R. Alexander Medin is a native of Oslo, Norway where he grew up pursuing many different talents. He became Norwegian Champion in boxing at 18, but then gave it up for a career as a ballet dancer. He was first introduced to Ashtanga Yoga in 1995 and it has been part of his daily practice since. After many visits to Mysore, he was granted a Certification to teach Ashtanga Yoga by Pattabhi Jois in 2002. In 2004, he completed his post-graduate degree in Sanskrit and Indian Religions and has since taught Yoga in many places around the world.
I was in Stockholm on a holiday with my son Benjamin, on my way home from swimming I met an old friend of mine who was on the way to an Ashtanga class, I always wanted to try it out, so I joined him. It was in 1995, hardly anybody was practicing then, the class was in an office, teachers just cleared some desks and we rolled out our yoga mats. We were 5, 2 teachers, Charlotte and Gittan, who are still teaching in Stockholm.
After the class, I remember I was in savasana thinking, ‘woooow, this is incredible, it just feels right‘. And I have been doing it since then. For long time I was practicing with a book, by Lino Miele, with John Scotts’ drawings. Shortly after I moved to London, I was in the middle of a dance and acting career, so tired of constantly trying to prove myself, with no idea of who I really was. I was living for the stage and living a dream of becoming somebody, without having a clue of much else. I was really trying to make it as an actor, but one day I just felt ‘this is just crazy’, and a thought came into my mind: maybe I should just focus on this thing called yoga for a while. My plan was to get back to acting as well as dancing later, but it never happened. I got totally immersed in the yoga scene in London, and started to practice with John Scott.
In 1998 I went to Mysore for the first time, I arrived on a full moon day in July, which happened to be Gurujis’ birthday. I came with to much of attitude, Guruji certainly felt it, but he still allowed me to watch. I came to the shala the day after, after a while I got really bored and I did a few postures on my own, and finished off in padmasana. I thought Guruji was asleep, but suddenly I hear – ‘hey, what are you doing, get out of here’ and he threw me out.
After this I went back to the shala every day for three months, but I was not allowed into the practice space, after 3 months of intense practice at home he finally let me in to practice, with Sharats’ help.
I was practicing primary for almost 3 months, but one day I got really, very sick and I had to stop. I took a break, when I came back, something had shifted in me, I was still on primary series, but I felt that the practice started to change me: I had been there with so much aggression, so many imbalances, looking outward, and suddenly I started to look inward. Guruji saw all this. He saw me for who I was, with all the negativity, issues, with everything. I bowed to his feet and a completely new connection started between us.
What do you emphasize in your teaching?
I have been teaching Mysore classes for almost 15 years now. It took me at least 10 years to understand what I was doing. The first 5 years I was doing what I thought was right, trying to be just as Guruji and Sharat.
But practice changes us with time, it humbles us. Ashtanga yoga is beautiful, it is life changing, but we have to give it time, it is not the meaning for us to understand all of it at once.
There is a beautiful strength that comes from the simplicity of being, something the practice can teach us, and when we remain humble and receptive life unfolds in a beautiful way. I try to make students to see the practice as a way to explore our breath and mind while staying in the postures. To use the practice as a way to breathe through the many layers of discomfort, free up space from within and examine the subtle layers of our mind. Deep within us is a clarity of being, a source of joy that is constant, but unfortunately we tend to cover it with to many projections and confusion. If we realize that there is nowhere to go, nothing to get we start the exploration of now. If there is a limitation in our body, we have to learn to approach the area in a new way. I try to be traditional in the Mysore room. I am trying to bring a presence to the room where people feel observed and seen.
Learn more, be inspired and practice with Alexander Medin in Goa! Alexander Medin is teaching a two week retreat at Purple Valley Yoga, between Oct 22 2014 – Nov 4 2016.
The Mysore Style classes are for anybody familiar with the Ashtanga Yoga sequence. The led classes are for beginners or intermediate people who are exploring their ways about the practice. They are suited for complete beginners as well as those with years of experience.