Life with Yoga Ashtanga

Yoga is the engine of my creativity, the power beyond the performance, the spiritual fulfillment, and the single most substantial agent of transformation that I have ever experienced.

I have practiced Mysore-Style Ashtanga—the most vigorous of all yoga schools—for 17 years. My grandmother, Henrietta Reich, was the first to introduce me to yoga. I was 7 or 8 years old, and yoga was far from the popular practice that it is today. As the only yoga teacher in Tel Aviv, she had constantly learned and perfected her art of teaching. I found this out years later, when looking at her library, which was filled with yoga books in German. As a teenaged gymnast, yoga would not become a part of my life until many years later.

In 2000, I first met Heidi Fokine, my first yoga teacher. When I discovered 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 become a part of my life; not a hobby, but a lifestyle and a form of existence. Mysore-style Ashtanga is a brilliant system, where all practitioners practice according to their ability, strength, and flexibility. It was founded by legendary Indian yoga teacher and scholar K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009), also known as Guruji. I had the honor to meet him years ago at one of his annual visits to New York, where he was teaching in the early mornings at the Puck building. It was after his iconic NY visit during 9/11, famously depicted in one of my favorite films.

His chanting in Sanskrit, in the room full of thousands of students, who had flown to NY from all over the country, was like standing in front of Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall in twilight—a most memorable and spiritual moment. Guruji passed away in 2009 at 94, but his legacy has lived with all of his students everyday, while his Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India is now led by his grandson, Sharath Jois.

Beyond the peace and constant sense of renewal, beyond the contemplation and the deep connection, yoga is a metaphor, and the most amazing tool for anything you do in life. It teaches you the power of passion for long-term goals, for motivation to achieve objectives, and it is a tool to overcome obstacles and challenges that stand in the way of accomplishment. The lifelong practice demonstrates that the impossible is achievable. To practice this type of yoga for years, one must possess unwavering tenacity—a trait commonly found among those practicing Maysore-Style Ashtanga all over the world.

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