How long have you been practicing yoga and what does yoga mean to you?
I started practising yoga in my university days, some 17 years ago. At first, it was only a way to keep my body fit and flexible. However, I soon realised that yoga can be much more than just workout. Since I’ve always been interested in energies and wanted to delve deeper into the meaning of life, I searched for answers in various books and courses. But it was only when I met my guru, Mahamandaleshwar Paramhansa Swami Maheshwarananda, that I finally found an inexhaustible source of love, wisdom and knowledge. In the 1970s, Swamiji came to Europe from India to spread the knowledge of yoga and came up with a system called “Yoga in Daily Life”, according to which I teach yoga. He established the first yoga centre in Vienna, while nowadays there are a couple of hundreds of them all over the world. In addition to my great desire to learn about life and its deeper meaning, I started getting into yoga more seriously to find answers about the real causes of illnesses and possible cures.
As I obtained a degree in physiotherapy and worked for a while as a healthcare practitioner, I am familiar with the way the Western medicine approaches illnesses and various medical conditions, and that is mainly by treating symptoms. Sometimes it might be the only way, however in most cases it is insufficient because you cannot actually heal the person by simply alleviating the symptoms of a disease. Yoga asanas and techniques affect our physical, energy, mental, emotional and spiritual levels profoundly, and that is the only way to achieve balance and well-being. Not only can we regain health with yoga, but we can also return to our source. Yoga helps us transcend our limited individual consciousness and become part of the universal cosmic consciousness.
Why would you recommend yoga classes?
Yoga poses (asanas) differ from other forms of physical practice because they are performed slowly, mindfully and with utmost concentration. They affect joints, breathing, blood flow, nervous and lymphatic system, organs and glands as well as the mind, psyche and chakras (energy centres). These psychosomatic exercises strengthen and harmonise the functioning of the entire nervous system by stabilising the psychological condition of the practitioner. Asanas help us relax and achieve self-control, calmness of the mind, and the feeling of inner freedom and peace. Breathing exercises (pranayama) regulating the vital energy together with meditation are also part of the yoga practice. I believe that all people would benefit if they realised that they have a physical, energy, mental, emotional and spiritual aspect they need to nurture to be healthy and happy. Yoga offers the knowledge and techniques to achieve this.
What is the level of interest in yoga in northwestern Istria?
Just like in the rest of the world, there is a growing interest in yoga in this part of Istria. I am very happy with the number of practitioners. There are many unhappy and ill people around us and I hope that more and more of them will start practising yoga and thus regain their health and inner peace.
What can we expect from this year’s International Yoga Day in Novigrad?
It will be a pleasant and very useful gathering in the nature, where we will enjoy the fresh air, some good company and positive atmosphere. The programme starts with a brief introduction of yoga, followed by the asanas adapted to all age groups and levels of understanding yoga, and finally a delicious and healthy vegetarian snack. Everyone is welcome; all you need is a yoga mat.
How can yoga relieve us from everyday stress?
Yoga teaches us how to relax and breathe deeply and properly to release the tension from our body and calm our mind. We believe that a fast pace of life, overwhelming pressures at work, too many duties and working hours are the sole cause of stress. However, in order to fight stress, we should ‘dive’ deeper and shift our focus from the outer world to our inner selves. We should get to know ourselves and all our sides better, as well as broaden our awareness to be able to change and let go of all negative things. This is the only way to find utter peace, balance and happiness. Once you’ve mastered that, there is no more stress! We might live the same life, surrounded by the same people and burdened by the same responsibilities, but we will become a changed person!
Finally, how much yoga practice is enough to achieve both inner and bodily balance?
It would be great for us to understand that we are the only ones who are responsible for our own health and happiness, so we should do our best to practice on a daily basis, for a half an hour at least. If we can find the time to eat, clean, shower, watch TV and hang out with our friends, we should also make physical exercise one of our priorities!