I met the wonderful Katerina from Russia during my time practicing in Anjuna. It was so lovely to meet Katerina and her family and be inspired by their way of living, moving from place to place with their beautiful daughter to practice and teach yoga as well as exploring new places and creating a space to share yoga and new ideas. Katerina runs yoga retreats worldwide: Yogintours.
Here we spoke about Katerina’s journey with yoga, yoga as a mother and what it all means to her.
What brought you to yoga?
It started 10 years ago, I was just trying different things – trying to dance, trying to draw and do things that were interesting for me. Once I went to a yoga class I fell in love. Since then I have kept practicing.
My first class wasn’t ashtanga. I’m from a very small city in Russia and there was only one class available there with a very talented teacher so I started with this. Later I realized that yoga is a lot more interesting than I initially thought.
What was your idea of yoga before you started to practice?
Before I thought it was people who I saw on TV who can walk on a bed of nails and swallowing glass or another crazy things – that it was an ancient art. I didn’t really know anything about yoga before.
How did your idea change?
I came to yoga for the asana, the physical exercise. Then after a few years of practicing I started to read books and get interested in yoga philosophy, also my teachers introduced me to all aspects of yoga, not just asana. Now for me its a very deep philosophy – I don’t separate asana, meditation, pranayama. It is the whole thing.
For me the changes came with time. I believe our mind opens and develops during the practice. It doesn’t happen straight away, with years of practicing my opinion has changed a lot. It happened slowly, slowly – year by year- changing many times in different ways.
What is your background in yoga?
I like hatha yoga with a vinyasa element. It is the style I started with. I tried a little of yoga therapy, Bikram, Iyengar, Acro but it was only hatha yoga that I was practicing regularly. About 3 years ago I found ashtanga yoga.
I would also like to try Forrest yoga with the founder Anna T.Forrest. I hope to meet her someday.
Some people like to keep with one tradition for their whole life and they dedicate themselves to one style but I don’t. I really like new stuff and I think if you feel like you need something new then why not, you know, just explore – I mean everything is good if it feels right in your soul.
Did you find your lifestyle changed when you got into yoga?
Yes, a lot.
I’m always in the present now, I don’t think about the past or I don’t think a lot about the future. It’s like when I am practicing yoga I can’t even think about what I am going to do tomorrow or that I have to do the shopping!
When I do the practice I am really in the practice – now its the same with my life. If I am here right now on the beach, talking to you then I am right here. I don’t think about what I need to do after that or what happened yesterday.
So you travel a lot, how does yoga influence that?
I have been traveling for the last 10 years. It started around the same time that I started yoga. I don’t have any base or home house and now we have a little baby who is almost 11 months old and we still keep traveling, moving from place to place.
What we are doing now is that we are creating a list of all the teachers with whom we want to practice and we will go and visit them.
We also try to make yoga spaces everywhere that we are. It’s for our own practice and I also teach there.
Did your practice change when you had your daughter, Maya?
My practice changed a lot. When I got pregnant I stopped practicing ashtanga and I started to practice prenatal yoga. Its a really new age style with lots of nice breathing techniques and hip opening. I think it helped me not only physically but psychologically.
Also with Maya now I try to listen to myself more and what I need today – if I need just rest I do that. From Maya’s third month I opened a baby yoga class. This is a kind of mutual practice where you can help recover your body, relax and stay away from daily routine but at the same time you don’t leave your baby. I think its very helpful for new mothers to be surrounded by people in a similar situation.
How about a spiritual aspect of yoga or meditation? Did you find that develop?
Yeah – meditation is actually a very difficult topic to talk about. For me its realization of who you are and if you accept that you are who you are.
Its like with yoga, you don’t compare yourself to someone else or rate yourself as being good one day or bad another day – it actually really helps to laugh at yourself and who you are today, who you are right now in this second, in this spiritual moment of yoga. How you practice asana or meditation is not important- some people don’t practice asana but its still yoga.
I spent a lot of time reading the yoga sutras and books on philosophy about yama and niyama and all these steps. I found them in my daily life and that all these recommendations for living from Patanjali very suitable for me.
Would you like to talk about the yoga retreats that you run?
Well, three years ago I started organizing retreats for my students which I run in different countries like India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Greece and Russia. Its usually one or two week retreats with yoga, lectures, meditation and pranayama practice and there is some raw food or ayurvedic cooking classes. Its for people who would like to go for a vacation but would like a healthy vacation – so instead of just lying on the beach you can also do yoga and different spiritual practices.
On our last retreat we had dancing with the ocean and the teacher shows you how to breathe under the water. There was also massage by singing bowl, a kind of meditative practice to help the chakras and move energy and also a mandala making lesson.
I run it with other teachers, its nice for myself and for the students as well.
How about your time spent here in India?
It was a magic time. I’ve met nice people, got new energy. I have been practicing ashtanga with Rolf and Marci, Iyengar with Ian and vinyasa flow with Julie Martin. Also I was lucky to visit the yoga festival with such powerful teachers like Noah McKenna, Laruga, and Balu. At the moment we have a yoga shala here in Anjuna called ‘Shala Mandala’.
Anything else you would like to say about yoga?
I just wish for people to start to practice yoga, explore it yourself. You can go to yoga in many different ways, you can start by reading books, pranayama, meditation – whatever. Eventually it will create a whole picture of the universe and that’s a really cool feeling.
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