The Yogi Next to You


The Yogi Next to You - Anne-Laure FayardWhat’s your yoga story? How did you find Mala?

I used to take dance classes but stopped when I became pregnant. I started doing yoga when I was 4 ½ months old pregnant, about 12 years ago. I took a yoga class for pregnant women. I got intrigued. I kept wondering how, while it did not seem to me that we were “doing much” (as in dance classes or other physical exercises), my body was still engaged. I got so intrigued that I decided to keep exploring after I gave birth.  I never went back to my dance classes (although if I had more time, I will probably do both) but I kept taking yoga classes more or less regularly since then.

I had the chance to live in several cities – Paris, Singapore, New York and London – and each city I found a teacher whom I trusted. Hence my yoga story is a story of relationship (with the teachers I met and trusted), cities and accents. I always took classes in English – even in Paris (except for my first classes) – my teachers were English, Australian, and American.

When I moved to New York, I took classes on a studio on Atlantic Avenue. When it closed, I took classes with Angela for a few months in studio nearby 9th street. When she stopped teaching, I gave her my email. It was the summer and went on holidays and then got an email from her announcing the opening of Mala.  So I went.  In a sense, I did not really find Mala, Mala “found” me!

What pose do you want to do all day? What pose could you never do again?

I love Sarvangasana/shoulder stand (it was one of my favorite poses when I was pregnant); I used to do it everyday, especially when I could not sleep in the middle of the night).  I also love pigeon (folded forward) and vriksha-asana (tree).

I dread handstand and other arm-balancing postures (crow, forearm stand). Last June, Angela suggested doing handstand closer to the wall, adding that it was a bit more difficult. I went to try, not thinking I could go up, and up I went. Yet, I cannot do handstand every time and I still feel some apprehension when it is mentioned, but now I know it is not impossible.

Similarly, a few weeks ago, we were in groups of three to work on forearm stand. My two other partners went up easily and I felt “bad” as “I knew I could not do it”. So I started by telling them that I will probably not go up, and guess what, up I went with no help and to my utmost surprise.

By setting up expectations for them, I also set expectations for myself which allowed me to try without setting a goal for myself. Again, I’m not sure if I’ll go up again next time, but I know this is something that I can do. It’s just hard to manage your brain and emotions and “to let it go”.

Also, for a long time, I was scared of headstand but I slowly learnt how to “tame” it. I do it nearby the wall, but at a distance, and maybe one day I’ll do it in the middle of the room.

What are your biggest yoga obstacles and how do you overcome them?

I am not sure what are my main obstacles.  If it’s “for practicing”, I guess time might be the main obstacle but I just decided that on Wednesday morning I have a “meeting” as I take Angela’s class. If really I cannot go, I’ll move my “meeting” to Monday morning. Then, every morning I do 10 minutes of yoga – a few stretches, dog poses, plank. I can’t do more but I need to do these before my day starts.

In the practice, I guess my main obstacle is fear, in particular when it comes to the arm balancing pauses I mentioned above.

What was the last Dharma talk that resonated with you?

I usually can relate to many of the reflections Angela shares with us at the beginning of her classes. Some resonate deeply with what I’m feeling. For example, three years ago, she read a passage on fear from When Things Fall Apart. I was really moved by this text that explains how sometimes we should just admit our fears, “be open to it”.

After class, I bought the book, but did not read it as when I opened it, it seemed “too spiritual”. One year after, we moved to London and while I know moving can be difficult, this time it was extremely difficult and I felt depressed. One day, I remembered the book that was on one of my bookshelves and read that chapter on fear. This helped me tremendously as it allowed me to articulate my fears and “let go” of trying so hard to “hold it”.

Where is your favorite place to get coffee, or a drink post yoga?

While there are familiar faces to whom I smile at the studio, and sometimes in the street (and this is nice), I don’t have “yoga friends”.  After class (I go to the 9:15am class), I usually go back home (where I make coffee for myself) and work from there for a few hours before going to the office. If I go straight to my office, I will buy coffee at Starbucks on Court Street as it’s on my way to work. Yet, if I had the time I would probably go to Pedlar.

If you could practice yoga anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Anywhere in the world? This is a big question… Maybe more than “where”, the question would be for me “with whom”.

How has practicing shifted other aspects of your life?

I am impatient, always stressed and anxious… not the “prototypical yogi” I would say. When I was 17 (and involved in intensive and stressful studies), I became aware that I was embodied and that to think, I needed to take care of my body. I started taking dance classes 3 times a week. Yoga was originally for me – and in large part still is – about the body and the asanas.

More deeply, yoga has helped me to let go – in my body and in my life to a certain extent. Don’t get me wrong, this is the intention and the practice is an ongoing process, a continual enactment of this intention. For example, my husband often asks me “how stressed would you be if you were not doing yoga?” My reply is always, “it would be worse for sure!” I’m not always able to bring the sense of letting go “off my mat” but being able to let go for 90 minutes, and to know that this is possible, is a wonderful experience.

Sarah Manning, my yoga teacher in Singapore, referred often to Vanda Scaravelli, who was still practicing when she was 88 years old. For her, this illustrated the beauty and power of yoga: learning is an ongoing process and she said, maybe I will eventually be able to do this pose (I can’t remember which one) when I’m 70. And in the meantime, she was still being, living, practicing, and doing the poses, and that’s what matters. I’ve become more aware through yoga, through doing the poses, of this process or journey that practice is.

We’re thrilled to bring you the stories of Mala yogis in their own words.  Maybe you know them, maybe you’ve never seen them before, maybe they look familiar, maybe you once knew their name, but forgot.  Whatever the case may be, here is the chance to learn a little more about the person practicing on the mat next to you.  Click here to read about other yogis.


About The Mala Yoga Blog

We are a Brooklyn-based studio that focuses on alignment, balance and community. Have a read, try one of our Practice Podcasts, or come in and say "hi" in person!
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