Back in 2003 when I was a university student, I was desperate to attend Yoga classes, but couldn’t afford them. So instead of seeking out teachers, I tried to do Yoga at home with books I found on my grandfather’s book shelf. He had travelled to Asia for business frequently in the 1970s and 1980s, and had brought a couple of ‘Yoga for the West’-style instructions home. Yet without proper tuition, I was never quite sure I got the poses right. The one thing I knew was that, no matter how rotten the student dorm rugs were that I was practicing on, Yoga made me feel good about myself. Which was unusual enough.
Teacherless, I dabbled in and out of home practice over the years. It was only in 2009 when I had settled in Berlin, Germany, after a previous life on the move that I was able to fund both a gym and a Yoga studio membership. At the gym I practiced Anusara Yoga with Angela (and a couple of freestyle classes with teachers whose names I forgot), while at the Yoga studio I did Sivananda Yoga with a teacher who himself secretly practiced Ashtanga Yoga. Which I knew nothing about at the time. I just practiced any kind of Yoga I could get my hands on. And that up to six times a week.
In 2011, my boyfriend stumbled upon an Asthanga Yoga studio on a business trip to Sarajevo. As soon as he returned, he urged me to give Ashtanga a go: “It’s different from what we’ve been practicing. Much more demanding. You’ll like it!” Thinking that Ashtanga Yoga was only for strong, exceptionally fit people, I was sceptical. But he pinned down an inviting loft studio not far from where we live and signed us up for a trial lesson. And before I knew it, I endlessly salutated the sun in a steamy windowed room surrounded by sweaty people. My first hour of Mysore.
Ignorant of the great fortune that my new teacher Peter Greve had learned his craft directly from Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in India in the early 1990s, I was bewildered by long opening and closing mantras sung in Sanskrit. But I kept returning to his classes anyway, because I wanted to be able to do what everybody else there was doing. But I wasn’t just in for the superficialities. Through those beautiful bendy and muscular bodies I saw shone hard work, discipline, and serenity. Not exactly areas of expertise of mine at time. But I was willing to accept the challenge.
And not too long ago, after one year of diligent practice, I completed the Asthanga Yoga Primary Series. (Which I am still practicing in order to gain more proficiency before moving on to Intermediate in the coming months.)
In the meantime, besides my regular home and studio practice, I have attended a weeklong Ashtanga Yoga workshop with Dena Kingsberg in Berlin, as well as a Yoga retreat in Italy with Nicole Verheyden. I have also signed up for a daylong Yoga workshop in December 2012 led by Sharon Gannon, who has, amongst other teachers, also studied with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. And finally, with a year more practice and a couple more extracurricular workshops under the belt, I am planning on starting my own Ashtanga Yoga teacher training in the fall of 2013. For I bow to the lotus feet of (…) the jungle physician, removing (…) the ignorance of conditioned existence and revealing peace.