Lifelong passion for yoga
Well respected local Shirley Lloyds has spent most of her life practising and teaching yoga, part of a fascination with India, as she recounted to
Shirley (82) was born in Cardiff, Wales, and went to India aged four months. Her father Sidney Smith OBE was attached to the South Indian Railways, and stayed on after India achieved independence.
On his retirement, in 1950 the family moved to Melbourne because her father felt Australia presented a better future, and Shirley completed her education there.
She married Englishman Guy Lloyds in Melbourne in 1955, and in 1967, with their three young sons they moved to Fiji, where architect Guy handled the development of the new Nadi International Airport to cope with the arrival of the new Jumbo jets.
The family remained in Fiji for seven years and Shirley began studying yoga.
She says, “I had a wonderful Indian Guru, a doctor who was also a Sanskrit scholar and genuine yogi, so I graduated under the old system of studying with a traditional teacher.”
When the family returned from Fiji in 1973, Guy worked with government housing in Melbourne, and after the Darwin cyclone in 1974, he rewrote the building code to ensure new buildings had adequate cyclone rating.
Guy’s career took them to Bangladesh and then Hong Kong, where Shirley taught yoga for seven years, taking up to 18 classes a week.
She remembers “When I came to back Australia I thought I’d better qualify to Australian standards and the most highly respected was the International Yoga Teachers Association which is accepted around the world. It was a 15 month course and we had to attend lectures and complete four in-depth assignments a month. We didn’t have internet to research then, we had to read about it and then handwrite or type them.”
Living in Sydney, Guy was one of the team involved in the renovation of the splendid Queen Victoria Building in the mid 1980s.
But he decided that living in big cities wasn’t for him, so in 1988 he and Shirley came to Port Douglas where he was site architect on Christopher Skase’s Sheraton Mirage villas, working for the Gold Coast company Media Five Architects.
Shirley said “Money was just being thrown around left, right and centre and Skase would use a private jet to fly guests in for parties. It was quite a place for the Skase people, but suddenly it went crunch and we were one of the many people affected badly. Everything came to a grinding halt when Skase disappeared.”
The second stage of villas did not begin as Skase took off to Spain. Builders had to leave town to find work and the price of houses plummeted.
To retain his job, Guy moved Southport where Media Five were based, so he and Shirley had to live apart for a year with occasional flying visits to see each other. After that, he decided to retire in Port Douglas.
Shirley says she was lucky to have her yoga to keep her busy. When she first arrived in town, Hilary Connors who ran the Sheraton gym had asked her to start yoga classes there with about eight students.
“Ever since then, I’ve been involved in yoga up here. We shared with the gym so it wasn’t always convenient to have classes there, so we moved to a small studio opposite the post office, and when we outgrew that, we went to the original community hall in Macrossan Street.
“It was a lovely hall, timber and peaceful,” she says. She gave five classes a week there until she had to move again when the building was shifted to Craiglie.
“The rest is literally history. It started with just me and now we have seven fully qualified teachers with Port Douglas Yoga covering Wonga, Daintree, Port Douglas, Mossman and up in Julatten. I’m hoping we’re adding something to our local community,” she laughs.
After Guy passed away in 2010, Shirley decided that she wanted to return to India. When she mentioned it in yoga class, six hands went up, asking to join her.
Since then, she has had six trips to India with students and friends, sometimes visiting her old school or her old home. This year 14 people, including four husbands and son Simon are visiting South India. Funds raised by the local yoga community have supported a primary school in Rajasthan for many years. She says, “It’s a good excuse to go back to a country I love. I had a wonderful childhood there.”
As she sits cross-legged in front of her attentive students twice a week, she presents a fine example of the benefits of yoga practice. “I aim to be peaceful in body and mind. Yoga keeps me healthy and calm,” she says, smiling.
Pam Willis Burden received a 2017 Regional Arts Development Fund grant from Douglas Shire Council to conduct oral history recordings with families from the district. This is a short extract from her upcoming book.
Shirley with some of her Indian items. Inset left: yoga in her Hong Kong days. Right: In Fiji with Swami Abayananda and two students