Yoga to learn to know yourself –
my name is Anu Visuri. I was born in Finland and now I am living in Munich, Germany. I have studied languages and pedagogy at the University of Turku in Finland. When I finished my studies I started to work as a language teacher in the middle school. After five years teaching I knew that was not my true occupation. The Universe seemed to share my feelings and brought to us, me and my husband, the opportunity to leave Finland and move to Japan. In Tokyo, Japan, I studied Japanese language and culture and on the side I really found yoga… and fell in love! After three years in Japan it was time to move back to Europe, to Germany, where my “love affair” with yoga continued, and still continues, even deeper. When I am not practising or teaching yoga, I read. I have the habit to start with a new book even if I am not ready with the previous one… at the time I am reading four books “simultaneously”.
Your path to yoga ?
When studying in Finland I visited a couple of yoga classes at the University. Every time I found the classes really nice, but apparently I wasn’t ready for a deeper yoga practice then. I preferred aerobic classes and the gym. When living in Japan I had lots and lots of time for myself. I started to run and strengthen my body. My husband bought us Wii Fit and there was a yoga practice, which I often did by myself. Soon I noticed I was doing this one practice more often than I went running. Yoga made me feel my body in a way I had never felt before. It was magical. I also started to search for online yoga classes. After a while I decided I needed to go to a live class. I found a great yoga studio in Tokyo, which offered classes also in English. Soon I went there every day, sometimes twice a day. The staff often made jokes, that I should just bring a sleeping bag with me and sleep in the studio…
There isn’t any specific reason why I started to practise yoga. I just followed my heart. I noticed I liked the yoga people around me. I also noticed I liked myself more than before. I became a nicer person. I was happy.
Then one of my teachers in Tokyo asked me, if I was interested in teaching yoga. First I laughed, but then I asked myself, why not? I wanted to do the teacher training, which my home studio in Tokyo was offering, but the current of life brought us to Germany…
The first thing I did in my new hometown in Germany was finding a yoga studio where I could continue my yoga practice. I did find it. Then I checked where I could do a yoga teacher training. I did find that, too. We moved to Germany in April and in September I travelled to Reith bei Kitzbühel in Austria for a month to join a Sivananda Yoga Teacher Training. Back home after the training I immediately started to teach… my first student was my beloved husband! Then I started to teach the Finnish ladies in my town. Soon the owner of my new home studio asked if I would like to have couple of classes to teach. I said Yes!
How do you practice yoga?
I practise two hours 5 – 6 times a week at home. I am grateful to have my own yoga room for asana practice and meditation. Sometimes I also take online yoga classes. Every month I join a workshop or an intense yoga practice in some yoga studio. For example last week I joined a philosophy, hatha yoga and therapy training with Doug Keller. There are so many great yoga teachers in the world and it’s always an honour to study with them. And, there is always something to learn about yoga, about life.
Where are you teaching yoga?
Currently I teach in two studios in Munich, in yogalounge in Pullach and in the Yogastudio by Sports & Health. For more information about my classes and retreats you find at: www.anuvisuriyoga.com
What are your classes like?
In 2012 I completed the Anusara Yoga Teacher Training and in 2013 I became an Anusara Inspired Teacher. So, I am teaching Anusara Yoga. Anusara combines the life enhancing tantric yoga philosophy with the Universal Principles of Alignment (UPA) of Anusara yoga and a sense of community, belonging together (kula). A class always has a philosophical, life enhancing theme, which is woven into the asana practice. The asana are practised with care and focus on body alignment. Anusara Yoga is truly therapeutic, not only for the body, but also for the mind and the soul.
Why should I practice yoga?
What one must remember is that yoga is not only a physical asana practice. Yoga is a possibility to learn to know yourself and to understand the world more clearly. Yoga teaches us so much about ourselves and about life. Of course asana practice strengthens our bodies and with a strong and healthy body we feel better, also emotionally. Most of the people start with the physical aspect of yoga, which is great and totally okay. The deeper we go into the asana practice, the more aware we become of our body, thoughts, feelings and what’s happening around us. We take part in life with a higher awareness and become more active in the world. Yoga makes us better people.
Are there any risks in practicing yoga, what to pay attention to?
Every time we move in some way, there is a risk of an injury. If you feel pain when doing an asana, you are probably doing something wrong. Then you need to take couple of steps back, ask your teacher for advice, and what’s most important, start to respect your body. We only have this one vessel, so we need to take care of it in a way that keeps it operable and functional through our whole life. Don’t push it, but feel it.
