Balancing the sun and the moon – An interview with Marcus Felsner

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Photo credit: Marcus Felsner

Marcus Felsner originally comes from Telfs, a village surrounded by the high mountaintops in the Austrian Alps. From a young age he developed a sensitivity for music which materialized into his love for the guitar. When the time was ripe, with his guitar over the shoulder, Marcus embarked on a personal journey through other mountains (the Himalayas), coasts, forests, and rivers, traveling all over India, soaking in its richness and vastness. In India, Marcus came in direct contact with the spiritual side of life, having met some sages and learning to sing the Bhajan, a type of Indian devotional song. The next step of becoming a yoga teacher in the Sivananda Yoga tradition was a natural continuation of the original journey, and ever since Marcus continues to travel around the world, playing music, singing, and teaching yoga. This is exactly what he will do at the Barcelona Yoga Conference 2017 under “Rainbow Yoga”, so don’t miss it!

I had a chance to catch this wild spirit, or Gandharva as some call him, for an interview, as he settled for the time being in Ubud, preparing for the Bali Spirit Yoga Festival. There, Marcus will be teaching alongside his longtime mentor and a dear friend, Danny Paradise, with whom Marcus has already been to Barcelona Yoga Conference, Bali Spirit Yoga Festival, Geneva Yoga Festival, organizing yoga retreats in Thailand, Laos, etc.

A: How exactly did you start yoga?

M: I started out yoga because sitting on the beach for years and playing guitar all night is a bit one sided, so to balance that out I started the asanas.

A: Who were your major teachers and influencers?

M: Vishnudevananda, at first through his book “The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga”, which I learned with when I lived in Oregon, and then I became a yoga teacher in his ashram in Kerala. So I am basically a Sivananda yoga teacher, but for many years friends around me did Ashtanga Yoga as taught by Pattabhi Jois. Then, many years later I also learned with David Swenson’s Ashtanga book and ever since I met Danny 7 years ago I travel a lot with him and we do a lot of things together. Besides Vishnudevananda, in whose tradition I did my TTC , I really got influenced by the book “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Yogananda, who explains very well the power of Bhakti Yoga.

A: How long have you practiced yoga and how long have you been teaching?

M: 27 years ago I started teaching in the Sivananda style and I still do, but I always integrate my music into the classes, play Indian Bansuri for the students in the final relaxation, and if there is time we sing some Bhajans at the end.

A: And what is exactly “Rainbow Yoga”?

M: A Rainbow Yoga Class consists of the basic 12 Sivananda asanas with savasana in-between each posture. I stress the importance of breath at all the times while teaching. On the inhale my students are asked to think “SO”, while on the exhale they think of “HAM”. My contribution to the traditional Sivananda class is the music that I play: the flute and the guitar.

The reason why I call my classes that way is because I’m a “rainbow”, that is, I actively partake in the “Rainbow Gatherings”. They are gatherings around the world, where people get together in nature, away from the cities and cars [and technology]. We get to a place by car, but the last few kilometers we walk. We live in the tents and play drums and guitars, and some come with big cooking pots to cook for everybody… We are the “Rainbow Family”.

A: What, in your opinion, is the purpose of yoga, regardless of the method?

M: Yoga brings balance into your life, makes you calm. In HATHA yoga there are two aspects of our being, “HA”, the sun, and “THA”, the moon, and that’s what we want to balance out. The sun is the fire, the heat, the doing. The moon is the cool side, the calm side, the becoming.

A: What do you find the most challenging aspect of the yoga journey?

Samahdi, the so-called breathless state, where the yogi becomes totally one with creation, the breath ceases, and full bliss and contentment appear. This state is impossible to describe with words as it is outside of the “normal” consciousness, therefore it is difficult for the mind to grasp.

I think we are all on the way to Samahdi, it’s just that it may take many lifetimes to get there. To speed up the process we practice the 8 steps of ashtanga yoga. If combined with Bhakti and Karma yoga, the process happens even faster. The Jnana [Yoga of the Knowledge] way is the most difficult.

Perhaps in our time now Bhakti and Karma yoga seem to be the best methods to reach that Samahdi goal… so many people practice Ashtanga or similar yoga without even knowing what astanga really means.

A: What words of wisdom would you give to anyone on this path?

M: Be good, do good, respect and love one another, try meditation, offer your service without expecting a reward for it, listen to calming music.

Marcus Felspar will be teaching the following classes at the BYC 2017:

Rainbow Yoga – Friday July 21 @ 9:00Saturday July 22 @ 15:30Sunday July 23 @ 8:00

and singing Bhajans  Friday July 21 @ 13:30 on the stage in the yoga village.

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