Zarouhi Grumbar: Backbends take courage

Unfurl and Release is the new six-part course taught by Zarouhi Grumbar. The course is designed to ease yourself into bending back and work on physical and mental strength to open the heart and create more flexibility with tutorials, asana exercises and a concluding process. Check out the course now on Wanderlust TV.

Zaz lives in London with a young family, but is originally from Trinidad & Tobago. Her style of teaching is nutritious and encouraging, with the focus on alignment being underpinned by her study of applied anatomy. She insists on becoming aware of yourself and discovering all that you are capable of.

It provides clear guidance through detailed cues to help students improve or disadvantage depending on their needs. She believes she is taking every opportunity to question the perception of the mind and to enable her to move in accordance with her energies and needs at that very moment.

How did yoga get into your life?

One day on my way to work I was hit by a motorcycle that left me twisted and trapped in bed for days, unable to move and in great pain. A visit to the osteopath would help for a month, but any jarring motion would trigger the pain again. This went on for two years, and I fell into depression while battling an eating disorder.

One day a friend insisted that I come with her to try the “latest trend” – a vinyasa yoga class. From the first breath I took on the mat, I felt at home. I reconnected with my body and learned acceptance; Breathwork helped tremendously and magically, and as a result, these harrowing episodes became increasingly rare.

What’s your favorite part about being a teacher?

I feel completely humiliated about being a teacher and guiding people in their practice – my favorite part about being a teacher is the impact we have on people’s lives and when someone tells me they are discovering something within themselves that they never thought possible. It’s like teaching someone to find their inner superhero!

Your new Wanderlust TV course is all about heart and chest openers that release creative and loving energy. Could you elaborate on how this energy is unblocked? Are there certain phases that you go through? From rejection to awareness and acceptance?

Oh yeah! Backbends require such courage because we often instinctively arch our front bodies forward to protect ourselves and our personal space. So there may be resistance to full opening.

We also have an anatomical tendency to fall into our lower back. When we are working to mobilize the spine from the chest area, we figuratively have to send our heart up and out. Here we can begin to combine strength and bravery with devotion and curiosity. During this process we lift the sinuous energy from the base of the spine upwards, moving gently with awareness and yet with force, at the same time lifting our hearts and opening ourselves to the possibilities of what we can release and discover.

Backbends are just one magical Process.

Working on heart openers also means becoming more vulnerable. How can we convert this vulnerability into plasticity and resilience?

Being vulnerable can be interpreted as weak, but it is actually the direct opposite. It takes incredible courage and strength to risk vulnerability and be so open. It’s not for the faint of heart and that’s why we take the time to prepare physically, mentally and emotionally for the journey that heart openers will take us on. We are ready to be vulnerable and to find safety in this space, and we become aware of our resilience, our power and our ability to find out what we are really capable of.

Is there a heart-opening asana that could be called a “magic pill”?

If only! I think the answer to that would depend to a large extent on the individual’s anatomy, but also on each day which backbend attitude best suits their energy and heart space. For me personally, I love this transition from the wild thing – Camatkarasana – to the full wheel – Chakrasana, and it feels like everything falls away in the alternation between the two.

What is your personal practice like as a student? Is it self-practice or do you attend virtual classes?

My practice is a mixture of meditation and self-practice as well as participation in virtual courses. I love learning from other teachers and sometimes having someone tell me what to do. At other times I explore myself on the mat, do yoga postures, sometimes dance and just feel myself into my body!

Any tip for getting the most out of a virtual class? How do you connect with the teacher and with yourself more when you practice online?

I find it more real when I connect with the teacher before or after. With social media, it is so easy to see who they are, what parts of their practice they are presenting, what thoughts they are sharing, and to interact by commenting and starting a dialogue. When I practice online with a teacher, I feel like I know something about them. It’s like practicing with a friend. Reconnecting with myself is the easy part – I keep falling on my breath and coming inside.

Now a question we all ask, if you could have dinner with an influential person, past or present, who would it be?

I would really have trouble picking just one person as I love dinner parties. If I could have more than one, I would have Maya Angelou, Lena Horne, Alexandre Dumas, Anne Frank, Gillian Anderson, Cicely Tyson, and Mary Magdalene. If I were forced to choose just one, it would be Cicely Tyson, and I would ask her where her resilience came from, her fearlessness, risking her career for her faith, and in the middle of growing up, what she inspired her to have the self-love and self-respect that she had.

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