My New Contract with Life
A Greek attorney leaves her profession, discovers yoga and now revels in the inner joys of her life-changing journey
BY MARIA MALEVITI
WHEN I WAS A CHILD, MY MOTHER USED TO TELL ME: “My love, learn to keep company with yourself.” Probably without knowing, she laid the first small stone for the foundation of my knowledge that being alone is different from feeling lonely—thus setting up my future journey into yoga.
Back in 1999, still in the pitta phase of my life and working as a corporate lawyer for one of the largest law firms in Greece, there was a moment when I was lucky enough to perceive a feeling of uneasiness, that sense that something was wrong. There were so many different roles I had to play every day, and the passage from one to the other was not necessarily easy. Most importantly, I was not present in what I was doing. I felt that I was doing everything half-way, and I was full of remorse and guilt.
My body and soul started revolting. Vikruti (a state of imbalance) was definitely present! I knew there was a better place somewhere deep inside, a better world, and I wanted to find it. Having heard that yoga is good for you, that it brings balance and peacefulness, I decided to try it. But what to choose? I was not interested in balancing on a rock or shaping a yoga-calendar body; what I was looking for was peace. I wanted a yoga teacher who would neither play with my body, mind and soul nor take advantage of my vulnerability.
This turned out to be a difficult task: schools and teachers I came across were either too work-out, or too manipulative, or too religious, or too proselytizing, or too chatty, or too superficial, or too something. Finally, my destiny brought me to Eva Ruchpaul’s Well-Tempered Hatha Yoga.
In those first classes I discovered that breathing is not only about O2 and CO2; it is also love and gratitude to the wisdom of the body. Slowly and gently, body, mind and soul started leaving the stiffness behind and connecting with one another.
The blocked energy in me started to flow. Attitudes toward myself, toward others and toward life were changing at a slow, steady pace. As time passed, I started seeing clearly: what I really wanted, what needed to be done, was to put an end to my 15-year legal career, with all the pros and cons one could imagine, and move into life’s next chapter. It would take a lot of courage and time, but yoga had given me the powers of discernment and of clear intention. It was time to go ahead.
Two years after the legal identity was left behind and prakruti (harmony, balance) seemed to have the lead over vikruti, I realized that my life had deeply changed, thanks to my weekly yoga practice. At that moment it became unquestionably evident that the great gifts offered to me through yoga should further be offered to others. Sharing was not only a pure joy but a duty as well! How can one keep such treasure, such keys to evolution, to oneself? Passing on the tools for becoming quiet, even to a single person, is of global importance and contributes to making today’s world better.
Today our world suffers from lifestyle diseases because of wrong choices we make. It also suffers from the noise we make. And all this causes mental pain. Today more than ever, the mind needs help. We need to get back to the natural state of sattva (purity). And the best remedy is to know what is good, to make the right choices, to be patient, to know the Self, to calm down and to become creative. Simple, isn’t it? Yoga does all that! In our modern world, where hatha yoga postures are used in so many different ways in so many schools, my teacher’s technique suggests a subtle, fine, nonviolent, powerful, meditative and deeply transformative route.
The aim is to help Westerners breathe, find inner peace and quietness, being alert at the same time—to find their true nature and stay connected with it, while effortlessly juggling the challenges of everyday life. From her I learned to fully live in the modern world while enjoying the inner garden. From her I learned to be quiet without feeling lonely, to choose being in a state of silence against all odds. From her I learned to reconnect and to recharge in energy, and how to face any challenge more intelligently, more economically, almost playfully, as if it were easy.
She made no promises of acrobatic skills, or invulnerability, or perfection and definitely not superiority. She showed me how to open the gates to a physical, mental and spiritual well-being, to endurance, to self-knowledge, to self-acceptance, to growth and finally to transformation.
From her I learned that humanness gives us all the right, the duty and the possibility to take care of our inner world, to quiet the mind and to grow. It is not a luxury; it is a necessity, in order to reconnect with our true nature from which we keep deviating. This is why I truly believe that if everybody practiced yoga, the world would be better.
I will close by sharing a story. An elderly French gentleman went to Eva’s school and asked to see her. “I suffer from incontinence,” he confided. “Is there something your yoga could do about it?” Eva welcomed him into one of her groups. Time passed by and one day she asked: “How are things with your incontinence?” “Oh, great!” he replied. “You mean it’s over?” she inquired. The man responded: “Oh no, I just don’t care about it anymore!”
MARIA MALEVITI lives with her children and husband in Greece, where she teaches hatha yoga following the technique of Eva Ruchpaul. She travels to France and India, broadening her knowledge of yoga and ayurveda. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org