Life with Yoga Ashtanga

Yoga is the engine of my creativity, power beyond performance, source of spiritual fulfillment, and the single most substantial transformative agent in my life. I have been practicing Mysore style Ashtanga—also known as the most vigorous of all yoga schools—for 15 years. The first to introduce me to yoga was my grandmother Henrietta Reich, the sister of renowned German writer Lion Feuchtwanger, when I was 7 or 8 years old. Back then yoga was far from the popular practice that it is today. Over time she obsessively studied and perfected her yoga teaching until she was the only yoga teacher in Tel Aviv. Years later searching through her library, I found it to be full of yoga books in German.

Since I was already committed to gymnastics as a teenager, yoga could not become a part of my life until many years later. It was in 2000 when I first met Heidi Fokine, who became my first teacher. Once I learned that we were born on the same day at the same time on opposite sides of the ocean, I immediately knew that it was meant to be. Yoga has since been an integral part of my life; not a hobby, but a lifestyle. I have since progressed, and the Mysore style Ashtanga has become a part of my existence. This brilliant system, where every student is assigned their yoga routine according to their ability, strength, and flexibility, was founded by the legendary Indian yoga teacher and scholar K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009), whom I had the honor to meet years ago during one of his annual visits to New York when he was teaching at the Puck building. Hearing him chant in Sanskrit in a room full of thousands of students from all over the country was like standing in front of Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall in twilight—an incredibly memorable and spiritual moment.

Guruji passed away in 2009 at age 94, but his legacy lives on through his students every day. His Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India is now lead by his grandson Sharath Jois. Beyond the peace and sense of continual renewal, beyond the contemplation and connection, yoga is the most amazing tool for anything you do in life. It teaches you the power of passion for long-term goals, for motivation and achieving objectives; it is a tool to help you overcome obstacles and challenges that you will face in your path to accomplishment. This lifelong practice demonstrates that the impossible is achievable. You have to have the character, the grit, and personality to practice this type of yoga for years. I have found this to be the common personality type amongst those practicing Mysore style Ashtanga all over the world. I feel fortunate everyday to have this treasure in my life.