Satya Yoga

True to Oneself
  • Urban Ashtangis – Real People . Real Inspiration : Nassera Guerroumi

    By Satya Yoga | October 1st, 2017

    Humble, genuine, sincere, grounded and supportive shine through Nassera’s persona when one interacts with her. We have had the good fortune to experience her teaching before she packed her bags and settled back in Zurich, where she runs Ashtanga Yoga Zurich with the support of her husband, family and students.

    We simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to get her on our feature when she was in town recently!

    1. How did you start Ashtanga Yoga and why did you stay with this method?

    When I lived in London I did a lot of long distance running. I noticed then that I wasn’t very disciplined about stretching so I signed up for yoga classes at a gym where I was a member. The teacher, Marie (I can still remember her name as she was really nice) taught a sequence where she always repeated the same poses and focus on the breathing… I fell in love with the practice –  just like that.

    After a while I asked her about it and why we were always doing the same thing. She told me that this was a method called Ashtanga Yoga and suggested some books to read, if I wanted to know more.

    So I bought the book from John Scott and started practising as recommended at home…step by step…no rush. And that’s what I did until I moved to Singapore. Then I practiced for a year with Denise Chew who also took me to Mysore the first time. And then I found my teacher, James Figueira, at The Yoga Shala Singapore who has been my teacher ever since.

    I love the method of Ashtanga Yoga. This does not mean that I have not had my doubts, but the doubts were less about the method than the practical way of doing it, teaching it, being taught it. The method touched me from the beginning and like in a relationship, there were times when it can be hard but it always feels right.

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    2. What is the BIGGEST challenge / obstacle you have ever encountered during the years of practice?

    Myself. My mind, my thoughts about myself and my practice…reducing my practice of yoga just to the physical aspects.

    3. How has motherhood changed your practice / the way you practice?

    It made me refocus my priorities and changed my perspectives. My ‘asanas’, my ‘physical practice’ took over my life for a while. But being pregnant and having a little daughter made me see – I mean really see (because I thought I was already seeing it before)  – the yoga, the bigger picture. Practicing the 8 limbs, at least starting to understand parts of them – Yama, Niyama… .

    4. Recently you have opened your new shala after moving to Zurich. What are your hopes and dreams for the new space and why ?

    My hope is to inspire people that Ashtanga is for EVERYBODY –  And that a lot happens (at least for me) in the head when we practice. We need to understand the fact that we are all different. Each of us has a different body, a different mind and a different past. But everyone can go on the mat, move, breathe and discover, get aware.

    The first year was challenging. It was difficult to ground and believe in myself. But the feeling and the concentration I got while teaching 2 to 3 people and slowly 10 to 12 people is now part of my yoga practice.

    It has been a struggle, my thoughts, doubts but with the support of my husband, family and friends, my teacher James, I embarked onto this new adventure. I am learning a lot. We have a little community now which is practicing the method and it all makes it worth it.

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    5. What are your experiences practicing with injuries (if any) and how did you work through them?

    I had some injuries for sure. At the beginning I took it easy. I was running and was generally quite physical. So I was never really scared about a little injury or pain. But I had to learn that an injury is telling you something. It is not always a bad thing. You just need to listen to it and figure out is it physical, emotional and work with it.

    [ BONUS QUESTIONS ]

    6. How can a student best apply what they have learned on the mat to life?

    I think it just comes through regular practice.

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    7. What are the most important qualities of a Ashtanga Yoga teacher and why?

    That I don’t know and I don’t want to pretend that I do. There are already a lot of opinions out there in terms of how people want to approach their teaching. : ) All I know is that it’s not about me, it is about the students in the room and inspiring them.

    Nassera is an authorised Ashtanga teacher approved by R. Sharath KPJAYI Mysore, offering Mysore-style & Led Classes for beginners and advanced students.
    Website : http://www.ashtanga-yoga-zurich.com
    Email : ashtangayogazurich@gmail.com

  • Urban Ashtangis – Real People . Real Inspiration : Joleyn Lee

    By Satya Yoga | September 3rd, 2017

    “Oh not for me, yoga is so slow and it’s for the elderly.”

