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Bibi will be with us in June 2018 for a weeklong retreat.
Do you want to know a little more about her? So keep reading
Did you find yoga or yoga found you?
I’d say we both found each other It was 2007, I was living in NYC studying Theater and I happened to move into an apartment in the East Village with a crazy friend who loved to party. The apartment was on 7th street and 2nd ave. and one day walking back from class I saw a sign that said Yoga To The People, donation based yoga. At the time I was obsessed with working out, to validate my sense of I-ness, I had gotten a free one month pass at the Y which was coming to an end. When I saw that sign I was like I should try this, it’s free!
That next day after class they had a candle lit session, I attended and had a major break through. The teacher read a really emotional quote by Rumi, it was heart breaking, the words really hit the spot. The whole experience felt like a trans, there was a perfect playlist that guided all my emotions throughout the class, I was in a puddle of sweat 5 minutes into the class, I never had breathed so much in my life! By savanna I was like Oh my god! what is this, I need this all day, everyday. The class ended with one of those crystal bowls with the really deep sound and I just started crying, I had never been in this soft spot inside myself. The teachers were so nice, i didn’t want to go home, I felt so safe!!! Home at the time was mainly just a crash pad between intense nights out, sometimes days of partying, there was never a quiet inner moment.
The yoga turned into my heaven, a place where I would feel cuddled and home.and it was like a workout so my mind was fine as it knew body was staying small… I would sometimes go 3 times a day! The sequences were pretty much all the same so I figured out the structure behind it and memorized some of them. When I wasn’t in NYC I would do them on my own.
How yoga changed your life or your way of seeing it?
That was a life changing moment, because no matter how much parting or non eating I continued to do for a few more years after that, I would always have an hour on the mat and this hour was like a moment of communion with myself and the universe. It felt safe and like home. It was private and shared with no one but me. I felt one with God since the beginning. I felt I was praying like I used to when I was little. It was never a religious God, it was my interpretation of universal love kind of God, I always had one since I was 3 but then I lost communication with him between 13 and 21.
By practicing daily no matter what, and having that community, even though I never spoke with anyone, they knew me and I knew them. I felt supported and safe and I began planting the seed of caring and nourishing myself. That seed continued to grow in my subconscious and I think it wasn’t until 5 years later when I met Ashtanga Yoga that it I gained enough Inner strength to let it sprout fully.
It’s not so much that it changed the way I saw life, but it made me feel connected to life again, and aware, very aware once I started ashtanga yoga, of the choices I made and the effect they had on me and others around me. I no longer felt alone, which when you take drugs and don’t eat you tend to feel very alone!
The more I began to listen the more I started to feel hungry for connection with others, myself and earth. So changes in my lifestyle began to happen. The inner callings became louder and harder to not listen to.
The structure of Ashtanga yoga, everyday the same, the initial rigidity of the method, and the accountability of the teacher, makes you internally and externally strong. It teaches you to show up for yourself, to turn inwards and observe your choices when something doesn’t feel just right. You become self reliant and hence learn to be a responsible human.You begin taking responsibility of your own actions.
It truly serves as a mirror to the choices you make. You learn to rely on yourself. I think you can grow with other styles of practice, but only to a certain point. I think Ashtanga challenges your mind and body so much that you are taken out of your comfort zones over and over again. It teaches you to be steady and stable. I’m not sure it can work for everybody in the same way, that’s why having an intelligent teacher is so important at the beginning, the seed must be planted right. But I think the element of repetition and consistency are essential to build faith, devotion and commitment. When you have those you can grow! Within the method you find your way to freedom.
Importance of daily practice
I think that is really the key element to the success of Ashtanga Yoga. It doesn’t matter how much you do, but you show up each day and that is a very bold statement to yourself and the universe. You are here to show up and grow.
