|Kristina Karitinou, Agios Pavlos, Crete. Photo by Sandrine Fauconet|
Tuesday, 19 November 2013
Entelechy : An Interview with Certified Ashtanga Teacher Kristina Karitinou
I asked her how she first came to Ashtanga, about her late husband Derek Ireland and about visiting Mysore for the first time, the interview ranged far and wide.
Here she is from that interview on first visiting Mysore.
Anthony: How was it to visit Mysore, tell me about your experience practicing with Pattabhi Jois
Kristina: Sri K Pattabhi Jois was a truly wise man. He was a very generous teacher, as when you practiced in his yoga shala you could feel the intensity of his deep knowledge as well as the connection to the teachers of the past. He had the ability to transfer your practice to a deeper level of understanding the asana and all this would come through his own experience of life and all the hardships and strains he had gone through which offered him a completely different awareness of the practice and the asana itself. He would always work through a deeper part of himself which had been shaped through the good and the bad times of life and had offered him a unique perspective of simplicity and substantially. At the same time he was a very sincere man and truly industrious while all his students were made to feel part of his greater family and were always offered this knowledge generously. Through all his hard work he managed to contribute to the shaping of a universal consciousness towards a better world.
|Pattabhi Jois, Old Shala|
This year Kristina returned to Mysore for the first time in 12 years and I was keen to ask her about the experience, here are the ten questions I sent her before she left (Pictures chosen by me).
1. This is the first time you’ve been to Mysore in a long time, how long has it been, can you tell us a little about your last trip to Mysore.
Kristina: It was back in 2002 when I last visited Mysore. We were still practicing in the old Shala with Guruji and Sharath, and the room would fit around 12 practitioners at a time, and the classes were running from 4:00 in the morning up to 1:30 in the afternoon. Mysore always gave me the sense of family, with Guruji being the father figure of the place. He would look after us so much in our practice as well as outside of it. He would always find the time to ask about our personal life. Every afternoon his house was open to all of us either to answer our questions or just to let us be there with him. So much in Mysore as well as in all of his seminars around Europe he would always find the time to sit with me or me and my kids and ask about our well being and how we manage as he had a great connection with Derek.
2. Why have you left it so long to come again and what made you decide to come now.
Kristina: A lot of things happened since then. To begin with I moved from the UK to Greece where I had to start all over again, meaning adapting children to school, starting business from scratch, adjusting to a new way of life without having any support whatsoever, financial or practical. Being a single mother of two meant prioritising in a completely different way, while I kept contact with Guruji up to 2005 via his visits in Europe. Getting married again and having one more child meant even more responsibilities, which kept me away from Mysore. I did have the honour of having Manju visiting us twice a year at the time so I felt connected to the family. Guruji’s departure was not an easy thing and I needed the appropriate time to deal with it, just like the rest of his senior students. It was a time of grief and we had to respect that. I did keep contact with Sharath but visiting him needed time.
When the right time came it was very clear to me that I now had to go back and pay my respect so much to Sharath as well as the place that Guruji had made for his students. There was not just one thing that led me there but a number of occasions actually made it clear that the time had come to go back.
3. What’s it like being back in Mysore after all this time. Tell us a little about your daily routine
Kristina: Being back was a great experience once again. The place has totally changed just like we have. Now you can find many more amenities and facilities. The new Shala is located in a beautiful area that is changing to cover the ever more increasing number of students and visitors.
The daily routine would always start with a morning practice which was followed by a social breakfast as I called it. A lot of us would get together to have our breakfast and exchange ideas and views on so much personal as well as social matters for the Ashtanga community. It was a great opportunity to communicate and exchange opinions and beliefs. The rest of the day included rest, reflection upon the morning practice, reading and coming in contact with other spiritual teachers living in the area. Often I would find myself engaged in talks, guided meditations and even once I had the honour to attend a ceremony of the Association Yoga of Mysore of the Sanskrit College where the whole Jois family was invited.
