When I came back home and I started having yoga classes, I knew that I was going to be the type of teacher without chakras and mantras. So there seemed to be very few choices left for what I should be like… I said to myself that I was going to compensate by offering short and straightforward scientific explanations regarding the benefits of the practice and my intention was to use language that would seem… familiar. Maybe it would sound urban…or businesslike, as I was the one who used to work in a multinational company environment: energy management, human resources and so on. However, I realized that something that has always been appealing about yoga was the mystery related to kundalini, the energy of the chakras and the vibration/ vibe of the mantras. Yet I was leaving aside all these concepts by using my rational approach.
I used to say quite often that yoga is not a magic pill/ cure to make you feel good. It cannot be restricted to the practice on the yoga mat and it does not imply that you should not work to improve yourself outside the yoga classes. I was going to discover soon that my students (or my clients) seemed to be pleased to hear my few reasonable/ rational explanations and this was enough for me.
However, after three months I found myself pretty bored with repeating the same information. And even quite uneasy thinking that my choice with yoga and the whole journey to India might have been just a whim, or just part of my becoming more mature or my personal development process. Yet, I felt that the \”job\” of a yoga teacher perfectly suited me. It was then that I realised it was time I added something else to that \”to do\” list for my yoga classes. I came to understand that, for me, yoga meant the experience of knowing your true self in the present moment, of facing everything that is deep within yourself at that specific moment, with full acceptance. As soon as I realised and came to terms with this, all I had to do was put my whole energy into creating the same kind of experience for my clients too. Therefore, over the following months, I gave up teaching Ashtanga yoga, which started to seem a bit dull for me at that time. I began creating programs on different themes that were of interest for my clients, considering I was well aware of their needs.
Preparing/ Creating a program became a real process for me. It was also a creative act, supported by an inner feeling of honour. I would choose the theme relying on the needs of the people that came to my classes. There were never more than 10 people and I always knew the reason why each of them opted for yoga. This way, it was easier for me to find the common element that would become the starting point for the structure of my yoga classes.
The background music was an essential element. Even though I wouldn\’t say about myself that I am too musical, I have always been sensitive to sounds, without necessarily being able to pinpoint what it was exactly that reverberated in me. I used to spend long nights on iTunes browsing for the perfect album and many times I would buy 3-4 albums a month in search of the one I felt was the most suitable. Once I found what I was looking for at Ed Sheeran and this is how \’I see fire\’, the instrumental version, became the musical background for Sun Salutation. Another time it was Debussy, Garbarek or Pharrell. I also paid attention to the pitch of my voice and it seemed that I got to utter my words on music.
The structure of my yoga classes varied depending on the element I was focusing on at that moment. Sometimes my clients came to the classes with very little energy so I would start with some energising breathing exercises. Other times, they were hyperactive and I would begin my class with some dynamic moves meant to use up their energy and then I would gradually slow down the pace in order to get to soothing breathing exercises. I would choose the aromatic incense sticks taking into consideration the mood/ atmosphere I meant to trigger/ create at my classes and the lighting played an important role too.
I noticed that even the way the yoga mats were arranged made a difference to the whole orchestration of details that had a full meaning just in my mind. My clients even started to make jokes about my \” compulsive obsession\” with the precise setting of the mats. As they gave me credit and trusted me, they used to comply smilingly when I gave clear indications: \”move the mat, just a bit, slightly to the right, not your right, mine…too much..this is it… now move Cristina\’s mat a bit farther… perfect, leave it like this..\”
Everything seemed to be a live performance, staged attentively to the smallest detail, but always with back-up preparation for unexpected incidents. I realised I was at the same time both the receiver and the sender and I became really intuitive. All I had to do was listen and act accordingly out of that space of genuine intuition, undisturbed by \”maybe\” or \”what if\”. What my mind was trying to grasp, my heart already knew. And the \”mystery\” started to happen / unfold during the classes. It seemed to me that I could thread on the sacred territory at that gate of who we truly are, beyond our mind and body. And there, completely accepting who we really are in those moments, we are able to heal ourselves mutually, getting rid of illusions and coming to terms with our true selves. There was awareness rising and working as kind of fuel. That was the energy necessary for our self- transformation, urging us to alter our attitudes and our beliefs about ourselves and the world around. I might have been just the trigger and the groundwork/ support of that space, which came into being in the presence of x, and Y and Z and all the people attending the yoga class. And this is how, when I gave up everything I knew, yoga became remarkably sweet. And I don\’t even like sweets …
In order to keep my spark of creativity alive, I felt I should also learn and explore new things. I left for Frankfurt to meet Cameron Shayne and to do a training in Budokon, a mix of martial arts, contemporary dance moves and yoga, or a mishmash as I used to call it. When I came back I could not do Budokon classes exclusively as they were too difficult for my corporate clients and they might have seemed a bit too different from what we regularly did during the yoga classes. Therefore, I used only some elements from Budokon, included in my classes just for variety. It was a plus for me nonetheless.
