Jun 2016

Thanks for your interest - here is a „short“ overview of my Yoga path - so far

I started practicing Yoga in 1990. I had done martial arts for a few years and had become more and more fascinated in rockclimbing, so I was on the lookout for an effective stretching routine. I’d heard about Yoga and was curious.
So I pestered a friend that had been doing Yoga for years to teach me, and a few others, a weekly class.
These classes were very experimental, combining Sufi whirling, Gurdjeff dances or Osho’s dynamic meditation with a full Hatha Yoga set.
We had a lot of fun, even though i didn’t have the slightest idea what any of this was about.
I guess this non-orthodox approach to Yoga made it easy for me to connect.
Eventually I also met one of Vienna’s first Yoga teachers (for sure the most glamourous one), Oskar Hodosi. I have always enjoyed and admired his creative and dynamic interpretation of Yoga.
In the early 90’s the first rumours of a new trend in Yoga were circulating - something about “jumping into the poses!” - this sounded very exciting.
The rumours condensed to a magic word - Ashtanga.
Austria was (as usual :-) still some time away of having a proper teacher of this discipline, but that didn’t bother us much.
With a handful of friends, we popped a VHS tape featuring David Swenson and his
acrobatic moves into the recorder and started to practice.
Ashtanga Yoga was my first contact with an established Yoga system, and there were many aspects of Ashtanga that I really liked a lot.
First of all it was a powerful, dynamic and aesthetically beautiful practice.
The community is a fun and international bunch, and wherever you are, practicing together makes it easy to connect with interesting people.
Ashtanga Yoga became an important part of my life, and my exclusive Yoga practice for more than a decade.
In 1999, I did David Swenson’s Teacher Training for the first series in Costa Rica. In the years to follow I did trainings, workshops and intensives with many of the famous teachers of Ashtanga Yoga around the world :
Michel Besnard (our first resident Ashtanga teacher in Vienna)
Petri Raisanen (Thailand)
Nancy Gilgoff (Maui)
Denah Kingsberg (Byron Bay)
Sharath (Pattabi Jois’ grandson)
my friend Ryan Spielman (Miami/London)
and many others...

kukkutasana
Koh Mak, Thailand 2002

I had a great time with Ashtanga - until...
suddenly, somehow I just couldnt do it any more, as if my body saying thats it - enough!
This happened very quickly, at the peak of my flexibility and power, almost as if a switch had been flipped.
It was 2005, and in June of that year my daughter Stella was born - my teacher of the Yoga of Fatherhood!
I did not really miss the practice of Ashtanga Yoga since this time, what I somehow miss is the connection to the people of the community.
In my teaching yoga, i had hardly ever taught classical Ashtanga Yoga, but always created
Hatha Yoga flows including elements of the Ashtanga series, according to the unique energetic constellations of my groups and the general “feeling” about what could be helpful and fun.
Now, I started adopting this approach for my personal practice as well, starting to only practice Yoga when i really felt like it, and only the exercises my body really resonated with.
The more I did that, the more I realised how often I had been overriding my preferences and forcing myself to do “the series” even if i wouldn’t really feel like it.
A very strange observation that I have made several times, especially during times of intense practice, was a feeling of guilt and almost physical discomfort when skipping one or more practice sessions - Yoga withdrawal symptoms?
The main conclusion I drew through this “crisis” was, that obviously it was time to move on.
But where?
Several accidents and the aftereffects of an eye surgery made it quite clear that my body wasn’t responding well to be treated as if twenty years old.
On the other hand I noticed that I had become more sensitive to the level and movements of “energy” in my system.
Along the path I had met several practitioners of Kundalini Yoga, and done some practice with them.
To explore this realm was a logical next step for me. I did, and still eventually do practice Kundalini, and i’m really enjoying the strong effects this unique practice has on many levels.
My instruction in the Kundalini sequences came from Gurmukh and Maya Fiennes (via DVD).
Kundalini Yoga was and still is a step into the direction I want to go on my Yoga-path.
And - it always felt there could be something out there, that is really 100% what I wanted to do at this time.
It must have been around 2008 that I remembered my Ashtanga teacher Michel Besnard introducing some Yin Yoga asanas during a workshop long ago.
What i remembered most vividly, even after this long time, was how good these few Yin postures had felt.
I started to research, and came across Paul Grilley, one of the main proponents of this way of doing Yoga.
I ordered the DVD, and soon after realised that this is exactly what I need now - a gentle, quiet, subtle and nevertheless very strong practice.
On top of that, I instantly connected with the clear, competent and - most important for me - humorous approach of Paul Grilley.
In 2011 I did the first training with Paul and his wife Suzee in California, it was an Anatomy workshop.
I was blown away in some respects.
Firstly the interesting presentation of this rather complicated topic, the fine attunement of Paul and Suzee to the attention level of the class, always finding ways to reenergize the audience, and convey a huge amount of information.
Secondly I was even more impressed by the main focus of the workshop - skeletal variation. The implications of taking a closer look at the effects of differently shaped bones are mindblowing. My practice, my teaching Yoga, and maybe even my sense of „reality“ has changed after this experience.
One thing I realised was that I want to know more - so I signed up for another round of teacher trainings.
Starting out in Vancouver with another respected Yin Yoga proponent -
Bernie Clarke.
This friendly and very competent man comes from a background of Zen meditation, and so contributes his unique flavor to what Yin Yoga can be.
If you are interested in detailed information about Yin Yoga, Bernies books are the ultimate source.
Training with Bernie improved my knowledge of the background of Yin Yoga and added a lot of new possibilities for creating group/circumstance adapted asana flows, for example yin classes against the wall.
In 2011, another intensive Yin Yoga Teacher Training in Thailand with Paul and Suzee Grilley followed.
It was a profound experience to again witness the great teaching skills of Paul&Suzee in a residential retreat, and
also share this experience with high profile teachers from all around the Yoga-world.
The last element so far in this ongoing Yoga-story has been to get another in depth introduction into the world of Chakras&Meridians, again by Paul&Suzee Grilley.
One of the elements i really like about Yin yoga is the fusion of Yoga and Daoist wisdom about the physical and energetical body. Including the meridian system into the Yoga practice opens up a whole new perspective and is another invitation to turn the awareness inside, and follow the „chi“ flow through the body.
At the moment, the focus of my Yoga practice has more than ever turned to the internal processes of Yoga.
As important and valuable the physical aspect of practice is, it turns out that there are many more levels to be found
- and i’ll be busy and curious to go on exploring :-)


With respect and gratefulness to all my teachers

Cheers & Namaste

Rafael