Please tell us about yourself and give us a quick summary of your Yoga journey?
I started yoga in 2009-2010 as a side activity to compliment a background of martial arts, mainly boxe and Brazilian jujitsu. At the time I was practicing once or twice a week, being mainly interested in the breathing management aspect of yoga. I remember I bought a book from van Lysebeth entitled “Pranayama: breathing science” and I was so fascinated by it, trying to incorporate breathing routines and some postures into my training regime. I have then fully embraced the yoga journey and attended workshops and teacher trainings throughout Europe, India and Asia. I did not have a job at the time and I completely dedicated my time to it, practicing early morning and teaching during the day. I was lucky enough to travel and practice with very experienced people. My background in sports and Yoga, and wanting to know more about the human body led me in 2016 to train as a chiropractor at the AECC University College in Bournemouth, studying various aspects of the human body from an academic and clinical point of view. Prior to this, I received my Master’s degree in Philosophy in Italy at the University of Macerata.
Is there a cross over between chiropractic and yoga?
The western point of view about yoga focuses on the fact that it is an activity which should lead you to fitness and good health. However, this is not necessarily the belief system in the east as Yoga is often conceived merely as a spiritual practice. Like one of my mentors used to say “the main difference between how we practice and how the Indians practice, is that they pray with the body”. Obviously, my training as a chiropractor has been focused on the neuro and musculoskeletal system with a strong emphasis on improving the body’s physical function; I have also studied various aspects of nutrition which works hand in hand with the practice of Yoga. But at the end of the day, I think that mind and body aren’t that different and the link between the two – if we want to keep talking about them separately – is represented by the breath, which is a central feature of the yogic practice.
What experiences have developed your opinion of yoga?
This is a very broad question and I would like to answer with an example:
Like any practitioner, I experienced minor injuries while practicing mainly due to a lack of understanding of the human body and how to move it. I had knee pain for years, I kept practicing ignoring it since the priority for me was not to be “healthy” or to “maintain a good body shape”. I was hooked by the mental state in which the practice of moving through the breath used to bring me in. Until the point I could not ignore the pain anymore. So, the experience of pain led me to think differently about the practice, to develop a broader perspective and to be less rigid about my routine. I used to have such a rigid way of practicing, doing the same thing over and over every day, when I actually realised I needed more plasticity in order to evolve. I try to transmit this concept to my students when I teach. If yoga should teach us to be more flexible – both in body and mind – wouldn’t it be a contradiction to remain trapped in a rigid system? I am a firm believer that we progress and evolve as human beings when we face what’s unknown, so sometimes it’s worth to shift perspective, to change your point of view.
I obviously try to maintain the integrity of what I have been taught, especially regarding the how to teach, although in some cases I have to adapt to suit what is required.
Is ashtanga yoga and advanced form of yoga?
Ashtanga could be viewed as an extreme way of practicing Yoga due to the tough regime. In ideal circumstances it should be practiced six days a week, early in the morning. And if you have a job, and maybe a family, it can burn you out instead of giving you energy. Likewise, diet is of vital importance in order to maintain this regime, as sometimes classes typically take over an hour and a half to complete. Personality is also a major factor in sticking with Ashtanga as it is a fairly hard form of Yoga and many beginners are sometimes scared by it.
Having said this, I believe that ashtanga is really for everyone, as long as you are willing to practice and sometimes challenge yourself. We should first get rid of the concept that we have to be able to perform certain positions, or certain transitions, at least at the beginning. I believe that the core of this practice is represented by the connection of breath and movement – after all that is what vinyasa means – so as long as you breath and move, it doesn’t really matter if in your Trikonasana your hand is on the big toe or just below the knee. It is your practice, not someone else. It is about how you feel while your doing it, not how it looks.
This misunderstanding is obviously favoured by our Instagram based culture where everything “looks” rather than “is”. But dropping the judgment towards ourselves – and consequently hopefully towards others – constitutes a big part of the journey towards understanding what is really important for us. That should be reminded at the beginning of every yoga class…
Do your classes follow a routine?
Yes, when I teach ashtanga I follow the same routine composed of sun salutations and the ashtanga sequence, mainly the primary series. I provide alternative poses for beginners but in the primary series there is already everything, it is such an amazing sequence.
When I teach Hatha there is greater flexibility for incorporating different things but it always encompasses some degree of meditation, pranayama exercises and movement of the body.
I believe in variety and personally at the moment I keep a varied routine. Besides yoga, I practice strength lifting some weights, I like running, sometimes I swim…Most of the times injuries and traumas arise from repetition, from repeating the same pattern or movement over and over. The secret of longevity in terms of maintaining healthy tissues is variety of movement. Not only but moving the body in different ways gives our brains more motor patterns and consequently more capacity to adapt to different situations.
If you were writing this interview what would you like to say?
The yoga phenomenon has recently exploded and there are many good things that have come out of its popularity such as people becoming more aware of their wellbeing, people being more connected to themselves. It provides an opportunity to destress as we live in a world that is not really compatible with our nervous system. As someone said, our environment changed dramatically in the last decades, but our body and genetic equipment did not change much in the last few hundreds of years.
But also, Yoga is clearly losing its nature so if you are starting, remember it is not a sport or just a form of physical activity. Make it a personal journey and a tool to get to a deeper understanding of your own self.