What was your background before finding yoga?
I realise now that I misread this question and somehow my mind interpreted it as, “Who were you before finding yoga?”. I guess it’s the same but the “Who was I/am I?” question that has been on my mind a lot lately. Maybe it’s a natural part of the self-study (swadhyaya) that yoga practice constitutes, or maybe it’s just part of a mid-life crisis! That said, as memories from earlier stages in life fade and the more time passes, I often reflect on what stories I choose to tell when introducing myself. What are the stories I’ve created to make up my life and why do I tell them? But maybe that’s making the start of this interview too complicated? I’ll stick to the stories I have so far and as I remember them.
I was born in a small town in southern Germany in 1976 to a German father and a Swedish mother. Both were artists in the world of dance and theatre. My mother a professional ballerina and my father a makeup artist. Life - as I remember it as a small girl - was full of drama. At six years of age my parents decided to divorce and I moved with my mother to Sweden where I grew up and went to school. I remember that I never felt like I could really fit in or be accepted in Swedish society, and I also didn’t want to conform. I didn’t want to be like everyone else. In Sweden I was always the German girl and in Germany I was Swedish, or at least never fully German. This feeling of always being different was what made me leave Sweden as soon as I could after having finished my studies, so that I could finally create the life that I wanted to live. And so I ended up being on the move around the world for about sixteen years. In one way - on the material level - it was a very successful time as I always managed to reach the goals I had set and in that aspect I’m grateful and consider myself very lucky. On the more spiritual level, I never managed to “find” myself or become comfortable in my own skin. I might have thought that I knew who I was, but I was hopelessly lost, something that became very apparent when I eventually hit the wall, but more on this later.
From the age of 20 to 36, I lived overseas in places such as New York, Amsterdam, Brussels, Strasbourg, Beijing, London, Kigali and more. My studies and my job allowed me to travel and change places often. During this whole time the longest I stayed in one location was two and a half years. As you may understand I wasn’t very grounded. I had, what many would have considered a promising career in international politics. I was and still am passionate about women’s and human rights and did my utmost to reach positions that would allow me to work within this field. I wanted to make a difference, eliminate injustice and fight the patriarchal system. It particularly upset me how violence against women, especially sexual violence, was used as a means of power. That said, I wasn’t a girl who stood on the barricades. I worked for the Foreign Ministry of Sweden and the European Commission and mostly attended negotiations in an international setting where I contributed to creating new policies.
At the time I thought I was a tough cookie. That I could handle anything. But the horrifying testimonies of people [mostly women] I met in my work made it difficult to sleep at night. The stories didn’t stay in my office when I went home for the day, they came with me and made me feel helpless and frustrated as I wasn’t able to help since I wasn’t high enough in the political hierarchy to make a difference. This was also when I disappointingly learnt that money rules. One might say that I was naive or just a young idealist, but my response was probably not so strange having grown up in Sweden, one of the most equal countries where society was less hierarchical and the differences between rich and poor were still very small. But in 2017 when the #metoo movement exploded, Sweden was probably one of the countries next to the US where voices were the loudest and the testimonies of sexual assault and violence hit the roof. One of the consequences of this was that no Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded in 2018 as the Committee responsible faced allegations of corruption and some of its members had covered up for friends who’d committed sexual assault and rape in the past.
In 2005 and 2006, I started having severe symptoms from stress. I couldn’t stay asleep although I was exhausted, I became anxious, depressed and had all the symptoms of burn out. But since I was so ungrounded I spent most of the time in my head, not in my body, and didn’t see the signs. I was prescribed sleeping pills, antidepressants and medication that would give a false sense of relief. The pills helped me further ignore and repress the signals my body sent me. Instead I tried to gain control with physical exercise, food restriction, self-harm etc. This had been my way of dealing with difficult feelings in the past and punishing myself was a means to lessen the physical and mental pains I was experiencing. It ended in catastrophe with a full epileptic fit in the middle of Hong Kong, a collapsed digestive system and eventually some long term damage to my health (e.g. osteoporosis) which I still have to deal with today.
