Ashtanga rest day: honoring the body (ENG)

We sometimes get so caught up with our practice, that rest day sometimes sounds as punishment. Why on earth should we stop practicing for one day? Can we not practice, maybe slower, on Saturday too? Well, apparently even God took a day off!
Being a very Vata, fast-paced person, I very often run out of my energies without even realizing it. I get into something, I become very passionate and extreme about it, and go to the very last of my ounces of energy… as a result, I get injured, I run out of breath, I become very nervous or too tired. That’s why, especially for personalities like mine, rest and moon days are a must.
With age, I’ve learnt to trust this very simple rule even more. Yoga is 24 hours, 7 days a week, but we should not mistake Yoga with just Asana. Practicing the other limbs is even more difficult and rest days are a good way to tap into the deepest meanings of this wonderful philosophy. There are so many practices we can take on during rest day! One of this is the well known oil bath, which I find necessary after so many years of practice. Here is a link to understand how this can be done. When I started practicing oil baths I thought it was only a myth, but after a few weeks its benefits are unmistakable. Another good idea for your spare time, is to prepare golden milk, a wonderful turmeric recipe that brings relief to joints and muscles, perfect for the first, cold days of the winter season.
My favourite yogic practice during rest days, however, is reading yoga books. Whether that be the Yoga Sutra or a modern yoga and anatomy book (check out David Keil’s one!), there is so much to learn. And of course meditation or simply connecting (if possible, in person! Ditch the internet for a few hours!) with friends and relatives is a wonderful way to honor rest days.
Rest and Moon days also are, in my opinion, a good way to connect with the natural cycles of our body. Practicing has made me closer to the natural rhythms of life (and that’s why I love going to my home in Tuscany as much as I can). I feel that day after day, the rules of modern economy are failing to provide happiness to human beings. Despite all we do, we belong to Nature, and this is one of the biggest changes Yoga threw me into – for almost all my life, I thought of myself as a city girl! Well, no longer the case. I now love being surrounded by Nature, walking by the sea, feeling one with the environment.
Don’t forget to rest. Whether it is Saturday, as in the Ashtanga Yoga tradition, or any other day of the week, take a day off even from the thing you love the most – Yoga. Practice detachment and sink into yourself, exploring all Yoga limbs… except Asana, just for today!
Enjoy your rest day. Namaste.

Praticare a Milano: La Yoga Shala, Elena De Martin (ENG/ITA)

Elena De Martin, founder of La Yoga Shala

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while. I believe now, a few months down the line, is the right time to write about this. One of the aspect that I love the most about Ashtanga Yoga in the whole world, is the intrinsic capacity of this method to build a community. But you need a vessel: and that vessel can only be a real teacher.

I was used to practice in a very busy Shala in London, run by Hamish Hendry. In Milan, I was looking for the same intense atmosphere – at the break of dawn, a room packed with mats, practitioners intent in their practice, one next to the other, under the careful eye of a teacher and his/her assistants, a team respecting and making Guruji’s tradition alive. Building a community is a very hard task. It requires consistent effort and consistent love. Waking up extremely early every day, creating a warm, welcoming space but most of all, educating practitioners not only to a method but also to a yogic attitude of compassion, love, acceptance is a truly demanding job. Not to mention the fact that such teacher must be someone following the Parampara tradition, therefore frequently traveling to Mysore to study with Sharath and/or Saraswati. A Mysore Shala doesn’t happen by magic and when you see it blooming, a sense of happiness springs from your heart. In Milan, we are blessed to have Elena De Martin and La Yoga Shala. Elena is Authorized Level II, and her teachings are really valuable and strongly rooted in the Mysore tradition. Since I started practicing with Elena, Giuseppe and Cinzia, I felt I was being followed in every single breath or movement of my practice. The Vinyasa count started making much more sense and, if I have been gifted with flexibility, my strength has consistently grown under their guidance.
La Yoga Shala is more than a place. It’s a community, where you meet like-minded people
Me, after practice at La Yoga Shala
and you are always welcomed with a smile. As in a true community, students help each other on and off the mat. The same energy you feel while practicing awaits for you in the changing rooms. You feel part of a whole since day one.
I was particularly happy to be at La Yoga Shala to celebrate its 3rd anniversary on October 3rd. The picture I took shows only a part of the much larger space – it was jam packed, full of practitioners of all levels united by the same sound – that of Ujjayi breathing. For a couple of hours, we were One – and that wonderful energy stayed with us all day, and the day after, until the next practice. And it happens every day: pretty amazing, don’t you think?
One of the thing I like the most when entering La Yoga Shala, is counting the pair of shoes on the shelves. The more, the better, the higher the energy, the stronger the message we’ll deliver to the universe: we are One. One community, one love.

