The interview with a yoga practitioner. Beyond the routine, you really have to listen to your body.
Updated: May 22
Our intention is to better understand the practice conditions of yogis so that we can teach in accordance with their ability. It should also allow practitioners to better position themselves in yoga practice.
This Shanti Mantra is taken from the krishna Yajurveda Taittiriya Upanishad (2.2.2):saha nau Bhunaktu (May we be nourished in our practice); saha vīryam karavāavahai (May we work together with great energy); tejasvi navadhītamastu (May we studying be effective).
①What city do you live in? What is your job, how old are you, what are your hobbies?
At the moment, I am in transition, I live in no city, I am in Lausanne and I am going to Antananarivo in Madagascar in a week. I work in the food supply chain for humanitarian aid for the UN and I am 32 years old. My hobbies are plastic art, visual art, whenever I can, I go to museums. And nature, I really like to go for a walk in nature. And I could also say Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.
②How many years have you learning Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga? Why did you choose Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga?
I discovered Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in 2015 in Palestine in Ramallah. It was a chance meeting with a advanced yoga student who had been practicing for more than 15 years. I was impressed by her dedication to this practice, she practiced every morning, she had all the lifestyle that goes with it, she studied in many different places in the world. She had a beautiful house in Ramallah. She must have had a bit bored of practicing alone, she opened her house when she was practicing, she told me if you want to come practice with me in the morning, you are welcome, and finally, she taught me the sequence. And it was nice because we were a small yoga community. The people there have other things to do, there’s the problem of the occupation. It’s more like sports or religion that’s emphasized. There is little concept of having something physical with spirituality. There were some Palestinians and some expatriates who practiced with us. It was interesting because she brought in two teachers from outside who brought Ashtanga to Palestine and soI also learned from them. I practiced with my girlfriends and I was dedicated to the practice, I was practicing 6 days a week, I did that for a year. We practiced together and afterwards we made our breakfast together. I have a memory of Ashtanga, it was a beautiful moment, it was a moment to share. I never tried other yoga practice. What I love about Ashtanga is that you are independent, you can do it anywhere. It was difficult at the beginning to do it alone because you are really confronted with yourself, but nowI like this discipline, I can't start dreaming because I know what I have to do, I like the physical side of Ashtanga. At the beginning with Ashtanga, as it is a repetition of a sequence I found it very boring, I have difficulty with the routine, but what is beautiful with this practice is that every morning you feel your body differently, it gives you a monitor of your body, I have more attention on myself, the body gives you a message every morning. That's what's really interesting, beyond the routine, you really have to listen to your body.
③What difficulties have you encountered in current practice?
I was very diligent in Palestine and then I injured my wrist and so I stopped for a year. It was really hard to get over it, because in addition, after that I left and traveled quite a bit. I didn’t have a teacher anymore and I was alone. The difficulty was to get back into practice without a teacher and without a community. In Palestine, there were 4 or 5 of us, we were maybe the only ones doing yoga, we practiced and then we drank tea while chatting, there was really this spirit of community. It was not easy to have that anymore.
I can also easily make up excuses for not practicing. And yet it's not so much that I can’t get into certain postures, that's not important to me. The teacher I started with left me in the greetings for a while before I could continue, and then she gave me other postures only when she felt I was ready. So , from that side I learned that postures aren't that important. There is a time for everything.
④You travel often, how do you adapt to various environments and continue to practice?
It was quite complicated, I traveled a lot, I practiced in Palestine, Dakar, Rome, Athens, Syria. So it's interesting because you see a lot of different teachers, so you see different approaches and you learn different things from each teacher. Another positive thing about it is that I don’t need to have a beautiful studio and have my own favorite spot. I practiced in small hotel rooms. In Palestine, in winter there was no heating, it was cold, it doesn’t matter, you practice well dressed. I have enough resilience, in fact, I just need a mat. On the other hand, you don't build that relationship with a teacher, that stability that you can have with a teacher, and it's more challenging to progress, but you progress in a different way. I had skype practices with friends, we connect and practice without talking to each other, it helps you see that you are not alone. In Syria, I did yoga in the gym, it's not the same energy and aspects are directed to other things, but it's not yoga. We also rented a room with a friend, we practiced together, then she left, after other people came and they wanted me to show them and teach them, but it's not me, I didn't feel like doing it, it didn't suit me, I'm not a teacher. I just want to practice. At one point, I even paid a practitioner in Palestine that I knew to watch me on Skype, but she couldn't really correct me from a distance, she couldn't hear me breathing, in fact, I was paying her to watch me, but it allowed me to meet someone. When I’m not practicing, I don’t feel well. I have to establish a regularity, but I can see that it’s not easy yet.
⑤Does yoga practice produce physical and mental changes in your life?
There are some very subtle things that come up in practice, I can remember quite a few times when I have had emotions come up in practice. Twice I have burst into tears on my mat and I wasn't particularly sad, I think there was something that happened. I also remember feeling nauseous, I feel like it was the practice that brought up the emotions. Physically, I feel like I'm standing much straighter. I used to do CrossFit and lifting weights, so yoga helps me to not get completely stiff. In fact with practice I just feel better, I have more space to move. Flexibility is not very important, but working on emotions is more interesting. I have a rather stressful job and the practice allows me to anticipate and not to go beyond my capacities, on this side, Ashtanga Vinyasa allows me to see the signs before the storm. It allows me to listen better to the body. In Savassana, I do the body scan and I see when there are tensions, it allows me to learn more about myself. I discovered meditation, and after the practice, I find that it's an opportune moment, it's really something spiritual. For the meditation technique, I followed Goenka's instructions even though I didn't do Vipassana. Now I need to meditate more, it is a medicine, it allows me to understand my emotions better. Ashtanga Vinyasa is good, it makes you work on your strength, your flexibility but beyond that it is really a spiritual practice. It is the moment when I can reconnect to myself, even if I do just a few sun salutations.