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The first step on my yoga journey was taken about 25 years ago when I began exploring meditation as an alternative to my conservative religious upbringing. This led me to discover yoga as the reason we meditate in the first place.
Which then opened my eyes to a whole new world. At the age of 23 I decided to leave the US for India to live and study at a yoga ashram. I wanted to immerse myself in all things of yoga and dive deeper into my practice. Life has pretty much never been the same since. During my time there I came to realise the fact that I had been truly living my life the wrong way and it showed me the power of strength, direction, discipline, focus, flow and losing the idea of a false sense of self. This was just the first step in what was to become a very long awakening process.
I have since dedicated my life to my practice, and my practice to my students. Which lead me from teaching in gyms and small yoga centres in San Francisco to eventually opening my own schools and creating a yoga community in my neighbourhood in Amsterdam. I believe that yoga should be made available to anyone who is seeking it. My schools should facilitate a student's personal process and not simply follow a strict dogma or lineage set forth by a so called guru without questioning it. The yoga path is a personal one and should be treated as such. You are your own guru. Shine your own light. Use your own mind. Question everything until there is nothing left.
I don't approach yoga and self-realisation as a religious experience but as a human one. It is not nirvana, it is right now! It's about waking up to the present moment and embracing life for exactly what it is and breaking free from habits, patterns, and conditioning that no longer serve you and your quest for self-realisation. To help further facilitate this process I incorporate coaching and neuromuscular activation into my work with students. I find it gives the boost we need to shake things up a bit.
Another thing I realised along the way is that life isn't necessarily a struggle, but it's more of a smooth ebb and flow. The struggles should be seen more like markings on the path – clear signs of where one is headed and how they are growing. I work with my students by helping them to see and follow the cues in their own lives, and to help change their perspective, embrace change and move away from unhealthy patterns of thinking, moving and breathing. Remember, in yoga we should always have a point of focus in which to direct our minds. Sometimes we need help finding out where the best place to look is. There is no one path, no one correct way to do things. Steps in the right direction aren’t always easy either. It's all a matter of courage, perception, intention and finding your own way.
I wrote further about this, and my own process, in my debut book Get Your Head Out of Your Asana. I carry this theme into the teacher training program I designed and facilitate every year in Amsterdam. As well as directing the schools and training programs, I am also currently busy creating a contemporary yoga ashram on the island of Sardinia, in Italy. The goal of the ashram is to build a self-sustainable community that focuses on yoga, introspection, and personal development all while living a simple life together away from the chaos of modern society. Which, less face it, is a big enough distraction from the true self as it is.
All of that being said, if I have learned one thing in my 25 years of yoga practice it would be this.
There is no self, there is only selfless service. So, ask yourself, "Who am I? Why do I practice? What do I really want?", and see where that takes you.
Good luck out there,