San Francisco: The Experience of Zhander
For the last five days, I have been waking up at 5am to study with Zhander Remete. I am completely delirious with all that I am learning, not to mention the new sleep schedule. And I still have four more days to go.
You may have heard of Zhander (also known as Shandor), an Australian-based Hungarian yogi who visits Mark Horner's Moksha Yoga Shala studio in Walnut Creek every year to teach an intensive workshop on one of his two main practices: Shadow Yoga or Nata Yoga. Zhander's more well-known asana-based practice of Shadow Yoga is deeply steeped in ancient traditions of yoga that are informed by Marmasthana, the Indian system that focuses on the body's 108 vital energy pockets (or marmas). Nata Yoga, which Zhander has started teaching in recent years, is also marma-focused, but is a series of karanas (as opposed to asanas) which are dance-like postures that combine simultaneous movement of hands, feet, and body.
This week, we are practicing Nata Yoga, which Zhander discovered when he saw the 108 karanas depicted on the walls of the South Indian Chidambaram temple and was taught how to perform them by a sadhu. The practice focuses on subtle movements—like flower-picking hand gestures—as opposed to gross movements, like the usual big bends and twists that most practices incorporate.
I had never before studied with Zhander, whose intense and sometimes intimidating energy has earned him a reputation of being the "bad boy" or "dark prince" of yoga in the past. He is certainly commanding, but there is a real loving quality in him, and his rarely matched knowledge of and commitment to the practice has inspired a multitude of followers. I feel like I am only retaining bits and pieces of this highly complex and esoteric practice, but it's still amazing. Zhander discourages us from taking notes, with the belief that that which we truly understand we will naturally remember. The writer in me wants to rebel, but I must admit that he's got a point.
The course ends on Sunday and I think I might miss the eat-before-sunset, in-bed-by-nine, pre-sunrise yogavan carpooling delirium, not to mention the complex teachings themselves. But Zhander will (hopefully!) be back next year. In the meantime, Mark Horner's Moksha Yoga Shala studio focuses entirely on the practice of Shadow Yoga and is a great place to absorb Zhander's teachings.