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!)?
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?
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…