Riding the Rocket with The Blue Yogi
The We Are Wild team rocked n’ rolled at a recent 2-day Rocket® Yoga workshop in Lausanne, Switzerland led by It’s Yoga® graduates The Blue Yogi Natalie Ekblom and Anna Roivas. Larry Schultz, the founder of It’s Yoga®, created The Rocket® Routines, a series of postures based on a modification of the traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga primary and intermediate series. Aptly named The Rocket®, because “it gets you there faster.”
Day 1 took us through Rocket® 1, a routine that integrates postures from the first and second series of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga with focus on strengthening the legs, shoulders and abdominals. On day 2 we were flying with Rocket® 2, a "feel good”, demanding and fun class that includes variations of poses from the second and third series of the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga focused on arm balances, backbends and hip openers. After giving it our all for the intense practice our bodies commanded healthy nourishment, which we received in the form of delicious vegan brunch at Bad Hunter, a restaurant promoting a health-conscious mindset. With belly’s full of broccoli, kale and happiness, we sat down with The Blue Yogi to dive deeper.
We understand there were some last-minute changes to the workshop venue – how did you deal with that experience?
With 3 deep breaths... Learning one week before the workshop that the booked venue was no longer available, we thought we would have to cancel the workshop. Cue 10-minute melt down. The original venue host thankfully helped us locate a space, which ended up being about 100 meters from the original one. This was really only confirmed the day before the workshop started. In the end of the day, everything worked out perfectly. We can't control everything, it is what it is and Yoga also teaches us to go with the flow and see how we work with it or around it.
Why do you call yourself ‘The Blue Yogi’?
I love blue. Maybe for it’s calming properties? When in doubt, I choose blue. When I have my own studio, it will be blue. At first, I didn’t want people to think I was sad, because blue could relate to this. In the end, I accepted that if people think this, I would want them to appreciate the full expression of my emotions. I’m very open with my feelings. I let them flow as they come. Sadness is part of me as a whole, so it too is to be embraced.
How did you come to Rocket Yoga® ?
After high school, I went on to study fashion design in NYC and psycho social studies. After that I had a chain of odd jobs and didn’t really know where I was going, I was on a search for myself. Exercise wise, I was more into boxing and even weight lifting. Power and strength was what I was after. I only got into daily yoga practice when I was working at Equinox in London and started going to Ashtanga classes regularly. Slowly but surely, I would find out that real strength comes from within and although my muscle volume melted, I feel much more energized and am much stronger than I ever was.
There was one class in particular where things clicked. It was the first time I successfully went into an arm balance. I was watching the instructor as we set up the pose and we locked eyes. I followed her movements almost as if she was in control of my body. She moved, I moved. Step by step, the instructor guided me through it and all of a sudden, I was flying. It was after this experience that I thought, "I want to guide people through this. I want to help people feel something similar to this amazing energy just coming out of me and into me from everywhere and everybody around me." I looked for a training in Finland or Europe and that’s when I found It’s Yoga®. They were hosting a training in Estonia and it looked exactly like what I had envisioned. It was at this incredible little lake with forest all around in the middle of nowhere and the thought of being there for 4 weeks studying yoga resonated with me. I signed up immediately without knowing anything about Rocket® or It’s Yoga®. I approached it from the perspective of, “this is who I am and I don’t know what I’ll get out of this. Maybe nice shoulders, I don’t know!” Only after practicing did I really see how it’s organically changed my life in so many ways. From day one, I knew this was right for me and I haven’t turned back since. I went for Rocket® full on.
Tell us about the Rock n’ Roll style of Rocket®?
Rocket® is edgy and creative. When Larry Schultz created Rocket®, he was the dedicated yoga instructor for the band The Grateful Dead. The rock and roll element was incorporated from the start in order to match their irregular rockstar life schedule and make the practice accessible, essentially breaking away from regular convention. Borrowing from the theme of music, practicing Rocket® invites one to move to the natural rhythms of the body. Rocket® attracts the misfits because there isn’t an expectation for practitioners to touch their toes or get into crazy flexible poses. It’s for all levels. You can be next to somebody that’s been practicing for decades or somebody that’s brand new.
Staying authentic to rock and roll, Rocket® is about freeing your spirit, breaking the rules and doing what feels good.
How did you and Anna come to collaborate on a Rocket® training?
Anna and I met as roommates on The Rocket® training and hit it off straight away. During the training, we were tasked with creating a SMART (specific – measurable – achievable – realistic – time-bound) goal. Anna and I made it our goal to collaborate on a workshop by the end of November 2017, and now we can excitedly tick that off.
