Tête-à-tête with Michela Accerenzi
How did you get interested in yoga?
When I moved to Dhaka and was invited to a yogilates' class, I did not know what to expect, but after the very first class with Shazia Omar, I knew I had found something I needed.
I liked the combination of movement, stretching and breathing, and the feeling of wellness I felt afterwards. A friend later invited me to a full moon meditation, and I loved it.
Little by little, my interest in yoga grew, I started researching on the Internet, reading books, signing up for meditation courses, 'pranayama' courses and yoga workshops.
Yoga made me feel very good not just physically, but also mentally.
Where did you learn yoga? What kind of yoga do you teach and where?
I wanted to learn the tradition of yoga from its origins, so I decided the best place was India, the very cradle of yoga. After researching a little, I chose a course focused on classical 'hatha yoga' of the Sivananda lineage and travelled to Khajuraho to stay in the ashram of Arhanta Yoga School.
I completed my 200-hour teacher training course in November 2012. Since then, I have gone on to teach yoga as a way to share and give back to the community. Up until now, I have taught yoga in Spain, Gambia, Italy, and Honduras. I am now teaching one class a week to help the Centre of Arts and Patrimony of Santa Rosa de Copan, the city I live in.
In what ways has yoga benefited you?
It has been one of the best things that happened to me. I have hyperlordosis by birth, and yoga helped me to improve my posture and have less back pain. I have gained much more body awareness, I know myself more and I better understand what I need. For me, it has been a process of self-discovery, self-understanding, and self-acceptance. It also helps me to improve my breathing capacity (I love pranayamas!) and feeling less stressed.
It taught me to be more accepting of life and not let external events control my reactions.
Describe a typical day in your life.
When I am at home, I wake up around 6AM, have a quick breakfast and shower, and then I sit for some pranayama and meditation, before heading to work. After work, I arrive home, have half an hour of rest and then practice my asana (one to one and a half hour).
When I travel, it is much more difficult to keep up with my schedule. Travelling can involve meetings or visiting farms, rural schools or villages, and I do not have a fixed schedule, but I always pack my yoga mat with me and practice when I can.
I also try to receive yoga classes when on holiday to improve my practice and learn different ways of teaching. I sometimes take classes online from a teacher I really admire Cris Aramburo because unfortunately, where I work, there are not any yoga studios.
What advice do you have for someone who has never tried yoga?
I would advise to try different styles and teachers if possible. I would also suggest patience, going slow, and really paying attention to what your body is telling you. And finally, take some time for yourself each and every day. If you do not like yoga, then find something you feel passionate about that allows you to slow down and have a break from the stress in your daily life.
What advice do you have for yoga practitioners?
Yoga is a never ending journey of discovery, and each body is different. Yoga can teach you much, but only if you do not force yourself and if you learn to control your ego.
What are some of the things you do to take care of the world or yourself that you have learned along your journey?
I am a vegetarian, feminist, anticapitalistic yogini, and I cannot separate these things. Through them, I am trying to make a difference in the world. What I have learnt along my journey is to be more flexible, not only physically, but also mentally, and therefore be more accepting of the differences in the world.
I am less judgmental than I used to be, calmer and more attentive. I have understood that you need to balance strength and flexibility on and outside the mat. I try to be very coherent and be an example of what I speak about.
Photo: Shazia Omar