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Yoga while you wait
Wait, Yoga can finally be humorous?!
»I like humour as a main dish!«
When did you first come into contact with Yoga and what motivated you to delve deeper into the subject matter later on and even to train as a yoga teacher?
When I was 12 my mother took my brother and I to a yoga-course, hoping this would facilitate our ability to focus on school. The teacher was an impressively youthful and slim old guy, dressed completely in white, oozing wisdom and peacefulness. I remember being on the floor in peculiar and unpleasant positions, asked to hold forever, breathing deeply. I found it extremely boring and never came back. I always loved being in my body, did gymnastics, swimming, dancing and loved all that fitness-club stuff.
As an adult I had several halfhearted attempts and got really hooked about 15 years ago, meeting really good teachers. I did countless retreats and workshops over the years, and the more I learned, the more I loved yoga. Like many others I met in the training, I did not have the goal of making a life as a yoga teacher. I wanted to establish a more knowledgeable, skillful and safe self-practice and had a desire to look beyond the physical part of yoga – which is rather tiny. And I had a book in mind, that required some knowledge.
How did it come about that you decided to train as an Ashtanga-Vinyasa-Teacher – a very hard, physically demanding style of Yoga?
Yes, it is very intense! My training in India (at the Sampoorna Yoga Center) took 5 ½ weeks, 6 days a week. Starting at 5 am and ending by about 9 pm. But it wasn’t all about physical practice. It includes anatomy, yoga-philosophy and meditation. I like Asthangas’ strong emphasis on alignment – the correct and beneficial posture, and on strengthening muscles and joints while stretching them. It is a tough work-out and athletic.
Initially Ashtanga was designed as an outlet for teenage boys exploding with testosterone… Western beginners to intermediate yoga-classes usually do not comprise all 3 series of asanas (yoga-postures) which build up in intensity and difficulty. Beyond series 1 for me personally is circus level. Acrobatics is not what I am able to do and is not what I seek in my physical practice and it’s not what I teach.
When and how did the idea for your book come about?
I was witnessing a young, strong and healthy-looking man getting very angry and impatient waiting for an elevator to take him down from the sixth floor to the exit. And there was the idea! Just taking new perspective on these gooey moments we consider lost and useless time.
Instead: Enjoy this sweet gift of a little pause for a delicious stretch or deep breath! Plus I always had the impression that the western Yoga world is way too stiff and uptight and wanted to make Yoga approachable – spiritually and physically, with humour as secret agent.
Would you say that humour is the ideal ingredient for real relaxation?
I like humour also as a main dish! As soon as we don’t take ourselves and our thoughts too serious, the world is not an entirely threatening place anymore. But seriously learning how to soothe yourself with your breath and meditation, and thus being able to step back and laugh at ourselves is a huge part of yoga too. I had a teacher who said, we’re only doing all this physical stuff so that our body doesn’t bother us that much while meditating. .
Our favourite image is the “Downward facing dog II”. How did it happen that a real dog made it into your book?
We had just shot the “half bird of paradise” one morning and were leaving the location when I saw this dog leaning out a window on the opposite side of the street in a red-light district. I yelled at the photographer: “Markus, quick, shot that dog!” As he’s is not familiar with yoga and the funny animal names of many asanas, he was not sure why but did it anyway. And now we’re happy to have Marlow, the real downward facing dog, inhaling, exhaling, spine straight, legs strong, navel pulling inward, sternum lifted!
Do you have a favorite exercise or sequence of positions?
I go with the flow. Usually, my body asks for certain postures and movements, and I just do what she says, as she’s the boss. For me Yoga is about awareness, not about acrobatics. But I really do love triangle and headstand. One day I might aim to do grasshopper, just for the fun of it.
Which exercises would you recommend for beginners?
A terrific pose is Tadasana, the mountain pose. Simple conscious standing on our feet – most of us are quite bad at. Try to staple all the big joints on top of each other in a straight line and float the head over your shoulders. Downward dog is great and Warrior 3.
By the way: what is a Vinyasa Flow?
I like good old classical, Stern Hatha. The less instagrammable Yoga. The Yoga that you feel inside. There is an incredibly amount of marketing and packaging in Yoga that turned it into a billion-dollar-industry. I have doubts about the very popular Yin Yoga – even after I did the training to reassess my doubts.
At least be careful, if you are not used to any kind of exercise, because lengthening and stretching weak muscles can be counterproductive. More important than the name of the style is finding a really good teacher.
Apart from Yoga, what is your favourite way of aligning with yourself again? We heard that you paint and draw too. Is that right?
Taking a walk by myself always works. It requires no equipment and is available 24/7. (Nothing beats a huge hike in the alps above the tree line, that’s heaven). Singing and dancing are very good too. Very loud music. Open Views. Total silence. Getting up very early. And late nights with friends.
What are you currently into? Do you work on a new book?
Yes! And thinking about another.
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