Ryan Spielman: “happiness is a wholehearted investigation into the nature of life”. 

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What is Astanga Vinyasa and what makes it different to other yoga practices? What benefits will one get that other types of yoga can’t give?

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is popular style of yoga consisting of a series of asanas linked together with specific breathing and dynamic movement. Ashtanga Vinyasa was developed by the late Pattabhi Jois of Mysore India. It creates an internal heat by linking breath and movement to make a moving meditation that is not only has tremendous benefits for the physical body but also relaxes and focuses the mind.

Why have you chosen this particular type of yoga for yourself?

I haven’t chosen Ashtanga yoga, it chose me. The moment I first encountered it I fell in love. I knew that this was the perfect practice for my temperament. It has met me at every stage of my practice whether I need to be soft, slow and explorative or whether I want a strong, challenging practice that will test my limits. I have found that Ashtanga is versatile enough to consistently support my spiritual practice.

Can you give us your Insights on approach towards students who are very keen on practicing Vinayasa but are not ready physically – might have injuries or health issues ? Do you still follow the traditional sequence or have a more personalized approach?

I believe that anyone can begin the practice of a Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga at any level. We all have to start somewhere. I really recommend that people ease their way into the series and give themselves lots of time to build up the strength and in endurance to slowly progress through the primary series. I believe that the system is brilliantly designed. I use it as a framework or a guideline to meet each individual practitioner wherever they are. Sometimes that means that the series needs to be modified in some way so that it fits an individuals needs.

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How do you understand the level and ability of a practitioner while making the adjustments?  Also, any tips for teachers who want to learn to do the same?

For me, adjusting asana has become a natural, intuitive way of teaching this practice. My approach is to meet the practitioner where they are and listen to the intelligence of the body to find out if there is room to maximise the postures or the breath even more. Mostly I like to support people in learning to do the practice on their own. I teach several adjustment workshops each year for teachers. There are lots of resources online, books and DVDs that may be helpful for teachers who want to expand their toolbox. You can find my adjusting DVD at trueryan.com

How can Astanga yoga help overcome daily life’s typical challenges these days – stress, lack of time, feeling disconnected, not feeling very good about your appearing?

I believe the Ashtanga practice is an incredible support for one’s overall spiritual practice. It keeps you physically healthy, balances the mind, creating focus flexibility and resilience. And it’s fun!

Your recipe to happiness

In my experience genuine happiness, a deep, abiding fulfilment with life, comes from a wholehearted investigation into the nature of life. From this investigation comes acceptance and reverence for this mysterious, miraculous universe that we find ourselves in. For me, true happiness come from a recognition that life is ultimately utterly and completely out of my hands.

Is there a connection between your Yoga practice and music ? Does one inspire the other?

In addition to my Yoga teaching, in recent years I’ve started writing and performing spiritual comedy songs. I have just finished my second album. All the songs come directly from my years of yoga practice. I love Yoga. I can love it so completely because I don’t take it too seriously. Life is a mystery and I like to pull the rug out from under any place I try and hang my hat.

Ryan Spielman

www.trueryan.com (yoga)
www.ryantrue.com (music)

Find out about Ryan’s upcoming Ashtanga Yoga retreat at Shreyas and book here