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.
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.
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.
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 : firstname.lastname@example.org