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greece’s iyengar girl

YOGA has become a hip, beloved and popular form of exercise in Athens by now, although even as recently as 20 years ago, when Greeks were considerably more conservative and less (other)worldly, yoga was regarded with dire suspicion: often, it was considered to be some kind of weird practice that could brainwash you into leaving your honourary, pre-ordained state of Greek Orthodoxy to become a raving, chanting Buddhist overnight. As yoga classes began to draw at first the very alternative, then the mildly experimental, next the trend- as well as health-conscious, and eventually every type of person, it became an ordinary part of Greek life.

Haris Lyroni practices in Shakti Yoga Studio in Mets.

Haris Lyroni practices in Shakti Yoga Studio in Mets.

As with all great things, when they become widely available and in all forms, it’s imperative for one to diligently search through the many options in order to discover what’s most suitable, and above all most beneficial, instead of risking injuries, incorrect learning and basically, wasting time, energy and money on something that offers none or only few of yoga’s real benefits.

Today there are so many yoga schools and classes in Athens and around Greece that I’ve lost count, and some of them are inevitably taught by people who payed for their intensive teaching training degree but had no prior experience of yoga practise, or those who only pretend to have certification, or teachers who sell a usually expensive style of yoga defined by the latest trend in some major world capital. Yet there are also some truly excellent teachers out there as well, who have put in years of study and practice and focus on self-improvement and passed exams to receive international certifications.

One such individual is Haris Lyroni, who is one of a handful of certified Iyengar Yoga teachers in Greece. Since 2006, under the guidance of her teacher and mentor Christos Pavlou, she has been running Shakti Yoga Studio in the neighbourhood of Mets.

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As described by the creator and guru of this yoga style, B.K.S. Iyengar, who was still doing head stands a few months before growing ill and passing away (December 1918 – August 2014), emphasis is given to precision and alignment in all postures. Yoga beginners can learn a great deal about the fundamentals of yoga by starting with Iyengar yoga, but it’s the kind of practice that keeps bringing its students to a different experience at each and every level. It’s main priority is to teaches yoginis correct and detailed ways of positioning oneself, breathing, and thus moving through the asanas, or poses.

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BKS Iyengar first visited the US in the 50s -yoga had arrived!

Other elements that differentiate Iyengar’s style of yoga from other practices is the use of props designed by Iyengar, such as wooden gadgets, belts, ropes, bolsters and bricks that help the practitioner to achieve perfection in all the postures – again, a lot of these props are today used by yoga teachers around the world for all styles of practice. Iyengar was a pioneer in introducing his country’s ancient yoga practice to the West since the 1950s, when in 1952 he became friends with globally renown violinist Yehudi Menuhin, a friendship that in the mid ’50s took Iyengar to the United States to teach and give lectures and demonstrations. When he published his book Light On Yoga in 1966, it became an international bestseller.

B.K.S. Iyengar teaching a class in the United States. Iyengar was known by those who had the privilege to study under him as having zero tolerance for BS.

Lyroni sees her introduction to yoga as a “great blessing” in her life. She discovered yoga and began to practise it in the 90s, trying out different styles of yoga that were available in Athens, until she found Pavlou’s Iyengar yoga class and realised that it was exactly what suited her. She had been working as a translator for 14 years when she decided to change paths finally quit her job with no Plan B or security net. Two weeks after confidently resolving to start her life anew, she walked by a studio space available for rent in her favourite neighbourhood.

Haris Lyroni in Pune, India

Haris Lyroni in Pune, India, where Iyengar’s school is. After many years away, she re-visited India in August 2014, at the time that B.S.K Iyengar passed away.

Goddess Shakti

Shakti, meaning “empowerment,” is the primordial cosmic energy

Despite the weighty risk – of doing something completely different in her life, of setting up a business of her own, and especially in a country where yoga was becoming more known but was still not established, she decided to set up Shakti Yoga Studio without a second thought. Today, despite the financial crisis of the last five years, her practice has blossomed and evolved, introducing more and more Athenians of all ages and levels, even kids, to the Iyengar style of yoga. She also uses the studio as a base for educational and inspirational talks, events and even Sanskrit classes that teach the public about the culture and history of yoga and Indian philosophy.

As a space, Shakti Yoga Studio is minimalist, serene, well-aired and startlingly clean. Its central location (a 10 minute walk from Acropolis metro station, a 5 minute walk from the nearest tram stop) makes it easy to reach via public transport.

Shakti Yoga Studio contact: +30 210 75 693 76, e-mail: info@shakti.gr

Lyroni practices triangle pose.

Lyroni teaching a class.

 

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