Irina van der Sluijs


this is a piece I wrote before my Yin yoga journey - still true

For some cosmic reason I resonate with the Astanga Vinyasa yoga system. There are many beautiful tools in the yoga tool box that help you reach a point of unity and I resort to a lot of them. Only with Astanga yoga I found a friend, a companion for life. 

I can still vividly recall the first time I entered the little shala at the WG-plein in Amsterdam, sometime in the early 2000s. Claudia and Madina had started teaching Mysore-style which was then pretty new in Holland. In other European countries the Astanga fire had been lit already. It was just before the break of dawn, around 6 am, still dark and cold outside. Inside it was warm, warm with breath and sweat. People were moving and breathing silently together in a structured way, like a sacred gathering of solo dancers captured in this beautiful form.

I was immediately intrigued, feeling a sense of belonging there that went beyond anything I’d ever experienced in my life. Even when Madina scolded me for not knowing the Primary Series, I easily surrendered to the discipline of building up the sequence one posture a day. Astanga teachers, I quickly learned, are strict for good reason. They know from own experience that dedication is needed for this practice to unfold. By repeating the sequence of postures in the early morning hours, a routine starts to form, like the habit of brushing your teeth.    

 My routine developed over years, gradually, into a natural rhythm of meditative flow that I call my companion. Astanga yoga forms an integral part of my life now which I am ever so grateful of. The system and discipline provide the structure I need to feel safe. Safeness is a prerequisite for play. I noticed that once my body is well established in the routine, the door is opened for creative play. The working together of structure and play, of the sun and the moon, the masculine and the feminine, is for me the ultimate dance. The dance of life.

 The exploration has not been easy – I remember dark days, months when I even started to resent my practice. Resorting to restorative yin yoga, healing my wounds that Astanga yoga so sharply dissected and exposed for me to breathe through. Or the moments that I clung to my practice out of sheer fear for the outside world. Eventually accepting that the practice is a tool, an instrument and that real yoga is here in the now, in relationships, in life.

 Clinging to the known, to the routine is still a major challenge in my practice and life. Though part of me loves exploring and travelling, when it comes to my surroundings I often get overwhelmed by energetic overload. Already as a child I experienced hyper sensitivity – finding peace only in nature, with animals, in church and in dance. I was chronically exposed to family members with bipolar disorder which left me with little trust in people who act out extremes.

 Possibly here is where my life duty, my Svadharma connects to, exploring extremes & unity. For instance, in my job as a human rights consultant in global supply chains I work with multinational companies on the one side and labour unions on the other - trying to create common ground among these opposing parties in a structure of internationally agreed upon human rights.

 So as I am trying to find synergies between extremes in the outside world, I continue to practise Astanga to explore poles from within. Occasionally deeply connecting them in a flow that unites and pacifies. This is where I find alignment with the breath of life.

 Thank you Indian forfathers for creating the system that allows me to experience the art of yoga, the grace and light of it. Thank you to all my teachers that have come my way. Special thanks to Claudia Pradella for starting the fire and meeting me where I am now, to Bela Lipat for directing me to lineage and Petri Räisänen for guiding me to unity in the practice.