What do you need to practice yoga?
First you need to listen to your inner intention, why do you want to practise yoga. Everything we do begins with an intention. This intention keeps you motivated and compassionate about your practice. Secondly, keeping a beginner’s mind even though you would be intermediate or advanced in your practice gives you the opportunity to learn more about yourself and to grow as a conscious human being.
As equipment you will need comfortable and stretchy clothes and a yoga mat. The yoga mat shouldn’t be too thick, since it can make your foundation unstable. It is also good to have two yoga blocks. They help you to align your body optimal on your sticky mat.
Should one combine yoga with a special diet?
First, you shouldn’t practise on a full stomach. If you accidentally do yoga on a full stomach you will quickly notice why it is not a good idea… After eating it is good to have at least two hours before you start with your yoga practice.
Many yogis are vegetarian, some vegan, but I also know yogis who eat meat. What is typical for a diet of a yogi, is that you know what you are eating. You check where the food comes from, how the vegetables were grown, how the animals are treated and so on.
People who practise yoga regularly soon notice, that eating healthier, i.e. more greens, less meat, makes their yoga practice easier. The body is lighter, the mind clearer and the soul happier. The most important thing is to listen what’s good for you and what’s not. How does your body and mind react when you eat certain foods? If you are always tired soon after having a meal then there is something you should change. Food shouldn’t make us tired, but give us more energy. Yoga is something we do to make our body healthier and then we automatically start to do other good things for us. That’s how it works.
How can a I best combine practicing yoga in a studio and at home with Gotta Joga?
It is totally okay to start your path with yoga at home with Gotta Joga. The yoga sequences are thoughtfully designed for a safe home practice that gives you a strong basis. But it is also really good at least once a week to go to a live yoga class, so that you can get some feed back how your asana practice is going or if you are not certain about some yoga pose, to ask a qualified teacher for advice. This will make your home practice with Gotta Joga even stronger.
Some people may feel shy to go attend a class in a studio. They feel strange about the om and feel like they are not flexible enough.
If you have never been in a live yoga class, you should first go to a beginner’s class, where there are many other beginners. Then you feel you are in a right group with people who are at the same level with you.
When you keep your inner intention and an open mind the om’s in the beginning and at the end of a class won’t bother you. And, soon you will even enjoy singing this eternal sound of the universe. And, maybe you even start to hear it in the wind, in the waves of the ocean, in your own heart beat… By the way, you don’t have to sing om if you don’t want to, just listen to it.
Many people say that they can’t practise yoga, because they are not flexible enough. But, the thing is, you start doing yoga asana to become more flexible. It is also important to remember that yoga is not just stretching. Yoga also makes your body stronger. Actually it is better to be stiffer than really flexible when you start with yoga, because then you really feel your body and get to know it better. If you already are flexible you probably can do many poses, but the awareness of your body is not so strong and you easily injure yourself. So, just step on your sticky mat, but keep an awareness of your body!
Do you have an experience where yoga has helped you to push through a breaking point in your life?
Life is not and should not be monotonous. A friend of mine always says that life is like the EKG (electrocardiogram): When there is just a flat line your life is over, when the line goes up and down you are alive!
Yoga has helped me to understand that there are breaking points in our lives and we should accept that. Just like you might fall on your sticky mat, but you will always get up. What I need to do during these phases of my life is to see the possible advantages. Can I learn something from that breaking point? Did it make me stronger? Did it bring me closer to my loved ones?
Twice in my life I’ve felt I can’t go on, because of a death of a loved one. But stepping on my sticky mat and doing chaturanga dandasana (Four- Limbed Staff Pose) over and over again let me feel my strength and made me acknowledge that death is part of life’s cycle and that my sorrow is actually my deep love towards those who now are gone. For me yoga is remembering that life is not easy but it is beautiful in its every aspect.
What is your favourite yoga pose and why?
I don’t have an one favourite yoga pose. I like quite many of them. And, actually, I think we shouldn’t get stuck on the things we learn on our path, and that includes the asana. There are couple of asanas I don’t like at all, and that gives me again the opportunity to learn more about myself and grow as a conscious human being while practising those yoga poses.
Here is a photo of me in a variation of visvamitrasana. I don’t like this pose, because I think it is somehow too much for me to keep my balance, open my hips and my shoulders all simultaneously in one pose.
What pose would you do now?