Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Yoga in Tuscany & Cinque Terre.

Since my last post, I have found two phenomenal, yet extremely different, yoga studios, and a handful of people who are either devoted practitioners or simply interested in trying it out, or re-starting. 

I arrived in Florence and knew there must be some sort of yoga following, considering it was the biggest city I have visited yet. A search on the internet took me to several listings, and after reading through-- and mentally throwing out any classes related to Bikram or Ashtanga (my personal least favorites)-- I decided on a hatha studio down near the Pitti Palace, across the Ponte Vecchio bridge.   So, I made my way down to the tiny little street where the studio was nestled in between what seemed to be warehouses--- and was pleasantly surprised. 

I walked up the stairs into a beautifully decorated, as some would say, "zenned-Out", peaceful studio with a very enthusiastic gay Italian male instructor ready to teach his class. But the first person I saw was a lovely blonde, blue-eyed Australian woman in her 30s, who instantly smiled and greeted me. I soon learned she has also just received her yoga-teacher-training certificate during the same time as myself--but in Bali! Not too shabby. 

It was nice to know someone else was there in my shoes, because everyone else (the class had about 15 people) was clearly either local or native Italian. Although we were told the class was bilingual (half English/half Italian), it was mostly Italian, which I actually really appreciated. Not only did it help me with my Italian, but it kept me alert, and very present. 

He kept trying to throw in some English here and there, like he was thinking "Oh shit, I forgot about the 2 English-speaking people--- 'Left Leg, Right Leg, Downward Dog!'" I gave him props though- trying to teaching a yoga class in 2 different languages has got to be ridiculously challenging. 

The class was set up completely different than any class I have taken in the states. For example, we started with Shavasana (meditation), and did our inversions in the middle of class instead of at the end! It was like any other class I take or teach on a regular basis at home, except scrambled up. So, not only was this class in mainly Italian, but I was thrown off from my normal yogic routine--- which I think is a wonderful thing. Change is always a good thing. 

Not only did my first yoga class on my traveling adventure help me to re-center and calm my mind, as always, I also made a friend- the blonde Australian- whose name is Tracey- who I think I will keep forever. We shared dinner afterwards and ended up traveling to Cinque Terre together- where we hiked, ate, drank, laughed constantly, and shared our life stories. Not to mention, I had someone to practice yoga with in the mornings, in one of the most beautiful locations I could imagine-- on a patio facing the Mediterranean Sea surrounded by mountains. I also befriended two other Australian girls, both interested in yoga, and one asked me to teach her one morning-- I am so happy to be able to continue teaching even thousands of miles away from my true comfort zone. 

Once I ventured further south down in Tuscany, I found two studios on the web located in Siena. I picked the one close enough to walk to, and gave it try.

Early this morning, I found my way to Yoganam, a tiny Ivengar-tradition studio. It’s tucked away—outside of the city walls – deep down in the streets of residential Siena, where no tourists care to venture.

There were only 3 of us, including the teacher, who was a lovely petite, incredibly compassionate woman. She went out of her way to make sure I understood everything, but was very eager to help me to learn more Italian. It’s funny, because anywhere you go in the world, yoga teachers obviously still use Sanskrit, so it’s not much of a struggle for me to at least understand which pose we’re going to next… but again, yoga in Italian keeps me more aware and “on my toes,” you could say.

So far, my experience with yoga in Italy has been much more than finding a good studio or getting that "Yoga-high" after practicing.. which is all fabulous. And, I do make an effort to practice at least for a little everyday, because it really just takes me to a better place. Anyone who has something in his or her life that helps to calm their mind or to feel more grounded knows what I am talking about- whether it's yoga or a sport or really, anything that works. But, in my opinion, being able to share your passions and meeting people from other parts of the world who love what you love is what really what makes all the difference. 


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Right NOW. In Italy.

I have been in Italy for 2.5 weeks, and I have yet to see one yoga studio-- expectedly. I have spent this time in a non-touristy, fairly small city and then in the mountains- pretty much in the middle of nowhere. So, no, I was not surprised that yoga is not thriving in these places. However, I've managed to continue my practice in between exploring and eating (a lot! of GREAT Food!)

Moreover, the family I have gotten to know- at least the younger ones- have at least heard of yoga. And, to my delight, two of them tried it one day in a park with me. Being that my Italian is basically crap right now- it’s a work in progress- I knew I would not be able to guide them verbally through a practice. After a few sun salutations, warriors, and a tree pose, I felt strange—not talking during a practice is quite challenging- especially when these people are beginners! The practice did not last long, but we laughed and I was just glad to be doing yoga in general. It got me thinking- What a fabulous opportunity it would be to be able to teach a yoga class in a foreign language. Maybe- one day.

Besides that quick practice in the park, my yoga practice has been completely solo. To me, this is a beautiful thing- it allows me to listen to myself- my body, to be quiet, and to really just let go of everything else.

I wrote this in my journal the other morning after yoga during a week spent in the mountains- a marvelously beautiful place.

“Yoga in the Mountains” :
I woke up today and instantly craved a morning practice--- something to clear my mind of all of its nonsense. I am about 10 days into our month journey in Europe (mainly Italy). In all, it has so far been fun, yet up and down—it’s hard to know if something is meant to be when two people have no idea what they want. I would like to say I can always answer that question for myself—Do I know what I want for myself? What I need? No, It’s safe to say I am not sure at this point in my life. And I am becoming okay with that. This morning-- Although I know practicing yoga won’t give me every answer my thirsty mind is seeking, I know it would bring me some peace and acceptance of what I am experiencing emotionally. Physically, I am in one of the most beautiful places in the world—surrounded by bright green meadows, tall rolling mountains, and yellow wildflowers popping up everywhere I turn my head. And today, I took myself through a sequence of Pranayama (breathing), warm-ups, sun salutations, balance poses, floor postures, and of course- Savasana (relaxation) in the most amazing places I have ever practiced. For this, I feel grateful, humbled, and somewhat relieved. I don’t need all the answers now, or even soon. I don’t need to know what the future will bring. All I can hope for is joy everyday I am alive and help to bring it into others' lives. I realize I need to celebrate Now, work on Now, Be Now. By doing this, I release fears of all sorts, as well as doubts. I am free of past mindsets and experiences, but I have gained something from every single one- even if I didn’t like it. By being me right now, I am free.

….On the flip side, I do miss the feeling of community with other people. I am traveling alone now to Bologna and Venice, and eventually other places--where-- in between exploring the culture and allowing myself to get lost in this country's ridiculous beauty-- I am eager to see if there is any active yoga scene—or people willing to practice with me in the next places I find myself. At least I know one thing for sure- there will always be breathtakingly beautiful spots in Italy for me to stay grounded in my practice.