Blog/News

Author: Isabella Nitschke (page 1 of 7)

COVER TEACHER SCHEDULE 22 OCT – 22 NOV 2019

While Isabella is in India 22 October to 22 November, Sara Björs, Sofia Westbom and Hanna Mjöberg from Falkenberg, cover all classes. You can see the full and detailed schedule below (or download it here). Scroll down the page for a short presentation of Hanna. Sara and Sofia you can read more about on our teacher’s page

HANNA MJÖBERG SHORT BIO

Hanna is an authorized Ashtanga Yoga teacher from Falkenberg where she runs a small shala with her sister. She came to yoga in 2008 via Muay thai (Thai boxing) which she trained and competed in professionally at the time. In 2009, she went to Mysore for the first time and has returned annually since then. For the past five years she has practiced with Sharath Jois in Mysore and in 2018 he gave her the blessing to teach the first and second series of Ashtanga yoga. Hanna has also assisted Petri Räisanen and his wife Wambui in Thailand, India and Sweden and has also taught at one of Petri’s shalas in Helsinki.

NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER 2019

Welcome back to the yoga shala after the summer holidays. Autumn has arrived with the first “monsoon-like” rain and lower temperatures. Our complete schedule including all new courses and full Mysore programme is up and running and there are many new faces on the yoga mats. At the end of August we had an open house at the shala and we were very happy that so many of you invited your friends and loved ones to visit us. Let us know if you recruited someone to our courses or to the Mysore classes – you’ll get a 10% discount on your next card.

THE AUTUMN SCHEDULE is available on our schedule page. There you also find guidelines for drop-in times and “shala etiquette”. Wed be grateful if you take the time to read these through and respect them so that we get a friendly climate in the shala. Of course, your views on how we can improve are always welcome.

TEMPORARY SCHEDULE CHANGES are always published on the news page and/or our social media forums. The biggest change this fall occurs between October 22 and November 22 when Isabella is in Goa, India to teach a two-week yoga retreat at the Purple Valley Yoga Centre. Then Hanna Mjöberg from Falkenberg, authorized Ashtanga yoga teacher level 2, subs together with Sara and Sofia. The entire schedule will be posted on the news page in due time.

YOGA HOLIDAY on 26 October to 8 November with Isabella at the Purple Valley Yoga Centre in Goa, India. There’ll be two daily yoga classes in an idyllic setting, vegetarian food and both the sea and a pool close by. If you book before 30 September you get a 20% discount on the price. It’s a great opportunity to recharge your batteries ahead of the autumn darkness! All details about the retreat and how to book are found here. If you follow this link you can also read some thoughts on the benefits of going on a yoga holiday.

NEW EVENTS at the shala this autumn include the return of our monthly alternative after work class FRIDAY-FUN. The next session is on 20/9 when we explore and play with Twists & Core. The theme of the following session in October is back bending. Read more about these classes and all other upcoming workshops in 2019/20 here. In 2020 we’re excited to host both Måns Broo, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Åbo Academy for a weekend workshop in Yoga Sutra and Tim Fedmann, senoior Ashtanga Yoga teacher and founder of the Miami Life Center. Isabella is also invited to teach in Copenhagen and Mölle in December/January. Those events are arranged by other studios and aren’t available on our website – only on our FB page where Ashtanga Yoga Malmö is a co-organiser. You can see all events on FB here

GUIDED CLASS of the Primary series in Ashtanga yoga followed by TEA & TALK takes place one Sunday every month. On 29/9 Isabella teaches a full Primary series in traditional Sanskrit count. The class is open to everyone but is not suitable for beginners. After class, we gather for a cup of tea and discuss a yoga related topic. If you can’t make it to class, you may join us after for tea and socialize. If you have any questions that you would like us to address, please feel free to contact us

PICTURES AND STORIES of our members on Instagram is a project we will launch in September. We would like to show that yoga can be practiced by anyone regardless of age, background, gender etc. You, the practitioners at our shala, already come from different backgrounds and circumstances. We would like to hear and document your story and thus inspire others to find yoga. Please let us know if you’d be interested in having your picture taken (portrait or yoga picture – your decision) and answer some questions about how you found yoga and what the practice means to you.

