Greg Nardi will lead an Ashtanga Yoga Immersion retreat at Jicaro Island Ecolodge April 30-May 6, 2011, in partnership with BigWorldSmallPlanet. Greg is one of a select group of Level 2 Authorized Ashtanga yoga teachers worldwide. This designation reflects his years of dedicated practice under the guidance of the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India. Greg has been integrally involved in the development of numerous yoga centers and Ashtanga Yoga programs around the United States. For the past 5 years, he has been developing the Miami Life Center along with Kino MacGregor and Tim Feldmann. In 2009, at the age of 94, Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois passed away leaving behind a legacy that has touched countless lives around the world. Greg is committed to honoring his teacher by sharing the method of Ashtanga Yoga with every interested, inspired student.
Frances: When you were young, what did you think you would be when you grew up?
Greg: When I was a kid, I believed in magic and thought I might grow up to be a mage. I spent a lot of time developing my ability to lift objects with my mind, levitate, and shoot lightning bolts from my hands. Of course, over time I learned to hide this and then eventually I forgot. It wasn’t until practicing yoga for a few years that I remembered my childhood dream and realized that I was exactly what I had set out to be, though without the lightning bolts. I realized that we can find the magic in ordinary life, and celebrate the every day miracles that make life sacred.
Frances: What other early interests led you toward your current focus?
Greg: I was always interested in spirituality and particularly the way that other cultures expressed spiritual ideals. As a teenager I studied Native American religion and other nature based religions. I was an avid hiker and camper and always loved to spend time in nature.
Frances: What did you focus on in your higher education study?
Greg: I went to vocational school for culinary arts, and then spent several semesters bouncing around between different majors in college. I struggled with discipline at the time, and couldn’t focus on classes that didn’t interest me. I discovered yoga at 22 years old, and ultimately dropped out of standard education to pursue my studies in yoga.
Frances: Have you had other “careers” before this?
Greg: I was a chef for two years, and though I love to cook, ultimately decided that I didn’t like the work culture. It was long hours, and high stress.
I then worked in a group home with developmentally disabled adults for five years. I cared for the daily needs of six adults with Down Syndrome.
The first yoga studio that I practiced at was adjoined to a Massage School. I studied massage for one year, and then practiced massage professionally for five years along with teaching yoga. As time went on, I began to focus more on yoga and now just give massages for friends and family
Frances: What is your philosophy of yoga instruction or teaching in general?
Greg: Whether we call it yoga or not, at some point we must question what is the purpose of life on a macro level and at an individual level. To me, this inquiry is the beginning of yoga. The rest is trying to live in harmony and integrity with what you find. It is a natural way of living. Because of the many demands of living, and the experiences that we have, we can forget how to simply be in a natural state. So, yoga is the process of remembering. The philosophy and traditions of yoga have many insights that can help us with our searching. A teacher’s job is to simply facilitate the student’s journey and share any wisdom they have come to through their own experience.
Frances: Why did you choose to focus on Ashtanga yoga specifically?
Greg: As a new practitioner, I was very excited about yoga and sought as many experiences as I could. I tried every yoga class that I could find in search of “authentic” yoga. When I found Ashtanga, I was in love with the power and grace of the practice, and felt that it was very grounded in tradition. I enjoyed the fact that it was systematic and there was a clear and consistent method so I could measure my progress in the asanas. The intensity also felt very cleansing. I walked out of every class feeling completely wrung out, but also renewed. Gradually, I could feel myself getting stronger and healthier. As a child I was an asthmatic, and so this feeling of physical vitality was an epiphany. Over the years of practice, I began to realize that it is the physical challenge of Ashtanga yoga that helps us to mature beyond an ego driven practice. By practicing the asanas in a systematic way, we do both the asanas that we like and the ones that we dislike, and we face them both with equanimity. This is a great life lesson and helps us to discover the meaning of inner peace.
Frances: Describe the “Mysore” concept for our readers.
Greg: Mysore style is named after the city in India where Pattabhi Jois founded the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute. This style of teaching is the way that he taught me, and countless others over the course of his life, and the way that it is still taught by his grandson R. Sharath Jois. In this style of teaching, the practitioner is under the guidance of a teacher, but moves through the practice at their own pace. This requires the student to memorize the sequence of poses. It is taught gradually, with the teacher giving new poses according to the student’s ability to memorize and physically master each new pose to a certain standard. In the practice room, you will find students of all levels practicing side by side. This creates an inspiring energy that we all benefit from. The advantages of this method are that you will get more individual instruction according to your needs, and you are able to internalize your attention and have a more meditative practice than in a guided class that requires you to follow someone else’s rhythm and instruction.
Frances: What can guests expect from working with you in a luxury eco-retreat setting like Jicaro?
Greg: At Jicaro, we will recreate the ashram experience. This is a retreat for people who are looking for a beautiful and relaxing time where they can take their practice to the next level, or begin to explore this traditional yoga form. A quiet opportunity away from the demands of every day living where we can take the time to focus on our practices, discuss the theory, and reflect on who we are. I will be available to everyone to support them in their journey of self-awareness. We will be using breathing, chanting, and meditation techniques, along with daily asana practice, and philosophy talks with some techniques sessions throughout the week. This comprehensive curriculum will give each guest a well-rounded immersion into the theory and practice of ashtanga yoga in a beautiful serene setting. During the practice sessions, I will give each student individual instruction and hands on assistance to find the approach to the practice that will give them the greatest results.
Frances: Why are you excited about coming to Nicaragua for this retreat adventure?
Greg: I have been looking for just the right retreat center to begin offering ashtanga immersions. Adrienne’s vision for BigWorldSmallPlanet is very aligned with the principles of a yoga practitioner. Jicaro Island Ecolodge promises to be a beautiful setting with many amenities to support a truly transformative experience. I believe that practicing in a natural setting with few demands outside of your practice is the best way to tune in to the wisdom of your body and mind. I love to travel and experience new cultures, meet new friends, and reconnect with frequent students. I hope that these retreats will develop into recurrent events and I can keep in touch with the many students that I have met in my travels around the world.
Visit BigWorldSmallPlanet for information on other upcoming retreats at Jicaro.