Toivo Glatz: My Yoga story
I practiced Ashtanga for the first time back in 2014 while I was living in Leipzig, Germany for a couple of months. After that I have been on and off with hot (Bikram) Yoga and enjoyed the sauna-like sweaty experience. All this time I exclusively attended led classes, so before participating in Maxi’s immersion course about a year ago, I never practiced in Mysore style. I like the Mysore classes because everybody does the practice in their own capacity, so I can adapt my practice to my own needs. For me, Mysore classes feel very different from led classes. In a Mysore style class I am much more concentrated and my focus is inwards, compared to a led class where my mind eventually wanders off and I merely follow the flow. I also made the experience that led classes increase the risk of somehow competing with myself and others. For example, if the poses are changing too fast, I tend to skip my adjustments and may injure myself. Starting with my own Mysore practice, really did something, not just with my body but also with and for my mind. Through my practice, I feel more grounded and can engage in the matters of the day with a fresh perception.
I usually practice at Maxi’s Yoga school during the morning Mysore classes. Afterwards I feel very empowered and that not much can shock me anymore during the day. I mean, I have already been upside down and all :) Morning practice works best for me, as in the evenings I do not feel very energetic, or am craving for food, or during the day I came up with "more important" things to do instead. Sometimes I practice at home but at the Yoga school is my favourite choice because of the group spirit and the help by the teachers. In addition to starting my day with Yoga, I also like to start my practice by sitting down for about 10 minutes, meditating and trying to listen to whatever is coming up inside me. Only recently I experienced the importance of making this time for self care, and the Ashtanga Yoga practice is a way of taking care of myself.
About a year ago, I had some physical and mental problems due to an accident, which made me loose trust in the abilities of my body. As a consequence, I started to explore new ways to regain this trust again. This is how I came to participate in the One Month Ashtanga Yoga Immersion for Newcomers with Maxi, and over time it helped to reconnect with my body. Now, after about one year of Mysore practice, I can come up into the headstand. I'm still a bit puzzled how this is possible though. Doing the headstand feels strange, extending the legs up in the air, being upside down, but it somehow works that I have the strength and inner orientation to come up. Overall, the practice made me more aware of my body, more confident, with more stability, focus and steadiness of my breath.
This practice was and is in no way easy though, you kind of face yourself. It makes you spend a lot of time with yourself, with everything that comes up. Ashtanga often makes me angry, or even furious because I feel certain limitations of my body. The most prominent one is that my hamstrings are very tight because I have been cycling my entire life and never did any stretching. I have done a lot of long distance bike journeys, which makes some of the asanas of the primary series almost impossible for me. Going back to this challenge on a daily basis is tough, and may seem sadistic at times. But this process made me realize that for many years, I would venture out for trips, covering very long distances by bike or on foot, in which I exhausted myself. Maybe as a way to escape and numb myself from my day-to-day life. Even though this gave me joy and some form of relief, sometimes these trips felt like a torture as well. This seems to change now as I understand more when I am overdoing something, and I really don't like overdoing things anymore. It is so much better to deal with the day-to-day issues on a day-to-day basis, and Mysore practice gives a good place and time for me to do just that.
My favourite pose is child pose. It is very relaxing and has this feeling of introspection. For me it brings an experience of kindness, as well as surrendering down to earth. My least favourite pose these days is Marichyasana C. It is difficult because of the combination of shoulder and hips and the struggle to twist and I feel like there is not much space, not even for breathing. Interestingly, this is also one of the poses where I notice a big difference between my left and my right side.
I am a researcher at the RUG, in the department of in Neurolinguistics and Language Development. I investigate language disorders in children (specifically dyslexia) and am now busy working on completing my thesis. My other interests are being in nature, taking and editing photos and music (playing guitar). My working hours are intensive and as a PhD student there is always more to do than can be done. I love what I do though, so I often push myself to the limit and forget about my own needs. During my work, I spend extensive hours behind the computer, and I can easily forget about time. My posture suffers a lot then, and the practice helps there to make me feel better.
To newcomers to this Ashtanga school I want to say it is very beneficial to have a regular practice. While we all have reasons to start doing Yoga, one should approach it without expectations. Another, seemingly contradictive, pair of advices are to never forget to be kind to yourself, but at the same time also going to where it hurts and expose yourself to upcoming emotions like fear or frustration. Challenge yourself, but take a step back when you feel you are crossing the line.
To finish my story, I’d like to share something I witnessed at the school. A practitioner came into the shala and laid down her mat and sat down. After less than a minute, she got back up, took her mat and left... without doing any asanas. I was, and still am, very touched by this. So often when we are busy, the first responsibility we get rid of is taking care of ourselves, when in reality the hard and busy times make it essential to take care of ourselves and show up on the mat.