That’s powerful. It leaves no room for excuses. It’s easy for all of us to find excuses to not do something good for ourselves. It’s important here to make clear that daily practice does not mean you have to do your whole practice. Daily practice is showing up on the mat and putting your palms together with intention, breathing and being willing to have faith. You have to look at the larger picture, you want this practice to last for a lifetime – that means 365 days (minus some moon days, ladies holidays….) times god knows how many years. You don’t want to burn out because, so you have to learn to be smart about how you push yourself. I have practiced through sicknes,, injuries, travel, exaustion…you name it, but I learned over time how to do it in a way that is softer and more sustainable, where it is not so asana and perfection oriented but more geared towards a moving prayer, an honoring of my body as a vehicle for spirit. Everyday is different and as much as I can I come to it daily with a listening approach. It took time to come to that, and I think it’s valuable to come to it on your own, especially if you begin early like I did. You have energy to burn, so it’s ok. But eventually with time you want to listen to yourself, push mindfully, hold back mindfully…travel in the midway.
From my experience and the groups of people I spend time with outside the yoga world, I realize Ashtanga gets really bad reputation because people think that they have to commit to something really challenging and strenuous and so they give up before trying. The beauty of this practice is that it is a personalized practice. There is a structure but it is traditionally taught by meeting the student where they are at, working with them and the structure to see how the structure can best serve them to be healthy .That is a key part of my teaching, meeting each student where they are at. I am invested in them as human beings and I want each one of them to succeed at life. I know each one of us has a history and not all of us fit in the same box. My teachers have always made me understand this. This is what I picked up from assisting Sharath over the years.
How many times have you been in India? What do these trips mean to you? Why is so important to keep going there?
I’ve been to India the past five years, four of the years I spend 2 months there, last year I took a shorter trip. This is the first year I miss out on going and it has been really hard. Going to India is a time of communion for me. It’s a time of deep reflection ,study and purging. It’s a time to slow down and be a student, it’s really nourishing. It’s been hard to stay away, but sometimes life doesn’t allow, and then you realize even more the importance it has in your life!
When I’m in Mysore I reconnect with my teacher and the lineage, I am reminded why I do this. Teaching everyday in one place and seeing students on a daily basis is intense. The teaching schedule is intense, especially when you live in a big city like Nyc. You run around all day and it takes a lot of energy to deal with all the energy the city throughs at you. The senses are continuously bombarded, your sympathetic nervous system is always on alert. So going to india really rebalances everything out. I feel like my nervous system and my hormones really benefit from the time there. Seeing the Guru in the home of Ashtanga reminds me why I do this and why it’s so important to do it as it is.
How do you apply the Eight Limbs of Yoga into your daily routine?
hahah that is a funny question. Let’s see, it’s not that I apply. You can’t sit there and apply the eight limbs. You practice daily an you slowly embody the eight limbs. They start to happen within you. They are like urges. All the sudden you become aware that you should care for your body and if you care for your body you begin to care about what you put in it, and about the choices you make in your life. You start to notice that what you surround yourself with affects you. You begin to see that your actions affect others. So you start to choose differently, you become curious about what you currently own,do, choose and more aware of what feels right and aligned with the greater good of yourself, and then eventually earth and all living being. There is a deep resiliency. It’s a process that unfolds naturally.
It’s good to have a teacher to guide you with these things are they come up. To ask questions and hear stories so you make the necessary changes slowly and when ready. My favorite of all the 8 limbs is Ahimsa I think all the rest of the limbs (not just yama, niyama) stem out of asana and ahimsa. Once you understand that you are in a relationship with your self and you turn that relationship into a nourishing one, it begins to change all your other relationships. You no longer want to harm anything or anyone. Non harming is not just peace and love, it can be a tough choice and often does include harming something, but it’s just the way you think about the concept of what harming is that shifts. It’s really beautiful. I think the Baghdad Gita is one of the greatest text and it really explains the broadness and depth of ahimsa in relation to our lives and our choices perfectly!!
You, as many other practitioners, have suffered several injuries. What is for you the correct approach to pain and injuries? Can these be revealing at some point?
