Interview for Progredir July 2018 Magazine

Interview with Vera Simões,

“From Yoga Mat to Life”

Vera Simões, founder of the Ashtanga Cascais, tells readers of Progredir Magazine about her latest book “Stop. Feel. Breathe. A Yoga Practice for Transforming Body, Mind and Soul, “and how the practice of Ashtanga Yoga can be transformative.

Progress: Vera Simões, for readers who do not know you, four words that define you as a person?

Vera Simões: Determined, courageous, hardworking, affectionate.

Progress: Tell us a little about your life path?

Vera Simões: It has been a life dedicated to what I believe makes me well, alive and happy. It involved having learned to be disciplined, defining strategies for turning lazy and demotivated, time to reflect when things went less well, and gaining inner strength and courage to once again try and do my best on the yoga mat and life.

Progress: Why go into the  Yoga world?

Vera Simões: Yoga came into my life without me knowing what it was. I met Yoga at the age of 16, and after experiencing my first class, I saw myself saying  that I would be a Yoga teacher and that I would have a school. It was something internal that pulled me into the practice and study of Yoga, I do not know yet to explain why, there was nobody in my family who practiced Yoga, nor any friend or acquaintance who did.

In Portugal it was not something talked about as we heard it today, nor were there many schools and spaces where we could practice or study these practices. When I said that I wanted to be a Yoga teacher, my family tried subtly to show me ( concerning for my future) that I might be a practitioner, but it would be best to work in another area, medicine, law practice, or other profession where recognition was widespread. I need many determination and persistence to continue this dream of practicing and teaching Yoga.

Progress: How is Ashtanga Cascais space born and what is the philosophy behind this project?

Vera Simões: This house was born of the humble dream of one day to have a physical space where I could teach the practice of my heart, Ashtanga Yoga. In 2007 when I returned from my first trip to Mysore in South India to study for 2 months at the legendary KPJAYI, Shri Krishna Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute, with my teacher Sharath Jois, I felt it was important to ensure that sharing this practice was in an environment that would give students the opportunity to do Ashtanga Yoga more often during the week and in greater depth.

I had never thought of Cascais to open a school, this choice happened by the co-founder of Ashtanga Cascais, my friend, who is also Ashtanga Yoga teacher, Manuel Ferreira. And it was with the immense support from our parents that we started this school project.

It was a long process to captivate and inspire people to pay attention to themselves, and without distractions from music, conversations, or other outside stimuli, to stay for an hour and a quarter focused on breathing and the dynamics of combining it with a set movements and postures, and learning to be with themselves.

The philosophy of this house of practice is based on focus, determination, persistence, acceptance and surrender.

Progress: How does the idea for your book, “Stop, Feel, Breathe, A Yoga Practice to Transform Body, Mind, and Soul” arise?

Vera Simões: It came after more than a decade of teaching Ashtanga Yoga, and to have the privilege of meeting so many people, men and women, of different ages, with different professions, life histories, capacities and needs.

It was important to share with everyone the transformative power of this Yoga practice, how it changes our bodies, calms the mind and emotions, and connects our innermost. It was important to introduce Ashtanga Yoga to all people who never thought about practicing, and also to those who do not feel special empathy for what they consider to be Yoga.

Progredir: In your opinion what are the advantages and benefits of practicing Ashtanga Yoga and how can this practice be a tool for a life of greater well-being?

Vera Simões: The practice of Ashtanga Yoga has as main advantage and benefit the detoxification of the body – through the conscious breaths in tune with the movements and postures, we generate internal heat, which is translated into perspiration.

Yes you read very well, people who practice Ashtanga Yoga perspire! Some more than others, but there is heat and in most people, there is perspiration, which enables a true physical cleansing. Parallel to this benefit, we work flexibility, strength, endurance, coordination, improve blood circulation, but also energy. And we still help the mind learn to focus, stability, and relaxation. There are many more effects, and all allow the practitioner to acquire instruments for a life of greater well-being.

Progredir: What is your Life motto?

Vera Simões: Respect – myself, others and what surrounds me. Be grateful for the wonderful opportunity to connect body and mind.

Progredir: This month’s theme of Progredir Magazine is “Anger”. In your opinion how can regular Yoga practice help in diminishing this feeling within us?

Vera Simões: The practice of Ashtanga Yoga begins by entering the physical and progressed to the areas of the mind and emotions. On the Yoga  mat the practitioners live different experiences, some days will be easy, light, fluid and others will encounter difficulties, weight, obstacles, limitations. It is in the inner experience of these observations and awareness that we actually begin to practice Yoga, which helps us to know ourselves better, and with this we open the fantastic door of letting go of what we recognize that does not do us good. It is a long, continuous process that implies regularity and consistency in practice, does not happen from today to tomorrow. But it is an honest, real, and great change.

Progredir: A message to our readers?

Vera Simões: Do not wait for tomorrow to start caring for yourself. Put yourself today on your list of priorities. And make small adjustments in your daily life to do something where you feel good and connected. Away from cell phones and monitors, walk on the beach barefoot with your children, sit in the garden with your mother, even if you still have to finish that email. Or get organized with your husbands and wake up early and come to the Yoga class before taking the kids to school. Go and make that running at the end of the day that helps you release accumulated tension, or enjoy Saturday morning to go surfing with your best friend. Do something that will help you to be inspired to be happy.


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