    We first met Joleyn not as a yoga student but rather as a regular passerby during our private yoga sessions with her mum, aunties and her elder sis, Corrine Lee (whom we featured HERE) in their house. Observing a bunch of matured bodies having their yoga session, this young and active lady had no intention to fit herself amongst them.

    Occasionally Corrine would nudge her little sister to try but her main concern was – “I couldn’t even touch my toes!” After a year of being a passerby and through Corrine’s experience with the dynamic practice, Joleyn decided to step into the class when we started the Ashtanga Mysore Program in a studio. With her gung-ho attitude, Joleyn was receptive to the challenges regardless of the fears that she had. Being able to laugh at her every fall and blunder definitely added a fun element in the whole learning experience!

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    1) What was your impression of a yoga class prior to taking the first lesson?

    My impression of a yoga class was slow, boring and was only for flexible people. Definitely not an activity that I would even have considered doing.

    2) How long have you been practicing the Ashtanga method and how regular do you practice in a week?

    I have been committed to a consistent practice at least once a week for the past 3 years.

    3) You are attending regular Muay Thai classes as well. Do you see any change in your Muay Thai practice before you started yoga and now?

    Yes practicing yoga does help in some ways. Being a little more flexible in general gives me an advantage with some techniques in Muay Thai. The more obvious is probably being able to reach higher in kicks.

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    4) Ashtanga method often has a bad name for being too challenging and risky. Do you agree? At which point of the practice makes you think so?

    I was not aware of it having a bad name though. To me, the point where I would probably find the practice risky is if the teacher is trying to ‘pull my arms off or tear my hamstring’.

    But honestly quite a handful of poses are challenging for me considering that I’m not as flexible as I hope for. But the practice environment would not feel risky or uncomfortable with a good teacher that I am familiar with. It is more of how much effort we want to put in when working with a challenging pose – to get it right or better in the pose.

    5) What is the main reason you want to continue the practice?

    At this current stage of my practice I feel it is a good workout. I’m enjoying the process of learning new poses and trying to understand and to get better with the other poses as well. Not to mention that I am finally able to touch my toes quite easily now!

  • Urban Ashtangis – Real People . Real Inspiration : Louise Vanderput

    By Satya Yoga | August 7th, 2017

    An incidental grandma yogi with a never-say-die attitude, Louise has been a great inspiration to us in many ways. We admire her perseverance and determination throughout the years of practice. She is a true testament that Ashtanga Yoga is for everyone and anyone (not just for the young and flexible) who is willing to put the effort, discipline and consistency.
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    Louise and her husband, Richard who has been encouraging and supporting her yoga journey.

    1. What is the MOST challenging aspect of the practice for you?

    My lack of confidence in myself that I can do the challenging poses. I am not very flexible and added to that I have had a bad knee for quite a few years and more recently left shoulder pain. I took a break from yoga for about a year and procrastinated about returning to the mat because I thought I would have to start from scratch. However, once I did re-start, I realised that yoga is like riding a bicycle – you never forget, you only get rusty from lack of use. What I thought would be challenging actually was not!
    2. What is the BIGGEST breakthrough for you in the years of practice?
    I have many! First has to be touching my toes! As I mentioned earlier, I am not the most flexible person around and I could not even do this when I first started practicing! That I can now do a backbend and headstand (albeit assisted), is my current “BIGGEST breakthrough”. How cool is that!
    3. Mysore (self practice) or LED?
    I do not really have a preference for either one. I enjoy both – Mysore allows me to move at my own pace and enjoy my inner peace and LED refreshes me of the “correctness” of poses, the importance of breathing correctly, the need to listen. Hence, every few weeks I do enjoy a LED class.
    4. How has the practice changed or influenced the way you live your life?
    The most important is that yoga has taught me that it is alright AND important to set aside “me time”. Once I accepted this, I was able to deal with a few difficult personal issues in a calmer, more focused way. I have accepted that it is sometimes far better to let go and move on, that I am not able to solve everything – that with patience and understanding, things will change – whether for better or worse, whichever way it is better to have change than to stagnate!
    5. Do you think Ashtanga Yoga is suitable for seniors based on your personal experience? 

