Three weeks ago I spent the weekend in lovely Ericeira, one hour north of Lisbon. As I know the Lisbon area pretty well due to lots of prior trips to Portugal, I decided to take the bus and discover something new. My first time in Ericeira had been two months ago and “luckily” it coincided just with the worst weather ever, it was cold and rainy and as I went surfing in the end it was almost warmer to be in the water than outside. Besides all that I wanted to come back so when I got the chance due to my work to be in this area again, I went there for another weekend already having some “favorite” places (and there are plenty.. you can just walk along the coastline and will find one wonderful place after another to just sit down and contemplate).
Besides being a great spot for surfing (check out Action Waves Surf School), this time I did my homework and contacted some yoga studios beforehand in order to find classes during the weekend. This is how I met Nadia, a half Egyptian/half English Yoga Teacher living in Ericeira and I was finally attending my first Ashtanga class. I never tried out this style before thinking its too advanced but again, it all depends on the teacher. I´m blessed to have been able to meet Nadia who guides you into the poses with calmness and always has alternative poses for you in case you cannot do the primary series one yet.
For my home practice I got myself a book called “Ashtanga Yoga für Einsteiger” (for details please check the “I like” page) where every pose of the primary series is explained and also the history of Ashtanga. For everyone wanting to start his or her practice, its a nice to have for some background information. In the end you will note that Ashtanga is not a completely new system but that most of the Asanas you surely have already been practicing in other styles. In Ashtanga, quickly resumed, you work with certain Bandhas, focus your view on certain points (dristhis) and do the poses in a prescribed sequence.
Nadia has quite an interesting life story to tell as well. Yoga made her life quite different from what it has been before. Similar to me, she has been working in Banking though nowadays she is earning her income teaching Yin and Ashtanga in Portugal. In case you will be around, I highly recommend checking her homepage FiveDeepBreaths for more details and the timetable for her classes.
Below please find a short interview I made with her after attending my second class on a sunny Sunday afternoon:
How did you get into contact with yoga?
“My first experience with yoga was just in a local gym in London where I was living. I had been attending a lot of gym classes; spinning, body pump, circuits.”
Were you also a trainer?
“No, I was just doing my own thing after work. Working out to unwind and de-stress and a few people told me that I should give yoga a try but I never had. I tried a bit of Pilates first and then one day I woke up and thought, ok, today I’m going to go to a yoga class. I will give it a try. And I went and I had no idea that was going to be the beginning of what has been a wonderful journey for me so far. That from that very first class I would then be sitting here with you now having just taught you an Ashtanga class in Portugal! I didn’t realize the effect it would have on me. Yoga is very powerful. Perhaps some people might take a while to feel that but for me it really was an instant connection.”
And your first class was also an Ashtanga one?
“Yes it was, but I had no idea. I just saw people going through all these poses and I remember just standing there for a while watching them thinking ‘they know what they are doing but I have no idea what’s coming next’! Of course, that is something you learn later, you are always going to be a beginner at something, somewhere. Just take your time and enjoy learning. I also tried many other styles. Iyengar, Hatha, Vinyasa Flow, but I kept coming back to Ashtanga.”
And then after practicing for only six months you started your teacher training?
“Yeah, pretty much. After that first class I slowly substituted all my gym classes with yoga classes. Instead of all those spinning and body pump classes, I was going in the other direction to the yoga studio. And it started to become a daily thing for me. And then I had the feeling that I wanted to go to India, to go to the source of where this all came from. At that point, I wasn’t thinking about becoming a teacher, I was just fascinated by yoga and wanted to deepen my practice and explore it further. So six months later I found myself in Goa and I did my teacher training there with a school called Himalaya Yoga Valley. It was perfect. Originally, my intention hadn’t necessarily been to become a teacher but after the training I felt that I wanted to share this yoga that had benefited me so much with others.”
And so you have been teaching since 2012?
“Yes, exactly. It was in 2012 that I qualified as a teacher although I didn’t teach straight away. I was living in London, doing different kind of work and my intention was to teach somewhere hot and tropical and so I actually moved to Mexico! I lived there and taught in a cozy little studio (Paraíso Yoga) for 6 months.”
Quite a different set up bearing in mind that you worked in Investment Banking before! You told me that yesterday was your anniversary in Ericeira.
“Yes, it was! There were some times in between for example after Mexico where I went back to London working in a different field but I always had in mind that my aim was to come back and teach yoga somewhere in the sunshine. I didn’t know where it would be and it ended up being Portugal! And yes, yesterday marked my first year here.”
So talking about Ericeira, any recommendations? What is your favorite spot?
“Oh, there are so many. Ericeira is a paradise. Even though I live in this surf town full of waves, I actually don’t surf but I really enjoy stand up paddle boarding which I do in Foz de Lizandro. It’s lovely. For me stand up paddle boarding is a sort of meditation. This Quicksilver shop where we are sitting right now, Boardriders Ericeira, is a great spot, with the terrace, skatepark, bar and, of course, yoga where I teach downstairs!
And the food here is amazing. Yesterday, for example, for my one year celebration we went to Uni Sushi which is a great restaurant – the sushi is delicious! There is amazing seafood everywhere here. Plus the fresh fruits and vegetables you can get from the market and all the nice little local cafés.”
Thank you so much. Any last comment?
“I would say Yoga is for everyone. Even if you are not flexible or scared to try out your first class or if you feel shy or intimidated – just go for it! Maybe you won’t find the right style right away but keep trying; different teachers, different styles and find what you connect with and then just let it work for you and enjoy your practice. Don’t push your body to be in a certain place, just take it easy, give it time and let the yoga do it’s magic.”