Category Archives: Interviews

Maria Boox at Purple Valley Yoga Center in Goa

Maria Boox is one of the legendary yoga names in Sweden. She was one of the first Scandinavian yoga teachers to open a yoga shala in Scandinavia. She has practiced both with  BKS Iyengar, is authorized by Patthabi Jois and is now studying intensely with the O.P Tiwari. Maria was one of the participants in the David Keil and Gretchen Suarez retreat earlier this season, where we got an opportunity to both have a chat with her and make a few videos. Maria will be visiting Purple Valley for the first time in April 2014.

Soon in Purple Valley

Soon in Purple Valley

1. What brought you to yoga?

A deep longing for something beyond the materialistic world. A deep longing to get to know who I am. I started to practice both yoga, pranayama and meditation in the beginning of the 80’s. For many years, during longer periods I was living in India, deepening my understanding of yoga. My yoga path took me to all different teachers in the world.  The first Master was Mr. Iyengar, in Pune. I stayed at his Pune Institute almost a year. There I got a certification from the great Iyengar to teach yoga. That’s how I started to teach yoga.  After some time I met Guruji, Sri K Patthabi Jois: with him I felt like I was coming home, he became my teacher – and he still is. After 15 years of intense yoga studies, I was one of the first teachers in Skandinavia to open up a yoga shala, in Stockholm. At that time yoga was not known to people, and in the beginning we were very few on the mat in the mornings. My very first classes were for free and after some time I had a donation box. But that didn’t work so well so after some time I started to charge for classes.

Supta Kurmasana

Supta Kurmasana

2.How would you describe your way of teaching, what is specific for it?

For me yoga represents many things, one is to get to know yourself and develop faith within and without yourself. To practice asana gives us a connection with the body and the mind, beyond that, goes pranayama and meditation. The intention of the yoga path is to live in harmony with whatever is. Yoga is a tool in life, and with faith, it can take us beyond our thoughts and help us to break old patterns. The ones that seek for answers to the great mystery of life, will find answers through dedicated practice. As yoga students for life, we can take great inspiration from Patanjalis’ Yoga Sutra 1:14 “First when a correct method is practiced during a longer time, with dedication, without interruption, with an eager and positive attitude, we will have a possibility to succeed”. My teaching is based on love, and to see each student for what they are in this moment. Not to push or force anyone to be what they are not. Everyone is perfect as they are. If fear is in the way to love life fully, I as a teacher can challenge that fear on the mat, as well as guide students in their practice, to go through obstacles safely and with respect. I hope to be able to plant seeds of possibilities for each student, encouragement and suggestions, rather than expectations or directions. Practicing ahimsa – love, compassion and understanding towards ourselves and others and being present with every breath, will lead us towards the vital connection with what is bigger than us, which brings a deeper faith and trust towards ourselves and our lives

3. From where do you get your inspiration today?

Today the big inspiration for me is still – Guruji.

Maria and Guruji

Maria and Guruji

I am hoping to pass on his teaching of ashtanga yoga, the way he would have wanted me to teach. I also get inspired by Sharath and Saraswati. Last year I met Shri OP Tiwari. Tiwarji is 81 years and has dedicated his life to teach pranayama and yoga philosophy. He is a very wise and kind man, always smiling and with time to answer questions. In the meeting with Tiwarji I moved deeper into pranayama, and will go back to him for further studies of the light, of this wonderful yoga path. Below is a short video of Maria about yoga… you can see more of her as well as other teachers on youtube.com/yogagoa  

Meet the staff – wonderful Sashi and Shishikala

The juice bar would not be the same with out him…

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Sashi has many skills, except for making juice

Sashi is one of the people who work here at Purple Valley, he has been around here the longest, together with his beautiful wife Shishikala, they both came to Goa, twenty years ago.

Leaving their home state Karnataka, and the region Bijapur behind him, Bijapur being a big agricultural hub, Sashi felt he did not have any interest in following in his father’s footsteps. After finishing his schooling and junior college, and after his marriage, he decided to settle down in Goa with his wife.

Sashi and Shishikala met at a young age, and it was love at the first sight; fortunately their parents agreed to their union. Shishikala’s family, as well as that of Shashi, are simple people, and with both the families sustaining on agriculture, there was no possibility of a big dowry. Before the wedding Shishikala’s mother asked him what he was expecting from his in-laws in a dowry, and Shasi said proudly, “You are giving me your daughter, this is enough for me…”

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Sashi and Shishikala

At that time Shishikala was 19 and Sashi just 23…. Today Sashi is 43 and with a big sparkle in his eye, he refers to his marriage as a Gold marriage and his wife the Diamond in his crown.

He says that today he treasures his family the most – “God has given me a wonderful wife and three wonderful children.”

