I am someone who enjoys doing a lot of different things, and yet I don’t always enjoy being busy. Sometimes it is worth it, though I might need to make minor adjustments to enjoy the life more. I’ve always been intrigued by yoga but I’ve always felt intimidated or just out of place. I remember my first yoga class – I felt I was missing a spiritual connection. So I thought it would be a good idea to talk to somebody who is equally busy, loves yoga and has been practicing it for a while now. Veronika Cifrová Ostrihoňová.
When did you start your yoga practice? How did it change your life?
On and off, I have been practicing yoga for about nine years. BUT I did, and still do, lack consistency. Sometimes, I would do it five-six times a week, sometimes not at all for months. But I do love yoga and wish for better routine. Working on it. I feel my best when I do it often. This summer, I spent two months in California, where it was my daily routine and I have never felt better. Yoga makes me feel stronger both physically and mentally – sounds like a cliche, but it is true. When you manage to push yourself into a seemingly unimaginable pose, you feel invincible. At the same time, however, yoga also teaches patience. I could always use more of that! Yoga shows you that perfecting a pose takes time, and yet, it might never be perfect. But that is still fine. Accepting imperfections in your practice leads to better acceptance of imperfections in your life. Or, at least, so does it for me. Anyhow – to emphasize, I do not consider myself a “Yogi expert” or anything of that sort. I am just a yoga enthusiast.
Do you practice a particular style of yoga? Or do you have a favorite one?
I practiced quite a few styles. I started with Bikram yoga while living in Paris, then did some hatha yoga, and power yoga. This summer I got into power vinyasa and have to say that it probably is my favorite. I feel like there is just the right amount of physical strength involved (I like to be pushed). Ashtanga yoga is similar in this aspect, however, I prefer the bigger variety of poses in Power Vinyasa. With Ashtanga, the sequence is always the same.
What do you think does yoga do better than other types of physical exercise?
Yoga makes you more centered, grounded, and then, in turn, more perceptive and understanding towards your needs and limitations, as well as others’. I would not call yoga a sport, albeit it can be equally physically challenging as a grueling workout in the gym.
What are some common, incorrect assumptions about yoga?
That is is just for the flexible, for women, that yoga is merely “breathing and stretching.” I dare to disagree and have already convinced my father about it. He got into yoga over the summer (previously thinking all of the above), and now sees it in a completely different light. He does not love it yet, but is on the road to getting there. 🙂
How important is meditation to you? Do you see it as a substantial part of yoga practice?
When I lived in NYC, I attended a meditation workshop. Back then I meditated every day. Nowadays, although I know I should be doing it, I rarely do. It would definitely help my work performance – since my job is quite hectic and unpredictable. Meditation is an integral part of yoga practice. HOWEVER it does not have to be sitting in lotus pose for 25 minutes straight. Even a centered, thoughtful yoga class, with good concentration on the poses, can be a moving meditation.
‘Isn’t it enough just to practice yoga, do I have to regulate my food?’ wonder many. In how far do you think are healthy eating or a specific diet important for people who do yoga?
As with any physical exercise, correct nutrition can enhance your performance. Yoga is no exception. I have known yogis who are super-strict vegans, but also those who enjoy meat and an occasional glass of prosecco. As for me, I have always been quite nutrition-conscious, but I do not overdo it. I was a vegetarian for about six years in the past, then started to eat a little bit of meat again, and now I am going back to being a vegetarian. It suits my body better, an Ayurvedic doctor just confirmed it. People need to take things one at a time – you do not have to start with yoga, immediately meditate each day for half hour, and resort to plants only. Ease into what is best for you. Yoga can show you the way.
What’s your relationship to your own body? How has this changed over time?
I try to accept what I have, and what I don’t. It had not always been this way. And, surprisingly, not as a teenager, but in my early 20s, I have had some issues with my body. Yet, I came to understand that being comfortable in your skin is all in your head. It is a journey and I am not at the finish line yet, but I do glimpse it 🙂 Now, I try to keep my body as healthy as possible. I am not ashamed to admit that I do a lot to look good – I work on TV, so looks are important. But – if I only lived healthy because of that, it wouldn’t be sustainable. I nourish my body to keep it working. I like to be active and well-fed, that is when I perform best at work and elsewhere. People often forget that exercise is essential for brain-functioning!
You’ve just returned from an ayurveda-yoga retreat in Sri Lanka. How was it?
It was a two-week long Ayurvedic stay. The doctor diagnoses you, checks up on you every day, prescribes you natural medications and various treatments. Every morning you do yoga and meditation – it is a very calm, centered, healing type of yoga, nothing too physically demanding. It focuses more on what is good and healthy for the body and mind. At the end of the stay, the doctor diagnoses your “dosha” and gives you an overview of what is good for you – food, food combinations, eating times, wake up times, exercising times and types. From there on, it is all up to me. Now I have to take all these principles home and incorporate them into the hectics of everyday life. Needless to say, I loved the retreat and am already planning to return next year!
What advice would you give someone who feels they can’t practice yoga because they don’t have the right kind of body?
My advice would be – forget that nonsense! I have seen yogis fifty pounds overweight, I have seen my 52-year-old dad get into yoga – not being able to touch his own knees at first! If you feel like doing yoga, if you feel the slightest urge – go for it! But do “shop” for the right kind of yoga. I recommend trying different styles, different teachers, different studios, to see what fits you best. It takes a little time to find “the one”. But if you do, you might get yourself a life-long crush!
Photo: Shutterstock, Instagram/veronikaostrihonova