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In Memoriam: Gwendoline Hunt, 1930-2004

Gwendoline Hunt

Beloved friend and yoga teacher, Gwendoline Hunt died earlier this week in a drowning accident in New Zealand. Gwendoline was an advanced Ashtanga Yoga practitioner in her seventies who taught and inspired countless students. Warm, energetic and light-hearted, she was, above all, generous. She taught retreats in Kovalam, South India with John Scott and, more recently, with Lino Miele and Tina Pizzimenti. Gwendoline also taught extensively at the Ashtanga Yoga Schools in Copenhagen, Denmark and Dublin, Ireland. We will miss her deeply.

Gwendoline's memorial service was held on Monday, November 22, 1pm, at the New Life Church, 590 Featherston Street, Palmerston North 5301, New Zealand. This poem was recited at her service:

This soul has lived in many lands
On mountains high and desert sands
But now has reached totality
And so, at last, is to be free
To live upon a higher plane
Or choose to live on earth again.

Our souls will wander o'er this earth
A different body, each new birth
We'll be a beggar, and a king,
And everything between will bring
Rewards, till we have earned the right
To live for ever in the light.

With experience, we grow
And learn the things we need to know
Every lesson that we learn
Will speed the time of no return
And then, the soul that's true and wise
Can cast aside all earthly ties.


If anyone wishes to contact Gwendoline's family, please write to her niece's address:

Geraldine Fovakis
28A Ihaka Street
Palmerston North 5301
New Zealand

Gwendoline's immediate family: Geraldine and Theohari Fovakis, Doug and Joy Francis, Ken and Grace Arnold. (Joy and Grace are
Gwendoline's older sisters.) Gwendoline's family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to:

Palmerston North Search and Rescue
c/o Bill Nicholsen
Private Bag 11-040
Palmerston North 5301, New Zealand
Bank Account: Westpac Trust
030726 0485342 00

Cards and other messages to:

28A Ihaka Street
Palmerston North 5301
New Zealand

As someone else who didn't find yoga until mid-life, Gwendoline was a huge support and inspiration. Her spirituality, generosity and kindness will ensure our enduring gratitude and memories. Roger and I send our condolences to her family, and we join together with everyone else who knew and loved Gwendoline in gratitude that she came into our lives.
- Annie Gurton and Roger White

This is a BIG BIG shock to hear that my beloved teacher and great guru is dead. I am totally in shock - all my thoughts go to Gwen's family - for me this is a great loss.
- Torben

Photo courtesy of Astanga Yoga School of Copenhagen

Gwendoline was a big inspiration for the entire Astanga Yoga Community in Copenhagen which she together with Lino Miele built up. We feel blessed that she spent so much time and energy here with us and will always be grateful for having known her and now feel a big loss together with her family and many many friends all over the world.
- Susanna and Jens, Astanga Yoga School of Copenhagen

Gwendoline was a great inspiration and an absolutely wonderful person; we feel blessed to have known her!! She will be greatly missed!!
With much love,
Olle, Lisa and Mia, Ashtanga Yoga Shala Göteborg, Sweden

Gwendoline was a tremendous inspiration to us. We also found yoga in mid-life, however, she inspired us far beyond the practice of yoga. Her generosity, warmth, vitality and love of life and practice will not be forgotten. She was a rare human being and will be missed deeply.
- Bill and Gloria Kastenberg

The death of Gwendoline - our deeply beloved yoga teacher - has been a big shock. We feel sad and at the same time very grateful to have known Gwendoline. Her energy, warmth, humour and deep devotion for yoga have been very inspiring and will not be forgotten.
- Pia, Palle, Desirée (Copenhagen)

