“Yoga shifts how you look at your life.”
Hi, love. I’m very grateful you’re here today.
Some people think that yoga is just one of the many physical and mental training to keep one healthy. But yoga is actually more than just physical postures and mental activities. In fact, you can make it a way of life.
My guest today is a good friend of mine, Laruga Glaser. She is a highly sought Ashtanga yoga teacher who regularly travels to different countries to teach yoga to students worldwide.
In this interview, we talk about ashtanga yoga, the eight limbs of ashtanga practice, how you can apply them into your life, all about making yoga a way of life, and so much more. It’s a captivating interview, and I’m sure you are going to love it.
Who Is Laruga Glaser?
Laruga Glaser is a Level 2 Certified Yoga Teacher who acquired her Ashtanga Yoga certification in February of 2019. There are only about 300 certified Ashtanga yoga teachers around the world today, so that makes her truly unique and a yoga superstar. Although she is already an advanced level instructor, she remains a yoga student at the same time, bringing with her a combined total of more than 25 years of experience in instructional body movements.
Her journey in yoga started during her early 20s back in 1998 with frequent trips to Mysore, India, to practice Ashtanga Yoga at KPJAYI, short for Krishna Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Instituta, under the guidance of the late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, whom she regarded as her principal teacher. Right now, his grandson, R. Sharath Jois, teaches yoga classes.
Laruga is one of only a few in the world with the distinction of being certified to teach up to Advanced B, something that takes many years and much hard work to earn. But through it all, Laruga teaches as an act of love and deep sharing to allow yoga to develop and transform each individual, inspiring those with a desire to learn to realize their inherent potential while personally inviting more people all over the world to do so.
Her love for yoga is her way of making an impact on others, inspiring more to fall in love with yoga as a way to evolve oneself physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Falling in Love with Ashtanga Yoga
Ashtanga yoga is a well-structured vinyasa-style of yoga training that has its roots in an ancient tradition of India reaching back more than 5,000 years. In modern times, Ashtanga yoga was popularized and associated with the yoga practice in the lineage of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, also known as Guruji, who founded KPJAYI way back in 1948 in Mysore, India.
In Sanskrit, Ashtanga means “eight-limb,” and it’s called “Ashtanga” yoga because it has an eight-limb structure. At its core, the spiritual practice of Ashtanga purifies the mind, body, and heart. It illuminates one’s divine nature, and this is what made Laruga Glaser fall in love with Ashtanga yoga.
“I liked how on the outside, it does look like it’s just purely physical. But actually, that’s kind of the illusion — it looks as if that’s all that’s happening. But the fact is … it’s really about connecting inwardly and working that energy outward. … So all of that just really resonated with me at that time and continues to do so.” – Laruga Glaser
This form of yoga training embodies a holistic approach to personal development that goes beyond physical like posture (Asana), self-restraint (Yama), and breath control (Pranayama). It also deals with one’s self-purification (Niyama), concentration (Dharana), sense withdrawal (Pratyahara), meditation (Dhyana), and enlightenment (Samadhi).
Yoga as a Way of Life Through The Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Practice
We can learn from the eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga and apply them to our everyday lives. With constant practice and regular observance, yoga will become a way of life.
Love, if you’re feeling distracted by how some people treat or judge you, especially if you’re a woman of color, you can learn from how Laruga manages the situation. Sometimes, these distractions may affect our emotions and lead to frustration. In situations like these, we need to focus on our behaviors and our conduct in life. That is the principle behind the limb of yama.
“I think challenging the emotions of disappointment and frustration are so important because, believe me, I have definitely had felt that, where some things — the blatant disrespect or the just feelings of outrage and hurt that I’ve definitely felt, and certain practices that have been, [what was] really helpful for me is journaling.” – Laruga Glaser
The essence of self-restraint or yama is to shift in focus from the negativity that happens around us towards self — our visions and purpose. So, if you feel distracted by what others are telling you or saying about you, especially because you’re a woman of color, practice yama. But this is best followed by the next limb, which is niyama or self-purification.
Niyama: Self Purification, Personal Observances
The limb of niyama has to do with spiritual routines and self-discipline. Good examples of doing niyama or self-purification are doing meditations.
“Meditation is really important for me… just to kind of sit inside of myself and learn how to be in this space of observing and seeing the bigger picture and being able to tap into other intuitive forces that get suppressed when we stay in a level of distraction. … Life will always throw us a few curve balls, and we have to learn how to be more skillful and work through all of that.” – Laruga Glaser
So, aside from meditation, attending church services, saying a prayer before meals, or just walking alone in a contemplative state are also a part of niyama.
Asana: Seat or Posture
The asanas are the various standing and seated postures that allow the force to flow through during the practice. Within asana, you can activate the primary lock points, or bandhas, in the body. These lock points are located near the mouth (jalandhara bandha), below the belly (uddiyana bandha), and at the base of the spine (mula bandha).
“I remember just going through some of the simple movements and postures, and it was so miraculous because it just seemed to help whatever I was experiencing with my back pain. It felt like magic.” – Laruga Glaser
The journey to Ashtanga yoga for Laruga Glaser started with her amazement with how the postures led to a sense of healing from body pains and illnesses.
