Roberto is a co-founder of innovative form of yoga, which combines martial arts, Zen and traditional yoga postures. Based on the dynamics of ocean motion and inner body rhythms, which connect us, this beautiful flowing style makes us free from boundaries and gives us the ability to learn new ways of ourselves. Roberto is a recognized Platinum Yoga Master by Yoga Alliance International.
Francesca — his wife, also a Platinum Master of Yoga and called by her students «Queen of Psoas». Together with Roberto they were developing the Odaka Yoga style for 30 years.
In interview below they share with us their understanding of Yoga and a vision of their unique style.
Hi. Tell please about the method and how it is connected with Japan, with the ocean and with the martial arts?
R: I started my journey, when I was 7 years old. I was doing martial arts. I became a EU champion at the age of 22. And when I discovered yoga, yoga mixed with my martial arts experience, like Yin and Yang.
F: My background was fitness. I started doing yoga when I was 20, so quite a lot of time ago. When I met Roberto, I started practicing martial arts too. Martial arts approach to movement is not similar to yoga. It allows the body to move in every direction, more circularly, while in yoga a body moves linearly, front and back, not leaving the mat. And after practicing martial arts and fitness, we found ourselves moving in different directions. It was a little similar to dancing, when you are listening to the body, and you see that your body is different from the pose images you’ve been taught. In this way, martial arts allows the body to move more freely and we started experimenting with this.
R: The circular movement takes you to the journey without any arrival point. You enjoy every moment because you are in transition. Linear way is about having the starting and the final point. And the circular movement is about being in transition.
While yoga is about nonviolence and the martial arts is about battle, how do you create the unity of these contradictory systems, how do you connect their values within one approach?
R: In Odaka Yoga, we ground our philosophy in Bushidō — the way of the warrior. In this term “do” means Tao (the same as Dharma in India). It is not the way to fight, but the way to know our true nature.
F: It is not about learning to fight. It is about learning about yourself, so you don’t react to life challenges, staying stable. It is also close to ahimsa, because you can control yourself and your reactions. Yoga teaches you to move, being fully aware of the movement, and martial arts teach you to confront everything that life can throw to you, without reacting. These two ways lead you to the same goal — to stay centered being yourself.
R: It is not the way of how to fight, It is the way of how to not fight. It is about how to teach our fear, our thoughts, our mind. And in this state, when your mind is peaceful, there is no enemy left.
F: This reminds me of Arjuna on a battlefield. He was a warrior. The battle for him was not about projecting the mind attitude and seeing the world as an enemy, but about learning himself, being free of attachments.
Is understanding the philosophy of your method an important part of the Odaka practice?
F: Philosophy is important. I think the foundation is Advaita Vedanta. It is about learning your Dharma, learning who you are, and what is the meaning of life for you. But the tool is an experience of movement, meditation and pranayama.
The mat is your place of experimenting and self-studying. You notice how you react to movement and how you treat yourself. If I am pushing myself in asana, I am pushing myself in life. Half is about practicing on the mat and half is about being aware of how you are living your life. Without involving philosophy, you will not progress much.
You use the metaphor of the Ocean for your approach. How does it work?
R: Water is an essence of the human body.
F: Salt water.
R: Water is fluid, acceptable, adaptable and powerful.
F: We were living in Australia and we were doing yoga on the ocean shore every day. We noticed that the ocean waves rhythm could be calming and could be energizing. And it is very similar to what happens in the practice. Waving moves in the spine with different rhythms gives effects and results.
R: Body movements turn on the nervous systems to produce different types of brain waves.
F: It also appears to be in tune with osteopathy, where the inner liquid of the body flows, recovering the whole system.
It is important not to force your into the movement but to let the body to rearrange itself. It pushes the body limits, using the body intelligence. Water can follow any form, you only need to give it time
It reminds me of Lao Tzi’s ideas.
How to find a proper balance between doing the pose being aspired to break the limits, but avoiding pushing yourself into the form?
F: It is about the perception. Our locomotive body system consists of muscles, bones and fascia. And fascia doesn’t like to be forced, if you force it, it gets more rigid. We do not go very fast. The body needs its time to adapt and reach the new state. It is a transition, where you enter and then are getting out of the pose. And paying attention to the transition is very important.
R: We move the body with an integrity, we do not divide it into segments. The whole body is moving in the state of grace and power. We learn to love and accept our body imperfections and reminds ourselves that perfection doesn’t exist.
Describing your practice you mentioned involving the Qi energy. For a Chi Quong practitioner coming to the Odaka class, what would be familiar and what new?
R: Many things would be similar. The movement starts from a core. It is 3 fingers below a navel, the center called Dantian. The circular movements are keeping the state between tension and relaxation.
F: The difference is that we use poses. We keep the flow of energy within the pose.
Being a yogic couple, spouses and practitioners, what challenges and what benefits have you discovered on your way?
F: That is a very common question. We have been together for more than 30 years now. That is a long time. A great gift of yoga is that we can be ourselves. In the morning, we are doing the practice, but solo in different rooms. But then we have a time to stay together and to discuss the impressions and personal discoveries. Having a partner in practice is very beneficial, as he can be your mirror.
R: We share a lot about the practice. And this is very important.
F: Sometimes something works for me and doesn’t work for him. And knowing this is still helpful. I can feel something and Roberto can feel something different. And this middleway is a good lesson of life.
R: We are very different. Almost opposite.
F: But complemental. I am led by intuition in the practice and then I search for the explanations, asking “why is that so?”. And after discovering something by feeling it, I go into anatomy. Roberto is a lot about philosophy and the meaning. When we teach, I am covering the part that is about embodying and Roberto about the philosophy.
You said that we are not here to do yoga, but we are here to become yoga. What does it mean to be yoga?
R: Our true essence is yoga. Yoga is balance, love and highest vibrations.
F: We have an impression that we do yoga to learn something. But we do yoga to unlearn our habits. When we remove habits, what is left is yoga.
Roberto and Francesca will introduce us the philosophy, dancing motives and ocean sensitivity of their yoga flow on Avatar festival this Summer.