At the time of my collapse, I was already practising some yoga and I believe it’s the reason I’m still here today. I don’t like to use the cliché “yoga saved my life”, but it for sure saved me from falling too far down into the black abyss. I didn’t start to practice because of stress or because I was searching for inner peace. I started because of an injury from running. However, after some time my body kept asking me to continue to do it. Where I lived at the time (2004-2006 I was in Beijing, China) there were no teachers and I had to learn from David Swenson’s DVD. Today, as a teacher, the fact that I tried all the asanas without any guidance or help other than David’s DVD, scares me. That said, I did have quite some physical awareness and knowledge of the body as I had worked many years in a gym in my spare time in addition to a full-time job. I think this helped me stay away from [further] injury. The practice not only helped me heal my running injury but then somehow helped me keep my nose above the surface so that I didn’t “drown” and completely succumb to the burn out in 2006-2007.
As you see my life before yoga was very much located in my head. I was an academic who was good at languages, and at analysing and theoretisising. Not only was I ungrounded in being little in contact with my body but I was also a very restless soul. My background with dual nationality and parents/families in two different countries that weren’t talking to each other made me feel “homeless”, that I didn’t fit in anywhere and always had to justify my existence.
Given you background, can we dive right into your reaction to the revelation of Pattabhi Jois’s sexual abuse?
It’s a difficult question, rather sensitive stuff, and I don’t know if I’m well enough informed to say anything about it. I never met or practised under Pattabhi Jois myself. He passed away the same year that I had decided to go to Mysore for the first time. I find it difficult to get a clear picture of what happened as there seem to be such differing views on the matter. I have tried to talk to many of my peers and asked about their experience as well as opinion on what happened, but it hasn’t made me much wiser. Only a few have been willing to talk openly and honestly about it and I’m grateful for their guidance. I wish, however, that the community would be less afraid to talk so that we could have an open and honest dialogue about it.
In winter of 2017-18, I was in Mysore when the whole thing blew up on the internet and there were all these discussions in different Facebook groups. It really shocked me how heated and nasty some of the language was and the awful ways people addressed each other. First, I kept reading but then decided to leave all these groups as I really didn’t find them to be a good forum for discussion and I couldn’t see how anything constructive would come out of them. It was so much blaming and shaming from all sides. During that time only a few senior teachers addressed the issue publicly and I’ve since been waiting for more of them to break the silence. This has (to my knowledge) unfortunately not been the case, which is disappointing. I had hoped for more willingness to an open discussion and I’d hoped to hear more voices speak up in support of those who’d experienced abuse. I kind of also expected to receive more guidance from our senior teachers who have been our role models and source of inspiration, on how to move forward, how to learn from the past in order to create a better teaching and practice environment within the whole Ashtanga Community. That said I know that there are many teachers who are taking action locally and who’ve made changes at their shalas. But for change to happen I think it needs to be both at a structural and a grassroots level.
From a [women’s] rights perspective, it is my conviction that if we want to truly combat sexual violence/abuse and develop as a society and as a community we can no longer use old arguments that refer to the way the victim was dressed or that because the victim didn’t say no or actively protest she or he are to blame just as much for what happened. That is the same kind of rhetoric that’s been used in rape trials in order to question the victim “Oh, but see she wore a short skirt.” or “She didn’t put up any resistance or fight.” But it’s important to know that a common reaction of a victim in a situation of abuse is to freeze.
Furthermore, the argument that “the victim should just have walked away after the abuse and not have come back to class” is also problematic. In many relationships (e.g. love relationships, work situations, teacher-student relations) it us not uncommon for one of the parties abuse their power through sex, physical or psychological violence if the other is somehow more dependent of the relationship. How often have we heard the comment about an abused woman “Why doesn’t she just leave him?” Both research and experience shows that the issue is more complex than that.
Another type of language highlighted during the #metoo movement was how often the expression “Ah, but he’s just a man,” or “Boys will be boys,” is used in our society to excuse men’s behavior towards women. And in the yoga world it is often referred to tradition or culture to justify certain behaviors or attitudes. Such language just furthers victim blaming and shovels the real issue under the carpet.
So how do we heal and move on as a community? Pattabhi Jois is no longer here to explain himself or to apologize. And it's my belief that Sharathji cannot carry or take over the karma of his grandfather. He can only make changes to the future of Ashtanga yoga and how it is taught by setting a new example. Such changes Sharathji has to some extent already introduced through his different personality and his own particular way of teaching. By updating and making additions to the code of conduct for authorized teachers to make their shalas a safe space for everyone, he’s given us important guidelines that set the tone for how he expects us to share the method. I was also happy to hear Sharathji address the issue of abuse at a KPJAYI conference in January 2018 where he said that any type of abuse from anyone in a power situation is wrong. He told us to never accept it and to stand up for ourselves and others if we experienced and witnessed any type of abuse. That said, I still hope that he will make a public or formal statement which many voices are calling for both inside and outside the community.
