I met the lovely Martyna from Berlin, Germany during my time here in Goa. We speak about her training in Jivamukti yoga and about veganism and the importance of ahimsa, devotion and acceptance with yoga.
What brought you to yoga?
It was a coincidence- if there is such a things as coincidences- when I lived in Munich I lived across the street from a Jivamukti yoga centre.
What was your idea of yoga before you began practicing?
I think it was the same as for many people – I worked out because I needed to be fit and slim and I thought that yoga was some nice stretching that makes you fit and I fell in love with it right away after my first class.
How did your idea of yoga change?
It took a while until it really changed.
At first I was just feeling nice, physically you feel great after your first few classes and I think that’s what gets you hooked. Its the normal progress to get hooked by the physical benefits.
All of my teachers were saying all these amazing things about spiritualism and activism and this kind of stuff. I was very lucky because Sharon Gannon was coming to Munich and I took a lecture of hers. She was reading about yoga and veganism. Everything that she said was totally making sense to me. All this practice was about just ending up at ahimsa – making us strong enough to make the right decisions. I think that’s what the physical practice is all about.
What is your background in yoga?
It has always been Jivamukti. I met our teacher Rolf Naujokat here about 4 years ago- that was another “coincidence” that brought me here. (Did I mention that I don’t believe in coincidences?) I couldn’t believe this whole ashtanga thing. Jivamukti has all these nice shalas, nice vegan places with gift shops and all of that stuff. I was coming to practice here in India, walking through Rolf’s backyard wondering where the gift shop was and where I can have a vegan chai! There were so many people waiting to practice, then when I saw Rolf and his clear bright blue loving eyes, through which so much wisdom and love seemed to shine- I knew that whatever he was teaching- I wanted to practice.
What are the differences between Jivamukti and ashtanga in your opinion?
Actually I think they are absolutely the same. The approach is from a different starting point but the end result is the same thing- which is always yoga, which means unity with God .
In my personal opinion ashtanga says that there is first asana and that makes you understand the yamas and the other 7 limbs of yoga. Jivamukti starts off with yama and consequently ahimsa – for me that makes sense. I can understand both approaches and both are right but I think its really important to plant the seed from the beginning. If people hear about it- even if it still might take a while for them to understand- I think it makes the whole process speed up.
And we definitely need some speeding up when it comes to changing our attitude towards our planet and other beings.
I think it won’t lead anywhere if you act like a jerk off the mat but on the mat you can do great things – that has nothing to do with yoga. Of course if you sincerely practice for a couple of years it will make you a better person, I’m pretty sure there is no way around that but it just takes longer.
And in my opinion- we don’t have any time to lose…
Is the ahimsa aspect in Jivamuktiyoga mainly focused on veganism or are there other aspects that are highlighted?
Actually veganism is a big big topic – and the first and most important step. We practice for maybe 1-2 hours a day but we eat and consume all the time and that has a huge impact on everything. Its just not possible to be non-violent by eating or exploiting others- and it doesn’t matter if its animals or humans. There is no difference and we need to stop dividing everything into categories and to treat each other with respect. There is no difference between a mosquito and a human being – You just shouldn’t kill any of each. That might sound radical- but it’s right and yogis should be radical.
Is veganism encouraged during the Teacher Training Course (TTC) at Jivamukti?
Yes it is but they don’t force it on people.
Did you find your lifestyle changed when you started practicing yoga?
Absolutely – your lifestyle changes, everything changes and it keeps on changing eveything. The practice is a constant process of….changes. There are times when it is going great and you are really progressing and there are times when you are thrown back or injuries come up. I think everything changes really steadily and slowly, but in a good way. It’s a catharsis and a healing process.
What are the major changes you found in your lifestyle?
When I started yoga I was still working in a club at the bar and as an actress – that’s actually how I financed my apprenticeship with jivamukti. That eventually changed as I fall asleep at 9 o’clock and get up early now!
A lot of people say their friends change but that never happened to me – I still have a mix of my night-life friends, acting friends and yoga friends.
I think the major change is that I got so much more boring – maybe I’m actually not that fun to hang around with anymore.
Did you find your attitude change?
Well the big change for me was just acceptance of things – whatever life brings- just humbly invite it in. The practice is just the same as life: if there is an injury or a blockage or if you can’t do something then just embrace it – that’s the way it is. The practice teaches you to act the same way in real life. I think each posture stands for something else in life – I think I got that attitude from practicing yoga.
Injuries in practice are big chances for progress and growth – the same in life, whatever is happening is always a big chance for transformation. I don’t know who the quote is from but I really like it – “the wounds are the places where the light enters you”. A big point is that compassion grows from suffering because you have to know how it is and how it feels to understand.
What inspired your trip to India?
It was to teach a jivamukti retreat but the other teacher got sick so we had to cancel the whole thing. She had practiced here with the teachers in Goa before so I came here to practice with them.
How do you find yoga here in India in comparison to Germany?
Whats really funny is that yoga in India is a westerners thing – people here just don’t have the time to do it as its a luxury. I think that’s another thing to be grateful for- to have the possibility to practice at all is a gift.
Is there anything else you would like to say about yoga?
One thing that Rolf (yoga teacher in India) said is that devotion is the absolute most important ingredient of a yoga practice and I think that’s what a lot of people are losing these days. Its all so physical and people get so ambitious about their physical practice that they are losing their devotion and I think that is what makes the big fundamental difference. That is what it is all about- devotion.
When I get stuck in my practice I come back to this – its a prayer, a physical prayer. Its a healing practice – we are healing ourselves to be able to be closer to God. Closer to the light.
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