“There is a special kind of energy happening in Mysore classes […] The feeling I have is that there is compassion cultivated in the room for whatever life might have thrown your way.”
What’s your yoga story?
It was in the mid-nineties. I was assigned to do a photo shoot in London with John Scott for a Swedish magazine. After the shoot he invited me and the journalist to his class at a small centre in London. This is where I took my very first guided Ashtanga class. From that moment I began a daily yoga practice. I had such an instant connection with the practice, almost like a recognition. The pictures later became the beginning of a book about yoga that we made together and was published in 2000.
How did you end up in Paris?
I had a photo exhibition at Colette and during this event, a couple of photographer agents asked to represent me. I finally decided to join one, and the agent said to me at our final meeting: So you have to move to Paris, ok? I thought this was a wonderful suggestion so without too much thinking I said yes! At the time we didn’t have an apartment in Paris, no work lined up, no savings, no childcare for our then 2-year old daughter, and neither my husband nor myself spoke one word of French…
In your experience, what are the similarities or differences between yoga in Paris and where you’re from originally?
Well I am from Stockholm, and nowadays there is a yoga studio on every corner, and every other person you meet is a yoga teacher. (However when I began, we were only a handful practicing together in a freezing cold Karate studio!) But I think that people in general are more alike in Stockholm and not as diverse as they are in Paris, where you find so many different cultures and social and religious backgrounds. So when something becomes ‘trendy’ in Stockholm, EVERYONE hops on the train! In Paris, there is room for more than one thing at a time, so it is not as noticeable. The yoga scene in Paris is definitely there and it’s growing but it’s not an epidemic as it is in Stockholm 😉
Keeping this mind, what do you consider to be the most unique aspect of practicing in Paris?
In our Shala there is a very strong sense of community, perhaps due to the fact that not everyone is practicing yoga at 7am in the morning in Paris… I find this aspect beautiful about yoga in Paris.
What advice for you have non-Francophone yogis who are nervous about taking a class in Paris?
Don’t be!! There is a huge diversity in nationalities and languages spoken at the Shala — and I’m sure that goes for many other yoga places as well.
How would you characterize the Parisian yoga community
Again, I can only speak for the people practicing early morning Mysore classes. I sense that there is a very strong sense of community, people are really connecting and supporting each other. If someone doesn’t show up for a while, people begin to worry. It’s very sweet! Many of our students are yoga teachers and they often say it’s nice to practice together and to share experiences and perhaps have a tea after practice!
There is a special kind of energy happening in Mysore classes as people who have been practicing for many years — and are maybe teachers — practice side-by-side with others who are perhaps doing yoga for the very first time, or someone who is 7 months pregnant, or another who might be coming back after an accident or injury… The feeling I have is that there is compassion cultivated in the room for whatever life might have thrown your way. So although it is an individual practice and journey, there is a possibility to tap into the energy and strength of the group.
How has it grown?
Tremendously! New people seem to find their way to practice every week, which is fantastic.
Similarly, has your practice grown or shifted as a result of being in Paris?
In Stockholm, it was so easy, I had my teacher at the shala where I was teaching as well. Most of the years spent in Paris I have practiced alone so I have had to cultivate a very strong discipline and self-practice, literally speaking! Also, now I have 2 beautiful children and to manage to do my own practice before they get up and before I go to teach in the shala, I have to start my day at 3am these days. This is sometimes a challenge as Parisian life gets started later in the day than typical Swedish family life.