When the pair met in Sri Lanka in 2007, the chemistry was instant. «We were on the same path, we felt the same kind of commitment and that brought us together. At first that was our bridge» reveals Prem. It was the foundation for what they were about to create. «We merged our energy. This is tantra, this is a powerful tantric relationship.» The couple began teaching together in 2007 and in 2009, they founded the Ashtanga Bali Research Center in Pejeng village, 15 minutes from Ubud Market, a beautiful place where Ashtanga Yoga, Ayurveda, Tantra and Love are in the air.
The Center promotes Ashtanga Yoga as taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, in daily “Mysore “classes (self-practice with individual instruction), weekly Satsang, one-week intensives for developing the Primary Series, and three week immersions for teachers and advanced practitioners. While the Center is not a Yoga Alliance registered yoga school and does not reward students with certificates, their aim is to prepare students for the path of teaching and allow Ashtanga practitioners an opportunity to delve deeply into their practice and incorporate it into their lifestyle. In addition to classes and intensives, the center also offers Individual Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultations to help students learn about their individual constitution and how they can make healthy, tailored lifestyle and nutritional choices for their personal body/mind type.
Radha was in her early 20s when she went to her first yoga class in 1990. Her teacher was Chuck Miller, one of the first Westerners to study with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the creator of Ashtanga Yoga. At the end of Radha‘s first yoga class she approached Chuck and announced «I am going to be a yoga teacher». She recalls he didn’t really know what to make of it, because back then, teaching yoga was not the trend it is today. «I think he looked at me as if I was crazy», she remembers with a smile. But she knew that something had touched her. «Right from the first practice I was interested. And I soon understood how much better I would feel if I practiced». Radha Heather Carlisi had taken her first step on the path of her life.
Anthony `Prem ́ Carlisi took his first ashtanga yoga class, reluctantly, back in the late 70s. «I was dragged there by two friends of mine, they convinced me that I would love the class, because it was so amazing, they said». He had his doubts; at the time he thought that «yoga was for old divorced women, because that was what we saw on TV.» But those two friends were to become like two angels in Prem’s life. The ashtanga class he experienced, thanks to them, completely changed his previous perspective and Prem had a vision. «The class was held in an amazing church, and the ashtanga was athletic, fast and beautiful. People were doing the first series, the second and the advanced series». He was hooked. «Everybody looked really good and they were hot, they were tanned and some women were wearing their bikinis while the men were in underwear». In the 70s there were no yoga clothes, no sticky mats like today. «So I wanted to be a yoga teacher, but more because of the cute girls at first», he laughs. Prem also studied the science of Ayurveda with the renowned Dr. Vasant, and incorporates this practice into the Center's teachings.
Together, Radha and Prem make a formidable team of Ashtanga Yoga teachers. Prem is one of the few teachers certified by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (Guruji), even having lived with the Jois family. Radha was authorized in 1995. All of their rich experience is what makes them who they are today and what makes their teaching so deep. And every student who comes to the Shala near Ubud, which holds a maximum of 35 students, also comes in touch with this inspiring knowledge.
«Each student is going through their own process and the teacher is there to facilitate. Some people need fewer adjustments than others, some need more verbal instructions or more independence, while others require more one-on-one. Everybody’s body and mind are different», explains Radha. The fact that an ashtanga teacher can control, adjust and individually help students during their own self-practice makes the relationship much stronger. This is reminiscent of the relationship they both had with Guruji. He was a true guru for both Prem and Radha. He was their teacher and their mentor. Today they continue this Indian lineage in their own way, showing students from all over the world why yoga can actually change your life. It is a commitment and a choice. Just «practice and it all is coming », says Prem, with a chuckle, «and you never know what you´re going to get.»
The practice of the Ashtanga system is intended to be a mirror for life. It is an on-going observation of yourself. You confront your mind and body every day on the mat and everything reveals itself. The good part starts when you first learn to understand it, and then to deal with it. «I experience myself, hence I feel it. I am not being led by another person’s experiences... That is why Guruji stated that it was 99% about practice; that is what he meant. Basically stop talking about it, theorizing, philosophising about it and just do it. Get on your mat and practice!», advises Prem.
Prem believes that «the ashtanga practice, if taken seriously, opens the door to other things. Why? «Because it brings more clarity, if you do it correctly». Radha, as is usually the case, complements his explanation and sums it all up. «It is a practice that requires an initial commitment because if you don’t make that commitment you will never learn it. We don’t accept students that only come once or twice a week, because you will never embrace it that way». And yes, it takes at least 21 days to a month for a beginner, that is the minimum, «because in that amount of days you can break a habit and develop a good new habit and a great new feeling» according to the senior teacher.
And this is what it is all about. «You learn with a teacher, daily, and then it is practice, practice, practice,» Prem reminds us. It is steeped in tradition and based on ashtanga yoga, Patanjali ́s eight limbed system of yoga (yama
, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadi
). Asana is just one part of it, yet that is what Pattabhi Jois emphasized, «because we are in a body that we must work with, as well as with the mind via the breathing».
Jois established this practice via Krishnamacharya. . «And we continue to honour the lineage, the tradition from our teacher, and his teachers. Of course we have our own background because we are Americans and we live in 2013, but we are honoring and respecting and communicating the essential points that we learned from Guruji». Radha couldn’t agree more: «it’s not meant to be an automatic practice, it is meant to be a practice that we try to accomplish, like Krishnamacharya and Guruji did a long time ago».
The Ashtanga Yoga, Ayurveda and Tantra Center is open year round and offers daily Mysore practice.
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