That’s all for now –  follow us on social media Instagram or Facebook to stay up to date with ongoing happenings. And please join our closed group Ashtanga Yoga Malmö (and Lund) practitioner’s group where all practitioners at the shala can share information.

See you on the yoga mat!

SEVEN GOOD REASONS TO GO ON A YOGA HOLIDAY

A yoga holiday is more than just a regular vacation. It’s a get away, an adventure, and often life long memory:

TAKE A BREAK – a yoga trip gives you the chance to disconnect from everyday stress, duties and distractions. It’s easier to learn how to focus and be present on the yoga mat when you don’t have to rush to work or catch the bus. Then take your newfound focus home with you and apply it to your dayily life.

GET (RE) STARTED – on retreat it is easier to break old (bad) habits and replace them with new, more helpful routines (both with regards to yoga but also concerning diet and sleep). If you have difficulty to get a daily practice going, it will be easier to do this on a retreat with the support of the teacher. A retreat can be a fresh start.

DEEPEN YOUR PRACTICE – a smaller group of practitioners on retreat allows for more quality time with the teacher. With class twice daily there is more room to discuss problems/difficulties and to have conversations about yoga both on and off the yoga mat.

TIME FOR RECOVERY – relax, enjoy good food, get inspired and energized. Boost your vitamin D-levels to prepare for the darker and colder months in Sweden.

COMMUNITY – a yoga trip is also a social event with shared meals and accommodation where you have the opportunity to meet like-minded people from different parts of the world, exchange experiences and meet friends for life.

A CULTURAL EXPERIENCE – experience a new environment and/or another country, its language, historical sites, architecture and food culture. If the trip goes to India it’ll take you to the roots of yoga and give you the opportunity to experience all the rituals and myths that surround yoga historically.

SUPPORT TO THE LOCAL ECONOMY – by exploring the local environment, visiting local markets and other places you will benefit the tourism industry and the small businesses. If your trip goes abroad you might get an insight into what life looks like in a place with a very different situation compared to your home country.

Going on yoga holiday provides a chance for own-time and self-development; it’s a welcome break as well as “yoga-intensive”. Of course your daily practice at home with your teacher is most important, that which provides you with stability and leads to long-term development and change. But a yoga holiday can be a life-changing experience that recharges you with new energy, strength and renewed joy to practice before returning home.

P.S. Isabella teaches a two week retreat at Purple Valley Yoga Centre in Goa, India from 26 Oct – 8 Nov 2019. Check it out here (20% off the price if you book before 30 September)

Reflections on being a teacher

Over the past few years I’ve come to reflect more and more on what it means to be a teacher; what responsibilities the role brings and how to create a healthy and stable relationship to the people who come to class. The often daily contact creates a connection where I end up being far more than an asana instructor. I become a listener, a mentor, someone to share happy and sad news with and a shoulder to lean on. This closeness brings with it a vulnerability which is beautiful but which needs to be handled with care. It is important for the teacher to be sensitive and responsive to each student in order to create and hold a safe space for their practice. I therefore need to continuously ask myself how to assist the students for their individual benefit and not in order to satisfy my own ego. How can I help each individual grow without creating a situation of dependence? How can I help empower the students in their practice and personal development? How can I be a support to them whilst still keeping my integrity and energy levels intact?

Every student/person I meet is unique with their background, personality, body and thought patterns. I have to listen, observe free of judgement and then reflect on how to best meet each particular person depending on their specific needs. Some students will need more support than others, be it physical or psychological, and this will also vary over certain periods of time. My role as a teacher is to share my experience and help guide the student on his/her journey.  But I can only pass on what I’ve learnt so far. We are all students of yoga, I the teacher included. To continue to teach I therefore need to (and want to) keep learning and educating myself through my personal practice and with the help of other teachers.

As the teacher I’m there to facilitate the student’s practice and to help them understand their own body (and mind). I’m also there to motivate and inspire, but not to push or force (instead I sometimes have to hold back a student who is too motivated for his/her “own good”). My role isn’t to force the student into postures (or anything else for that matter) or to make strong adjustments.  Sometimes, I of course have to use some strength to help but most of the time oral ques or a light touch in the right direction is sufficient. It is the student’s own practice that is their best teacher. Through exploration we gain experience and learn to know ourselves better. My role is to help the student find that inner connection and to listen inwards.

