Last month I spent a few days in Berlin at a workshop led by Nancy Gilgoff. It was a great experience and really helped me understand what the practice is all about. Nancy has been practising for over 30 years, and she teaches just as she was taught by Guruji himself. She’s very committed to keeping the tradition pure, and not mixing it up with other forms of yoga – not because she doesn’t respect them, but because she believes each system works on its own terms.
Some of the things Nancy teaches seem strange at first – she insists on rounding your back in forward bends, rather than ‘extending out’ from the sacrum. This is to protect your lower back and strengthen the uddiyana bandha – when you practise like this, it feels more ‘internal’, as you’re not extending outwards but working harder internally.
This is typical of Nancy’s approach, which is all about heat, breath and energy rather than looking perfect in the postures. She believes we should ‘breathe with noise’ – as much noise as possible! – to really get the sweat and energy flowing, and quieten the mind.
With Nancy, you feel like you get right to the essence of the practice. As she says, we only have our bodies for a short lifetime, so what’s the point of striving for perfect physical alignment? She believes it’s more important to work on cleansing and strengthening the energy inside us.