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Knut Rakus

MMag.

I expe­ri­enced my first prop­er yoga ses­sion in 2003. It was in a base­ment in Jaisalmer, in the Indi­an state of Rajasthan and close to the bor­der with Pak­istan; I was dragged to a yoga class by my girl­friend at the time. The ses­sion was com­posed of sta­t­ic asanas, pranaya­ma and chant­i­ng, and it was inter­est­ing because it was rel­a­tive­ly “Indi­an” – it had noth­ing at all to do with colour­ful leg­gings, plas­tic mats, loud music and flow­ing movements.

It was fol­lowed by many years of up & down, irreg­u­lar­i­ty and exper­i­men­ta­tion in my yoga prac­tice. I fol­lowed the fair­ly typ­i­cal path of a stressed pen­cil push­er plagued by back pain, sprint­ing through air­ports with a trol­ley and search­ing for some kind of bal­ance because I just couldn’t do my job otherwise.

And so, in a vari­ety of hotel rooms, I began to prac­tise. In 2008, I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to take one-on-one class­es with a teacher on Wednes­day of each week. That teacher was Axel Dinse, who at that time had just had his first two chil­dren. I prac­tised under his guid­ance, with roar­ing, romp­ing chil­dren all around me, under me, on top of me – just the way chil­dren are. I was rather con­fused, and thought to myself, “I’m com­ing here for yoga and I get this child­ish chaos!” But then I had to see that my prac­tice devel­oped huge­ly from pre­cise­ly this chaos, and that yoga means being in the moment. If you can suc­ceed in stay­ing in the moment while two chil­dren bound about around you, then you can do it on your own. I also enjoyed being able to fall back on the fixed struc­ture of Ash­tan­ga yoga.

I’ve prac­tised every day since and live much more con­scious­ly and in the moment than before. I wouldn’t like to say whether I’m a bet­ter per­son today than I was before I came across yoga: I have always loved life itself – but in the past, as a stu­dent, I pulled a few all-nighters and ate pas­ta with pesto by the buck­et­load, and that was won­der­ful, too.

 

What does yoga mean for you?

For me, yoga cer­tain­ly doesn’t mean being able to bend your body into a pret­zel. For me, yoga means mov­ing through life in accor­dance with cer­tain ideas and con­cepts. Asanas are one aspect of yoga, but many of the oth­er aspects are eth­i­cal, action-based guide­lines for exis­tence: Asteya (non-steal­ing), Ahim­sa (non-vio­lence), Mita­hara (eat­ing in mod­er­a­tion), Sauca (clean­li­ness) and so on. I try to apply these yamas and niya­mas (moral guide­lines) from ancient texts and live them in my urban environment.

The major­i­ty of peo­ple who encounter yoga start with the phys­i­cal aspect. That’s a good thing – here at Feel­go­od­stu­dio, we have the plea­sure of help­ing stu­dents and wit­ness­ing tru­ly unbe­liev­able trans­for­ma­tions! The spir­i­tu­al aspect only comes with time, but even then it’s not some­thing that hap­pens for every­one – nor does it have to. Not every­one who kicks a foot­ball will one day play for Real Madrid. There are some peo­ple who would rather per­form a few back exer­cis­es than under­go phys­io­ther­a­py. If that means yoga, then great; if they do com­pen­sato­ry gym­nas­tics, that’s just as good. In my expe­ri­ence, the idea that every­thing in yoga has to be made inter­est­ing for every­one sim­ply isn’t realistic.

 

Which ses­sions do you teach at your Feelgoodstudio?

I teach ses­sions for begin­ner and advanced groups, so very dif­fer­ent lev­els, and essen­tial­ly every­thing except yoga for preg­nant women. In one-on-one class­es and pri­vate ses­sions, I meet peo­ple with phys­i­cal and men­tal chal­lenges that I can explore in detail. In this sense, one-on-one class­es can some­times be much more tar­get­ed than group ses­sions. I sim­ply teach yoga and pass on what I am teach­ing to par­tic­i­pants. Yoga is not a “one size fits all” con­cept: there is no one series and no one exer­cise that can suit all eight mil­lion peo­ple in Aus­tria. And there­in lies the art: offer­ing group ses­sions full of options and vari­a­tions. We place great impor­tance on that here at Feel­go­od­stu­dio, as do I in my teaching.

 

What would you like your stu­dents to take away with them?

Julie and I set our­selves the aspi­ra­tion of cre­at­ing a place where peo­ple can feel well in and of them­selves. And this is clear to see: when peo­ple come to see us in the stu­dio at the end of the day, they are leav­ing hap­pi­er than when they arrived; they’ve expe­ri­enced them­selves, they’ve sweat­ed, but they smile hap­pi­ly – because they’ve worked for some­thing. With us, every­thing is real­ly relaxed and casu­al – you’re allowed to laugh, too. The cen­tral theme through­out the ses­sions is being in the moment. When I’m in the moment, I am com­plete­ly neu­tral. I can’t feel unwell for psy­cho­log­i­cal or psy­cho­log­i­cal rea­sons in that moment, because I am ful­ly present: if some­one stands on one leg and shuts their eyes while also think­ing that their hair looks stu­pid or that their toe­nails need cut­ting, they’ll fall over straight away. The asanas are designed to make it eas­i­er to be in the moment and to rein­force this.

 

Can you paint a pic­ture of a group ses­sion with you as teacher?

In my ses­sions, we go through a sequence of exer­cis­es that will chal­lenge you on a range of lev­els. You might learn how to stand up straight prop­er­ly for the first time, or how to keep your bal­ance stand­ing on one leg. A lake of sweat might even form on the mat around you – but, some­times, peo­ple sud­den­ly realise what it real­ly means to breathe. In today’s mul­ti-task­ing world, we are increas­ing­ly for­get­ting these things. In one-on-one class­es, I fre­quent­ly meet peo­ple from mid­dle and top-lev­el man­age­ment posi­tions who can send an email, han­dle two phone calls, pre­pare a Pow­er­Point pre­sen­ta­tion and look over an Excel file all at the same time – but are phys­i­cal­ly inca­pable of stand­ing on one leg. Com­pet­i­tive and com­par­a­tive ele­ments have no place in my ses­sions – I want to offer you the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get to know yourself.

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