This is an interview with Rachel, one of my teachers during my 4 weeks here at Samahita. She's a really good teacher and she has helped me to understand many things about yoga.
How and when did you get into yoga?
I first started when I was a child, I used to do the headstand for long periods of time, although I didn't know it was yoga at the time. My mother didn't really stop me. Then I didn't do yoga again until I was at a friend's party in France where a friend was teaching partner yoga. So we were helping each other into these postures, and it was just lovely. And after that I started to go to classes in London. This was around 1999. I decided to become a teacher in 2005 after I did my teacher's training. Before that becoming a yoga teacher was a dream I had, maybe from the first time I went to a yoga class. But I knew I had a long way to go.
Do you think everyone should practice yoga?
Yoga has many forms so the physical postures is just one aspect. I think everyone can benefit from those, but also from the other limbs of yoga. The asana is more physical, but there are also less physical aspects, such as meditation. And also the state of yoga is something that I think people experience whether or not they practice the postures. So yes, I think everyone should get to experience the state of yoga.
Do you teach different people in different ways?
Yes. I love teaching people individually because I think we are very different, physically, mentally, emotionally and energetically. I enjoy finding the approach that works for each person.
What does yoga mean to you?
I think it means a state of being connected to your higher self. And experiencing every moment with awareness. And it doesn't necessary have to mean practicing postures, although it does help.
What is the most important thing to remember when practicing yoga?
You can only ever be where you are. And if you let that happen, self-acceptance comes and true progression arises.
Do you have some tips for someone who is just beginning?
Find a good teacher! To begin with, a good place to start is at the beginning, take a beginner's course.
How important do you consider the mantras?
They are only important if they are said with intention and meaning. I think that if you don't really connect with them or have a real aversion to them, they're not completely necessary. I think you can still have the intention in your heart without saying the mantras, but they do help. And they're said to be more powerful when you say them in your mind. That's what I tend to do when I'm practicing asana.
Can there be yoga without pranayama (breathwork)?
Yes. Other styles of yoga, such as Iyengar don't focus on the pranayama. But Ashtanga does. They both lead you to the same place, just using a different approach. Ashtanga should definitely be done with the breath, otherwise it can be a little bit harmful and cause strain on the body and mind.
Give 3 examples of how yoga can help us.
It can help you become more self-aware. And more flexible and strong and healthy. And it helps you become more calm and to let go of stress.
Thank you Rachel!