It is my opinion that the allegations towards Pattabhi Jois as well as sexual abuse or misconduct in general always has to be spoken about. The individuals who felt violated need to be heard and taken seriously. Only when things come out in the open and are discussed in a constructive manner we can heal, learn, change and move on to a - hopefully - better level. Otherwise we just further the same old culture of silence that has (not only in the Ashtanga community) surrounded sexual abuse since forever. It may be a sensitive and uncomfortable topic but that can no longer be an excuse in the wake of the #metoo movement. I’m not going to pretend that I have a solution or an idea of what form such [reconciliation] talks should/could take, but to me social media isn’t a constructive platform for dialogue. It is my opinion that in order for us to actually practice what we preach (as individual yoga practitioners, teachers and a community as a whole) and to follow the principles of ahimsa (absence of violence or harming) and satya (truthfulness) we can’t remain silent.
In my own shala in Malmö/Lund, Sweden, I have taken a couple of concrete measures for students to feel welcome and safe. After last winter’s fierce #metoo debate and the allegations towards Pattabhi Jois, I decided to have a discussion about the subject with my students as they of course had read comments and stories on the internet. We agreed that we are all grateful to Pattabhi Jois for having developed and shared the method of Ashtanga yoga, a method with great healing capabilities. Without his work and dedication we would not have been able to practice it as it is today. And we want to keep practicing it as the healing practice it is. Though, for the Shala to be a safe space we found it difficult to keep the picture of Pattabhi Jois on our Shala altar. After our discussion I therefore decided to remove anything that could be a trigger for anyone who might have been a victim of abuse earlier in life.
With the practitioners at my Shala we also spoke about the student - teacher relationship and how to keep the dynamic between the two healthy and respectful. What are the obligations and rights of each party respectively and how do we work in the shala to maintain these? In a situation of power or dependence that might (unknowingly or unintentionally) arise between student and teacher, one or both parties might be afraid to say no to the other. Or there could be a desire to impress or a need to be seen that may result in one of the parties making compromises to their own beliefs, health or integrity.
To me, keeping an open and inviting climate for dialogue is important in order to prevent such a situation. I aim to create a climate that is as equal as possible, where we are all students of this system but where I have the role of a facilitator. Furthermore, from a perspective of preventing injury and furthering growth and healthy development, students need to feel that they can be honest with me and should not have to be afraid to feel judged or rejected if they say no to an adjustment or an advice I give. I encourage students to tell me if something doesn’t feel ok when I adjust them. I can only see what’s going on from the outside by observing their body and hearing/feeling their breath. However, I can never feel what they feel inside and that’s why their own body is their best teacher. I can only be the accompanying guide who facilitates their practice. As often as I can I make sure to ask for consent either verbally, with a nod or a sign they’re familiar with before I approach to adjust or to help them. Certain shalas have introduced consent cards to place beside the mats that show if they prefer not to be adjusted on a certain day. My Shala is still small enough that I have time to greet each student when they arrive, ask them how they are and get a feel for what’s going in in their bodies, minds and lives. So far, I believe that I’ve managed to keep the Shala a space where everyone feels safe and seen.
[side track] On the topic of consent - interestingly enough Sweden recently introduced a law that requires both parties in a sexual situation to make sure the other one has given their “active” consent to what is going on. This law is a result of the #metoo movement. It had been discussed long before but was considered too controversial to be approved. Following #metoo the proposition was revived and the law quickly passed to be introduced in July 2018. It has already been effective and applied in a number of cases according to media reports. However, media has also reported about a wide gap between what men and women consider to be an act of consent (vocal or in terms of behavior). This lesson will hopefully lead to some reflection, discussion and more sexual education to improve our sexual (and other) relationships.
Can we talk about all the other things that contribute to a #metoo movement? How can we address the inherent structural power imbalances that allow for #metoo to happen in the Ashtanga community? How can we create a more accountable and transparent environment?
This is a very vast question that goes well beyond Ashtanga yoga and would require a more in depth answer than I think I can deliver in this interview format. Fundamentally, the problem lies on a societal level - it’s not unique to Ashtanga yoga. For change to really happen it needs to happen structurally, culturally and behaviourally from the grassroots to the institutional level. Old patriarchal structures need to be replaced. Since my return to Sweden I’ve mostly followed Swedish writers and lawyers who work with sexual violence against women. One author I particularly appreciate is Katarina Wennstam, who has written many books on rape culture and victim blaming. In a recent article she talks about the denial that we might have a rapist in our close environment and how #metoo forced us to open our eyes to this uncomfortable possibility.