    I started yoga in my mid-50’s and this year I will be 61. For me, practicing yoga has helped me to improve my well-being, my stamina, my strength both mental and physical. It was challenging to begin with because, first, I had to commit to the practice on a regular basis and, second, I was using and stretching muscles I never used. On top of that I had to remember the sequence and many a time I had to repeat till I did remember!

    I ached like crazy and wanted to stop many many times when the aches got bad. But I refused to give in! And so yoga has given me the resolve to work through difficulties and accept alternatives along the way. Much more than that too is the determination to remember the poses and sequence (which took me quite a while to do) – to exercise my brain at the same time which is so important as you age.

    And today I am proud to say that I do remember and can practice what Shirly has taught me on my own. With Ashtanga Yoga you can progress as fast or as slow as you want, push yourself however much you want and set your own goals – it is not a race or competition with your fellow mat friends, you are your own judge and jury. So yes I do think Ashtanga Yoga is suitable for us “seniors” but like all physical activity, you have to always bear in mind your own limitations.

  • Your Teacher Is Not On The Screen

    By Adeline Lum | August 7th, 2017

    “We should rather work in our own environment and then meet our teacher from time to time in order to find a point of reference. Having a point of reference is absolutely necessary. We need somebody who can hold a mirror in front of us. Otherwise we very quickly begin to imagine that we are perfect and know it all. Books or videos cannot replace this personal connection. There must be a relationship, a real relationship that is based on trust.”
    ~ The Life and Yoga of Sri T. Krishnamacharya

    The Ashtanga method in a Mysore class setting, in my personal opinion, holds a very intimate space between a student and the teacher.

    It is the first brick that is laid to build a bridge that requires much observation and communication, thus hopefully an area of mutual understanding and growth together.

    That is why most teachers would prefer students not to get too obsessed with social media as a reference to their practice.

    In most cases the students may misunderstand an ideal practice situation against their own practice in reality (most of the time we tend to feel bad of our own body in comparison to what we watch in videos).

    During my last trip to Mysore, I came to know of some practitioners who did not have the privilege of a residential teacher in their city that they could practice with regularly.

    They thus formed their own community to support one another’s practice, inviting traveling teachers or sending one person within the community to KPJAYI in Mysore to learn and share their experiences back home.

    Here we are a lucky bunch as we have a couple of good Ashtanga teachers in town that we can go to regularly, who will look out for us and invest their energy and effort to work with us in the practice.

    Why wouldn’t we appreciate this more than the ones in the videos?

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  • When Change Is Necessary To Progress

    By Shirly Oh | August 7th, 2017

    Many times we are caught up with habitual patterns that change is the last thing we desire. Change is uncomfortable, daunting, unfamiliar and scary. But sometimes change is necessary and can be rewarding.

    Recently I went to the dentist and had to learn a new way of brushing my teeth. Apparently the current brushing had been ineffective and more damage will be done if I continued the same method. I was clumsy and had to condition my head around the new routine. It was hard but the change was quick because I was determined to stop the ‘damage’.10changequotes

    When the pros outweigh the cons we are more likely to change and adapt. But sometimes the results may not always be instant and obvious. It took me many years of practice to appreciate the benefits of Primary Series. After a week of intense Intermediate Series and deep backbends, the therapeutic effects of the Primary Series (a.k.a. Yoga Cikitsā [Therapy]) kicks in.

    On the other hand, sometimes we want change so badly that we don’t listen or pay attention and we keep repeating the same mistake that is blocking us from moving forward. Often we see students get so stuck in a certain way of practicing that they become resistance to change. The ‘comfort’ and ‘familiarity’ set in, even small changes seem hard to comprehend. We can get so caught up with the end results that we overlook the importance of the adaptability along the way.

    Making any progress (not just yoga practice) requires time, effort and focus. It is not what you do once in awhile, it is the daily practice, consistency and commitment that brings you closer to your desired outcome. And sometimes change requires you to change your mind and actions intentionally. Don’t get stuck in the same way of doing things (in the practice as well) when you are expecting a different outcome.

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