NAME: Greg Nardi
AGE: 38 years
PLACE OF BIRTH: Pt. Pleasant. N.J., U.S.A
PROFESSION: Yoga Teacher
YEARS OF PRACTICE: 15 years
I was invited by a friend to take a class at a local yoga studio. In 1996, Yoga wasn´t as popular, so i didn´t know any different styles and there were few celebrity teachers. I just thought all Yoga was the same. From the first class, i loved it and took every class on the studio schedule for the next several months. I also started to go to NYC which was about 40 min by bus from my house, to take as many classes as possible. One day i was asking strangers on the street if they knew of a good Yoga studio. Someone direct me to Jivamukti on the 9th St. and 2nd Ave. Sharon Gannon happened to be teaching that day. It was the first time i ever experienced the vinyasa style, and the first time i ever got a full on body adjustment. It was amazing! I walked out of the studio feeling like i was walking on air. When i learned their Guru was Pattabhi Jois, i tried to find an Ashtanga teacher. In 1998, i found a teacher named Raji Thron who had been a student of Richard Freeman. He was very encouraging to me and supported my practice a lot. He was the person who first suggested that i go to India to meet Pattabhi Jois.
HOW LONG IT TOOK FOR YOU TO COME FOR THE FIRST TIME TO MYSORE, INDIA? CAN YOU SHARE WITH US, THAT FIRST EXPERIENCE, OF BEING IN MYSORE AND LEARNING WITH GURUJI?
I came to India in 1999. I had a plane ticket and a piece of paper with Guruji´s address on it that Raji had given me before i left. I showed it to a rickshaw driver and he dropped me off in Lakshmipuram, though he didn´t know which house was the right one. I just started knocking on doors and asking people where the Yoga teacher was. People were kind and kept pointing me in the right direction. Eventually, i walked up to Guruji´s door. It was a little bit before the daily conference that he used to have back then, so he was sitting in his chair waiting for me. I was pretty naive, and i thought that meeting your guru would be some grand and formal experience, but Guruji just invited me in a very casually as if he had been expecting me. I had so much excitement and nervousnes, but he just had this very grounded energy. He was always able to do that for me. If i ever felt overwhelmed, he could get me grounded in a second with a word, a touch, or a gaze. I stayed about 3 months on the first trip. I quickly learned that Mysore is someplace that you come back over and over, that it takes a long time to learn the series and how to teach it properly. There was a sense of gravity and a recalibrating of my standards for practice after coming on that first trip.
AFTER YOUR FIRST TRIP YOU CONTINUE TO COME TO MYSORE, DEEPENING YOUR EXPERIENCE AND KNOWLEDGE IN THIS YOGA SYSTEM. WE ARE NOW IN 2012, AND YOU ARE STILL STUDENT OF KPJAYI. WHAT GURUJI AND SHARATH JOIS HAVE THAT IS DIFFICULT TO FIND IN OTHER TEACHERS?
It is very clear that Guruji and Sharath both have had a deep and profound experience through their own practice of Yoga. When they teach it is with the weight of experience and it is passed to us with unwavering commitment and faith that this method is for our benefit and the benefit of the world. Each time they have taught me, this faith transfers to me in some way that quickens my own experience of Yoga.
Our community has become global as Ashtanga Yoga has become a worldwide phenomenon. Mysore has become the organizational center that maintains the standard of the tradition. It seems implausible that it would maintain its current level of continuity and cohesion without the dedication and commitment of Guruji and Sharath. I for one, have seen minor changes to the system as years have gone by, but i and many others, rely on the KPJAYI to maintain the current standard in our community. I know that not every teacher feels this way, and of course teachers pass on the tradition based one the way in which they were taught, but this astonishing level of continuity is why we can travel the world and comfortably walk into any Ashtanga studio and feel like we have a common language.
The Jois family has been giving generously their time, energy and resources to ensure the purity and continuity of this tradition for many years. They make space for any student who is sincere in their desire to learn. They demand of us all that we become better than we believe we can be and we are transformed in the process. Their steadfastness has earned my devotion, and that devotion is often times what gets me on my mat.