The prevalence of sexual violence revealed during the #metoo movement in 2017 should have not came as a surprise to anyone. That said, many people had probably not realised or wanted to accept the width and depth of the problem. Though, with the number of national and international studies on sexual violence against women it is probably safe to say that the problem is so common that we all know a woman who’s been victim of rape or sexual violence. However, no one seems to know the rapist (sexual offender).
For rape to happen there needs to be both a perpetrator and a victim. With the number of rapes reported yearly and add the large number of unrecorded ones, it is more than likely that we all know a rapist. But nobody wants to know a rapist. A rapist/sexual offender is a bad person and you and I certainly don’t know any bad people – do we? But what if the rapist/sexual offender is someone we do know, love or look up to? A family member, the neighbour next door, the handsome actor, an honoured teacher or a friend?
If we look at media reportings on rape and sexual crimes the perpetrator is often invisible. Instead it’s the woman that is highlighted in headlines such as “Woman raped”, “Woman claims rape”, “Raped woman admitted to hospital”. This type of phrasing makes the perpetrator invisible as if the rape was something that just happened to her by accident rather than being an active choice by the perpetrator.
Added to that, women who report sexual violence are very seldom believed. They are questioned and scrutinized. Was there anything in her behaviour that could have misled the perpetrator? She must have done something that provoked him? Wasn’t it actually her own fault that she was raped? In other criminal cases this type of victim blaming is rare. For example if a man was robbed and beaten in the street he will not be asked what he was wearing or whether he was drunk etc.
With #metoo this culture of silence was broken. Women began to not only talk about the crimes that they had suffered but also pointed to the perpetrator saying “it was him”. Suddenly the perpetrator went from being invisible to having a name and a being an actual person; our neighbour, brother, teacher or idol. This forced us to see the violence from an angle that many might not have been prepared for. We could accept the image of women as victims but did not want to see the rapist/perpetrator, especially not if he was one of “us” or a person in our close environment.
When the perpetrator is a person we know, that we love or maybe look up to, it becomes much harder to reconcile oneself with the thought of him (or her in some cases of course) carrying out such evil deeds. The moment we are faced with perhaps knowing a rapist our world may be shaken. Sexual violence suddenly comes close, in a way we might not be prepared to face it. In such cases it is much easier to point finger at and question the victim.
Considering the above, if #metoo is to have any lasting result and be the revolution it looked like it was going to be, we need to start re-evaluating our actions, reactions and behavioural patterns at all levels of society. On an institutional level there’s always a higher risk of abuse - not only sexual - in unequal power relations and where there’s dependency on the more powerful agent. Such dependency can be avoided if there are clearer structures within the organisation/community. Financial transparency, defined rights and obligations of all individuals (including the leadership) and clear and fair sanctions in case of violation of the agreement are some aspects that encourage an open and more equal climate. In a less hierarchical system where there are agreed upon rules and clear consequences if these are violated, it is often easier to speak up in cases of abuse without having to fear arbitrary reactions from the community and/or from the leadership levels.
On a grassroots level there are already many initiatives taken by Ashtanga teachers at their respective shalas; I have outlined some of my own above and I know of many who have taken similar action. But, in my opinion more needs to happen for us to develop healthily as a community as a whole. We ALL need to listen, to acknowledge that there were wrongdoings and be prepared to take action for change in the future.
Has choosing the path of yoga helped you find purpose and meaning in your life without burning you out as your career in the Foreign Ministry of Sweden and the European Commission did?
Yes, it definitely has, but (there’s always a but isn’t there…) the sad truth is once burnt out one will always be extra sensitive to stress and in my case more specifically emotional stress. Recovering from the burn out has taken a very long time, physically and mentally. It was a gradual process of ten years before my body started to respond positively to the healing process. It wasn’t until two years ago that my digestive system had recovered to such an extent that it started to properly absorb the nutrients from food. Now I can actually feel my body rebuild rather than constantly break itself down.
