Unique Asana is a series of stories about personal journeys and the impact yoga has on different people’s lives.
This one’s for you, Anders Nyblom—wrestler turned yoga dude.
We met over a year ago during an Iyengar workshop in Copenhagen, Denmark (Yogacentralen in Frederiksberg). We hung next to each other on the wall ropes. I couldn’t help noticing how strong he was—wrestle-mania strong (sorry, Anders, I had to go there). But what really drew me to him, beyond his muscular physique and obvious strength, was his focus. It seemed to me a profound dharana-esque concentration. He wasn’t disturbed by questions, wooden blocks smacking the ground (as I was) and never looked around during practice (as I did). At the end of every class during the weekend, he’d disappear to the changing room, get dressed, put on his headphones and bounce. He was a hard one to catch.
At the end of the workshop, there was a film about BKS Iyengar. We made friends over popcorn.
I found out that Anders was once a professional Greco-Roman wrestler. He started wrestling in 1986. He has participated in over 1,000 wrestling tournaments, won the title of Danish Champion nine times, Nordic champion five times and has placed fifth in the World Championships. In 2008, he qualified for the Beijing Olympics but went out in the first round. Upon returning home to Denmark and after more than 12 years, Anders quit wrestling and became a couch potato for two years.
“When I stopped wrestling, I felt like I had no direction. I remember one night lying on the couch, watching TV and seeing some program about Deepak Chopra. I can’t remember what it was about, but it inspired me to try yoga (again).”
And, because he was so used to a physically demanding type of practice/training, the breath work this particular class focused on, well, he didn’t get it. What he wanted to do, keeping his wrestling mantra in mind was to stretch until he couldn’t stretch no more. So, he didn’t go back. Not until 2011.
“When I finished wrestling, I thought I knew a lot about my body, but when I started yoga, I realized I knew nothing.”
As a wrestler, Anders was used to working hard, maintaining discipline and becoming quite intimate with his body—all of which were things that made him love wrestling. He also loved the fact that it was an individual sport where you had to figure a lot of it out on your own. What he didn’t enjoy was the pain—he used to feel a lot of it after training or a match, but that it was different with yoga. He started to feel all sorts of new sensations. He felt more freedom in his body, less tension in his lower back and a lot of movement in his shoulders.
“I had been doing a sport that made me strong—and I was strong, but also very tight. I longed to feel relaxed even though I had all these muscles. That’s what always attracted me to yoga. I wish I had done it while I was wrestling because I was constantly missing the flexibility.”
Practicing as much as he can for over a year now, Anders says he recommends yoga to the whole world. He says he’s happier than he was five years ago because of it. Yoga has also helped him see the destructive patterns in his life—especially where he is very hard on himself and realizes that he can’t keep doing the things that bring him down.
“Yoga is challenging and it keeps you real—and it takes time”
In case you are wondering, Anders’ favorite pose is handstand (and the other asanas that he’s best at—he said this with a cheeky smile).
Individuality can often be constructed through our control of the mind via a deepening of our inner most awareness, a mastery of the body and finding freedom within the body as the body, through creative expression, and exuding and experiencing healing compassion beyond what we ever thought possible.
At some point in our lives, we typically find ourselves searching for some undefined goal, some sort of grace, some enlightenment that asks nothing in return—only to realize that the moment we actually start putting in the effort is the moment the magic starts to happen.
Stay tuned for more Unique Asana.
Read more: Yoga: Lead Us from Darkness to Light.