TEACHER FEATURE: Charmelle

Charmelle

1) How did your yoga journey begin?

I was living in Barcelona with my boyfriend Ethan and my best friend, Robin. The three of us were studying design and enjoying our young, free lives together – while at the same time feeling all the stresses of living in a big, loud, stinky city. 
I first started yoga by following some yoga classes on Youtube, soon after that I found a yoga studio just a block away from my apartment and decided to go try it out. When I arrived at the shala, I walked into a traditional Ashtanga Yoga mysore class. It was a confusing experience for me. I had never heard the deep, resonant sound breathing before and found it kind of comical. The teacher asked if I had ever practiced Ashtanga before, and since I recognised the word from some of the videos I’d seen, I said yes. She asked me if I remembered the Ashtanga sequence… I squinted at her and we stood there in silence, looking at each other, I wasn’t sure if I had heard correctly – how could anybody remember the sequence? She understood immediately that I was not familiar with the Ashtanga method and went on to patiently guide me through my first class. I learned that in this method, each of us would practice at our own pace with personal help from the teacher and only learn small manageable amounts at a time. 

2) How did you feel after that first practice?

After my first class I felt stimulated, exhausted, but super excited. It was such a simple approach that was accessible to me as a total beginner, but while I was walking out the yoga room I had noticed other more advanced students who had clearly been practicing for many years, move effortlessly through their own sequences. I knew that if I dedicated my energy and effort, my practice too would grow and evolve into dance of breath and movement, that was wholly my own. 
I was excited to see what the next part of the sequence would be for me to learn and I was excited to see if I could improve the things I had learned that first day.
When I got home, I told Ethan and Robin about the class and soon the three of us were going to the shala together each morning, feeling like we had found our path.

3) Tell us about your path to becoming a teacher?

My first months of practice were during my final year studying design. I was working crazy hours on my thesis while at the same time developing an intense passion for this practice. It was frustrating, all I wanted to do was learn about yoga, dedicate myself to it completely, read everything I could and take care of my body in the way that would support my Ashtanga Practice. I knew very early on that the life I wanted would have this practice at the core, and because I was lucky enough to walk into the shala of a beautiful, traditional Ashtanga yoga teacher, she inspired me to make the trip to Mysore India, to practice with her teacher Sharath Jois and learn more directly from the source. 
Practicing in Mysore under the guidance of Sharath was an incredibly powerful experience. I felt like he immediately developed a connection with me and my practice, he really took care of me in the way that I personally needed and I watched him do the same with hundreds of other students practicing there during that month. That ability to really see each person, understand what they need, how their body functions and how their mind works, was deeply inspiring and I knew that I had found my teacher. I return to Mysore to practice with him every year, it has become the priority and the highlight of my year. To have the space and time to fully immerse yourself into the practice, surrounded by loving people with that same interest is a powerful and transformative experience. After practicing with Sharath for a few seasons, he decided that I was ready to teach, and I really felt the honour of being given his blessing. I know now that he trusts me to pass this practice on to others, the way he has taught it to me, guiding my students on their own path with patience and confidence. 

4) What inspires you?

Having a daily practice is an amazing tool to get a clear idea of your mental and emotional state each day. The Ashtanga practice is essentially the same everyday, but each time we move through the asanas, we have a different experience. This consistency allows us to observe ourselves clearly, then bring ourselves into a more stable and calm state before starting our day. When I practice I feel that I am a more content person, more balanced and tolerant. 

5) Share something fun about yourself.

I did gymnastics when I was very young. It was so much fun to learn how to fly through the air and use my body to do certain movements. I noticed how each person had different strengths and weaknesses, our bodies were so different from each other and we needed to work harder on certain areas to gain the range of motion and strength that we needed. I could see how our bodies were able to change when we were dedicated and consistent in our approach to increasing the flexibility and incorporating the movement patterns that we were being taught. I always wished I could have continued with gymnastics, but I stopped after a few years when my family moved away. Having to relearn many of the fundamental movements as a young adult was a long and fascinating process – and now I enjoy my asana practice just as much, and benefit further from the deeper elements that come with dedicated spiritual practice.

Charmelle will be teaching at AoY from 14 Oct till 14 Nov! Don’t miss the chance to practice with her!

And if you have missed the previous Ashtanga Beginner’s Course, there will be one more intake in Oct/Nov. Click here for details.