life, almost on the verge of drowning into a puddle of stagnant water that dynamic people with a life could dance thoughtlessly through. I had started to fade. So as I sat stretching on the mat before class, I was this close to just rolling it up and escaping before the lesson even began. But then he walked in. Seeing my new teacher with the yoga-body of a god (hello! inspiring!) and a smile that defied sunlight, my spirit immediately stood to attention. And then followed the class – without any pseudo-spiritual fanfare but with a real sense of being guided to connect with the inner voice during the opening chant and to the body during a flowing class demanding focus, dynamic effort, kind self-acceptance and a sense of humour. I left the building on a magic carpet (or yoga mat?) of renewed hope for life.
I knew from that first class that Benji Adeyemo, who is trained by Rusty Wells, was sui generis. In that class I discovered that yoga is not about trying to do things perfectly by achieving the optimal stance, not wobbling and looking powerful. It suddenly clicked that it’s about patiently but persistently and passionately entering into the correct position, because that asana, if done right, feels amazing, not difficult or painful. It’s about breathing into your body (feeling breath in your chair-numbed bottom is as hilarious as a concept as it is a sweet reality) and then letting go. Then the roots under your feet connect deep into the ground and the elements hold or lift you up to the heavens like invisible hands, all while you are having a conversation without words – with your essential self.
So after this massive introduction, here is a short interview with Benji Adeyemo, who I was not surprised, soon after mustering the courage to actually talk to him outside of class, is a multi-talented individual actively living a multi-level existence – as a dancer, successful dance music singer and as his drag character, Miss Diamond, who has just successfully released an album with his partner Wiveca Hartmann, with whom he performs in The Starletts act.
INTERVIEW WITH BENJI ADEYEMO
Alexia: How Greek are you?
Benji Adeyemo: Pretty Greek with a heavy dash of London, I’ve been living in Athens for nearly 15 years now so I think I qualify, but you’ll never take London out of the boy!
A: What are you most grateful for?
BA: My late mother and my sobriety. My mother, who died after a battle with cancer, fostered me and my younger sister when we were babies (even though she already had a daughter of her own) and gave us a great childhood in a home full of love. She always encouraged me to reach for my dreams no matter how crazy they seemed, and always had my back. My sobriety as well is priceless.
A: What is Greece to you?
BA: Many things, I was invited to Greece from London with other dancers in 2000 and worked as a dancer for singer Anna Vissi. Greece blew our minds – I knew then I would end up living here. Greece gave me the opportunity to do things I might not have done if I’d still lived in London. I felt free to try different avenues and not to worry about what people think.
A: Your one favourite thing about Greece past, present and future?
BA: Past: The crazy-ass club scene. When we came in 2000 there was a club in Varkiza called Paradisio. The place was rocking and we were there every weekend, and then we discovered Mykonos…nuff said!
Present: The growing yoga scene. As a teacher and student it’s great to see the yoga community grow in Greece.
Future: I’m waiting to see 🙂