Every yogini and yogi has a Yoga Story.
It usually starts with a small inspiration that expands and becomes a passion. Life should be lived with passion. The internal flame of passion is as individual as each being. What I am curious about is how do people ignite that flame? And what fuels their passion for yoga?
Yogini Stories are interviews with yoga practitioners. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I do writing them.
Yogini Natalie is an “Ashtangi”, or a student of the Mysore yoga popularized by the late, K. Pattahbi Jois.
Natalie’s yoga story began five years ago. After hurting her knee during cardio classes, she wanted to maintain her body’s strength while it healed. It took a year and half for her knee to heal enough for her to access the Lotus Position. Three years ago, she discovered Ashtanga yoga at Zen Yoga in Dubai. The vigorous practice appealed to her.
Today, as she zips around town in her Mini, she is like a ray of sun, waving and easily offering her smile to the people she knows. But when she moves into the studio, her breath calms and her mind focuses in the one pointed concentration required for Ashtanga. I asked her to describe the class format.
“I start the class with the traditional chant. It is a blessing of gratitude to the teachers who have taught this practice for thousands of years. Their efforts give us the benefits today. Chanting is a sound vibration which cleanses the energy and prepares the mind, body and emotions for the Ashtanga practice.”
“Next is a two-minute mediation. This helps move our awareness from our everyday life and into the practice.”
“Then we begin the asanas. It takes our full concentration yet we learn to relax and go with the flow. The class ends with Savasana (a rest for the body) and a closing prayer as an offer of our practice to improve the state of the world, including all religions and all beings everywhere.”
It has taken time for me to learn the Ashtanga sequence. I am not close to perfection, but I see improvement. I asked Natalie, “How long does it take to master Level 1?”
“It takes about 1,000 hours of practice, six days a week to move from Level 1 to Level 2.”
“Eva,” she smiled, “It’s not about HAVING to do it. It’s about wanting to do the practice because you experience the benefits. ”
“But new people come in and do not know the sequence or are put off because it is not Hatha. They get discouraged and quit coming,” I said.
“It’s a shame,” she said. “It’s because they are competitive. Yoga is not about competing with the other people in the room. The physical practice takes time to learn. Part of the lesson is learning to be patient with your body and to be disciplined. Like you – in one year, I can see how much your practice has improved. It’s amazing. ”
Then I smiled, glowing in the guru’s praise.
“But I still can’t get my legs into Lotus without hurting my knee,” I wailed.
“Don’t worry,” Natalie assured me. “You will.”
Natalie is a 200-RYT with Yoga Alliance. She has studied with Satva Yoga Shala’s Darby and Joanne. She teaches Hatha, Power and, of course, Ashtanga yoga both privately and in the studios at World Beat Center in Janaibiyah, Fitness First in Riffa Views and Fitness First at the Bahrain Trade Center. From Lebanon, Natalie speaks English, French and Arabic.
Her schedule is posted on her Facebook page Nat on the Mat.
Ashtanga In a Nutshell
Ashtanga yoga is a prescribed routine of asana coordinated with the breath.
Yoga postures (asanas) which flow without stopping are referred to as vinyasas. The Ashtanga vinyasas take time to learn. As the body’s strength and flexibility grows, the vinyasa sequences are perfected. After perhaps years of practice, the student moves up to the next level. Ashtanga yoga is often referred to as HOT yoga because it is physically challenging and heats up the body.