Having encountered Ashtanga Yoga while training as an actor and physical performer, Gabriele’s classes are dynamic, muscular, but never forced. The focus always is to come back to feeling the body and mind from within, leaning towards a state of being that is awake, aware, and yet fully ‘available’.
How did you get into yoga?
I was eighteen years old and had just begun to train to become an actor when I did my first ever sun salutation, and I remember thinking, “gosh, I can’t keep up with all of these weird movements!” My movement teacher in drama school had a background in Ashtanga Yoga, and this formed the basis of our movement classes. To begin with, my practice was less concerned with being a yoga practice per se, rather it was about beginning a process of personal body-based discovery, all in the service of actor training. However, as is often the case with yoga, its full potential started gradually to dawn on me, and I decided to delve a bit deeper into yoga in general, and the Ashtanga Vinyasa system in particular. The rest sort of took care of itself.
Was there a moment when you realised you wanted to pursue yoga seriously?
I can’t say that there was a precise moment. Rather, it was an organic process of returning to the mat in order to get a hit of that ‘feel good’ feeling, and leaving every time with a bit more of a sense of not just getting stronger or more flexible, but of really owning a practice that provided me with the tools to comfortably inhabit my body. The significance of this became unmistakably clear to me over time. I think of it as house-keeping: you tidy, clean and take good care of your home, and it will be a good place to live. The same is true of the body and mind, and yoga can be like the cleaning utensils to assist you in this work.
How has yoga changed you?
In two main ways, and by augmenting two qualities: self-assurance and acceptance. While I recognise that they are far from being fully ‘ripe’, these two seemingly contrasting qualities of the heart are, I believe, the principal fruits of my practice. On the one hand, yoga has granted me the strength to appreciate my body for what it is, while knowing that I can work with it to grant it the health that it yearns for. On the other hand, yoga has also helped me attune to those parts of myself that simply need listening to, those parts that do not need ‘bettering’, but simply respecting. Injuries have been a big part of this journey, and I’m not sure how I would have responded to being seriously injured if it wasn’t for yoga.
What’s your advice to people considering starting yoga?
See if you can put aside any ideas of what yoga is supposed to be like, and while it’s unavoidable to have goals (they’re not wrong), it’s helpful if you listen to what yoga has to tell you, as opposed to try and fit the practice into some fixed agenda that you are bringing. Also, stick to it: everyone is “really bad” when they start. I have yet to meet someone whose first yoga class didn’t take them by surprise, make them tremble or ache, get them out of breath etc.
What is your approach to teaching?
I like to make sure that everyone feels like they are really engaging actively every time they are on the mat, not simply ‘going through the motions’. As such, I tend to give as much detail and information about how to focus, what to bring awareness to, what to soften etc. I like to keep things light (and hopefully fun), but always heading towards a quieter place of stillness without being too solemn about it!
Is there anything else outside yoga that would be interesting to share?
I am from Milan, Italy, but I grew up in Ireland and later attended a British school, so my accent is all over the place: people often think I’m Canadian (if only)! I have 4 siblings, and most of my plans revolve around trying to spend as much of my waking life surrounded by mountains. I am very knowledgeable of the history of reggae music, all things pasta-related, and I’m learning Tai Chi!
What is your favourite yoga related quote?
I’m not sure it’s a quote, and if not I think it ought to be: “Breathe. If there’s no breath, it’s not yoga”