Heidi Ruokoniemi - Level 2 Authorized Ashtanga Yoga Teacher
I started practicing Ashtanga Yoga in 2004. For many years, I had struggled with anxiety and formed a few unhealthy habits in my search for peace of mind. After the first Ashtanga Yoga class, I remember myself thinking. "Oh, is it even possible to feel like this?" The feeling of deep peace while staying centered in my own body was something I thought was unreachable for me.
For me, building a daily practice was an easy choice because stepping to the mat simply made me feel better. I had found my medicine.
By practicing Ashtanga Yoga, I was able to come back "home" to my body, and slowly, to build the ability to stay and breathe with the difficult emotional states instead of getting overwhelmed and trying to escape my inner turmoils using harmful patterns. Plus, since day one, I really enjoy practicing!
The continuous, quiet introspection of a regular yoga practice changes one's perspectives. You look into yourself day after day. First you might not like what you see! But slowly, there is also acceptance and understanding, compassion, peace with what is.
Five years into daily practice, I was studying Education at the University of Helsinki and had a vague idea that my future work would have something to do with teaching. I had been assisting Juha Javanainen, my yoga teacher at the time, at Ashtanga Yoga Helsinki, for a few years when he asked me to start teaching beginners classes. Teaching yoga became my profession almost unintentionally.
During the same year (2009), I made my first trip to Mysore, India, to practice with Sri Sharath Jois. I have been his student since then, practiced with him yearly for over ten years and keep studying with him whenever possible.
Sharath Jois authorized me to teach the primary and intermediate series of Ashtanga Yoga in 2012. A year later, I met my future partner in Mysore, and ended up being married and living in the homeland of yoga for seven years.
Living in India and in a brahmin family gave me a unique perspective to Indian culture and yoga. In India, spirituality is intertwined with everyday life, and some of the traditions and wisdom that have carried on for thousands of years are still being observed and respected. The ancient and the modern, the chaos and the beauty, are all present simultaneously, and everything seems to be possible.
I am very grateful to have had the the opportunity to teach Ashtanga Yoga in India as well; In those magical surroundings the teachings of yoga seem to be always near and ready to be internalized.
With my Indian partner, we ran our own yoga shala (Ashtanga Yoga Goa), in North Goa from 2015 to 2018. Ashtanga Yoga Goa was a cozy and traditional yoga shala. People from all over the world practiced there together happily and soaked in sweat: the tropical weather and the relaxed atmosphere of Goa melted away the stiffness from muscles and minds.
We closed Ashtanga Yoga Goa when Sharathji asked me to teach his afternoon group students in Mysore. During the years spent in Goa, I had also been living partly in Mysore, where I continued to practice with Sharathji and assisted him at his classes at the main shala of KPJAYI (K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute).
When Sharathji opened his new shala Sharath Yoga Centre in Mysore in 2019, I started teaching Ashtanga Yoga Classes for all Levels there together with Usha Rani Cittoor and Arathi Menon.
The year 2020 with it's surprising twists and turns brought me back Finland and to Lappeenranta, my place of birth. I started teaching online and opened Joogasatama to teach traditional Mysore style yoga for the local people. In 2022 I moved back to Helsinki where I now live with my dog Laddu, and continue to learn from and share this amazing practice.
Life keeps bringing forth surprises and changes. But with the help of daily practice, Sadhana, it is possible to find equanimity in between the contrasts of life, and peace when everything is changing. I am thankful for the daily yoga practice, that continues to guide me and keeps me grounded.