Written by Sophie Nusselder for Parimukti
Ever since my childhood I remember having a natural desire of physical movement. Born and raised in the Dutch countryside, I loved to ride my bike and hike in nature. Another great passion of mine is dance: practicing classical ballet opened my emotional life – I learned to allow my emotions to be present, and I discovered ways to express them without necessarily using words, which for me proved to be both therapeutical and liberating. As an adolescent I studied art education & theatre dramaturgy. Since 2008 I teach art (creative writing and theatre) to children.
My yoga journey started that same year in the tradition of the great Indian yogi B.K.S. Iyenar. These classes developed my awareness of the breath, whom gradually became my new best friend. The awareness of the breathe in yoga made me connect with my deeper layers. A fortification of magic in life!
The peacefulness I felt during yoga classes made me desire to share yoga with kids. I completed a children yoga teacher training and directly started to integrate yoga in my art classes. On a long trip in Latin America I got introduced to Mysore Ashtanga practice – developed by the other great ‘modern’ yogi Pattabhi Jois. This dynamic self-practice made me feel so much at home that back in the Netherlands I decided to study yoga and participated in a training, which was based on ashtanga yoga. Astanga Yoga is a dynamic, flowing form of yoga. Asanas (yoga postures) are united with the breath (pranayama), creating meditation in motion. The practice consists of six series of sequences of asanas. You start with the ‘Primary Series’ which consists of seventy-two asanas. In an Ashtanga class a selection of the asanas are taught in a set order. It is an energizing, strengthening and purifying practice.
Originally, the concept of Ashtanga yoga meant that the teacher taught you one posture at a time. As your body opened up over time, the teacher added a new posture when you were ready for it. In the west Ashtanga yoga is taught mostly in led group classes of one to two hours. In general the teacher is guiding you through the final posture and according to your body possibilities that day you can adjust the pose.
When I was doing the teacher training in 2012 I was practicing the ‘primary series’ six days a week. Mostly, I practiced at home and once a week I visited my teacher in Amsterdam. For me it was very beneficial to practice with one teacher. This teacher; Shirley Woods; got to know my body and really helped me to become more familiar with my body and the practice. I still appreciate the discipline of Ashtanga yoga a lot because of it’s routine. As the postures are always in the same set; they give me the possibility to arrive in a moving meditative motion: a state without thoughts of the past or the future, but in the present: in the now. Ashtanga yoga made me consciously aware that I’m ambitious, hard working and gentle girl. I enjoy very much to energise my body though sending the breath to every part of the body. I got to know my body and myself better.
I discovered my strengths and my weaknesses.
I also got confronted with things I have to work on: my boundaries. In the practice there are a lot of hip openers. Sometimes I wanted to open my hips so much and my mind was feeling so relaxed that I stretched myself to far in a pose and injured myself; mostly on my knees. With the time the injuries got more, as a result I decided to study anatomy of the body in more detail. Thru the study of anatomy I got to discover my anatomical possibilities and boundaries. This knowledge was very useful and helped me to accept where I am in the posture and made me aware that in some postures I always have to stay in an adjusted pose.
During the years I not only practiced ashtanga yoga; but also practiced vinyasa yoga and less dynamic forms like slow flow, hatha and yin yoga. Nowadays, I take at least one hour in the morning and half an hour at night to connect with my body. Mostly my asana practice is ashtanga based; other times it’s hatha flow or yin. I always start and finish my practice with meditation.
Yoga is providing me with self-knowledge: every day I have an appointment with myself. This appointment gives me the time to observe my physical body, my mental state and my emotional life at this moment. Practicing, teaching and living yoga is a blessing what makes my heart sing and experience life to the fullest!