The lotus man
I encountered Yoga a long time ago and I was very young. I saw a picture of a nearly naked man sitting in a strange position with his legs all crossed up. He was in the lotus position but, of course, at the time I had no idea of what it was about or what he was doing. But this image was very compelling to me and as a little girl, I immediately folded my legs and put myself in the same position. It was fun and I liked it.
It was easy for me because in those days I was flexible as most kids are… I was about 7 and it was just a fleeting moment in my life, a glimpse into something special, but had no particular consequences at that time even if it made an impression on me.
Gandhi, Yoga and non-violence
Yoga came back into my life during my adolescence when I discovered Mahatma Gandhi, his incredible life and political achievements. I was attracted by the coherence between what he was saying, doing and thinking. However, although yoga was central in his daily life and practice, I was more geared towards his non-violent political fights… and his deep understanding of democracy. It shaped to a large extent my own political life and my experience of the 1968 events in Paris…
When Yoga can hurt
The first time I was really exposed to Yoga was a bit later in life. I was 18 by then. I was lucky enough to be offered to participate in a small Hatha Yoga class and I did so for a while. After a few sessions, I had to do a headstand posture. It was kind of easy for me because I was quite athletic at that time, but my neck did not like it at all.
I hurt myself badly and had to wear a neck support for a while after this incident. I don’t really know what happened but it was certainly enough for me not to want to continue with these yoga sessions! I learned my lesson, and understood that you can hurt yourself badly with yoga…
Yoga as a source of inner stability even when life is rough and shaky
Later on, when life was particularly tough on me, I started to think seriously about yoga again to find my balance even in shaky times. I knew I was in need of something that would build me up from inside and would provide me with inner stability and strength.
I certainly did not want to join any classes after my first bad experience, but I could not help consulting books in order to find what I was in need of. However, most of these books were not very appealing to me; they were full of words and had very few photos. Some were showing Yogis, but they were not particularly attractive to me. Nothing like the Lotus man….
Eva Ruchpaul’s 1965 book* (see Post Scriptum below)
However, one day I found THE book I was looking for, with plenty of photos and well written by a French Yogini, Eva Ruchpaul, one of the rare pioneers who introduced Yoga in France in the 1960s. For me, this book was like a ray of sunshine in the yoga world which at that time was led mainly by men.
To my great pleasure her book was full of beautiful photos of her in even more beautiful postures. I was sent back to my initial feeling of beauty when I first saw the Lotus man.
This was my book! I adopted it immediately. With her method, she opened a path to become my own master and not to surrender to some external power. Everything was clear and coherent, and I could relate to each word. Each one of them made sense to me.
A life changer!
First, Eva Ruchpaul was offering breathing exercises that I immediately put into practice. I vividly remember practicing this conscious breathing technique as often as I could.
The immediate consequences of this practice were obvious: I could feel peace entering into my veins, entering into my brain with my heart beat calming down. From this moment, I knew that I was on something big with no danger to hurt myself.
Yoga and Conscious Breathing in the Parisian underground…
Strangely enough the Parisian underground became my practice ground.
Why? In my busy schedule, this usual unpleasant and crowded travelling space was my only empty time. In order to practice my breathing, I was hoping for a seat at peak hours when we were packed like sardines. I did not want not to attract attention with people looking at me in a curious way, so I was careful to do my training in the most discreet way. And I was successful. As bizarre as it can be, the Parisian underground became a window of tranquility for my yoga practice.
I wanted to cultivate my own secret garden and protect my privacy even… in public, whatever the circumstances. It was quite pleasurable to cultivate these secret moments of peace in what is usually considered as hectic and unpleasant. And I had the clear perception that I was constructing myself.
This was the beginning of my daily yoga practice and breathing exercises. I followed the guidance of this book in what was going to become a secret path towards my inner kingdom of beauty. This path has just been extraordinary for me.
A safe golden thread of a lifelong adventure
Quite often life took me into unknown territories with very little to hold on to. It was like having to cross a large and deep canyon on an old wobbly hanging rope bridge. Do you know the feeling when you are suspended over the void, when you tightly hold the cords on each side of the bridge with rotten planks under your feet and fear in your stomach?
Yoga became my golden thread in rough times.
Yoga became my life rope and I was safe with it. It guided me through life and it became my great ally. It became the solid rope that I was weaving and reinforcing every day, inside myself. It has been an incredible adventure.
Sharing my Yoga experience when I retire
When the time came, I asked myself: “What do I want to do when I retire in a few years – when I have time, when I will be free to do what I want?” I wanted at least one thing: to share with people what has been so important to me -Yoga!
Becoming an Instructor after practicing other forms of Yoga
I was in my 50’s by then and I decided to become a Yoga Instructor to prepare for my retirement. During my many years of yoga practice, I explored and enjoyed other forms and methods of yoga. Ashtanga yoga is one of them and I went to India to study yoga at the source and to be trained in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian healing system and medicine.
Back to my source
However, when it was time to train as an Instructor, I came back to the method that has been so important all my life and I joined the IER in Paris, the Eva Ruchpaul Institute, to do its 3-year Instructor training program. I did it in 5 years… as I was travelling for work and I also wanted to take my time.
It was pure joy and I was in no hurry. I practiced there with wonderful yoga teachers, like Colette Passot, Françoise Blanc and many others. And of course, finally I worked with Eva Ruchpaul herself.
A recent interview of Eva Ruchpaul for Younger by the Days
With Maria Maleviti’s help, a good friend and colleague, I recently interviewed Eva Ruchpaul, who is now a beautiful and dynamic 90+ year-old and I want to share this interview with you as soon as I can.
Eva Ruchpaul is well known in Europe, particularly in France and in Greece where she has trained thousands of instructors, but she has yet to be discovered in the US and I would be happy if I could contribute to that. So to edit and translate this interview and publish it is one of my future tasks.
*Eva Ruchpaul’s books are many, mostly in French. Her first book was published in 1965 and was translated and published in English in 1966.
She is relatively unknown in the US but she became quite famous in Europe mainly in France and Greece were she is highly praised and where she has trained thousands of instructors to her method.
· Her method is quite different from what is practiced in the US and in California in particular.
- It is a well-balanced method that integrates “Pranayama” – the practice of conscious breathing – into a structured sequence of fundamental postures.
- There is no repetition of the postures: each pose is unique in each session.
- The postures last in accordance to a particular form of breathing that is specific to each one, and in between each pose there is a time of “nothing” to let the posture “infuse” by itself, a time as well for a long and tranquil breath.
· Above all, the Eva Ruchpaul Method is a non-competitive method of yoga and it offers the possibility for each practitioner, whatever their “level” is, to go deep inside themselves, into a journey of internal tranquility and peace.
· The instructor does not “correct” the practitioner and it is sometimes unsettling for those who are used to being corrected in their practice, when they are keen to “do well” and depend on external judgment.
Eva Ruchpaul’s method offers the possibility of entering into a different world, a world in which self-care and autonomy are cultivated as a relief from the rat race. Speaking from experience, I can confirm that it has a high degree of efficiency in providing well being and inner strength.