WE PRACTICE A YOGA SYSTEM THAT HAS A LINEAGE, FROM SHRI T. KRISHNAMACHARYA, TO SRI K. PATTABHI JOIS, AND NOW SHARATH JOIS. THERE ARE MANY TEACHERS AUTHORIZED AND CERTIFIED BY KPJAYI, IN YOUR OPINION WHAT THEY ALL SHOULD BE AWARE OF TO HONOUR AND PROTECT THIS LINEAGE?
We are in the midst of a modern renaissance of Yoga. I think it is important that we realize that Yoga as practiced today is being created in the pull between tradition and modernity. We must honor the lineage of Ashtanga Yoga and maintain the standards and traditions while doing our best to translate these traditions for our own culture, country, shala, and students. The teacher holds a vision that we receive through close contact with the lineage of teachers. We must take our place in the line to pass this vision on to our students at the students ability level, mentally, physically, and emotionally. As teachers, we cultivate the students potential to meet the high standard of the Ashtanga Yoga tradition, and give them the space to grow, even when the students don´t see the potential in themselves. Lineage and tradition are living things. As teachers, we should remember that we are servants and stewards. We hold the space and vision for the next generation to take its place in the lineage.
YOGA IS BEEING SPREAD ALL OVER THE WORLD, WE CAN FIND SCHOOLS EVERYWHERE, ALSO ASHTANGA YOGA SCHOOLS. IN YOUR OPINION, AS AN ASHTANGA YOGA TEACHER THAT ALREADY HELPED TO BUILD UP NEW STUDIOS. HOW YOU FIND A BALANCE BETWEEN THE YOGA SPIRITUALITY AND THE BUSINESS OF YOGA?
If we don´t keep the doors of the studio open, then everyone loses because there is no platform to spread the teachings. However, in a modern world i feel it is imperative that businesses, especially Yoga businesses become leaders in the community by having strong ethics and positive values. The most important part of any business plan, in my opinion, is a strong vision and core values. Theres will permeate every aspect of the business and spread to the teachers, employees, and students of the studio. When running a studio, it is best to constantly monitor the culture of the studio to make sure that it maintains yogic ideals. The marketing, policies, customer service, along with the teachers and staff should all be held to a yogic standard. In my experience, students respond positively to this integrity and take pride in being part of the community and the business thrives because of the quality of the Yoga that is practiced there. Those who teach Yoga and run studios should remember that what we offer is a service. We don´t always give people what they want, but rather we pass on a system that when practiced diligently will make them better, happier, and healthier people.
AFTER ALL THESE YEARS, WHAT IS YOUR INSPIRATION TO KEEP PRACTICING?
The Indian word Dharma is often translated as "duty". I think, though, that it reflects a deeper significance. It is like we are all in this crazy world together and we all have our part to play. I believe the world is trying to evolve, and Yoga is what allows me to be conscious of my part in that. It keeps me clear in my mind and healthy in my body so i can be aware of my connection to the world that i live in. Yoga is my Dharma.
IF YOU HAD TO ADIVE OTHERS TO START PRACTICING ASHTANGA YOGA, OR TO CONTINUE WITH IT, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL THEM?
Don´t ever give up. There are many reasons that we can find not to practice. We all go through that. There is frustration, pain, laziness. This is even written about in the Yoga Sutras. We have to see this as part of the practice and just commit to getting on the mat anyway, treating ourselves with compassion for the dissatisfaction or suffering that we experience, and realize its impermanence. There are many truths that are implicit in the Ashtanga Yoga system, but they may only become obvious after time, effort, and diligent practice.
IN A WORLD THAT LIVES FOR THE OUTSIDE, ASHTANGA YOGA BRING US BACK TO OUR INSIDE. CAN YOU DESCRIBE US IN A SMALL SENTENCE, WHAT YOU FEEL AND EXPERIENCE EACH TIME YOU PRACTICE?
Each day is different, but i try to remind myself before each practice that Yoga is a ritual of coming back to myself over and over again.