After that I made up my mind to discover yoga for children. I liked games as a useful strategy to bring yourself in the present moment and yoga was perfectly suitable for this. That is why I went to Paris for another training course. I was in two minds about working with children but I also knew very well the inner child hiding within me, always ready to laugh out loud and to make jokes. After completing the course, I started including one children yoga class meant for adults in the monthly membership. And those were some really memorable experiences! We used to have so much fun that I can honestly say, my hand on Patanjali\’s sutras, I do not know anything more relaxing than having a good laugh. It was as if we were little children again and we did not bother at all about what we looked like when bursting into laughter.
It was not long before I started feeling like doing something. I went to the international convention of yoga in Barcelona to meet trainers famous in the worldwide yoga community. I noticed how each of them managed to have something unique at their yoga classes. Some of them had really charismatic personalities and their classes were like some stand-up comedy shows, enjoyed while trying to keep your balance on one leg. Others seemed to focus on perfection and if they somehow considered that you were not doing the correct asana, they came to adjust your posture. While feeling their firm touch, you only wished you could have left the class, all together with your spine, preferably in its place. Other trainers could create the atmosphere of a ritual at their classes, with all the yoga mats set in a circle and flowers in the centre, as an offering. Others had a kind, parent like attitude; others used to tell stories and went to the classes with their own band which gave a live performance. There were others who gave explanations including only the scientific names of bones, muscles and joints. There were also other trainers, who, though knowledgeable, seemed to lack something but you could never point out exactly what. But there were also those who…could inspire you just with their presence. They would neither struggle to perform, giving too many explanations, nor were they trying to entice you. And I felt this is what yoga is about…
That is why, after Barcelona, I asked myself more about the experience I wanted to create at my classes. And I started paying attention and observing more intensively. But I also needed information in order to grasp what is happening within me when doing yoga. That’s how I began studying neuroscience. Online training, books, documentaries, everything to understand how our brain works while doing yoga. And I started my endeavour having in my mind one of the most important sutras written by Patanjali: stiram sukam asanam – breathe calmly in the sensations of the asana/ posture.
My name is Dana Marin. After hundreds of yoga classes and tens of training courses, I learned a lot from my personal experience and exploration. This is why I decided to share these pages with a community that I am happy to see rising also in our country, even if it’s a bit later than in other European countries or in the United States of America. These pages are meant for every one of us that ever did the Sun Salutation or is going to do it. My intention is to share and, at the most, to inspire and encourage you to focus( your attention) on yourself. Leaving behind any kind of discomfort that disappears when first embracing/ accepting everything, you come across that special peaceful place within yourself. It is only this peace of mind that helps you get rid of those illusions that you should become someone special, that you are” faulty”, that you are not worthy or that you have a lot to struggle in order to prove something. It is only this peace that reminds you that you already have everything you “should” have. And it gives you back the voice that makes you feel whole again. And when you can hear that inner voice, you will know that all you have to do is follow it. Whatever you do, you’ll do it wisely, not smartly. You’ll do it with respect towards yourself and to the others around you. You’ll do it with grace, courage and charisma even though you might become uncomfortable for some and not everyone will acknowledge you or understand you. All these won’t matter anymore. You will know your simple true, that everything is between you and the universe, within that inner peace and transient discomfort. We are all teachers to one another through the things we mutually touch within ourselves. Yet there is no one out there who can reveal this to us! It is only we, in our deep honesty, that know our “little secret” which sets us free. These pages are the things I grasped after my own explorations and experiences. They are not meant to be a yoga course book. Knowing is not the same with being.
As yoga is an experience, a journey into consciousness: when you are ready, it grabs your attention/ you are hooked on it; when needed, it gets you lower; when you get tired, it gives you rest; when you are not expecting, it gets you higher. And then again it takes you back from the beginning to reveal other heights of remembrance. I invite you to read these pages with an open mind and an open heart. Take just what resonates with you, what does not, leave aside. These pages are an open invitation! you can say “yes”, you can say” no”. Or you can even say “yes” and “no” in one breath/ at the same time . To be continued…
Photo Credit: Razvan Ionescu