BaliSpirit Festival: Carol Issa on Conscious Self-Practice and Rainbows

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ou can say that Carol Issa was the person who brought Jivamukti yoga to Paris—when she started teaching it in the year 2007, she was the first yoga teacher there to offer it. Now, there are others who offer classes in this form of yoga, which was founded by Sharon Gannon and David Life.

Jivamukti yoga has brought Carol from Paris to various parts of the world. Now, it brings her for the first time to the 2016 BaliSpirit Festival in Bali, where she taught a Jivamukti yoga workshop. Having taken Carol’s classes when she taught in New York, I remember how she began each class by using The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as a reminder for yogis to be conscious.

Keeping her words in mind, I rolled out my mat before sitting down and remembered to be present. I allowed the high energy filling the tent to surround and envelop me, as I looked at the lush greenery that formed a soothing backdrop on the exterior.

BaliSpirit Festival Carol Issa on Conscious Self-Practice and Rainbows

Carol begins the class by declaring, “We are going to twist the fluctuations and bring the energy back to the centre.” Her class was rigorous, continuous, and subliminally spiritual. Accompanying the class was live music spun by DJ Nagual in rhythm to our movements. At one point, everyone present chanted along to the Hare Krishna mantra. The class was a fitting end to a wonderful afternoon, which had started with the interview Carol gave me. She left me with more insights to remain centred and grounded in my yoga practice, and in life.

What led you to do yoga?

I hope this is not a cheesy answer but I think, all my life, I’ve been really connected. My education was Christian and I was always very devoted to God. So, I became attracted to what’s beyond that reality. I think my evolution began at around 16 or 17 years old. But this is a life-long quest. I studied philosophy, and my thesis was on “How to reach Awakening outside of Dogma and Religions.”

I’m also a dancer, and I think dance can be approached in a very sacred way. I also studied painting. All that I did led me to yoga. When I started yoga, I felt everything I did—philosophy, creation, dance and its flow, the work on the body, the work on the mind, connection between the higher source—could fit into one discipline.

Who inspires your yoga and spiritual growth?

My teachers, Sharon Gannon and David Life. Also Karta Singh, because I’m also a Kundalini teacher. Karla Singh is a big person in my life. I also study a lot of Patanjali and Pema Chodron.

How do you stay inspired?

Keep on practicing my own practice. From your own practice, you analyse everything because you are alone. Due to this, when you take other classes, your attention is on point. In this way, I think you auto-initiate; you become sensitive to everything and it is also beautiful to learn in this way.

How do you prepare for classes at events like the BaliSpirit Festival?

I choose a theme. I ask myself, ‘Is it (going to be) a twisting class, balancing, hip opening?’ According to the level, I choose a peak pose I want to reach and I build my sequence accordingly. Then I add in the background philosophical sharing, which is important to me because, although I adore and think asanas are a very essential tool of yoga, limiting yoga to asanas is just focusing on one colour in a whole rainbow. We want the whole rainbow, right?

Then I practice (the sequence) to see if it feels good. I would have in my head variations according to the level of people I would teach, and then I do bullet points of what I want to share. From this secure base I improvise, and also build and practice on the playlist.

How is the experience of the Bali yoga community like, compared to back at home?

In Bali, people are very devotional. When you go into a bar for a drink, you see the waitress stopping to light incense to Ganesh or whatever God they are praying to, and it’s really inspiring. Spiritually, it is quite developed here; the people are really in touch with something. In Paris, it is a different kind of mind state.

 Written by Kristin Khor