In 2009, I was traveling in India, when I found myself in Rishikesh, the holy town of the Hindus. Seeped in ancient knowledge, the city invites Rishis and spiritual seekers to immerse themselves in meditation practice in search of higher knowledge. The smell of incense and chai wafts through local temples and ashrams, and the labyrinth of narrow streets by the Ganges provides an avid wanderer with numerous paths to explore.
One day, my traveling companion dragged me to my first yoga class. It was led by a black-eyed and long-bearded Indian teacher named Surinder Singh. I was amazed at how his voice resonated with the deep sound of aum and struck by the gentle contentment he exuded. Still, I couldn’t wait for the class to be over: I was hot and in pain, I couldn’t move my body like the other students, and I just wanted to go have a mango lassi.
“Practice and all is coming”
~ Pattabhi Jois
I returned to Europe to continue my university studies, but gradually, over the course of a year, the experience of that first yoga class kept resurfacing in my mind. There was something there for me; something I needed to understand. The following year, I returned to India on a study abroad programme, and decided to try yoga once more. I experimented with different traditions of yoga, like Hatha and Sivananda, but it was Ashtanga that felt most natural for me to practice. I began my daily yoga practice and have continued ever since.
I travelled to India for the third time in 2013, this time with the intention to practice with Sharath Jois at the Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore. It seemed like a pilgrimage to the source of the Ashtanga tradition: it was Pattabhi Jois who popularised the teachings of Ashtanga, and I was honoured to be able to practice with his grandson, Sharath Jois.
In addition to Sharath, I’ve been fortunate to have studied with a number of incredible teachers over the years: Lino Miele (Italy), Beata Darowska (Poland), Mark Smith (Scotland), Regina Ehlers (Brazil), Kino MacGregor (USA), Richard Freeman (USA) and Mary Taylor (USA). I am grateful for their time, patience and teachings.
“Yoga is 99% practice, 1% theory”
~ Pattabhi Jois
In an effort to widen my perspective, I have sought out a wide variety of learning resources. I have studied mantra chanting, the Yoga Sutras, Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Sanskrit with Lakshmish Bhat (India). I also completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training with Vidya Jacqueline Heisel (England) which deepened my understanding of anatomy with respect to yoga and authorised me to teach Vinyasa Flow and Hatha yoga. I continue to independently study yoga philosophy and Sanskrit.
The practice of yoga is about much more than the asanas (the postures), but this is where the path starts for many people. It is an incredibly rich tradition capable of unifying the body, mind and spirit when the practitioner lets go of preconceived notions and immerses him or herself in it.
I hope to see you somewhere along our yoga journey.