I’m so excited to have somebody really special as my interview partner for this new episode of “Living yoga”, my series about inspirational yogis and yoginis from all around the world.
For the lovely Gandha Savio, an Italian yogini who has been living in London for almost a decade, yoga has always been an integral part of life. She inherited the passion for yoga and meditation from her mother and father, both yoga teachers, who raised her in the spirit of mindfulness and conscious living. Her parents often brought her along to their classes and taught her essential aspects of yoga from an early age on.
Up to this day, all Gandha’s life revolves around yoga. She is a full-time yoga instructor and teaches most days of the week (although she plans to make it her new year’s resolution for 2018 to completely free up at least one day per week). Aside from her physical practice she loves to read about yoga, watch videos and research, always keen to learn more.
In the rare moments when she is not teaching, practicing or studying, she enjoys time with friends and family and the little wonderful things that life has to offer: gorgeous food, a hot bath, a good movie, a walk in the park… “Simple things, but so precious!” she says. True to her cosmopolitan roots, she loves to travel, so two, three, or sometimes more times a year you can find her on a beach in some hot country, just chilling and enjoying her life.
Gandha, how and when did you find yoga?
Well, that goes back to a very very long time ago, before I was born 🙂 My soul picked a yogini mum! I was born a few years after my parents travelled to India for several months, where they deepened their knowledge of yoga (and picked up some Indian names to give me – I have 3!). My mum started practicing yoga at age 14 in Italy, where really not many people knew what yoga was (almost 40 years ago). When I was little both my parents used to teach yoga and taught me plenty of it, but not in the form of asana postures. They taught me about conscious abdominal breathing, relaxation techniques, about Yamas and Niyamas (even though they didn’t call them that) and much more. I only started a consistent asana practice when I moved away from home at age 23. That is when I started to feel like I needed more yoga in my life.
What’s your favorite place to roll out your mat?
I spend most of my awake time on the mat these days and I always love it, no matter where it is. But my very favorite place is outdoors. Practicing outdoors makes me feel connected with nature, it gives a different quality to my movements, it’s a wonderful feeling. There are only a few weeks in the year when it’s warm enough for me to roll my mat outdoors, and I absolutely love it when I can!
What’s your favorite asana?
Oh, really tough question! I love most arm balances, standing balances and inversions. Probably because of the focus these poses require. Not just getting into them but also holding them. You need to stay present, right in the moment. Also in general I prefer strength over flexibility, but I am getting better at finding a balance between the two in my practice.
How do you integrate yoga into your daily life?
I try to integrate yoga in all aspects of my life and I find that the yoga off the mat can often be the real advanced stuff. Staying calm and centered when feeling overwhelmed, remembering to breathe when rushing from one place to the next… it’s all yoga. I also integrate non asana related routines in my day, like reading my daily meditation book in the morning, meditating and doing pranayama, practicing purification techniques like using my neti pot and tongue scraper and doing my kriyas (nauli etc.) every morning.
How do you find stillness of mind? Could you share your number 1 tip for cultivating mindfulness?
One of my favorite ways to calm the mind is Yoga Nidra. I just enter a different dimension when I practice it, which is hard to explain if someone has never tried it, but people who have will know what I mean. In general, deep relaxation techniques work well to quieten my mind. I love body scans! One of the things my parents taught me as a kid. I still use their teaching now if I have trouble sleeping, I guide myself through a body scan and it works wonders.
What was the best yoga class you ever attended, and why?
I have attended loads of amazing yoga classes, I am lucky to have met some of the most wonderful teachers on the planet, but I think what makes a yoga class the best is what you, as a student, bring to the mat. Your attitude, your energy. Everything else you can’t control, what you can control has the power to turn most classes into wonderful experiences.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned through yoga?
That the impossible is actually possible, if you try enough and let go of your limiting believes. Still very much work in progress, but I’m learning a little more about this every day.
If you could give new yogis an advice, what would it be?
To keep practicing, no matter how hard things seem today, it will get better, it will get easier, and it’s a never ending journey. By the time things will get easier, you will have found something else to work on, to keep progressing, not only in your physical practice, but also and mostly, in your practice off the mat. But maybe it’s too early to say that, if you are a new yogi! So just keep showing up on the mat and let the magic unfold.