Life is still a very fine balance in not taking on too much work or agreeing to too many social things. It’s a challenge as I of course want to do my best and be there for the students at the shala as much as I can. Still, very little is required for me to tip over the edge and then need days or weeks to recover in order to find myself at a balanced level again. It remains a process of trial and error. I’m naturally a person who is very ambitious and wants to engage in many projects and people. But I’ve needed to learn to back off and only do one thing a day next to my teaching, whether that one thing is to have a coffee with a friend or a meeting with my accountant. I also have to be careful to get enough sleep which means I cannot do 3am mornings six days a week as I teach both morning and evening Mysore class (as from 2019 I will no longer teach evening Mysore class at my shala though). It’s not ideal to practice after teaching but half of the week I need to in order to get enough recovery time.
The yoga practice has definitely been an invaluable partner on the road to recovery. I think what the process has taught me the most is self love - or at least to have the courage to attempt it. It is still not easy for me but I’m getting better at it. The routine of the daily practice and the inevitable meeting with myself and my thoughts and feelings has helped me become more aware of how I treat myself and think about myself. It has helped me realise how self hatred, starvation or other types of self punishment was a way for me to deal with trauma I had experienced. The introspection that comes with the practice has helped reveal and understand old patterns/samskaras and in turn given me new tools to deal with to undo the samskaras and create better more useful habits in life.
My mat and my practice are always there for me. It is very comforting to know that. When the world around me is in chaos and the roller coaster goes up and down the hills in a faster and faster pace (we’re in Kali yuga), the practice is always there as a constant. Although each day on the mat is different it is that moment that I have just to myself; a moment of peace to just enjoy the breathing and moving of the body. Before, almost everything in my life was about achieving things rather than experiencing them. Yoga has taught me to be more present, to enjoy the little things and not view the world in terms of quantity but rather in terms of quality. “Less is more” might be another cliché, but oh so true!
Teaching - or rather sharing - yoga is a true gift. When I was working in government I longed to work in the field, to work directly with women and help improve their lives. I did of course contribute in the way that work on an advocacy and policy making level is just as important, but the desk job in high heels and a fancy suit didn’t feel like the true me. I wanted to work hands on with people’s well being and it wasn’t until I began teaching yoga that I was given the opportunity that I’d dreamt of since my graduation at university. In 2011, I spent four months in Kigali, Rwanda as a volunteer teacher with the organisation Project Air (Project Ashtanga in Rwanda), teaching yoga to genocide survivors and helping them readapt to a normal life. The changes I witnessed in people (mostly women but we also had men’s and children’s groups) who came to our classes was remarkable. It showed me the true healing power of this practice and gave me a clear purpose to keep sharing it.
My own experiences from practising Ashtanga Yoga and what I witnessed in Rwanda, have in particular strengthened my conviction on that the practice can be an amazing tool when dealing with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and other trauma. This is something I see myself working with more in the future as I would like to deepen my knowledge in the field of yoga therapy and mental wellbeing. Back in 2010 I already did a one year professional training in Yoga for mental health which gave me tools that were important to my own healing process but that have also been very useful in the Mysore room. Next year I’m pursuing further training in the field of yoga therapy with focus on the breath and basic body awareness therapy. My hope is to share and teach the practices with vulnerable groups in society, in particular girl refugees and [young] women who’ve suffered trauma of some sort.
That said, I’m not giving up the teaching in the Mysore room. The daily meeting with the practitioners who have chosen to come to the shala where I teach is the most valuable to me. It definitely hasn’t made me rich financially, but rich in so many other ways. The close relationship - the mutual respect and trust that is built with each student - that allows me to facilitate their practice (and lives indirectly) is an honour and it gives me the most purpose. What goes on in the Mysore room is not a one way process where the teacher teaches the students - at least that’s not how I experience it. It’s a situation where both parties learn from each other and develop from that. I have to observe, be curious, reflect and adapt the advice and adjustments that I give to each student depending on their needs, abilities, temperament and life situation. No student is the same and I learn something new from each and every person that comes through the doors of the shala. It’s a very humbling experience and I’m deeply grateful to the students who come, for their dedication and devotion to practice under my guidance.
Finally, doing seva (selfless service) is also a big part of my personal yoga path that gives me meaning. Trying to make a difference is still a big theme in my life and yoga has brought me in contact with NGOs in India that work very closely with the issues important to me. Already back in 2010 I came into contact with Odanadi Seva Trust through the Yoga Stops Traffick Campaign (which I believe was held for the first time that same year) and I was as a trustee for the UK branch during one year when I was based in London. Later I visited the children’s home in Mysore and through Stanly, one of the founders of Odanadi, I came to work with V-Care Mysuru a much smaller NGO that works with creating a better future for the children of the Dalit cast in the suburbs of Mysore. Together with Yogashala Stockholm we created the sister organisation (V-Care Sweden) that helps raise awareness of and funds for the work that V-Care Mysuru does.
