Helena Rosenthal first encountered the Ashtanga Vinyasa method when she was just 19 years old. For the past 11 years, she has taught at her own shala Ashtanga Pitanga in São Paulo, among many other local studios.
I had the pleasure of meeting Helena, an inspiring yogini, on one of my many training getaways. After exchanging a few words, I asked her for an interview, which I am sharing with you, my readers, today.
1. How did you get interested in yoga? What kind of yoga do you teach and where?
I got interested in yoga immediately after I experienced my first ever yoga class. I was walking with some friends by the beach in Ilha do Mel, Brazil. As I was staring at them, mesmerised, I was invited to join the crew. I clearly remember that feeling of happiness and connection I felt in that moment, for the very first time. From that day on, I was decided on learning more. I tried a variety of methods, and then I discovered Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, the tradition from Mysore (South of India). Bewitched by the practice, I made my first trip to KPJAYI (K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute) in Mysore, India, in 2008, and six years later, was granted Authorisation Level 2 by my teacher Sharath Jois. I also accomplished a 200h training with Gregor Maehle and Monica Gaucci. For the past 16 years, I've been practicing, studying and teaching Ashtanga around the globe. After a few years with my own shala in São Paulo, Brazil, I was invited in 2016 to teach in London. I have also travelled Germany, France, and Portugal, sharing my yoga everywhere I go. At the moment, I'm on my way to Berlin, where I will run classes for a month, and then, move with my partner to Valencia, in Spain, where I plan to open a small practice space.
2. In what ways has yoga benefited you?
Yoga has definitely changed me, inside and out. It revealed a much more authentic person - as I naturally dropped the willingness to be anyone but myself. Yes, it gave me flexibility, strength, balance, and great health, but most importantly, it gave me more contentment, more inner stability, greater appreciation for nature, silence, music, and family. I believe I've become a more serene and joyful person in my own way, and more capable of being present to make the best of this sacred opportunity; being alive.
3. Describe a typical day in your life.
My routine obviously varies as I travel or change jobs, but this is how it is nowadays. I wake up at 4:45AM and have a glass of warm water with lemon and clean my tongue - those are Ayurvedic suggestions to eliminate toxins that the body produces overnight. Then I do some naulis (yogic abdominal kryias – again, for inner purification), have a quick shower, eat some berries, and take a bus to the shala (the yoga studio). I teach from 6:30AM to 9AM and then walk back home, crossing through Regents park; my way to contemplate and enjoy nature in this big city. I then buy the necessary organic items for lunch (I'm a vegetarian). As I finish, I take time off for internet, reading a bit or resting etc. and by 4PM I get into my living room and do my two-hour personal practice (asana, pranayama and meditation). After that, I get ready to teach a private class. When I am home, I'll usually have a soup, read or watch a movie, and go to bed by 9:30PM. As I sing and love music, I try to go to a musical concert once a week.
4. What advice do you have for someone who has never tried yoga?
I would say definitely give it a try. Find a method and a teacher that resonates with you, and give it a try for at least a month. Also, be mindful when choosing your teacher. A minimum of 5 years of personal practice is expected from any professional in any area. Ask yourself if you feel safe, comfortable, and cared for by this person, and if she/he seems really coherent.
5. What advice do you have for yoga practitioners?
Be patient. Everything changes. I see so many students being intolerant with their limitations or trying to change a lifetime pattern in a few weeks or months. Ahimsa, or non-violence, must be practiced first within ourselves. Yoga is a journey and a destination at the same time. Each and every breath is precious and holds the key for the present moment.
Photo courtesy: Shazia Omar