“I thought there was something magical about yoga, especially the postures themselves. … I felt a sense of healing. … And I felt shifted — something had shifted.” – Laruga Glaser
Pranayama: Breath Control, Development of Energy
The main foundation of Ashtanga yoga is breath, or pranayama, which is believed to awaken your life force.
“I was in the breath, and it was … like unconscious energy gets locked up in the body, and I just felt whatever that was, and I was just holding space for it. And at that time, I didn’t really understand what was happening. All I knew is I felt better.” – Laruga Glaser
The practice uses pranayama that involves retention of breath to increase body heat and improve oxygen level.
Pratyahara: Sense Withdrawal
Pratyahara is the conscious effort to change our awareness away from outside stimuli or the world around us. It is a practice of cultivating detachment from the external forces and redirecting the focus to our internal energies.
“Stay focused on what my vision is and stay focused on what my purpose is, and not get pulled into the drama and other people’s lower energy.” – Laruga Glaser
The limb of pratyahara is also a preparatory stage to the next limb, which is concentration or dharana.
The eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga should be ideally done in stages. Each phase sets the stage for the next level. So, after you have overcome the outside distractions in the previous stages, you can shift to managing the distractions of the mind, which is more challenging. In dharana, the concentration is centered on a single point or aspect in life. It could be centered on a personal deity or whatever dharana has focused on. If you are experiencing pain in your body, you can focus your concentration on that pain and start a visualization of healing.
Dhyana or meditation is an uninterrupted concentration series, which will take you to a deeper level of yoga practice. It usually requires stamina and strength to reach this stage of stillness where the mind is quieted.
“As you go deeper into yoga, it just shifts how you look at your life, and slowly, things start to change. You don’t realize it’s changing, but it is by your choices. … Day by day, week by week, month by month, … things were shifting and changing. And it started to crowd out almost everything else that wasn’t speaking to me — like that wasn’t speaking to my heart or my soul. And it’s just like a natural progression.” – Laruga Glaser
It can be difficult to achieve dhyana, but you will eventually get to this phase with constant practice.
Samadhi is the final stage where the yoga practitioner will reach a state of ecstasy, and the meditator is in oneness with the divine. At this stage, the mind is so absorbed with whatever it is focusing on that sometimes it loses its sense of identity. It is the ultimate stage of yoga that is neither bought nor handed down. Instead, it is only experienced through regular practice.
Ashtanga yoga is a great personal tool for tuning the body since it creates balance and improves focus and coordination. Regular practice can help improve your awareness of the flow and movements of your body. There are many aspects of yoga that you can apply to your life.
“I just found a lot of parallels to yoga philosophy when it comes to self-accountability and self-responsibility. … There were a few rules that I really appreciate, like ‘Before you complain about the world, get your own house in order,’ … ‘Never compete with anyone else,’ and ‘Just be a better version of yourself today than you were yesterday.’ There were just a lot of parallels to what I have studied in the yoga philosophy, but just interpreted a bit differently.” – Laruga Glaser
There are many ways of evolving into the best version of oneself, and yoga is one of them. How about you? Are you ready to make the shift and make yoga a way of life?
Get Loved Up with Laruga Glaser
This is such a powerful interview with Laruga Glaser, and I just loved how she shared with us her yoga journey. After this interview, you will surely love Ashtanga yoga and maybe make yoga your way of life.
Laruga Glaser is offering Ashtanga Mysore Classes in the heart of Stockholm, Sweden, where she’s extending the transformative practice of Ashtanga yoga. Take a look at her website to see the classes she offers for people of all backgrounds and levels of experience. You can also connect with Laruga on Facebook and Twitter or subscribe to her Youtube channel to access her free yoga videos.
This interview was such a treat for me, and Laruga is phenomenal. I’ve been following her and practicing with her for a while. I hope this interview inspired you tpp. If so, tag Laruga, @larugayoga, and me, @koyawebb, on Instagram with a screenshot of the episode and your greatest takeaways. We would love to hear what you learned.
To conclude our conversation, I asked Laruga one last question: If you could speak to your 14-year old self and there was one message that you had with her, what would it be? This was her answer:
“I think what I would tell my 14-year old self is to really trust your inner voice — like it’s really speaking to you. … When I look back, retrospectively, there were just so many times it was speaking loudly to me, or softly, and I didn’t always trust. I didn’t always value it because I thought other people’s voices were more valuable. … And I did listen at times, too, and I just see how it hasn’t led me astray. … I think there were certain integral times in my life where I would just like to tell that young woman to really trust that internal guidance that you have.” – Laruga Glaser
That was truly inspiring. Trust your intuition, and don’t forget to love yourself, love others, and love the world, one day at a time, one breath at a time. Peace and love!
Until next time, love.
- Yoga planted a seed as a teenager 4:44
- Falling in love with Ashtanga 8:50
- Beginnings of teaching 12:10
- Shifting to daily dedication 15:04
- Most challenging time 17:08
- Abandon Comparison 19:29
- Seats at the table 23:00
- No one can discriminate against hard work 24:49
- Words of wisdom 30:14
Links mentioned in this episode
Order Koya’s book Let Your Fears Make You Fierce