You have said that you are sensitive to stress due to your burn out. Can you talk about having to share your energy when you are teaching? Having experienced recovery through yoga, does that make you more keenly feel your students’ pain and suffering?
As I mentioned above I have to be more careful not to drain my energy levels by taking on too much work or responsibilities. After more than twelve years, I still have to be careful with not doing too many things in one day. My adrenal system gets easily fatigued by too much stimuli. In the early years of teaching I felt that I had difficulties in managing other people’s energies in class. Today when I’m more grounded and have learnt a number of techniques on how to protect my own energy and clean the space around me, I find that teaching gives me energy rather than the opposite.
The sharing in the Mysore room is an exchange of energy. Through the constant interaction of touch, breath and sometimes words we (students and teacher) generate tapas together. I remember when I assisted Sharathji in Mysorethe first time in 2018, the energy was running so high that I had trouble sleeping. I only managed an average of three to four hours a night that month. It was a valuable experience that reminded me how I’m still sensitive to the adrenaline high that comes from having to focus so intensely throughout the class. This January (2019) when I have the honour to assist again, I manage my energy much better and my nervous system remains balanced.
Overall, finding a balance when teaching is still a process of trial and error where I only keep learning more through doing. Each day is different and the challenge is to adapt accordingly. My own daily practice is the key tool for my own wellbeing to stay balanced. My rendez-vous with myself on the mat each morning allows me to see what shape I’m in physically and mentally that day. I believe that if I’m more connected to myself I’ll be more present and able to share my energy in a sustainable manner with the students.
Considering the above I would say that yes for me in my role as a teacher it’s useful to have experienced healing through yoga. At some levels I feel that it helps me understand better what a student may go through, but I don’t think that it’s a prerequisite for being able to empathize. Furthermore, I think that everyone who comes to the practice of Ashtanga yoga, whether with a specific health problem or just in search for physical or mental fitness, will eventually end up on a healing journey. If one sticks to the practice over a longer period of time, change will come in all aspects of life. This doesn’t mean life will be rose tinted just because you start practicing yoga. Oftentimes things will be very hard as we have to face and work though the darker aspects of ourselves. But, I believe that it’s only by facing both the good and bad sides of life that we can develop. And when going through this process it’s important to have a teacher that has recognised and worked through their own shit and who’s not afraid of the dark, who can “hold the student’s hand” and be a guide on their path.
I get very sad whenever I encounter people who are negative to the system of Ashtanga yoga, whether they’ve had bad experiences themselves or have an opinion based on second or third party stories. This past year it has been very painful to witness the tension both within and from the outside of the Ashtanga community.
Ashtanga yoga is a healing practice. It deserves to be known for this quality rather than because of people getting injured physically, mentally or sexually. I am a firm believer that anyone can do this practice and benefit enormously from it; young or old, healthy or sick. The method of Mysore style teaching allows for adapting the practice to each and every individual according to their needs. It is not, as is sometimes portrayed, a rigid practice where one is forced to do do things in certain way. That is not my experience. In fact, I clearly remember Sharathji saying in the teacher’s special course almost three years ago how there’s one practice f Ashtanga yoga but that the method you use or the way you teach will differ depending on who you teach.
For the practice to remain a healing practice, it is my firm belief as a teacher that we need to teach for the benefit of the student, not for our own needs or ego. That’s where we as teachers need to keep observing our actions and thoughts so that we are aware of if or when our intentions may have changed. We need to keep researching and learning in order to stay flexible and open to change and unexpected situations. Exactly this is the beauty of the practice of Ashtanga yoga. It shows us how everything changes constantly. There’s always something new to discover and a deeper layer to reach. But it’s not always comfortable.
It’s been five months since this interview first started and as I’m writing these final thoughts it’s the last day of 2018. I’m back in Mysore where I was when the #metoo movement hit Ashtanga yoga and the storm on Facebook and other social media took off. My hope and wish for 2019 is that we all have the courage to stay open and communicate better in the new year. That we are able to listen to each other, learn and heal a communal and individual level. So that when we chant “lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu” at the end of our practice it really has a meaning [again].
*Isabella is the founder and director of Ashtanga Yoga Malmö/Lund
*Ashtanga Parampara thanks Lydia Teinfalt for leading this interview