by Rudina HOXHA
Suela Thanasi, a yoga teacher from Albania sits with FOLLOW BUSINESS ALBANIA to share her 8-year experience with yoga which has turned out to be the most transformative practice in her life.
- Please can you describe your journey to yoga? What was the initial spark to practice yoga and how it has changed you and your life?
It is said that yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self. I started yoga about eight years ago, joining some friends who were practicing with a teacher. Like most people, I was somehow judgmental about this practice, thinking that if I join for a while, it will help to calm me down. Over the years I understood that this was only the tip of the iceberg.
This ancient Eastern practice has spread over the last century in Western countries, reaching Albania in the last couple of decades. Little did I know eight years ago that yoga would become the most transformative practice in my life.
I started slowly and over the months and the years that followed, the practice became more regular, and it continued to extend beyond the yoga mat as well. Yoga as a practice includes several components, the ethical part, the physical aspect, breathing techniques, concentration and meditation. My practice, initially focused on asanas – the physical poses and movements we most commonly associate with yoga – extended first and foremost to the relationship with myself, the food I started to use, the thoughts I chose to focus on, the words I spoke, etc. Yoga has helped me to know myself better. This process of self-exploration started by focusing on the body, which is the closest and most visible element. Over time, the practice extended to the breath and mind that start to work together in a harmonious way, establishing a good physical condition, emotional and mental balance.
- In your view, what is the goal of yoga?
Yoga is one of the most important instruments for a healthy, balanced and happy life. A regular daily practice can be beneficial in many aspects: physical, emotional, and mental. Yoga helps to increase concentration, improves one’s balance, strengthens and tones one’s muscles, helps to reduce weight, lowers blood pressure, increases flexibility, improves the breath, improves sexual activity, raises the immunity against diseases, improves the quality of sleep, increases work efficiency and productivity, and through these, improves the relationships with family, friends and colleagues, environment etc.
Yoga helps in improving the consciousness of the individual, by helping her or him choose what is the right thing for her or him, for the community around us, and for the nature.
One can start practicing yoga at any age, but considering its manifold advantages, the best would be to start in an early age and continue regularly throughout one’s lifetime. In addition to the overall benefits, the yoga helps specifically in the different stages of life. During childhood years, the yoga helps in developing focus and discipline and also compassion and kindness. During teenage years, the yoga helps in balancing the hormones, so that the teens are less nervous or aggressive and react better in their relationships with family and friends. During one’s twenties and thirties, yoga helps the practitioners feel calmer and balanced in order to make proper life choices. In one’s forties and fifties, practicing yoga helps in facing successfully age-related hormonal problems and in feeling fit and energized. Further on the yoga helps in increasing immunity against diseases, raising lifespan and bringing harmony and peace.
- Is yoga growing in Albania? Should yoga start practiced in the schools?
Yoga has grown a lot in the West in the last century, together with the growing of the physical exercises, like gymnastic, aerobics etc. During communism there was no yoga in Albania. In the 90s there were a few sessions mainly led by foreigners but the real expansion came only in the last five years, and for the moment it is mainly in Tirana. Given the physical, the mental and emotional benefits, yoga can be practiced in schools very easily, however this is an ongoing debate in the West as well so it might take some time until it starts in Albania.
- Given the beautiful landscapes of Albania, can tourism through yoga be stimulated?
Absolutely! We have organised and continue organising yoga in nature, around the country. Albania has some of the most wonderful landscapes North and South, East and West so considering the growth of this practice globally, Albania can certainly stimulate tourism through yoga as well.
Suela was drawn to yoga initially through its philosophy, inspired by authors like Buddha, The Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra, etc. In 2010 she started the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practice, in Tirana, enjoying the physical aspect of yoga while continuing to explore the maintenance of a healthy balance between mind, body and spirit. In 2011, after attending the initial Yoga Teacher Training Suela was certified as a yoga teacher by “Sampoorna Yoga” School in Goa, India. Since 2011, she is teaching regularly at Tirana Yoga and also providing breathing and meditation classes. Last year, Suela went to India to attend an Advance Yoga Teacher Training course in Goa and continued practicing yoga/meditation in Rishikesh, India.
“The Yoga/Meditation practice has helped me to cope better with my daily commitments, realizing that the more we connect to ourselves, the better we connect with the others.”
News Source: Rudina HOXHA