Deep breath in. Yoga Royalty is in da house!
Just like starting a yoga class, I find myself wanting to gesture my respect by drawing my hands together in prayer position, bow my head and offer my deepest gratitude for all that Eve Grzybowski is.
The beautiful Eve is a whimsical yogi that exudes both strength and peace all at the same time. With her combined gently spoken wisdom and lightness of being, one could be forgiven for thinking that Eve floats, rather than walks her way through life. I first met this floating goddess some 19 years ago, in a class that was jammed packed with students half her age poised on mats in awe of Eve’s persuasive approach to yoga as being ‘fun’. That would often entail anything from an inversion with straps and blocks placed strategically as to not allow the slightest misalignment or to using a chair to split and expose all inhibitions. This was lashings of intense served on a bed of sweetness. That’s Eve.
To this youthful 70 year old yogi, who feels as energized today as she did when she first stepped on the mat some 44 years ago, her wisdom is simple: Life is about living fully awake. Eve continues to teach around the country, has published books and in the past nine years added blogging to her daily routine. Eve explains her experience with blogging as a process of self-discovery. “In blogging I discover who I am in the moment, what I believe, what I deem important. Especially as the way I write is mostly non-conceptual. Rather, I write from my experience, honestly as I can and often intimately”
Eve’s blog eveyoga.com is a very personal account of unraveling the meaning of yoga. Had she arrived? After all these years, had Eve reached the green card of enlightenment?
A chat with Eve.
Adriana: In your blog you undertook the arduous task of translating Patanjali’s Sutras. You reflected the meaning of each Sutra back to your day to day experiences and in the process shared some personal stories about yourself.
Eve: I don’t think I set out to translate Patanjali’s Sutras. It kept me asking the question, ‘What is Yoga? What does it mean to my students?’ I thought I could just open the book and see how each of the 196 sayings related to my life and me.
I love the Desikachar translation/interpretation of Sutra 1.2 that answers the question,
‘What is yoga?’ –
yoga citta vrtti nirodhah.
He says: Yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively toward an object and sustain that direction without any distractions.
Now that’s a Sutra I can get my head around. It describes a practice whereby I can discover the times when my mind is awake and focused and when it is not.
Sutra 1:3 is a beauty, too, especially the interpretation by Chip Hartranft. After we’ve quieted our minds, as per Sutra 1:2, then
tada drastuh svarupe vasthanam.
That is: Then pure awareness can abide in its very nature.
We’re talking about getting the ultimate reward – the carrot for the stick of disciplining the mind.
A: Can you define what it is to be a yogi?
E: To be a yogi is different than doing yoga, but it includes the doing. The doing part of yoga is your practice and it’s important. To me, being a yogi means weaving the philosophy that underpins yoga, especially the code of yoga – the yama and niyama – into your life. It’s an approach to life that expresses being attentive, mindful and self-aware.
Eve has a very pragmatic approach to unfolding yoga in the new student. Her book ‘Teach yourself Yoga’ outlines a no fuss approach to getting started:
– You roll out your mat.
– You sit on it.
– You do that at approximately the same time every day, to the best of your ability.
– You do what you can, even if it’s only a little.
– If you can’t figure out where to start, quiet your mind. Let the poses come back to you from classes you’ve attended.
– Use yoga books and DVD’s, on-line courses to inspire you.
– Most of all, remember you don’t have to do it well at the beginning.
You just need to start.
A: The journey of yoga is often defined as being on a ‘path’… You have been travelling this road for more than 44 years. What wisdom can you share?
E: The more practice I’ve done over the years, the less likely I am to be able to nail down exactly what yoga is. Maybe any wisdom I have comes from the values I hold. I value relationships with people, with Nature, with the animal kingdom. I value honesty, respect for individuals, the inherent goodness of people, and the practice of gratitude. As I’ve become older, I see that the friendships and family ties we cultivate are the highest form of practice, equal to having a loving relationship with oneself.
The big question is how do we do we cultivate these practices? Simply through our intention and our attention.
A: Has there been a moment of arriving and completely grasping the meaning of yoga?
E: No way! It’s slippery, the meaning of yoga. You think you’ve got it, you think you’re practicing it, and then you realize you’ve fallen asleep again.
A: What does Union mean and how have you related that to your day-to-day living.
E: Yoga is often defined as ‘union’. Ha and tha. Sun and moon. Small self and Higher Self. Perhaps that is the meaning, yoking two things. I can’t quite get my head around those ideas. The times when I’ve experienced union are in intimate relationship with another, in my community choir, in the quiet of a natural setting. And, significantly, when I’ve become internally quiet in meditation or pranayama. Not often, but tantalizingly enough so that I understand the importance of regular practice.
A: Has yoga assisted in overcoming an illness…or injury.
E: Yes, I’ve used yoga for healing from symptoms of osteoarthritis, from a hysterectomy, from a strained acromion joint, and from little things like colds and flues and fatigue. I use yoga therapy as needed or requested in my classroom teaching and love to serve students in this way.
Yoga helped me heal from a double hip surgery that I underwent five years ago. Having new hips gave me a new lease on life. I fully admit to being mortal. I’m weaker than I was when I was 50. I’m stiffer than I was when I was 60. And, no doubt I’ll have more wrinkles and saggy bits next year than I do now. Am I happy? Am I blessed in my life? A resounding YES!
A: Do you feel that the yogic path should involve a trip to India? What do you feel India offers yogis? Is there still a valid connection?
E: Although I loved my experience of being in India, I don’t know that it’s important to do yoga there. There are marvelous teachers all around the world, not the least right here in Australia.
A: You have a busy year ahead with a jam packed teaching schedule.
E: ‘Have mat will travel’ is my phrase of life! I’m thrilled that people still seek me out for teaching as I still feel I have much to give.
A: Eve took her first class in 1971 and to this day she has a daily practice that includes asana, meditation and pranayama. Here is a sample of her daily devotion
E: I start off with 30 minutes of mindfulness mediation which I do with my husband upon waking up. My asana practice goes for about 1.5 hours, after the meditation. I do a variety of asanas, making sure to include inversions – sirssana, sarvangasana, halasana, setu bandhasana, and viparita karani. In my ideal practice, I do pranayama at the very end, after relaxation.
A: Do you ever see yourself stopping teaching… or for that matter, stopping practice?
E: Can’t imagine it. Recently though, I’ve been in training to be a palliative care volunteer and last year I did an on line university course called ‘Understanding Dementia’. We never know our future. If I became disease-ridden or had dementia, I might not have the luxury of doing the yoga practices I do now. I’m deeply appreciative of what I have now, but it’s all subject to unforeseen changes.
…and just like getting to the end of a yoga practice and taking time to pause and reflect on the healing and wisdom of the session. I too pause, feeling satiated for the opportunity to dip into Eve’s contagious life of yoga. I haven’t seen Eve for many years and it’s encouraging to know that her age has not discouraged her thirst for this ancient practice. On the contrary, she is thriving! Age is merely a number of little to no importance. It’s the vitality and energy of the soul that we’ll always hold onto, and what I’ll always remember about Eve.
Check out Eve’s bookshelf for all her favourite reads about yoga! Eve travels the country teaching… drop her a line to find out how you too can be touched by such a divine soul. email@example.com