It always saddens me to hear when people have suffered injury or abuse on either a physical or psychological level in yoga (or elsewhere). To me the practice has always been a form of healing that has allowed me to become stronger and healthier and it continues to help me in various ways. This is what I would like to convey and pass on to my students. To avoid creating a setting where there’s a perceived need to perform for acknowledgement – whether from the teacher or from the student’s own ego – I believe it is important to have an open dialogue climate in the shala. It should be a safe space; a trauma informed practice environment where there’s mutual trust and equal rights/responsibilities between student and teacher.

We start our yoga practice with asana and pranayama – two of the 8 limbs in Ashtanga yoga – as they are the most accessible and easiest tools to work with. They also give tangible results relatively quickly. But asana practice alone will not bring enlightenment – although it may most likely teach us a lesson or two about ourselves. Physical postures and breathing can help us become healthier as we learn to be more aware of and listen to the body’s signals. When we become increasingly present – rather than being only “in the head” aiming at future goals (more asanas for example…) – we can practice more mindfully, which allows for sensing and reflecting upon how we act/react. We can start to question our behavior and why we tend to do things in specific ways. Why do we push ourselves or why we are afraid and hold back? Do we practice asanas to collect them rather than to improve our health? Can we learn to act without being attached to a certain result? Do we always need to achieve something? What happens if we don’t?

When we begin to free up old tensions and change old behavioural patterns we may encounter resistance and this can hurt; physically in terms of soreness or aching; mentally it may hurt to let go or to acknowledge difficult feelings/thoughts. Change is often met with resistance. It’s rarely a comfortable process. The support of a teacher who has “walked the walk” may be comforting and make the process somewhat easier. Though sometimes, even under the best of circumstances, we accidentally end up getting injured. An injury, although it may be instructive and one can learn a lot from it, it is not something that should be accepted as a general part of the practice. I don’t believe that you need to “break something” in order to rebuild it “better or stronger”. There’s no quick fix to create physical or mental stability – the practice needs to be done slowly and repeatedly over a long period of time to give space for change to happen gradually. This is not a process that can or should be rushed either by the practitioner or the teacher.

Depending on what phase of life we’re in or on the mood or energy of the day there also needs to be flexibility for how and what we practice. It is not my role as the teacher to judge something to be right or wrong – this to me would be counterproductive and make the practice too rigid. I can only share my experience and give advice on the most suitable method for each situation and then it is up to the student to choose whether to take it onboard or not. Practice is never the same from one day to the other. Asanas come and go and we sometimes need to do less postures depending on age, health, stress levels, the amount of sleep we’ve had and other commitments in life. To allow for modification, adaptation and to be flexible and responsive to daily fluctuations is essential. As a teacher I need and want to be responsive to this both in my own practice and to the students’. One of yoga’s most important principles is ahimsa – non harming – on both a physical and mental level. To hold the room for the students to feel safe to not perform or to push, to be themselves and to be vulnerable without fearing is my most important task.

Teaching is something I honour and respect deeply. Every day I’m grateful for each and every student that walks through the doors at the shala. The individuals who come to practice inspire me and help me develop on many levels and my hope is to help and inspire them just as much on their respective paths. My aim is for our relationship to be equal, based on mutual trust and respect. That we learn from each other, appreciate each other and don’t take each other for granted. Each student’s journey is unique, everyone needs to make their own experiences.  My role is to empower the student while walking next to them on their path for as long as they need me and can make use of my advice. To all the practitioners who choose to come and practice under my guidance I’d like to convey my sincere and humble thanks for the time we get to spend together on our respective journeys.

* Isabella Nitschke is the Director of Ashtanga Yoga Malmö and an authorised Ashtanga Yoga teacher

TEMPORARY SCHEDULE CHANGES AUG-NOV 2019

From August to November we unfortunately have to make changes to the schedule now and then. All temporary schedule changes are listed below (the page is updated regularly).

We also don’t teach at full/new moon – see here – only beginners courses take place these days unless otherwise announced.

