"My best tip? have india mess up your plans"
Florence´s first lady of Ashtanga on staying silent in the dark before dawn, reading three books simultaneously, and changing her life course to yoga.
She describes herself as Italian by birth but daughter of mother Nature. Three years ago she left her work as a fashion designer to dedicate her life to the studying and teaching of Ashtanga. She looks tough, and she is - on the mat. But don´t be fooled, this lady is one of the sweeter and most inspiring folks we´ve met so far. Of course we want to find out who she is and what´s brought her here.
FS: What do you do first thing in the morning?
AC: I love silence and darkness, so I love that moment just before dawn when it's still night and there's only silence around. The first thing I do is a routine of about an hour that is untouchable. I wake up when it's still dark, I prepare a mixed chicory coffee that I grind fresh. During winter I love to drink my coffee sitting on the couch, looking at the embers of the fireplace that have remained lit by the evening fire. In spring or summer I go out in the garden and walk barefoot in the grass to feel the dew. I remain silent around 20 minutes, emptying my mind preparing it for the day. I take a shower, I feed my cats and my dog. Me and my dog then go to the shala and while she sleeps there I start my daily practice. Asanas and chanting. As I finish my practice the first students begin to arrive and join their breath with mine in the mysore classroom.
FS: What does your own practice look like?
AC: My practice is listening to the breath in the body, when I get on the mat I try to listen to what my body needs. I usually practice 3 days a week the third series of Ashtanga, 2 days a week the intermediate series. And primary series once a week. Sometimes I need to fly, other times to let myself flow, other times to root myself. After my asana practice, I keep 15 to 20 minutes for chanting, yoga sutras or other mantras depending on what I feel. What I look for from my practice is connection, listening and freedom. I rest on Sunday, New Moon and Full Moon Days.
FS: How did you find your way into Ashtanga?
AC: Funnily enough, initially I was very reluctant and critical towards this method. Too much discipline, too many rules. I started practicing hatha yoga in 2015 as I was searching for some serenity outside my work in fashion. I was always traveling and always stressed. One time in 2016 in Milan, as I was overwhelmed from work during fashion week, I decided to take an evening off and go to an Ashtanga yoga class at the school of Lino Miele. At the time I didn't know who he was or what this practice really was, but by chance the school was right next to the showroom I worked for. That is why I often say that Ashtanga found me and not the other way around.
FS: An intense schedule on the mat, it seems. What do you do when you don’t practice yoga?
AC: I teach every day from 6 to 10 in the morning in my shala Florence Ashtanga Yoga in the city center of Florence. At home, I spend most of my days outdoors - in the woods, chopping wood, gardening, taking care of my chickens, a sheep and a turtle. I live in the countryside, in the hills just outside Florence, so depending on the season there is always something to do. The olive harvest, the fruit harvest, the pruning of the trees... I read a lot and I like taking long walks in the woods listening to the wind and the birds singing. I love traveling, and if before I did it as holidays, now my trips have become more focused on my yoga path. I spend two months a year in India studying with my teacher Sharath Jois, or I travel around Italy and world to teach ashtanga yoga workshops or retreats.
FS: What are your primary focuses for being a teacher?
AC: Sharing what for me has been an awakening, a revelation and a life change, for the better. I feel very grateful to be able to share the greatness of this method, in the purest way. Teaching a physical practice as therapy for the body but also as a form of meditation for the liberation of the spirit. My goal is certainly to give a tool to people that allows them to emancipate themselves as free and conscious human beings, connected with their own soul and with the natural rhythm of life.
FS: Sounds fairly philosophical. Do you have a favourite bit of yoga philosophy?
AC: Yes, the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali 1.3: Tada Drashtuh Svarupe Avasthanam. In yoga we find our true nature. When we are immersed in practice, our true nature is revealed. We know who we really are, without veils and without masks. Naked with our pure essence. Once you start seeing the truth inside yourself, you perceive everything around differently, with more clarity. Once you know, you never go back.
FS: Moving away from yoga and into the personal realm - how would other people describe you and in what way are they mistaken?
AC: I have always been a determined person. If I believe in something I take it to the end. Both my mother and my partner often tell me, in the sweetest way, that I am stubborn. If I choose a path, I follow it and commit to it with dedication and focus. This determination can often be perceived from the outside as harshness...
FS: Is there something outside of yoga that you’re really good at (painting, statistics, science etc)?
AC: I am an ancient soul, perhaps belonging to another era... I write poetry and love the ancient art of pencil illustrations, analogue photography, black and white polaroids, hand-knitting and creating my own clothes…
FS: Are you reading anything particular at the moment?
AC: There are people who only read one book at a time and there are people who start and continue more than one at a time... I´m definitely part of the second group. I´m a curious person, and tend to I open the book I feel called to. Among my favorites writers is Haruki Murakami, and I am currently reading “1Q84”. Parallell to that I´m reading “Walk Without Feet, Fly Without Wings and Think Without Mind” by Osho, and “A fortune teller told me” by Tiziano Terzani. I always keep a collection of H.D. Thoreau's letters on my bedside table which I occasionally open, and Gibran's “The Prophet”. I'm also a huge fan of comics, I don't miss a Dylan Dog release!
FS: Give me one thing you have learned from yoga that you did not see coming?
AC: In the past I have been a person who tended to judge and evaluate everything according to my set standards - "this is right or this is wrong." I've been a very black or white person. Yoga taught me nuances, it taught me to understand that not everyone sees the same colors and that there is no absolutely right or absolutely wrong vision. Yoga taught me non-judgment and compassion. Learning to listen instead of always wanting to give your opinion first.
FS: Finally then, if someone would like to travel to get a yoga experience, do you have any recommendations and why?
Asia in general but especially India. India always, anyway. But don't limit yourself, be really open to explore with limitless eyes. For a student who wants to deepen and learn about Ashtanga yoga I absolutely recommend the trip to Mysore. But don't limit yourself to this, it would be an understatement. Even an experience in an ashram in northern India, or in the foothills of the Himalayas is certainly one of the most transformative experiences I have ever had. In general, what I think is that teaching yoga without ever having been to India is really almost impossible. Because India cannot be explained, it cannot be told, you can only experience it directly. Get lost in India, let India find you and not the other way around. Because India knows how to mess up even the most perfect plans. India knows how to transform you.
FS: Thank you so much, Alice! We know you also teach online. Where can people find you if they want to hook up with you or get som more info?