Balance On and Off the Mat

In the coming months, this column in Parvati Magazine will feature articles and interviews from leading yoga teachers from around the world.

Ella Isakov, Yoga Editor: It is fitting the first interview for the Yoga section be with my teacher Ron Reid. His insights and wisdom from over three decades of studying yoga philosophy, asana and meditation are rich in depth, but what I love most about Ron is his gentle nature, kind heart and pure humbleness. I am grateful to call him my teacher, and it is an honor to spend time and learn from Ron as he shares wisdom on Surrender.

Parvati Magazine: What has been the greatest lesson you have gained from your practice?

Ron Reid: One thing that yoga teaches us is patience. Time and practice brings us our rewards or benefits. Anytime I have wanted to push anything, thatโ€™s when there have been problems in my practice or in my life. It teaches us observation as a learning process and ultimately being patient with things and seeing things happen in their own time.

PMAG: As a teacher to the teachers here in Toronto and worldwide, what is the one thing you would want students to take from what you have to offer?

RR: I feel fortunate that my first teacher focused more on meditation, yoga philosophy, pranayama, and yoga as a way of healing. Even though I really enjoy asana, it came later. I see how yoga is so asana based, and many people think that is all there is and I think thatโ€™s such a shame, as yoga is such an endless practice, both in form and beyond form. In so many ways yoga centers me, grounds me and holds me to a certain path. My yoga practice is something that has always stayed with me. When you have something like that that has been so profound in your life, then it is really just about sharing that with others. Itโ€™s the endless possibility in the physical realm and outside of it. What amazes me about asana is that it is all doable if you approach it properly. It goes back to patience, trying to push your way into something isnโ€™t really going to get it done. Even in the most challenging poses the best thing to do often is to let go.

PMAG: What does surrender mean for you in your life?

RR: We can control things to a certain degree in our own lives and actions but that is all we can do. Within that process of doing our own work, it is best to allow things to unfold. When we look at asanas, we can have a vision and take steps to see it unfold, but so many people are hindered by not being able to take the first step. You wonโ€™t know what the second step is till you take the first one, and if it is not right you can have that reflection. Part of the practice is to help us overcome fear and insecurities that we arenโ€™t good enough. It is a way of kind of working it through and then realizing that things can change and things can transform, and reflect on what it took.

PMAG: In our yoga practice and daily life there is a play between action and surrender, or strength and letting go; what are your thoughts on gaining a balance between these two on and off the mat?

RR: Sthira Sukham Asanam from the Yoga Sutras is about finding the balance between the effort and the letting go. Sometimes I see people working so hard at their practice and I tell them to maybe cut it back 10% and see if it still holds together. I feel the effort and struggle and try to alleviate that without everything falling apart. I also play with the Koshas (five bodies in yoga), reflecting on am I physically engaged in this process, whatโ€™s the energetic component, am I using intelligence, am I allowing intuition to flow through me, and am I actually enjoying what I am doing. When I see students starting their practice it takes a while, itโ€™s the process of the journey. Sometimes the smallest shift can have the greatest impact. The shift is usually having more effort some place and less effort someplace else. One word to describe yoga is balance. Everything that takes us here is balance.

Ron ReidRon Reid is one of Canadaโ€™s top yoga teachers. He studied with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and Sharath and was one of the first Canadian teachers to be authorized to teach ashtanga yoga. He has taught yoga since 1988 and is co-owner and Director of the Downward Dog Yoga Centre in Toronto, Canada. In addition to regular classes at Downward Dog, he conducts workshops and teacher trainings in Canada, the U.S., Europe, the U.K. and Asia.

Ron is also an accomplished musician and composer and performs with his partner Marla Meenakshi Joy under their group name Swaha.