4. How does the place you are staying now differ from in the past.
Kristina: This time I chose to live in a house which is more communal as I was there alone and spend some of my free time with the other tenants. Other than that there was not much of a difference.
5. What is it like to be in class again, in the shala, to be a student again rather than the teacher.
Kristina: It is a great relief. Being able to receive rather than give is most welcome by everybody. It is just you and your practice and as soon as you get on your magic carpet the flight begins. I don't mean to sound disrespectful and I love my job but there is a need for all of us to trust and let go and allow others to work with our bodies. At the end of the day this is what my teachers have taught me to trust and be trusted, in order to receive knowledge and acquire wisdom.
6. Tell me about the shala what is it like to practice in the there again afters many years, is the atmosphere the same as you remember
Kristina: The new Shala naturally has a different feeling to the old one because it is a different Shala. This is the place that Guruji had showed me back in 2002 when they were still building it. It has been made to accommodate more practitioners as it can fit up to 100 people.
The atmosphere has also changed, as more practitioners are practising together it is a bigger challenge for the teacher to tune all their energies, which I think Sharath is managing quite well. In my opinion this must be the place where one can have the opportunity to experience deep effect on his practice and advance his level of understanding, and that is not just because of the magnitude of Guruji and Sharath there but because of the energy all these practitioners have deposited on this place which is still the root of this method.
|New shala (picture source unknown)|
7. How is it to see Sharat and Saraswati again
8. Do you feel Mysore itself has changed if so in what ways.
9. And what of the atmosphere surrounding the shala. I imagine there are many more practitioners than the last time you were. Do you still feel this is traditional Mysore practice
10. Do you feel that peoples reasons for coming to the shala are essentially the same as in the past or different
Kristina: The atmosphere surrounding the Shala has definitely changed. Unfortunately no senior teachers are there to be seen and many practitioners coming lack the essential of a yogic education. There seems to be a tendency of students visiting Mysore with the sole aim of advancing their practice without having the need to share with the rest and offer to the community. I got the impression that practitioners nowadays feel that tuition fees is all they need to give, while visiting Mysore should be a great opportunity of making the yoga community stronger by helping each other and sharing experience and knowledge. Expectations for more asanas or for an authorisation do not allow them to think and act with respect to the place and its history. Pushing around for a place of a mat, not allowing space for more people to fit in, being loud before and after conferences or the chanting classes, talking loudly after classes next to the coconut stands are traits of a new uneducated class of practitioners absorbed in their personal world of achievements. This is where the responsibility of senior teachers and yoga centres around the world comes in. It is our job, to teach our students to think about the community, about their fellow practitioners and pay respect so much to the lineage and its representatives as well as to the places they visit. At the same time the practitioners that have been given the appropriate education and have been granted with this knowledge remain silent and choose to keep a low profile although it would be more appropriate if they stood front and asked for this sort of respect contributing thus to the balance and flow of the place. Sharath made it clear to me that it is the personal example of students which is more important and which actually illustrates the right qualities of a practitioner.
This is definitely traditional Mysore practice as the practice itself has not changed any how. The same qualities are still to be found under the right circumstances and the same teachings are there to be conveyed to the students that are eager to open their ears and eyes to them. So much Manju as well as Sharath and Saraswati are now the cornerstones of this method and they serve as our common point of reference closely linked to the lineage bearing the absolute truth of this method. In my opinion a devoted practitioner should be able to receive teachings from all three of them and thus acquire a deep and well grounded knowledge of what Ashtanga truly means while at the same time he should offer his best qualities together with devotion and humbleness.
|Kristina Teaching, Rethymno Shala, Crete.|
Kristina’s work is a continuation of Derek Ireland’s teaching principles. Her work is dedicated to him.
|Kristina and I, Agios pavlos, Crete. Photo by Sandrine Fauconet!|
|Nikos with Kristina, Athens.|