Photo courtesy of Robin ArnoldGwendoline took no prisoners! She was a powerhouse of joyous energy. Always inspiring and pushing the boundaries of personal expectations. We were very fortunate to share Gwendoline's energy here in Copenhagen. We had no idea of what a jewel Lino had sent to us. We did get an inclination when we told our friends in Finland that Gwendoline was coming to live and work in Copenhagen, their gasps told the whole story. Gwendoline's delight in life and constant search for something greater than ourselves will be with us always. Thank you Gwendoline for sharing and giving of yourself. We will miss you so much. May the joy that was Gwendoline live on.
Namasté Robin Arnold

Photo courtesy of Robin Arnold

Saturday, November 20, 2004

gwendoline remembered

i first learned of the news of gwendoline hunt's death the day i saw the taj mahal. gwendoline deserved such a monument. she was one of the purist spirits, most positive person i have ever had the blessing to know. every time she talked, something profound was said. i always learned from her. when i first met her 4 years ago, one of the things she whispered in my ear was, "the longer you do this astanga the better you will understand it."

the last image i remember of her was watching her do her practice through the door of the ayri shala in mysore. she had been injured and was wearing a cast on her left leg. i watched her with perfect dristi, perfect breath and stillness, and most perfect bandhas gently, like poetry in motion, lifting up her body in eka pada sirsasana, even though the leg was unable to bend behind her. she was not troubled by her mishap at all. when she got hurt, she explained to me that life was a wonderful thing and she merely was not in the moment. she was thrilled to still be learning lessons into her 70s. gwen had looked at a pack of baby goats when she did not see a hole in which she stepped into fracturing her leg.

she taught me how to teach with the greatest intentions and compassion. if you were blessed to get adjusted by her, what you received was a warm generous soul wrapping her body around you becoming you for those 5 breaths, her main emphasis drawing in the bandhas and breathing with you as one.

i had been eagerly anticipating arriving in kovalam again for 2 months to see her and lino. i will miss her terribly. i will miss her spirit. and i hope god will let me keep a little snack of her spirit. i am greatly honored to have met her, to have worked with her, to have loved her very very much.

thank you gwendoline for teaching me how to be a better human being.
with all my heart-
lisa hill
(from Lisa's blog

Photo courtesy of Yoga Academy New Zealand

With a tangible ache in my chest my eyes wandered over her flower laden casket. My feet moved one in front of the other, carrying the rest of me down the line of family members, each covered in a veil of loss but never the less reflecting aspects of her physicality, her personality. How could they help it – after all they're, sown on to the insides of one another - DNA - right? And so, while I had grappled with the idea of never seeing Gwendoline again and come to terms with the fact she would always be in my heart, there I was faced with her presence within the presence of her family!! The presence of her bright sparkling eyes, generosity of spirit, vibrant intellect, cheeky vivacious smile, and of course - serious work ethic. It evoked within my heart a sense of joyous communion with these strangers exuding qualities of the yogini whom I had chosen to embrace many many years ago as my role model and mentor.

Having come all the way from Auckland 374kms to Palmerston North the four of us (Julie, Brian, Peter and myself), knew what we had to do and it seemed that without much discussion Theo (husband of Geraldine, Gwendoline’s favorite niece) and Robyn (dear partner of Pam, Gwendoline's close friend) also knew and hence they escorted us in a mood that was both quiet and tender to the river side. And while our collective intention was to honour her memory with ritualistic chanting, the scattering of petals and burning of incense I suspect it was a gateway to easing our sadness and loss. Today the energy and power of the waters of the Manawatu River were somewhat subdued revealing its deep darkness. One would hope that one could find deep rest in such darkness, and that as in Rumi's poem Zero Circle "a stretcher will come from grace to gather us up."

Attended by Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Yogi's alike the funeral service was a tribute to Gwendoline’s passionately lived life. Yogi and yogini's one after another expressed gratitude for the fire lit within them by Gwendoline. This they explained, was a fire and passion for life, revealed by the practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, which was taught by her teacher Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. These Yogi's, led by Peter Nilsson, proceeded to chant the Ashtanga Yoga Mantram. This was done on behalf of all the Global Ashtanga Community who will indeed be saddened by the loss of our dearly loved and cherished Gwendoline.