What is your main takeaway from your classes?
To have fun. It takes away the competitiveness element. If you fall out of handstand, just laugh, it’s not so serious. I want the 90 minutes to resemble a child playing. I encourage people to come with an open mind. Even if they do half the poses, or one pose and the Savasana, that’s ok. Be free to be whoever you are and however you need to be. With Rocket®, there are the original poses but if I’m inspired to do something different, I do it because it feels right in the moment. There is no yoga police. The mat has become my playground and Rocket® provides the freedom to explore. I just do what feels good in my body. Yoga doesn’t have to be difficult, you don’t have to push yourself to do something that doesn’t feel good. Just be free.
What is your motivational driver?
The way I teach is driven by, "practice what you teach and teach what you practice." I feel like I can’t teach something that I don’t do myself or that doesn’t come from my own experience. I want my message to be authentic. I need to share this practice because it’s just too beautiful to keep to myself. I lived a life of anxiety and waking up in the morning not wanting to get out of bed. Tired of life a bit. I’m so far on the other side of that now and I don’t ever want to go back to feeling that way, I don’t think it’s even possible that I could. I want to help people see that there are these tools and they’re easy to do and easy to integrate into your life. Maybe not 90 minutes a day, but 10 minutes is great too. It’s a lifestyle, a mindset, not just the time you spend on the mat.
Are you living your dream?
I’m on the path to it. I used to teach yoga on the side, but now I’m teaching full time since July and it’s taking off way faster than I had ever imagined. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. The big dream I’m getting closer to is my own studio that mixes visual arts with yoga. I have a background in art so I want a space that has 2 studios, one for yoga and the other for art classes. The art that’s created would be displayed in the yoga studio to mix the two worlds together. Life drawing, painting, sculpting. I find that after I’ve practiced, the way I see the world is more alive and the colours are brighter and more vivid. Looking at something beautiful after I’ve practiced really opens my eyes and just feels like magic. And if that painting keeps changing, each day you experience something totally different and it will move you in a different way. Art has always really affected me emotionally and I feel that If you blend the two, it could be so liberating. With such a connection to Lausanne, I imagine creating it here.
We’ve arrived at your home for dinner, what’s on the menu?
I don’t cook, but I do get pleasure from eating. I eat whatever it is I’m craving. Normally it’s something healthy like an avocado salad, but it could also be a homemade burger. I don’t want to stop my body from having what it wants even if it’s cheese at 9pm. So if you came over for dinner it could be anywhere from a cheese fondue or quinoa salad and fried tofu to homemade sushi. I do love to bake though, don’t get me started on cakes….
What book is on your bedside table?
Currently I’m between "Yoga Mala" by Pattabhi Jois, that’s the kind of book I flip through, and "The art of Vinyasa" by Mary Taylor and Richard Freeman. When I’m not reading about yoga I try to go into a different world, and since my world is not really scary, I mostly read thrillers. I’m also a big Susan Lewis fan.
What is a quote that you live by?
“For what it’s worth...it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Whats your wild side?
(Laughters) I definitely have a wild side. It usually comes out at night. I love dancing and I’m the first to get up on the bar at Farinet Verbier’s favorite après-ski. I totally let lose, but I feel it’s all about balance and that’s what I’m trying to share with Rocket®. I have a lot of discipline in my life because of where I want to go business wise. Before my practice was personal and my work separate. Now that I’m mixing the two I need to find a way to switch off the yoga and switch on something else, which might mean dancing by myself in the kitchen or going out to a club. I am not perfect in this whole spiritual lifestyle, and nor do I want to be, because I have this other side to me that’s not always about what’s best.
Whats your blisscipline?
I do my practice 6 days a week. I need it. I want my practice. If I’m sick or feeling awful, I’ll just get on my mat and meditate or do some restorative yoga, but when I get back into it I still go back to traditional ashtanga and Rocket®. It’s the one thing I can’t finish my day without. If I don’t, then I need coffee…a lot of coffee.
Where can we find you
I teach regularly at Yoga flame, and will soon start at L’Equilibre all in Lausanne. My next Rocket® event is January 28th at Yoga Flame on transitions in the Rocket® sequence. For people who want to deepen their practice, I am excited to introduce a special serie of workshop in March at L'Equilibre in Lausanne. It's like doing a teacher training without the expectation of teaching after. Getting all of the philosophy and practice without the details of facilitating a class.
Words: Vanessa Stoessel & Garnet Suidy
Photography ©Tisa Sencur
Facebook: The Blue Yogi