Interview with Nina Alfers: facilitating integration through Yoga

Nina AlfersI remember when I was a kid, Yoga was something that I would have never felt I would pursue as a career in my life. As a matter of curious trend, most of the children in India don’t dream becoming a Yoga practitioner–we are more attracted to the luxurious life that Western countries supposedly enjoy. Sadly, this state of mind among Indian children continues.

However, when you meet or get to know somebody like Nina, who has never been to India (yet), but has explored the intricacies of yoga practice through sheer passion and grit, you get to wonder why you never pursued it yourself. Why you never thought it as a way of your life! It’s like sitting on the goldmine in India and hoping to extract it from Coolgardie. (!)

Nina has conducted yoga classes and trainings in Australia and Thailand, and now has extended her reach to Bali, Indonesia.

We present an email interview with her about her journey as a traveling Yoga practitioner and teacher, and how she feels connected to it.

Q1. How you got into Yoga? Where did you learn?

I was working at a local Bikram yoga studio as massage therapist, and yoga classes were thrown in as a bonus. Having had tried yoga years earlier, I had written it off as a fairly boring and innate practice that leads to whingeing conversations amongst middle aged women. I did a few months of Bikram practice, because it was included in my rent – and found that it triggered my personality in the worst way: it fully embraced my inner competitor. I changed my lifestyle, I changed my diet. First, to be able to make it through one class comfortably without having to sit a posture out. Then, to increase the number of classes I could do in a row without sitting a single posture out. Then I got bored. Which was the point at which one of the teachers suggested I come and take a look at another studio. At first I was resistant. Proper good old yoga was not for me, I had decided that already. One class at the other studio convinced me otherwise. The potential! The possibilities! The intellectual stimulation! I became an apprentice at that studio, and a couple of years later taught my first class. I wasn’t ready. You’re never ready smile emoticon.

Q2. Is there a special kind of change that Yoga has brought in your life?

Through yoga, I have learned patience. You cannot hurry the breath. You cannot hurry a development. You can force things, and at times they will work for a while – but to do things properly, you have to feel and breathe and deeply understand your way through them. You have to allow for your inner wisdom to reveal itself and allow its guidance to lead you where you need to go. Trust, patience and breath.

Q3. How much time you devote daily to practice?

What is practice? I practice all the time. Both physically and mentally. I am moving in my body, I am contemplating, I keep coming back to certain points and moving into a different direction. It’s ongoing and never ceases.

Nina AlfersQ4. Does it make sense to learn Yoga from online resources and other similar material?

I have come across a very few asana practitioners that have learnt most of what they knew from online classes, then joined taught classes to go deeper into their potential. Most people are not capable of that. They lack the humility and insight that is required for this deep level of contemplation and learning about yourself. I believe it is much easier with an external guide who sees you more objectively and can suggest solutions or approaches to your development. Counter to the common belief that yoga is taught to you by a guru, I believe in it taught through community. Expose yourself to a group of people. Decide that you want to learn and learn with them. For yourself and them. To become a better person in this world. How can you do that just with you? Yoga is about breaking down your status quo. To learn trust. To learn how small and how univeral you are. To learn that you don’t matter unless you can apply yourself and what you know about yourself for others.

Q5. Is there a particular age from which one should start Yoga?

When do you start to breathe?

Q6. Tell us about your studio in Nusa Lembongan. How did you think of starting it in Bali?

I had been running yoga teacher trainings and retreats in Thailand for a few years, and the environment was becoming more and more affected by people with a certain attitude to partying and drugs. To an extent, this environment was good to ‘get our yoga on’, but at some stage it just became a drag. And it led to a loss of magic of the place in which we conducted our trainings. Bali is closer to Australia, where I am based, and very-very well developed as a yoga culture. I never wanted to run yoga trainings or retreats in Bali. It’s saturated! But Nusa Lembongan is not. And it has a very strong energy. Ganesh is everywhere! The studio itself simply presented itself to me. A friend of mine was travelling, looking around for places I could hire on a casual basis for yoga retreats, and found an empty restaurant building sitting right by the beach. Why not? Juju Yoga is a beautiful space in a unique setting. Nusa Lembongan is a small and peaceful island, with a magical vibe and relaxed quietitude. Now that Juju Yoga is renovated, we have the most comfortable and inviting wooden floor, and its location and high thatched roof mean there’s always a breeze and a lightness to the space.

Q7. Do you partner with other Yoga practitioners?

As I outlined above, I believe in yoga practiced in community. Together. Jointly. Most of the time I find myself as the facilitator of a session, but it’s not what I seek or believe in. I’d love for people to develop a more involved, active engagement with their and our practice. So yes: community, partnership, joint practice, mutual learning and facilitating is what I want from the yoga surrounding me.

Q8. A simple message to Yoga enthusiasts.

Get on the mat, play and explore. Don’t expect or respect any boundaries as long as you still have even breath. Be the stillness that you seek and the exuberance you want from everything you touch in life.

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