AUGUST

Tuesday 6/8 16.15-18.45 Isabella covers for Miho

Tuesday 13/8 16.15-18.45 Sara covers for Miho

Tuesday 20/8 16.15-18.45 Sara covers for Miho

SEPTEMBER

Thursday 26/9 16.15-18.45  Mysore class exceptionally cancelled

OCTOBER & NOVEMBER

Tuesday 15/10 16.15-18.45 Sara covers for Miho

Tuesday 22/10 16.15-18.45 Sofia covers for Miho

Tuesday 19/10 16.15-18.45 Sara covers for Miho

Tuesday 5/11 16.15-18.45 Sofia covers for Miho

When Isabella is in Goa, India to teach a retreat at Purple Valley (read more here), and a special cover teacher schedule will be in place. Hanna Mjöberg (Authorized Level 2 Teacher) from Falkenberg will teach part of this time. More information about the schedule between 22 Oct to 22 Nov will be published in due time.

NEWS FLASH – AUTUMN SCHEDULE SNEAK PEAK

Happy summer holidays to everyone! Hope you’re all having a great summer! I write this news flash during a one-day break after three weeks of intensive work in Stockholm, Finland and Copenhagen. I, Isabella, have spent two of the weeks weeks practicing and helping out at the Sharath Jois European tour and have also taught a retreat in Finland in between. Although it’s been a working month it’s also been full of learning opportunities, time for self-reflection and chances for small breaks and recovery. Now a week’s real holiday (!) is waiting before I resume teaching in August in Malmö.

I hope you also get a chance to recharge your batteries. The weather is about to become really warm  (according to the forecast) and we continue to have a self-practice schedule in place for a couple of week. A heartfelt thanks to Caroline, Sara and Kerstin who open and close during this time and also thanks to Karolina Z who covered classes in the first half of July! On 4 August the regular schedule resumes as Isabella is back to teach (NB. Don’t forget that our classes are as from July taught only in Malmö). Scroll down for a sneak peak at the autumn schedule or download your own copy here Autumn schedule 2019. In August we have a number of fun and important events coming up too!

FRIDAY-FUN: our special after work class is back on 23 August with asana-based exploration classes once a month. In the first session we focus on getting a better understanding of the hip-region and how to keep our hips and knees healthy in practice. Read more and register here

OPEN-HOUSE: on Sunday 25 August – we open the doors to family, friends and the public to come and enjoy free classes, lectures and to mingle with us to ask questions, have tea and socialize. There will be special offers for new members on the day. Existing members who recruit new members receive a discount on their next class pass (so make sure your friend mentions you name when he/she registers). Doors open at 11.30. Read more here

GUIDED PRIMARY: before the Open House on 25 August we have our monthly guided primary series class at 9am followed by tea and talk. Our existing members are invited to bring a friend who already practices and is familiar with Ashtanga Yoga (not necessary to have completed the whole primary series ) for FREE. The tea and talk will focus on this summer’s events in the Ashtanga Community and those of us who took part on the Sharath European Tour will share our experience.

NEW BEGINNER’S COURSES: start in Malmö in September. We have a regular beginner’s course on Mondays starting on 2/9 (read more here) and a special course for men on Wednesdays starting on 11/9 (read more here).

SPECIAL EVENTS: there are many more events coming up throughout the autumn such as a very special retreat with Isabella at Purple Valley Yoga Centre 26 October-8 November. Focus will be on how yoga can be used to self regulate and hep gain mental balance. This is a unique opportunity not to miss. Read more and book in advance here

For all other events check our events page  – there are already several events for 2020 up on the site. Information about temporary schedule changes can be found here on our news page or on our social media accounts on Instagram  or Facebook

See you soon in the shala again!

AUTUMN SCHEDULE 4/8 to 31/12 – 2019

NEWSLETTER SUMMER 2019

Photo: Sophie Håkansson Photography

Dear Yogis,

We’re in the month of June with graduations, school holidays and vacations on the door step. There’s still hope that the summer will be as wonderful as last year, but even if it doesn’t turn out that way, we’ll still enjoy the extra light and continue our yoga practice as usual. The spring schedule runs until 30th June after which a summer schedule will be in place for a month (1 July-3 August). The first two weeks in July we have the pleasure of welcoming Karolina Zakrzewska from Goa/Helsingborg as a cover teacher. The second half of July doors are open for self-practice without assistance. The shala is then open (free of charge) to all our existing students who wish to use the studio to practice. Read more about Karolina here and download your own copy of the SUMMER SCHEDULE 2019.