Kia tau te aroha ki a tatou katoa.
I raro i te kahu o te rangimarie

Let us love each other in togetherness,
Shelter beneath the cloak of peace in happiness.

-Written by Jude Hynes, on behalf of Yoga Academy and Gwendoline's students and friends in New Zealand

In 1973 I wandered out of the smoky substance spun student world into yoga in Wellington with Gwen. She has been a friend ever since, while we both travelled in more ways than one. Through countries and three decades of changes, Gwen has always been close and always inspired me. I will remember the vibrancy of when I saw her last in Singapore and remember the first time we talked under willow trees near Waikanae. A potent spiritual being graces us. She will be missed, yet is within many of us whose lives she touched.
- Stephen Hall, Kuala Lumpur

"My heart really extends over the oceans to you," she once wrote me on my minor day of loss and despair. That's what I want to say to all you people who have been as fortunate as me: having known her has been a huge blessing. I thank her, I miss her, I'll never forget her. For me she will always be the Mother of my worldwide Ashtanga family.
- Kaija (Tampere, Finland)

gwendoline hunt r.i.p.
24th November 2004

Yoga teacher Gwendoline Hunt is dead, drowned last week on a coastal hike in New Zealand.

I met and studied with Gwendoline three times, and she made a big impression on me. She was practicing advanced ashtanga yoga in her early 70s, which is no mean achievement physically, and puts any regrets I might have about not having started yoga until my late 30s into perspective. She was also one of a handful of people I’ve met in the course of my yoga studies who I regard as authentic geniuses in their understanding of the human body and how it works. She could show you, with the lightest possible touch in exactly the right place and direction, how to get far beyond what you thought were your physical limits.

Those are outward achievements, washed away by the Pacific Ocean now, and they don’t really matter any more. What remains and still matters is the kind, joyful, open-spirited person she was. The sort of person who, just by being who and how she was, could convince a struggling middle-aged yoga beginner that yoga must be worth persevering with if this is the sort of person it attracts and/or produces.

If there is reincarnation, Gwendoline, have a great time in your next life.

- Alan Little
(from Alan's blog

Photo courtesy of Alan Little
Gwendoline teaching in Kovalam, India

Photo courtesy of Alan Little
Gwendoline with Ayurvedic massage genius Vijay in Kovalam

Photo courtesy of Alan Little
Gwendoline with Bettina Anner and friend, Millienium Eve 1999

These photos were taken in January 2001 on my first visit to Kovalam. Gwendoline was a wonderful inspiration. Her drive and determination were awesome. One of my memories of her was sitting at the coconut stand next to the Peacock Hotel in Kovalam and hearing Gwendoline pump up the beginners class. She indeed took no prisoners but she was also kind and generous and that is what I remember most. I miss her.
- Julie Stephens

Photo courtesy of Julie Stephens
Gwendoline, Kovalam 2001

Photo courtesy of Julie Stephens
Gwendoline and Lino, Kovalam 2001

Wellington, New Zealand

November 30, 2004

Over 70 sangha, yogis and friends farewelled Gwendoline at a Tibetan Buddhist Sukhavati ceremony held at the Wellington Buddhist Centre on Sunday November 28. Wellington was Gwendoline's home and there was a poignancy to this last farewell as we chanted the Avalokoteshvara sutra and meditated for Gwendoline - and for each of us - to be released from suffering and attachment. Gwendoline was not a Buddhist, but it was part of who she was. Her spirit touched the essence of each and every one of us.

One of many readings and reflections offered during the evening were these verses from the Chandogya Upanishad:

There is a light that shines beyond all things on earth, beyond us all, beyond the heavens, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens,
This is the light that shines in our heart.

I go to the Imperishable Treasure: by his grace, by his grace, by his grace
I go to the Spirit of Life: by his grace, by his grace, by his grace
I go to the Spirit of the earth: by his grace, by his grace, by his grace
I go to the Spirit of the air: by his grace, by his grace, by his grace
I go to the Spirit of the heavens: by his grace, by his grace, by his grace.

