If you’ve been down to Praia do Trafal near Vale do Lobo recently, you’ve probably spotted a chalkboard on the wooden walkway next to the Temperus beach restaurant. Painted on it is a rather cool wavy squiggle sitting in a lotus position. It points upstairs and indicates that on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 9.00 to 10.15 you are welcome to join a rooftop yoga session.
The instructor is a friend of mine called Ari. I hadn’t seen him for a while but I recently ran into him at the park in Loulé (another beautiful place where he regularly holds yoga lessons). I don’t know much about yoga but I knew Ari had been off to India on a big adventure to learn all about it and I thought it would be great to find out more.
I had to rush off but I later wrote him a few questions which I originally planned to take bits and pieces of to make a story. Trouble was, his answers were just so good that there wasn’t much room for editing. So, I’m just going to leave it be. Take it away Ari!
What kind of yoga do you practice?
I teach Hatha Yoga. “Ha” means sun and “Tha” means moon. It’s one of the most classical types of Yoga where in terms of physical poses (also known as “asanas”) there’s a great balance between strength and resting poses. There’s also a whole philosophy behind it of values, morals, ways to relate to others, to treat yourself etc…
Could you tell me a little about your journey? How has yoga helped you? And why do you feel it's so important to pass it onto others?
My first contact with yoga was about 6 years ago when one of my best friends took me for a class. It was quite funny because that day the teacher decided to start the class by singing a “mantra” (a kind of a devoted song) with the word “Hari” in it - which sounds just like my name! So I was just laughing and looking around to see if they were serious or was this some kind of prank that my friend orchestrated? But no, they were serious. So I tried to control the laughter and to sing along, which was not easy! It was sooo funny, I still laugh today when I remember. And yes, from that day I just took it like a sign and continued to go to classes (where the teacher didn’t sing it again since).
Actually, before discovering yoga I was already on a journey to self-discovery. I stopped smoking, drinking alcohol, eating meat, and all this auto-destructive behaviour. All my friends said I was crazy! I changed many things in my life, including some of those friends. Then when I discovered yoga and all the philosophy behind it, it just made total sense to me, because many of the things I was doing already without having a clue that some people lived like this…
I remember an episode in life when I was only 7 years old. My parents were separated already and I needed to go to my fathers. For some reason I didn’t want to go, so I was feeling very anxious about it because I knew I needed to go anyway. That’s when I retired myself to this empty room of the house my mother was building, put some very calm relaxing music on, laid on the floor and started repeating to myself that everything was okay, there was no need to be anxious and that I would be fine. I calmed myself down and when my father arrived I was completely at peace and happily went with him. So actually, before I had any idea about all these yoga exercises I was already meditating at only 7 years old. Of course, now I’m completely in love with it and it’s basically my life.
Yoga helped me become more quiet and calm. I was a very angry teenager, with lots of rage inside, that didn’t show at first but when I used to drink alcohol you would see it. So Yoga really helped me a lot to understand where all that anger came from and find peace and let it all go.
Yoga is a very powerful tool to get to know more about yourself and consequently about others around you, which will help you become more compassionate about others and more in love with yourself. This would help make the world much more fair and cooperative, replacing all this competition of today. That’s why I think it’s so important to pass it on.
Tell me about your trip to India! How long did you stay? Do you feel like the trip changed you? Did you come back enlightened?
I started enjoying yoga more and more. I discovered that it was not just asanas (poses) and that there was actually a whole way of life behind it. I started meditating every day, reading more about it and then also practising by myself every day. After a year of practising, I decided to go to India, the birthplace of yoga. I stayed there for two and a half months. I practised with many different gurus and teachers. Did a 300-hour teaching course in Rishikesh, the World Yoga Capital. I returned to Portugal and in a very natural way started teaching (because people asked me to, basically). It was very organic and a new life just unfolded.
In India, I learned the value of family. They give so much importance to family and all the family lives together, I loved that. Here in the west, we are told that we need to leave the family and go live our lives, which has its plus sides, and it’s something I also did. But in India, they stay together and help each other every day which has other benefits. I also learned not to plan life too much because in India there are so many people that everything is just so unpredictable, anything can happen, they just live very patiently day by day.
I did not become enlightened, no, that takes all life I’ve been told!
But India did change me in the way that I appreciate everything that I have and where I live, since in India there’s so much poverty and everything is so dirty everywhere. But despite all this, they are happy and maintain a very orderly way of life, which is very impressive!
I remember that you loved the book ‘Into the Wild’ (Ari Supertramp) and you have a real adventurous spirit... Do you still jump off the mountain with your paraglider?
I think I do have an adventurous spirit. I tried many radical sports from surfing, climbing to paragliding. I still do it sometimes but not as much anymore. Yoga just became my life and I feel so much joy in simple things. I feel at peace and I don’t have that drive I used to have anymore of pursuing pleasure by doing crazy things. I’m just super ok now in just doing some chores around the house or some gardening. Now actually my biggest excitement is planting fruit trees. Seeing them grow and give fruits! It’s just the best! Forget about jumping from the mountain!
Where should I tell people to find you?
You can find me on Instagram and Facebook with the name: ARIDAVIDYOGA