I believe injury is an opportunity to listen to ourselves. It comes when we lack to listen, and tune in. When we let the mind or the ego run us around. I’m currently inured in many parts of my body, I know exactly why and yet I often continue to fail to choose to listen. It’s an ongoing learning process. When a student gets injured I try to have them take the time to see what they may be overdoing, or undergoing. I try to have them look at life as a whole not just what happens on the mat.
I also think it’s necessary to slow down and rest and heal when injured. I always encourage practice, but an adapted one, and depending on the student sometimes I ask for full rest to be taken. Due to a current injury I had to go back to practicing only primary for a whole month, without any vinyasa between things. It took a second for my mind to be ok with it, but it was the best! I felt so rested and my body healed slowly. I believe that we injure and cure ourselves through practice, and it’s always to learn something new.
You are also a certified health coach. Is it important to accompany the practice with certain type of nutrition?
Yes nutrition is key to practice. It’s a sadhana of itself. It’s also part of ahimsa. you can really harm yourself if you don’t feed yourself properly. In my experience practice teaches you about your hunger and how much you need. If you are willing to listen and discipline yourself you find out what works and what doesn’t. It’s taken me years to trust the process but I have never been happier!
We spend so much time thinking about meals, just because we don’t want to listen to the intuition and wisdom of the body. Practice tunes you, it’s like an inner fine tuning and if you can shut the mind chatter/noise off you’ll know what you need.
In general I consume smaller quantities of food, but highly nutritious. Greens, heaps of veggies, nut butters, beans, hummus, avocados, nuts, nut milks, tempeh, oils… I stay off coffee. I don’t eat too many grains personally. And consume a 90% vegan diet (10% of which is mainly due to my consumption of honey lol). I use mainly olive and coconut oil. I believe diversity, local food, and seasonal are the most important elements to a healthy diet, so I try to have a variety of cooking methods: raw, steamed, sautéed, baked, boiled…as each one have different energetic benefits. It’s all about what you need, just like the practice of asana, the practice of food also needs a ‘meeting you where you are at’: period in life, age, location, season, lifestyle, body type….there is no one-fits all method. That’s why I love Ayurveda so much!
Where would you like to see yourself in five years?
I’d like to live outside the city, surrounded by nature. Have a home with a small shala, an extra room with beds for guests and a big kitchen where to host small groups of people on a daily basis. Offer yoga and food sadhanas. Have other teachers come and teach workshop on Yoga, Ayurveda, cooking, health, self sustainability, healing practices… A little humble yoga community.
What can our guests expect of the retreat in Mallorca?
Each one of you can expect to be seen as you are. Come with questions and curiosity. The retreat will be an experimental space for all to learn what their strengths are. I am exited to work closely with each participant so that each one steps away with an understanding of how the practice is serving you. The cooking class we will do will show you how cooking is a sadhana in itself. Come without expectations but lots of questions and know that you will step away feeling a little more aware of why you practice and what the practice means for you. Finding that will not only help you progress seamlessly in your practice but will keep you inspired for a long time Satu DirgaKala Nairantarya satkara sevito drdabhumih
Any other comments?
I think I am known for having a more gentle approach. The more I advance in my personal practice and live this lifestyle, the more I see the practice of asana as a tool to make us better people in the world. I don’t believe in spending copious amounts of time analyzing and perfecting asanas. I focus my teaching on breath and bandhas. As Guruji says “99% practice 1% theory” I firmly believe in the many layers of meaning in this phrase. Alignment is obviously important but I first build a relationship with the student, understand where they come from and then decide how to help guide them in their practice. I don’t have a script. The goal is one – to be happy, healthy and balanced so we can be aware, good people – so the teaching is geared individually a student can find that space for themselves. Some need a tougher hand, some need a softer guidance, some need a lot of attention, some need to not
get attention…that’s the beauty of this work to meet people where they are at, and give them the opportunity to build the practice in a way that is sustainable to them!