The Many Faces of Yoga: India Edition – Paulina Drutel


I was so happy to meet Paulina from Poland during our time in Goa – we were neighbours and also got to practice and hang out together a lot talking about our journeys with Ashtanga yoga, meditation and travelling. It was such a pleasure and I look forward to our next journey together.

What brought you to yoga?

I got into yoga in Spain. It was  friend of mine who was looking for a class and I went – it was Sivananda style.

At that time I was very much into parties and I didn’t have a very healthy lifestyle so my friend told me about this teacher. It was a very small school with only 8 students. When I started I was going 2-3 times a week which was really nice.  I found it really peaceful, the teacher was really nice and it started to change my life.

What was your idea of yoga before you began practicing?

I was always a little bit interested in yoga – I had never done asana before but I read the bagavadgita when I was in highschool. I had some idea of yoga – that it was meditation and I thought it was the spiritual way.

How did you idea of yoga change?

Actually it didn’t really change because the class was very mindful. Sivananada style is very slow but my teacher at that time didn’t do pure Sivananda style – there was always a bit of pranayama, meditation and the instructions were very good.

It was kind of what I had expected because the group was small and she was such a peaceful person so my idea didn’t change so much.

Has it changed over the years of practice?

No, not what I consider ‘real yoga’. I have been to classes that I wouldn’t think are yoga.

I think my idea hasn’t changed with the good teachers – I’ve been to some classes that are like gymnastics, but the styles for me are more meditative.

I’ve been to some classes I didn’t like. I don’t know maybe there is some kind of negative image that I have of yoga in western countries where people hold hands and I don’t know, this for me was the image that many people have of yoga but I always thought yoga was something much deeper. Some people are afraid of yoga because they think its always like this but I consider yoga to be very internal.

How did your lifestyle change when you started yoga?

So much!

I used to smoke cigarettes and marijuana but naturally after the class I wanted to smoke as it was my habit but it felt so uncomfortable. Slowly I couldn’t do those things anymore – it was kind of annoying me because that was my lifestyle and all my friends were still doing this but I just couldn’t. The same happened with alcohol and all other things – I had to drop it.

The teacher never preached to us – she would never impose any ideas but it was just naturally happening. It felt so good to be in this peaceful state so I just dropped everything – alcohol, drugs, everything- it was really interesting.

Did you find your attitude changed?

Yeah well i thought it was changing but now I am looking from this perspective that I have now I can see that my attitude is changing, but after many years.

I started maybe 10 years ago so now I feel that I have become peaceful and I can also accept things – either good or bad- without getting too attached to them. I guess its less probable for me to get offended by someone, but not always. I think its the journey, sometimes it brings up some things that are stored inside, like suddenly we become aggressive or annoyed and I think that sometimes this is part of the practice. I think its not about always smiling and looking happy but its more about living with what comes up.

Maybe before if I was in a bad mood I might have felt I have the right to be aggressive to other people. So if I see I am rude or impatient or something like this, maybe now because of yoga I can observe it and see that actually my attitude shouldn’t be imposed on other people or it shouldn’t spoil the day of other people. Maybe this is a change – I can see myself doing something. Of course I’m not perfect- the nice thing about yoga is that I can see it, this is the nice thing about the practice.

I used to be more about trying to get to do the postures in my ashtanga practice – whereas now I just enjoy it and stay in the present moment. Sometimes I’m flexible, sometimes I’m not – so to just allow it to be, rather than pushing myself. I also don’t like to be lazy in my practice so I’m trying to be aware of that.

What is your background in yoga?

I started Sivananda in Spain, then I did a hatha teacher training where I learned pranayama which was nice. It was good to learn other techniques for pranayama and breathing and meditation.

For me I find ashtanga the most suitable for me – asana wise. It combines vinyasa, the breath, movement and bandhas. I got into ashtanga 5 years ago as I really wanted to clean my body after a serious illness which meant I had to take a lot of antibiotics . I memorized the series and I kept it up and met teachers and I learned what ashtanga is about.

You have been living in Asia for 5 years, is that because of your yoga practice?

I think so – well now it is. I think that’s why its hard for me to go back to Europe- or anywhere that there is no teacher it is hard.

Do you find a difference between yoga in India and Europe?

I don’t think there is any difference if you have a good teacher. I practice with Buncho in Bangkok and I really lik it – It depends on the teacher. I guess its also nice to practice in a beautiful place like Dharamsala or the nature in Goa – its better than practicing in Bangkok, the environment is better but if the teacher is good its just about the practice so you can be anywhere.

How else has yoga helped your life?

In many ways. It fixed my body – I had lots of trouble in my hips and my shoulders, lots of things which I wasn’t aware off and that were causing me some imbalance in my body. Its only now, maybe after more serious practice, that I have started to change in a physical way. Sometimes if I get sick it only lasts one day, I feel very strong.

How about emotionally?

I don’t think its to help as it stirs up a lot of emotions, I don’t know its just a process or a path. There are things called yoga therapy- it will stir things up useful source.

It definitely makes you stronger as a person but also I think it alters your perception and you may feel stronger but you become very different from other people in many ways. Some people may consider you crazy because you are different from the rest of society! People may think that yoga doesn’t help you but that it makes you crazy or that it attracts crazy people.

It changes your life- I don’t know if it helps but it changes your life.

Anything else you would like to say about yoga?

I think everyone should practice it, maybe it has the potential to make the mind very peaceful if you start practicing.

In ashtanga there can be a lot of competitive people and commercial stuff but I think if you start at a young age or if it were taught in school maybe there wouldn’t be so much of this. If you are a competitive person as an adult it may bring more of this onto you.

Maybe if you do it with a good teacher who is an intuitive person so that whenever they see that your ego is coming up they will always say something to bring you down – not to be so confident and comfortable in your ego. A good teacher is very important.

I think it should be taught generally at schools and it could change the world. Maybe the general scene is not so interested in it because it would make less competition and aggression and wars are based on those things.


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