This post is also available in: Norsk (Norwegian )
– I did a lot of aerobic and spinning in my twenties, the harder and longer classes the better. Then I started running (jogging), eventually every day up to an hour. When we moved to San Francisco in 2011, I began a daily routine of running up and down the steep, beautiful hills. Eventually my knee started hurting, and I realized I had no other choice than to try yoga. I was not excited, as I thought it would be super boring. Luckily the universe brought me to Lamott Atkins, who ran Bikram Yoga San Francisco. He added a special flavor to the Bikram-sequence and taught it in a soulful way. I was surprised to feel how hard and physically challenging yoga was. I was hooked after the first class. Ever since I have done some sort of yoga almost every day.
What is a yoga breakthrough?
– To me it describes when the body resolves the puzzle of a pose, which parts has to contribute in what way to form the asana. Take Bird of Paradise (pictured below) for example. When the joints are opened, strength, focus, balance and flexibility is developed enough to bind the hands behind the hips, lift the torso, straighten the spine, open the chest, kick out the leg and finally spread the toes on the lifted foot while breathing in a slow and steady pace, it feels like a breakthrough. That said, an asana is never ending. You are constantly in a process of adjusting and easing into the pose.
Why do ww easier get hooked on yoga then other types of workout and fitness?
– Because a yoga practice contains so much more than the mere physical part. The feeling after a yoga class is key. I’ve heard it described as «the yoga high» , which explains why you get hooked on yoga. One reason for this feeling of clarity and quiet mind is that we work with the nervous system during our practice. The way we learn to master our breath and use it to help us through the difficult asanas, mirrors how we can use it to master difficulties in life.
How does yoga infect your soul?
– I’ve given that a lot of thought! At least it would’ve been a good idea in my case. For many years I had a complicated relationship with my body, at the same time I was stressed out, afraid of dying (in plane crashes, by terrorist attacks, of scary diseases and other stuff beyond my control). Let’s just say I’ve had my fair share of everyday neuroses. I’ve had a therapist trying to help me, without results. However, after I started practicing yoga, my head feels cleared from all this mess. It’s as if the vigorous vinyasa practice cleans my mind. Yoga is my natural antidepressant.
You discovered yoga in California, (me too), what do we lack back home in Norway?
– Yoga doesn’t seem that serious or pretentious in the US, maybe because it’s had more time to settle in over there. I believe the americans have done a great job adjusting yoga to the western world, without neglecting the indian tradition. They’ve made a nice synthesis of ancient and modern. It seems that Californian yoga has evolved into its own identity, being alignment based, yet playful at the same time – instead of clinging to one tradition or one way of explaining things. At least that’s my impression. Americans are curious, precise, practical, down to earth, yet open – and these traits mirror the way a lot of the teachers I’ve had the pleasure of learning from communicate yoga.
How do yoga replace religion?
– As we use the term in Norwegian, spirituality is a difficult word with a lot negative connotations to me. But, I do believe that we all have a higher self, a deeper sense of «I», that is more or less constantly being overshadowed by ego, fear, attachment etc, and that these emotions are to blame for our suffering. And I do believe in the idea that if we all work on ourselves to peel these layers off, and at the same time start treating each other with compassion and understanding, the world will be a better place to live. If we want to stop Mother Earth from going straight down the drain, we better start digging deep in our selves to find a feeling of connectedness – to each other and to the nature we live in. You can say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.
For who is this book?
– It is for everybody – yoga skeptics, yoga lovers and those in between: People who want to try yoga – and those who already have a yoga practice. But my 10 vinyasa sequences are meant for yoginis who prefer strong flowing classes. For those who solely want to stress down, I’ve added 8 restorative poses to chill out in.
What to you recommend for a yoga beginner to get started?
– Don’t take it so seriously! Yoga isn’t scary, mysterious and odd, even though some Norwegian people still seem to think so. Start with an intro course at your local studio. And of course I recommend beginners to read my book too.
How often should one practice in order to feel progression?
Many people struggles with week hands and knees, how do we prevent injuries in yoga?
– Being taught in California, I am an alignment based vinyasa teacher. This means I’m working with modifications and verbal adjustments during the flowing sequences to prevent injuries. In the tradition I follow it is important where the knee is placed in relation to the ancle and hip. And how you distribute the weight in your hands/fingers is crucial. I am super picky with my own students, and they appreciate my approach. There are injuries in yoga, and they often come from misalignment or pushing to far.
Some times people spread to mane picture-pose perfect on? Is yoga in danger of loosing its core values?
– Like I said earlier, I practice yoga to keep me sane. The physical visible results are subordinate to me. I used to have a tricky relationship with food before i found yoga. Now I am only focused on treating my body right and to give it the best environment for optimal function. This is one of the most beautiful things about yoga: You use your body and breath to set your mind straight. Meanwhile you learn to accept yourself and your limitations. At the same time you evolve gratitude towards your body and the awesomeness it can bring you into. I never count calories, I stepped off the bathroom scale a long time ago and I have no idea where my pulse is at during classes. The only thing I care about is that my body is making me able to live of my big passion, and I feel so lucky doing that!
How do you think yoga looks like within 10 years?
– In a world that gets more stressed out and fragmented every day, I both hope and believe yoga will grow stronger everywhere. A yoga practice covers the need to zone out, but it is also great tool to manage stress. At the same time as it keeps you in shape and enhances your flexibility. I don’t know how anything could be better and more relevant in these challenging times. Research shows that 36 million americans practiced yoga on a regular basis in 2016. That’s an insanely amount of people! And as Vinyasa is the most popular yoga style in the US, I do believe Vinyasa will grow bigger in Norway.
Hunden som ser ned med bøyde knæ
THREe COOL YOGAFILMs (from Maria´s book)
Kumaré, Vikram Ghandi (2011)
Ram Dass: Fierce Grace, Mikey Lemle (2001)
Yoga Unveiled, Gita Desai (2004)
Well if you dint get “The Yoga High” yet I can assure you that it is quit normal. It takes time and especially with yoga and other teqniques where we paralelly work with the nervesystem. (garuda, pilates, tai chi). But One thing is sure, we should let go of all our expectations and surrender and listen to the body. Yoga is both an internal and an external journey. And it will for sure challenge your patience (at least mine). I am very grateful for the knowledge I have from America and super happy to follow Marias world also.
If you want to order the book, click here:
Best wishes & Namaste,
Photo: Oda Berby
Maria on Instagram: @mariafurstyoga