Summer also brings with it a number of changes for our yoga school. After having gone back and forth between Lund and Malmö for 6 years with classes spread out over several different locations, I (Isabella) have decided that it is time to gather everything in one place. As of 1st July, all classes move to the shala at Värnhem in Malmö. We will then officially be known as “Ashtanga Yoga Malmö” with classes running 6 days a week there. On the summer schedule, the evening classes are cancelled but they will return again in August.

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank all students who have come to both the Lund and Malmö shalas throughout the years – without you none of what we’ve built would have been possible. It is because of you that the shala has grown and continues to flourish. When I returned to Sweden 7 years ago it was with the dream of esablishing a shala in Malmö. Although we’ve been stationed here since 2013 it is not until now that the dream of one place becomes real. I’m deeply grateful to you all and humbled that you choose to come and practice in our space. I of course hope that students from Lund will make the short journey to Malmö and not give up their practice for a 15 minute commute. Please know that you are all always very welcome. With the shala being in one single place I hope to create an even more welcoming and grounding atmosphere, with less confusion about our whereabouts and less stress from being scattered all over the place.

The move to Malmö also involves some practical changes. We don’t just change our name, but the website will also move to a new domain during the summer; our accounts/pages on FB and IG change their name, our logo is slightly altered AND we get a new email address. We aim to make the transition as smooth as possible but ask for your understanding and patience in case there are some technical glitches on the way. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Aside from our relocation there’s a lot of other exciting stuff happening this summer (don’t forget to check the news-page for temporary schedule changes):

GUIDED INTERMEDIATE – on 16th June, Isabella teaches a special guided class where we explore the traditional vinyasa count of the second series in Ashtanga yoga. Read more about the class here and what is required to participate.

SUMMER-RETREAT – from 7-12 July, we return to Kadermo Conscious Living in Finland where Isabella also taught a retreat last summer. The island of Kadermo is an idyllic place where one can really relax and disconnect from civilization. We practice yoga morning and evening, enjoying the sauna, swimming, nature and good vegetarian food. Don’t hesitate to book, you won’t regret it!

SHARATH JOIS EUROPEAN TOUR – In July, our teacher Sharathji visits Europe again and comes to Stockholm and Copenhagen to teach one week in each city. To practice with him on tour is usually a great opportunity to get an insight into the Ashtanga yoga tradition and to meet yogis from all over the world. Read more about how to book in each city here.

OPEN HOUSE – on the 25th of August we open the shala doors to the public, family and friends. Everyone is invited to come to visit, try free classes, learn more about yoga, ask questions and mingle with us at the yoga school. There will be snacks and special offers for both new and existing members. The event is already published on our website, check it out there! More info will also come with the next newsletter.

A SNEAK PEAK AT AUTUMN – our autumn schedule starts on the 4th of August, new beginner’s courses are planned for September, “Friday-fun” classes (asana-based) will return, chanting on Sundays is back etc. and Isabella teaches a yoga retreat at Purple Valley in Goa, India. The autumn schedule will be online sometime in July so keep your eyes open. Come September, Isabella will also teach a special immersion of the Ashtanga Yoga Primary series; a course where participants learn how to adjust yoga asana, to deepen their understanding of the function of the individual postures as well as the purpose of the sequence. Read more about the course and requirements for registration here.

The next newsletter will be published in July. It’ll contain more info about the autumn and everything that happens then. In the meantime, we hope that stay up to date by visiting our news site/blog and that you follow us on social media

Have a great summer!

See you on the yoga mat!

Isabella and the team of teachers at Ashtanga Yoga Malmö (Lund)

Photo: Sophie Håkansson Photography

SUMMER SCHEDULE & GUEST TEACHER Karolina Z – July 2019

From1-14 July, we are pleased to welcome Karolina Zakrzewska as a guest teacher. On two previous occasions, Karolina has covered classes at our shala and we look forward to seeing and learning from her this summer as well.

You can read more about Karolina and see nice pictures on her website

Throughout July 2019, we run a special summer schedule that you can  download here SUMMER SCHEDULE 2019  or you may also consult our schedule page. There will be daily morning Mysore class from  Sunday-Friday. In July, all evening classes are cancelled and we make use of the extra light and the early mornings instead.