With a proud voice he says that all three are doing extremely well at school. Looking back at his life, he is very happy with the decision to settle down in Goa, the education system here is much better, according to him, and his children are also getting the opportunity to learn English, something that would not have been possible in his village in Karnataka.

Today Sashis extended family has chosen to move to Goa as well, for better prospects, with most of them working as vegetable sellers in Mapusa and  in the south of Goa. They are now eleven family members staying together.

Shashi says that when he first came to Purple Valley, which was 10 years ago, the retreat was just being built. “I came as a laborer, helping out with the construction. Looking around the retreat area he proudly says, “I laid many of the foundation stones to the buildings here, the Ganesh house, the Cottages, the Shala… and still during the off-season I help out with whatever has to be done.”

During the busy season, he is the one who greets all the participants as they come out after their morning practice. As soon as they reach the terrace of the retreat, they find a smiling Shasi who offers them a fresh coconut.

During the day Shasi is in charge of the juice bar, it has been his responsibility for the past five years. With sharp attention, he keeps an eye on the pool area, making sure that the guests have whatever they need, and their favourite juices are always available during their stay at the retreat….

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The Juice Man Sashi …

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Sashi and Shishikala

 

Alexander Medin – an insight into practice.

63e470fdR. 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.

How did you get introduced to Ashtanga yoga?

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.

shala small

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.

Meet the staff! Karolina, Director of Purple Valley

Karolina

Photography: Nikhil Kripalani

Karolina Zakrzweska is the new Director of the Retreat. Here, she reveals her passion for the practice, life in India and her love for working in Goa….

Tell us a bit more about yourself

I was born in Warsaw, Poland, and moved to Sweden at an early age. After wild teens, followed by studious years, I was planning to be a garden engineer, but I landed in Rhodes, Greece, and something within me decided to not return to Sweden. Over a decade later, I have still not returned, and rather than becoming a garden engineer, I chose to work in tourism. This brought me to travel throughout Europe, north Africa, and finally India.

As soon as I entered this country I just felt ‘at home’. This was exactly 10 years ago, and I still feel the same. India is so vast, there is so much to see and experience, culture, people, colours, smells: it reflects the ultimate contrasts of life….

I love culture, history, meeting people, studying various traditions and ethnicities. Travel opened my eyes, created an understanding of ones’ differences, as well as a deeper understanding of peoples’ ways of interaction. If everyone was able to travel a little more and see other cultures, I feel the world would be quite different.

India is a country experiencing very fast transformations, and not all is developing at the same speed. Traveling through the subcontinent, you can sense -and see- huge culture clashes. The ancient meets the modern world; slums face modern buildings; it can be fascinating but not always a pretty sight…

Before coming to India, I was a very active person, always interested in something deeper within and beyond the human mind. As well as remembering that nothing is permanent – there is a constant transformation- to accept this, when you come into a later stage of life – is not always easy.

India fed my interest of a deeper development, and still does, like no other country. Here I discovered ashtanga yoga.

Ashtanga has balanced me – with an ashtanga practice you go deep, deep inside yourself. I cannot find words to describe this, and it feels that all you say – to describe the practice, are unnecessary words. You may as well remain silent. Ashtanga and yoga has to be experienced through the self.

It is 99% practice and 1 % theory, for sure. Practice is so individual just as a human life, but it is life changing. It is also impermanent, in a constant change. Joyous and painful.

What led you to Purple Valley?

My first retreat – and I remember being so nervous- was at Purple Valley, with Kino Mcgregor and Tim Feldman. I had only been practicing for a few months and the retreat made me fall in love with the practice even more, and as well Purple Valley. Shortly after I met my teacher, Rolf Naujokat, with whom I have been practicing daily for almost 6 years.

At the same time I was working working in the travel industry, I found space to develop management skills in India, and getting used to working in this environment.

But now here I am – at my dream working place – Purple Valley.

I remember riding my bike many years ago, passing by Assagao, thinking – I want to live in this little village and I want to work at Purple Valley…. Now I do both.

What happens in a ‘normal’ day at the office?

Since this is my first season at the retreat, my office days do not yet have a set routine. A ‘normal’ day would start with my own practice, followed by breakfast with the guests, emails, checking the retreat and the retreat area. Making sure that everything runs smoothly, from the kitchen, rooms, pool, garden etc, is the key. Some details may seem small, but are incredibly important. As well as different office tasks and situations that might occur during the day. There is always something to do at Purple Valley!

On Fridays, we may plan a social event with guests, a sunset, dinner at Thalassa or perhaps a film night.

For now, I am still focusing on getting the final elements of the retreat ready for the season, absorbing all necessary new information, familiarizing myself to a new working place, observing and learning.

