This path ends here
Today was my last yoga class in our lovely shala and I feel the need to reflect on my yoga path a bit.
I started yoga some 10 years ago because my back hurt. At the time I was playing competitive football and floorball and trained hard. I could not be bothered with stretching or anything aiding recovery which meant that by the time I opened the shala door, I was a true stiffie with an extensive history of injuries, big and small.
The beginners course was taught by Frank Kappas and I did not understand a word he said. It did not matter, however, because I was just happy doing pushups and sweating puddles on my mat. The pushups continued in the weekly classes but not regularly as I still played. Played until my cruciate ligaments tore up and immediately after, my disc prolapsed. I tried to keep the yoga alive while injured but since I was just a beginner, I did not know my body or understand my practice well enough to breathe through the pain.
After I healed, I came back to the shala but my practice was still haphazard. I experienced first hand how doing yoga every now and then means tight hamstings and shallow breath. Even with this random practice, I decided to go to Lino Miele’s retreat in Houtskari to see how the real yogis live and breathe. Although morning practice six times a week was heavy on the muscles, the retreat did make me feel like this is something I want to learn more about and once the Oulu guys asked me to start assisting in the classes, I was completely sold.
For some time I still juggled different activities: yoga, assisting yoga, ballplay, coaching, and of course work. After yet another knee surgery I dropped pretty much everything else except yoga (and work) and gradually stepped into a routine of 4–5 practices a week. Regular practice did weird things to my body and I started to open up, ever so slightly. Because of all the injuries, my practice is, and continues to be, more therapeutic than amazingly acrobatic, but I stopped worrying about that at some point.
Assisting yoga deepened my practice, I wanted to learn more about asana but also about the other limbs. Although I felt incompetent assisting the second series while being stuck in the first myself, in my strong moments I thought there is something a stiffie can give. I also figured that since I have had almost every injury there is, I can help share information about healthy alignment and other related things. What I got out of it was awesome: the joy of helping others in their practice.
My work took me to places and allowed me the luxury of yoga tourism. I wanted to have a teacher, maybe even a guru, and freely explored with different people, all in the tradition of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois though. I learned that elsewhere the touch can be rough and a tourist easily ignored. I also saw that there are a lot of devoted teachers and yogis practising all over the world, thus wherever you go, the shared practice ties you to the community and makes any place feel a bit more like home. All this taught me about what I wanted to avoid or pass on to the people I assisted.
I don’t know how much of what has changed in the past ten years is a result of yoga. But I do know that during these years it has become an important part of my life. And although I will soon have a new home shala, Niilontie is always my Home shala.