After 14/7 we have two weeks of self-practice three days a week. From the 17th to 22nd July Sharath R. Jois visits Copenhagen for a week-long workshop. We encourage all our students to come and experience a bit of Mysore on home ground. Read more and register here .

Our autumn schedule resumes on 4/8 with full teaching (morning and evening).

TEMPORARY SCHEDULE CHANGES MAY/JUNE 2019

In May and June several public holidays affect the teaching schedule. Please consult the listed time changes below:

Tuesday April 30 Valpurgis – morning Mysore Lund 06.15-8.45, evening Mysore in Malmö cancelled

Wednesday May 1 – morning Mysore Malmö 08.45-11.15

Thursday May 30 Ascension – morning Mysore Malmö 08.45-11.15. Evening Mysore in Malmö cancelled

Friday 31 May Morning Mysore in Lund 08.45-11.15

Sunday 2 June – Guided Primary series class in Malmö at 08.45am (instead of Mysore class) followed by Tea&Talk

Saturday 1 June and Sunday 2 June we have visiting teacher’s Gabriel and Nadia from Australia teaching two afternoon Master classes from 3-5pm. Read more here

Monday 3 June New moon – Mysore and beginner’s class cancelled

Thursday June 6 National Day – Morning Mysore Malmö 08.45-11.15.  Evening Mysore in Malmö cancelled

Friday 7 June Morning Mysore in Lund 06.15-08.45 (normal hours)

Monday 17 June, Full moon – Mysore and beginner’s class cancelled

Friday June 21 Midsummer’s Eve – all Mysore cancelled

Yoga changes your life. Are you ready?

Photo: Sophie Håkansson photography

”Yoga ruins your life” is a catch phrase often used as a joke or an attempt to, as I see it, draw attention to the practice. But it doesn’t really ruin your life – does it? A regular practice will bring change, that’s for sure. And since we in general are scared of or reluctant to change, it may feel as if yoga then ruins things when the results of our practice don’t live up to our expectations that yoga is supposed to make us feel better, happier and more balanced in life.  The image that yoga will suddenly make us see life through rose tinted glasses is just as much a cliché as the phrase that yoga ruins your life.

We all come to yoga for different reasons; none is more valid than the other. It is easy though to start blaming yoga when things don’t turn out as we expect or when we start doubting the practice for various reasons. Yoga philosophy therefore talks about the importance of taking action without expectation or attachment to the fruits of ones actions. Also, yoga doesn’t do anything to you, nor does it expect or demand anything from you. The only one doing, demanding or expecting anything in or of your practice is you. Again, according to yoga philosophy any action you take will lead to a reaction (consequence) that will come back to you at some point (in this life or another) – that is the law of karma.

The practice of yoga gives us the tools to begin to see our behavioural and thought patterns that keep us in this karmic wheel of action and reaction. Yoga will sooner or later force us to face the uncomfortable truths we’ve shovelled under the carpet, that can no longer be avoided in order for us to develop and move on. That’s why oftentimes, before something can get better we need to learn to deal with the difficult parts first. Change can therefore be painful to start with and thus we avoid it. Instead we remain caught in the pursuit of finding and reliving what we qualify as pleasurable experiences and avoid those that we experience as painful.

A regular yoga practice has the potential to change things, some immediately for the better and some maybe not as discussed above. When we start practicing, we begin with the third and fourth limbs of Ashtanga yoga: asana (postures) and pranayama (breathing). When we start to move and breathe more consciously it will initiate physical changes. Richard Freeman who made a little video a few years back with the theme “Yoga ruins your life” jokes about how ones feet grow wider and bigger so that all the fancy shoes in ones closet need to be replaced (no more high heels or pointed toes there… what a disaster!!!).  Jokes aside, not only will our feet change over time, but with a regular, mindful practice we’re likely to grow stronger, more flexible, have a better posture and be healthier overall.

After a certain amount of time we might also notice how we gradually become more present, aware and focused. Beginning with the body and the breath we come to the now instead of always being in our head day dreaming of the past or future. Through the physical practice we connect with our inner world and learn to observe the twists and turns of our mind. This heightened presence makes more aware of our thought patterns, behaviours and our choices in life. We might start to behave differently towards ourselves and others, hopefully more in a more kind and thoughtful manner as we start to reflect upon and observe the yamas and niyamas (first and second limbs of Ashtanga yoga).