Om shanti,
Pam Crisp, Wellington

Photo courtesy of Philippe Alexis

Gwendoline made a tremendous impression on our yoga community at our studio Yoga is Youthfulness when she came to teach a workshop with Lino Miele in November 2001. She was an inspiration not just because of her age but because of her skill in teaching. Her way was always firm and somehow gentle, just like her adjustments. We had been looking forward to her coming again but it is not to be. We will always remember her.
- Philippe Alexis, Mountain View, California

Bath, England, 2 December 2004

Gwendoline, thank you for everything you shared with us, we miss you deeply. You taught us not just the practise but showed us how to integrate yoga into our daily lives. Your heart, like the door to your room in Silent Valley, was always open to us. I will always treasure our afternoon sessions where you taught me how to chant and understand Patanjali's Sutras. They, more than ever now, show me the way to find peace, love and happiness in my heart. R.I.P.
- Bev Sowerby and Simon Chandler

When I first met Gwendoline I was touring New Zealand for a month before heading to India. I had been practicing Ashtanga yoga on my own for 6 months while shooting a film in the Philippines. So I was so overjoyed to find her classes in Wellington. I felt like an angel had been sent to support my rusty practice and lonely yoga heart. She was so humble and gifted with her teaching. She made such an impression that when I heard that she was coming to Mountain View, California a few years later I jumped at the chance to sign up for her workshop with Lino. Again, I found her energy so spirited and generous. So I didn't know her well, but she still had a profound effect on me. Love to her family.
- Jen Schradie, Oakland, California

The first time I met Gwendoline was when she showed up for a Level 3 class in Copenhagen in 2002. It was a bit of a shock - I expected strong solid Robin, but there was this tiny lady sitting on the floor checking us out with her mischievous smile! But boy did we get a drill, then and all other times! Just like those beginners in Kovalam that she put "through the works" - it was so much fun to watch! Gwendoline helped me so tremendously to go through the most difficult decision in my life - to leave a difficult marriage. When we met, Gwendoline quickly gave me my "diagnosis" which was right on! She could sense things that I did not dare to admit to myself, and as with everything else she taught - face the music! This was her wonderful gift - opening things up in people. I can't stop thinking about her in almost every asana, remembering her pointers and adjustments. While the first few times after her death were extremely painful, I now feel that this is her presence living on. Bless you Gwendoline, wherever you are! My heart goes out to your family!
- Regina Nilsson, Stockholm, Sweden

Dearest Gwendoline,
Thank you for everything, thank you for all the love, inspiration and wisdom. Love you, always.
Mark and Freja, Copenhagen, Denmark

I was touched by Gwendoline Hunt's life first indirectly, and then directly. My Ashtanga Guru is Emily Griffith and she brought me pictures of Gwendoline after a trip to India to study with her and Lino. I was amazed because she was older than Emily, but not by much! Emily then told me I had to go to Mountain View, CA, USA in 2001 to meet and study with Gwendoline and Lino. Both small moments and yet I am touched deeply by this passing. What came to my mind was the courage and full life that Gwendoline lived, and her passing seems to be a testament to a life LIVED! May God hold you tenderly . . . and then set you free!
- Elizabeth McCloud
AshtangaPG, Pacific Grove, California, USA

Photo courtesy of Richard AldersonPhoto courtesy of Richard AldersonPhoto courtesy of Richard Alderson

To the wonderful Gwendoline: thank you for taking care of me and my yoga practice for the two months I was in Kovalam in 2003-4. Your seemingly inexhaustible energy, your dedication, your insights, your kindness and your super-bright eyes that said everything about your inner strength and determination, will always remain with me as beautiful, inspiring memories.

Your spirit will live on I'm sure in all of us who had the privilege of coming into contact with you.

Love and peace,
Richard Alderson, London, UK

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