What are your top 5 tips for things to do in Goa (outside the yoga shala!)?

copyright, Matthew Parker

Photography: Matthew Parker

Walking on Ashvem beach.

Idlis and Dosa at Sitas

Sunset and dinner at Thalassa

Unwinding with a massage.

Relaxing by the pool, in the garden with a good book.

And some of the worst (things to avoid)?

Calangute/Candolim/Baga in a car

Calangute/Baga beach in the middle of the season – and in a bikini.

Anjuna over Chrismas and New year- too many loud parties.

What are you most excited about at the retreat this season?

Everything!

Work, yoga, all the amazing teachers to meet and practice with, the guests coming to Purple Valley, and working with the Indian staff. Everything is incredibly exiting.

Working with both tourism and yoga makes me very happy.

What do you love the most about practicing at Purple Valley?

I love the shala.

The walk to the shala early morning, through the garden, when it is little dark, totally silent.

The background scent of incense, wet soil and frangipani is tantalising.

The moment you roll out your mat, in silence, waiting for practice to start.

The Purple Valley shala has been exposed to such a strong, collective ashtanga energy for years, with dedicated teachers and students, and this vibrates within the space.

In my opinion, there is no better shala to practice in the whole of Goa! And I have practiced in many…

Just like when you go to Mysore, the energy is amazing…

Copyright, Matthew Parker

Photography: Matthew Parker

Clayton Horton

Clayton Horton Clayton Horton is hosting the first retreat of the 2013/14 season, and this will his fifth time teaching at Purple Valley. Clayton has studied and practiced yoga for over 26 years and has been teaching since 1996.

We asked Clayton a few questions about practice, teaching, inspiration and music….

1. When/how did you find yoga, who inspired you most?
My first yoga class was actually a pranayama class in Mill Valley, Northern California that my Mother took me to when I was 22 years old. I was inspired by Richard Freeman’s primary series vhs tape in the early 90s. I was also inspired by other Northern Californian yogis who came back from India with mystical tales and adventurous stories of their trips to Mysore, India to study with Pattabhi Jois. Early on, I also took classes from Baron Babtiste’s parents studio in San Francisco where meditation, yoga and conscious weightlifting were taught.

2. The source of inspiration today?
Today, I am inspired by the development of my own practice; a deep meditation, a sweaty relaxing full asana practice, a good surf or swim. Making an honest positive contribution to the world in real time, keeps me grounded in my responsibilities. I love helping and inspiring others. Going to Mysore and studying with Sharath and being around so many people who are grounded in their own practice is always an inspiration for me too.

3. Why did you decide to become a teacher?
I expressed yogic tendencies as a child and as I began to become a young adult, I noticed I was interested in spirituality and the occult. After working in the restaurant business for several years I saw teaching yoga as a way out and into a field where I had some potential to create a better world for myself and others.

4. Today you are mainly a traveling teacher? Why?
I had my own studio for several years in San Francisco. It was very hard work. I love traveling, meeting new people, seeing new places and seeing friends that I have met from all over the world. There are so many communities that are hungry for inspiration and sincere teaching. It is a huge open road. I will probably always travel and teach, but now have built myself a small house in the Philippines and I have an amazing girlfriend…so let’s see what happens

Clayton Horton5. How would you describe your way of teaching? Where is the emphasis?
I describe my method of teaching as traditional yet light hearted. My emphasis is on developing qualities such as, devotion / consistent practice, correct breathing and technique (alignment and dristhi), positive attitude and wakefulness. The mantra is simply: ‘be nice’.

6. Can you mention something about Shivaburns and Kirtan.
I started playing guitar when I was 14 years old. Later, in my twenties I played in Bands and studied music in school. At times, my practice is quite devotional and kirtan is a great bridge between my love of playing music, connecting with others and the divine. Shivaburns is my stage name, my yahoo@ name. Burns is my middle name.-) I enjoy offering kirtan chanting and live music in my workshops and retreats.

7. Why would you recommend somebody to come for a yoga retreat, how is it different from practicing at a shala in your hometown?
The wonderful thing about a yoga retreat is that it is a retreat away from distractions, tasks and responsibilities of your ordinary life. During retreats, you can really focus on your practice and your Self. This is a real gift to be on this kind of a yoga vacation where you can be “away from it all”. The mind has a chance to slow down and greater Self reflection and deeper awareness is possible. There is nowhere to rush off to. At Purple Valley, all your meals are prepared by the staff and the pool and juice bar are right outside your door.

Clayton is leading a two week retreat at Purple Valley from October 26- November 8th 2013. He will teach Ashtanga classes 6 mornings a week and 4 afternoon workshops with a daily focus. The afternoon sessions will include some technique, meditation, restorative practices, philosophy and Kirtan (devotional chanting).
All levels are welcome…