The changes that come with practice may be welcome but sometimes also frightening. Doing physical asana may be scary when we start opening our bodies or go upside down and see the world from a different perspective.  As we go deeper into the practice and begin to peel off layers of old conditioning, habits and behavioural/thought patterns,  our bodies and minds can react in unexpected ways with pain, tiredness, anger, joy and all kind of emotions. When we let go of things we’ve held on to (consciously or unconsciously) energy is freed within us and we come closer to our true nature beyond all the stories and roles we’ve created and identify us with. But letting go of the identity we’ve created through our storytelling is hard and our nature is to hold on to the known rather than surrendering to the unknown.

Changes may be difficult to handle and letting go is a challenge even if we might be prepared as we have chosen to be on this yoga path. But for people around us – family members, spouses, partners, friends, colleagues etc who have not chosen our path or our change, it may be a surprise that’s not always met with open arms. Suddenly we’re no longer that person they’ve always known us as. Although our lifestyle, behaviour and choices may have taken a turn for the better it may be hard for them to accept. They might think you’re behaving strangely when your priorities change and you start getting up early to do practice (and also going to bed early), maybe changing your diet to include less animal products, drinking less alcohol and thus becoming more focused (all behaviours that may go against the socially accepted ones in society) etc. Because others have not experienced the transformation of the practice themselves they might find it difficult to accept the new you. This can create conflict within in our relationships and within us. We’ll start to question ourselves – Am I doing the right thing? Who am I really? Maybe they are right – the practice isn’t good for me. Maybe I should quit doing these weird shapes on the yoga mat –and so on.

A personal anecdote on this is a story from my second or third trip to Mysore many years ago. There was a group of six or seven girls getting together for a chat ant chai on a roof top one afternoon. We talked about life, yoga of course as one often does in Mysore and relationships. It turned out all of us were single at the time, and more interestingly that we’d all experienced a break up from a long term relationship at about the time we were taught Kapotasana, an intense back bend in the Intermediate series of Ashtanga yoga. Now does that mean that Kapotasana is the “break-up” posture? Of course not – it could all just have been a coincidence. Maybe each of our relationships would have ended anyway as people oftentimes grow apart or develop in different directions. That said, the practice does, as discussed above, further physical and emotional changes within us that may contribute to changes in our overall lives. Kapotasana is a particularly challenging posture that potentially brings up a lot of stored emotions, as does the Intermediate series per se when it stimulates our central nervous system. Furthermore, according to my teacher Sharath Jois, doing too much asana practice (twice a day or too many asanas too quickly) may also cause aggression in an individual (probably because it brings too much yang – that’s my interpretation at least).

Every yoga journey is different and we all face different challenges depending on our background and current circumstances. Some of us are fully supported by our social networks others not. Important is to be aware of potential obstacles on the path, either generated by the games played by our own minds or by external actors. How do we deal with these factors? How do we stay true to ourselves and our path and how can we avoid losing ourselves in the stories created by our mind (and egos) in reaction to others’ opinions or external situations? How can we maintain an inner and outer balance?

Yoga philosophy gives us the tools of yama and niyama, in particular “ahimsa” – the absence of harm and “satya” – truthfulness which apply both to our behaviour towards ourselves and others. Trying to observe these principles is a process of trial and error that we have to go through in order to learn and grow.  Practice is built on Kriya yoga – yoga of action; Tapas (discipline and patience of a regular practice), Svadhyaya (study and inquiry) and Isvara Pranidhana (surrender, trust in the unknown and the process). On the path of our practice (our sadhana) we may experience pain (physical, emotional, psychological), resistance, doubt, desire aversion and other feelings. By meeting these sensations but with open eyes, curiosity, humility and patience and ideally under the guidance of an experienced teacher we can learn to see beyond them. Without the support of a teacher who has also walked the walk, it might be confusing and difficult to handle the sensations that may arise along your yoga path. Yoga won’t ruin your life; instead it has the potential to enrich, make you stronger, more present, and balanced and free you from being a slave to your impulses, desires, aversions and delusions. Yoga is a journey of continuous learning where “change is the only constant”. Every day is a new beginning, every practice on the mat is a new start every breath is a new birth.

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