Structured creativity and a lively balance thanks to Ashtanga Yoga. AYI® interview with yoga teacher and AYInnovation ® Teacher Trainer Romana Lorenz-Zapf.


Melanie You are one of the AYInnovation® Teacher Trainers. What is it that intrigues you most about this task?

Romana: What fascinates me most is teaching my students over the course of their training how to open up ways that allow all people, irrespective of their age, physical constitution or previous yoga experience to practice yoga together. Usually, there is a clear distinction in yoga classes: yoga for beginners, a medium level and an advanced class. This means that participants are right from the start put into certain "levels" or categories which, in my eyes, is a separation. Yoga, in contrast, is for me a path towards unity, it's all about what connects us and thus also about what brings people together and onto the same level. This is what I both live and teach as an instructor.

Melanie: What was a particularly important experience for you on your yoga journey?

Romana: A particularly important experience was my first yoga class ever. However, I didn't have the famous "aha moment" or was deeply touched. To the contrary. When I visited my first yoga class in 1997 and the teacher hovered into the room and started singing mantras, I neither knew what a harmonium was nor how to meditate and was completely out of my depth. During meditation, I opened my eyes what felt like every 30 seconds, wondering how all the others managed to sit upright for such a long time without moving. This experience was crucial for my further development and has accompanied me for the last almost 20 years. It is precisely for this reason that I can fully empathize with both new and more advanced yogis: I feel like I have experienced all the obstacles Patañjali describes myself. This means that I can understand all those states and my goal is to meet everybody where they stand right at the moment and, perhaps even more importantly, to explain everything in an understandable way so that it becomes clear why I teach certain things, what benefit they have and how it is possible to overcome obstacles in yoga.

Melanie: ''What does your own yoga practice look like? Which techniques are you currently practicing? Would you like to share your experiences with us?"

Romana: My own yoga practice... (laughing). That's a good question. In fact, my own yoga practice looks completely different every day. I practice Ashtanga Yoga in the way Ronald has taught me, combined with the techniques which I have learned over the course of my yoga journey before that point from so many wonderful teachers. And even if it might from the outside look as if I was always doing the same thing, it's completely different on the inside each and every day and in each case an intriguing journey towards myself.

Melanie: Have you already used yoga in a therapeutical way to restore your physical or mental balance? If yes, which effects or results did you observe?

Romana: Yes, definitely. To explain that properly, I think I'll have to go into a bit more detail. Usually, people practice the kind of yoga which correlates best with them. You will always find certain character "types" in the different yoga styles. For instance, highly creative people like me will be drawn to Vinyasa Yoga. I've always felt very much at home in this style. However, it reinforced what is already very strong in me even further. This means, my creative and intuitive side became even more pronounced. From a certain point on, I felt that no further development was possible anymore. For this reason, I then made the conscious decision to choose the very structured practice of Ashtanga Yoga, where you practice the same sequences every day - something which is actually completely unlike me. I was curious to find out which effects this would have on me. And in fact, the result was truly stunning: Ashtanga Yoga gives me structure, both on the inside and on the outside.

And even though the practice feels incredibly hard on certain days and I'm highly tempted to go back to practicing in a totally creative way and just according to my "inner feeling", I ignore that urge and start practicing the series. Inhale-Exhale. After my practice, I feel grounded and I also feel the slightly weaker part in me which is otherwise often pushed somewhat into the background by my creativity and the ideas I have, which also tend to distract me from time to time. Then, a concentration, strength and power shows which, despite my creative vein, allows me to tackle things in a structured way and to make them happen.

Of course, physical ailments have also vanished in the process ;-)

Melanie: Which tool in your "yoga teacher tool box" are you particularly proud of?

Romana: My empathy, i.e. the ability to sense how other people feel. Thanks to this perceptive skill, I often recognize what might be the cause of physical ailments or pain and with the help of a couple of anatomical tests which I have developed myself I'm able to find out which exercises might help. This does not necessarily make me "proud" but it's incredibly helpful and it's just amazing to see how certain afflictions can vanish within a mere 30 minutes, simply because you re-balance the body.

Melanie: For whom is your AYI® Inspired Teacher Training just right?

Romana: The teacher training is on the one hand targeted at yoga practitioners who want to deepen their knowledge of yoga. On the other hand, however, it also addresses yogis who want to learn and understand Ashtanga Yoga in its entire depth.

Those seeking a well-structured training with understandable explanations and a sound basis as far as contents are concerned are right with me: I prepare each topic in meticulously and teach in a very clear way allowing everbody to follow, also providing aide-memoires to help memorize contents.

I address people for whom the essence of simplicity is more important than denying their own personality and jumping through hoops, people who might feel that they are currently not or no longer in the right place in their professional life or who want to learn more about themselves and integrate yoga into their life.

To me, personally, people are important who value authenticity higher than a teacher who greets his participants in a handstand. People who love to drink coffee and don't know how to stop. And people who want to live and enjoy life and are searching for a way to live in tune with yoga. Judgements of all kinds are far from me, so as my student you can be or become who you truly are in your heart of hearts.

Melanie: On a final note, let's turn things around. Which question have you always wanted to ask Dr. Ronald Steiner?

Romana: I would like to know whether Ronald has always had a clear picture of his path through life in mind or whether the path he has chosen had always been there inside him from the start. Was it a path that developed from year to year or was there a general vision which caused all further actions and consequences?

Melanie: Thank you very much for the interview!

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