Achim was my lovely German neighbour for my first month here in India and we had great conversations about life and yoga over our morning coffees after yoga each day. Here Achim talks about moving out of his financial background, taking up yoga as an alternative to weightlifting and martial arts, his reasons for coming to India to practice yoga and how this has impacted on his life.
What brought you to yoga?
10 years ago I was into the gym and weightlifting . I was really bored and I thought it would be a relaxed alternative, so I did it and I felt great afterwards – refreshed. That was my first time doing yoga and being in contact with Ashtanga yoga.
What was your idea of yoga before you began practicing?
I thought yoga was not very challenging, more about sitting, breathing and singing om. I wasn’t aware that it can be physically challenging as well, bringing you to another level.
I did martial arts for several years on a competitive level and when I quit that I did weights as I didn’t know what else to do until I did Ashtanga and I had a similar feeling as I had when doing martial arts but I felt more balanced when I did Ashtanga yoga, more refreshed and I had more energy.
How did your idea change?
I realized that when I practice I feel so good afterwards, balanced. For example if I have had a bad day and I go to Ashtanga I notice that my feelings change during the practice and afterwards I feel really good – I have a different perspective. One of my teachers described practicing yoga as pushing a reset button every morning, for me its the same.
I realized that its not only physical, there is a lot of stuff going on behind it. It changes you, it changes your body, it changes your perspective of things, of how you want to nourish your body.
Its nice to see that it comes from the inside and that its not a case of this is how its done or how everyone else does it. It doesn’t come from the mind, for me it comes from heart. It felt healthier for me. I think its more genuine.
What is your background in yoga?
I tried many different styles. My first style was Ashtanga, I did Hatha also, which I found too slow for me. I like Jivamukti style but not so much what it entails- as for me its too much dogma.
I practice in Frankfurt in a place called Private Yoga Institute. There are a lot of authorized teachers from India teaching there. When I practice Ashtanga I feel like its more internal, the longer you practice its more like inside meditation.
Did you find your lifestyle change when you got into yoga?
Yeah, it definitely changed. For the first 5 years I only practiced 1-2 times in a week. I realized I wanted to practice more and when I was doing my MSC in London I was practicing twice a week. I had a feeling I wanted to practice more but I also had a feeling that it would affect my life in a very significant way – socially, emotionally and at that point I wasn’t ready- I wasn’t ready for the transition.
The following year I started to practice more frequently and then I came to India at the start of the year and I started practicing 5 times a week first thing in the morning and I’ve continued ever since and its definitely changed my life. I go to bed earlier, I’m more conscious of who I meet during the week.
Its also very important for me to have the balance of a ‘normal’ life and a ‘yogi’ life. I’m not living in a yogi world, I’m living in Frankfurt which is basically a finance world.
Did you find your attitude change?
I studied a very finance orientated degree so at that point I wanted a career to make money, to be successful in the stereotypical view. Then I realized when I started my career in investment banking that I didn’t like that world – I don’t like the attitude, the social dynamics. It made me realize that there are more important things than the stereotype of success – having a good job, earning a certain amount of money each year, having to succeed and show off. For me its more that I want to be happy with what I like. I think once you’ve got that point you will find a way to change your life to that point.
What inspired you to come to India?
I did my first yoga retreat in Koh Samui and I liked it a lot but it was more like a vacation. I wanted to experience something that was simpler and back to the roots and a lot of people recommended I come and practice here.
How do you find yoga in India compared to Germany?
When I compare it to Germany I feel that here I have more freedom. It doesn’t matter how long it takes- the way is more important than the goal, whereas in Frankfurt sometimes there is the feeling that its – not competitive- but maybe a stronger dynamic or more strict, getting into the asana instead of the correct way to get into it. This is what I really like.
The energy created here in the shala you feel like blessed beings being here. You feel like you do your own practice and you are guided in your own practice and its not like you follow this system where you have to form yourself to follow this system, its more like the system can be changed or modified to suit you and not the other way.
What can you say about India as a spiritual place? Do you find it spiritual?
Definitely everything I experience here is more intense.
Life is simpler here, you can really see whats important for you and not what should be important for you – maybe that makes it more spiritual because you really get to the point where you realize ‘OK, this is important for me, this makes me happy, this is the way‘. There is the opportunity to go for other treatments here that support your practice – ayurvedic doctors, energy work, physiotherapy – it just opens so many doors that would not have been available to me in Germany or western society. So I guess that makes it spiritual.
What will you take from your time here in India?
I think when I am here I have the feeling that everything is possible, its not like the way is set but its more like here I have the feeling that I am more present to see what feels good and I just want to do it because it feels right. I have more confidence to believe its something good and its going to nourish me. Whereas in Germany us Germans always think about what can go wrong, where the angle is or if its a good idea- so there is a lot of thinking.
I guess staying here for a long time makes you follow your heart a bit more.
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