If you are in Milan, don’t miss the chance to practice at La Yoga Shala, in via Domenichino 11. It’s Mysore at your doorstep.

Il valore della comunità Yoga: La Yoga Shala a Milano

Da alcuni mesi ho in mente di scrivere questo post, e ora mi sembra sia giunto il momento. Uno degli aspetti che amo di più dell’Ashtanga Yoga è l’intrinseca capacità di costruire una comunità, che questo metodo possiede. Ma è necessario, perché ciò avvenga, che vi sia un tramite: e questo tramite può solo essere un insegnante.
A Londra, era mia abitudine praticare alla Shala di Hamish Hendry, sempre affollata di praticanti. A Milano, cercavo la stessa intensa atmosfera – all’alba, una sala piena di tappetini e praticanti, l’uno accanto all’altra, concentrati sulla loro pratica, sotto l’occhio attento dell’insegnante e dei suoi assistenti, una squadra al servizio della tradizione che Guruji ci ha lasciato. Costruire una comunità è un compito difficilissimo, che richiede uno sforzo costante e una capacità di amare altrettanto stabile. Svegliarsi prestissimo ogni mattina, creare un ambiente caldo e accogliente ma, soprattutto, educare chi pratica non solo al metodo ma anche e soprattutto al vivere lo yoga è un compito davvero serio e gravoso.  Ricordiamo che, tra l’altro, un simile insegnante deve necessariamente seguire la tradizione del Parampara, e quindi affrontare frequenti viaggi a Mysore per studiare con Sharath o Saraswati. Una autentica shala in stile Mysore non sorge per magia, e quando se ne vede una in pieno fulgore, si prova un senso di autentica felicità. A Milano abbiamo la grande fortuna di avere Elena De Martin e La Yoga Shala. Elena è insegnante Autorizzata Livello II, e i suoi insegnamenti sono di grande valore e profondamente radicati nella tradizione Mysore. Da quando ho iniziato a praticare con  Elena, Giuseppe e Cinzia, ho sentito di essere seguita in ogni respiro e movimento della mia pratica. Il conteggio dei Vinyasa ha acquisito un senso più profondo e, se ho avuto in dono la flessibilità, per la forza ho sempre dovuto lottare e sotto la loro guida la vedo crescere giorno dopo giorno.
La Yoga Shala non è solo un luogo, è una comunità, dove si incontrano persone con gli stessi interessi, e dove si è sempre accolti col sorriso. Gli studenti si aiutano sul tappetino e nella vita; la stessa energia che pervade la sala vi aspetta anche negli spogliatoi e negli spazi comuni. Ci si sente parte di un tutto fin dal primo giorno.
Sono stata davvero felice di partecipare al terzo anniversario de La Yoga Shala lo scorso 3 ottobre. La foto mostra solo una parte del grande spazio – e ogni centimetro era occupato da un tappetino, la sala piena di praticanti di ogni livello, uniti dallo stesso suono – il suono del respiro Ujjayi. Per un paio d’ore siamo stati una cosa sola – e quella bellissima energia è rimasta con noi tutto il giorno, fino al giorno dopo, fino… alla prossima pratica. Ed è qualcosa che accade ogni giorno: non vi sembra meraviglioso?
Una delle cose che amo di più quando arrivo a La Yoga Shala è contare le scarpe sugli scaffali. Più ce ne sono, meglio è. Più forte sarà il nostro messaggio all’Universo: siamo Una Cosa Sola.
Se siete a Milano, non perdete l’occasione di praticare a La Yoga Shala, in via Domenichino 11. E’ Mysore a un passo da casa.