Yoga has been growing in popularity over the past decade. As soon as you open Instagram you see these pictures of beautiful fit girls doing all sorts of acrobatics which are like candy for our eyes. They wear the tightest most beautiful outfits from “Alo Yoga”.
An immediate thought creeps into our mind. “OMG yoga looks so nice and relaxing, but I’m totally not flexible enough, as if I could ever touch the floor with my hands while keeping my legs straight”. Good news is, have you ever heard about this fantastic part of the body called knees? I’m sure if you bend them you will be able to touch the ground!
What is Yoga really about?
Where am I going with this? Yoga is defined by breathing and learning more about yourself. It is about closing your eyes and being able to deal with all the noise inside your head. Its about relieving any tensions or pain with every exhale. It’s about knowing and discovering more about each corner of your body. Yoga is energy, that cosmic energy you and I share, which connects us to this wonderful place we call earth. Yoga is compassion, loving yourself, your neighbour and the world. Yoga is Ahimsa, principle of not killing. Yoga is postures, accepting your body’s limitations and working with them. Yoga is being gentle and enjoying the journey of your practice. Yoga is patience. Yoga is consistency. Yoga is not some weird cult, or a hippie lifestyle. Yoga is you, me and us. Yoga is the air we breath and the relationships we create.
So, you finally understand what yoga is? Of course not. You cannot understand what yoga is simply by reading about it on a magazine or by staring at an “influencer’s” photo. To understand yoga, you must be yoga. You must practice what you preach. You need to put your body and soul into it. Yoga is accepting to surrender, giving in to your weaknesses and being able to accept and improve upon them.
Is Yoga for Everyone?
Don’t get me wrong, I do not mean to insult or offend anyone who posts pictures of “cool yoga poses” or considers themselves a “yogi” because they attended that weekly yoga class. I think that the fact that yoga is becoming so popular is amazing. It means the world is changing for better. My objective however, is to make you aware of what yoga is, to maintain its essence and prevent it from becoming marginalized, from becoming a marketing tool.
I encourage everyone to try yoga, and please do not hesitate to contact me if you feel lost as to where to start. But if you do decide to enter the world of yoga, understand what it means, don’t be afraid. Yoga is a wonderful thing but to harvest its crops you need to plant all your seeds.
Interview with Petri Räisänen
The well-known Ashtanga master Petri Räisänen will be conducting a 4-day workshop at Yoga Center Madrid in September. This is a great opportunity to learn from the most traditional source an to flow with a dynamic and flowy yoga. With Petri, we will dive into Ashtanga and Vinyasa styles with a gentle and sensitive perspective, we will go deep into our self and search for mental peace.
Question.- What are we going to learn with your worshop at Yoga Center Madrid?
Answer.- In Madrid we will focus on the Nadi Sodhana (Intermediate series) techniques. I will talk about my Nadi Sodhana book project with Pattabhi Jois and Sharath Jois, and I will teach the Vinyasa method, adjustments and tips for the personal practice. On Sunday afternoon we will go through dharana (concentration) techniques for the better mind focus and balance.
Q.- Can any yoga practitioner attend to your workshop or it is necessary to be an ashtangi?
A.- All the classes are meant for everyone who is interested about Ashtanga Yoga, beginners, intermediate and advanced students.
Q.- Twenty-seven years teaching yoga... How have your teachings changed or evolved throughout the years?
A.- My teaching has become much gentler and more tolerant. I start to see every student as an individual who needs their individual techniques according to their body type, age and condition.
Q.- Why Ashtanga? What is Ashtanga Yoga for you?
A.- I guess it was a matter of good luck (or destiny) that I found Ashtanga. It was the right timing and there was a good teacher who could inspire enough my young mind. Ashtanga is a complete yoga system. It doesn’t mean an asana sequence anymore. It is a mind practice even more than it is for the body.
Q.- How was it to learn from Sri K. Pattabhi Jois?
A.- He was always good with me. He became almost a grandfather for me (in my mind). He was tough but had a big heart. He really made people believe in the power of yoga and in themselves.
Q.- What is the most important teaching that Sri K. Pattabhi Jois taught you?
A.- He taught me the Vinyasa system, which is about the clarity of the mind. Also humour and yogic psychology (practical).
Q.- What does Yoga makes you feel? How is it present in your daily life?
A.- It makes me feel balance and quietness from inside. It is present all the time. Discipline (in a gentle way) became a big part of my life. Do not give up!
Q.- How has your own practice evolved throughout the years?
A.- My practice has changed a lot since I have a quite busy teaching schedule, and I have two young children (1 and 4) with my wife. There is less time for a long and advanced practice, but the practice has still a good quality. I’m not as hungry for the next poses and for a physical progress. Now it is more about peace of mind.
Q.- How do you prepare your classes, workshops and retreats?
A.- I prepare my classes by calming down my mind and by meditating or visualizing a healing environment. For workshops I make a schedule and prepare different subjects that we look through in a few days. The retreats require longer plans for the classes, like going through the vinyasa system in one or two weeks and focusing on the healing aspects of the practice.
Q.- What is the most important element in your classes?
A.- Healing environment! Quietness and gentleness!
Q.- How do you integrate Yoga in your daily life, beyond your classes and workshops?
A.- I always try to educate myself, stay calm and have time for relaxation.
Q.- Has your relationship with Yoga changed over the years? How?
A.- As I gain more information about Yoga, I’m getting more tolerant and I see Yoga in a bigger picture. More than a physical practice, Yoga is a path to peace of mind. All actions have to be focused on the sattvic mind.
Q.- What would you recommend to any Yoga practitioner?
A.- Practice, practice, practice!
Q.- How does Naturopathy helps with your yoga classes?
A.- Naturopathy doesn’t help so much, but I learned some other techniques that have more benefits, like different body therapies and energy healing.
Q.- Apart from Sri K Pattabhi Jois, you have studied with many yoga teachers in your yogic path. What is the most significant experience you have had with them? Could you explain a little more about what each teacher has taught you?
A.- It would be a long list of teachers and stories! From all of my teachers I learned a yogic discipline, spirituality and happiness.
Q.- How does it feel that Sri K Pattabhi Jois blessed the school you own? Do you still feel “his influence” in some way nowadays?
A.- I always feel Pattabhi’s presence. Especially in the Yoga shala. Part of his prana is withing all of his students!
Q.- You study Indian Philosophy and Sanskrit. How does it help you in your daily life? And with Yoga?
A.- I have tried to study Sanskrit many times, but I have never had enough time and interest to go deeply into it. The little I learnt helps with Sanskrit pronunciation and understanding the sound vibration. Philosophy helps me to understand the human behaviour and to avoid bigger bondages.
Q.- You have also studied “Jäsenkorjaus” or Bone setting. I guess it must be a great help to understand the anatomy of the human body and thus practice yoga more efficiently. How does it help you as a teacher? And as a yogi?
A.- My teacher didn’t allow his students to study anatomy from the books. We had to learn to sense the body and much more. We had to learn to sense the muscles and bodily and mental tensions through touching the body and also without touching, through “seeing” the body and the energy of the body. That has had a huge effect on my teachings and helps me to understand the different body types and issues. I learnt to look for a source of the tension or pain and to relax it from the source. Through the Finnish healing method, I learnt to recognize prana, I didn’t learn it from Yoga, but it is a great help in the Yoga practice.