March 7, 2011

Yoga Teacher Interview – Olivia Hsu of Boulder, Colorado

Name: Olivia Hsu
Age: 34
Hometown: Boulder, Colorado
Home Studios: The Yoga Workshop, Colorado Athletic Club, Boulder Rock Club, Movement Climbing and Fitness
Style: Ashtanga Vinyasa, Vinyasa
Training: Ashtanga Vinyasa apprenticeship with Jennie Martin in Sydney, Australia for 2 years. Month-long and Advanced trainings  in Ashtanga Vinyasa with Richard Freeman in Boulder, Colorado.
Gear Sponsors: Fiveten Climbing Shoes, Sterling Ropes, Flashed Bouldering Pads, The North Face
Contact: [email protected]

How did your yoga journey begin? I lived in australia for ten years before Boulder. I had a finger injury and needed to take time off of climbing…so yoga was something to do when I wasn’t climbing. The more I practiced, the more it became an integral part of my life.

What is yoga? It’s a life process.

How is yoga a spiritual practice? In general, it lends to a more mindful existence and it allows you to take that mindfulness into all aspects of your life. It teaches you to live life with grace and humility.

So you have rock climbing career?
Psuedo (laughs). Climbing is one of those things where there’s few people who make it full time as a climber. I just get free stuff. But it could maybe be a career.

For me, i love yoga and climbing equally. My time is dedicated equally with those two endeavors.

I spent last year on the road climbing, and I still maintained my yoga practice. But instead of practicing 5 or 6 days a week, I only practiced 3 or 4.

It’s funny because you don’t necessarily appreciate the environment where you practice when you are on the road, like when I’m in a city sometimes. In the wilderness, I would use a trow-shovel to flatten the dirt where I practiced… and when there was heavy winds i would have to line my pad with rocks so my yoga mat wouldn’t slap me in the face. So its sometimes an extra challenge to practice on the road.

Actually, I recently went to the South Face of Nuptse in Nepal and practiced at 17,000 feet.

Physically, how does yoga relate to rock climbing? In some ways its complimentary. Climbing gives you strength but at the same time tight shoulders and yoga helps counteract that and balance it out. I teach a lot of climbers and help them with that. Yoga is great for a lot of climbers because it keeps them balanced and from getting injuries.

Is rock climbing a spiritual practice?
I feel that anything you do that you experience that deep connection with, can be considered a spiritual practice. When you climb, there are these moments, such as when you are redpointing a hard route or sending a difficult boulder problem and there is this very still, perfect moment…maybe kind of like a zen-point. In yoga I get that same sensation, that same light effortless sensation. They talk about in yoga, when you do a posture, its effortless, but you are still active. In climbing, physically, you are trying real hard but theres a moment when you are floating. Its not that these two moments are spiritual experiences, but kind of. Its like they are heightened awareness of your being.

Where is your favorite place to practice? I pretty much like self-practice, Mysore style at the Yoga Workshop, or at my house, or wherever in the world I am. The Yoga Workshop has a set time every morning for Mysore. The room has a nice feel, and its nice to practice among other people because theres kind of like a nice energy. I like to practice among other people, because when I lose focus on my breathe, hearing everyones breathe reminds me to breathe. Having everyone there helps keep you motivated.

What makes a good yoga studio? Generally, an openness. When people are friendly and open and inviting.

Favorite asana? Kapotasana…head resting on feet. Its a really really deep back bend.
Best asana? Hmmm…let me think…all of them actually! (laughs) I can tell you my worst first. Savasana. Why? Its really hard to be a corpse. Its the hardest posture. Its hard not to think about anything and not be asleep either. Best? I guess maybe…let me think…thats a hard one…because I never think any of them are the best.

Okay, I’ll say a word, and you say what comes to mind:
Ego. The Self.
Quickdraws. Redpointing.
Richard Freeman. A funny humorous man.
Ashtanga Vinyasa. Dharma.

What is your yogini diet?
You don’t want to know my yogini diet. I love coffee with lots of sugar. I thought that was bad, but I was talking to my friend and she said Guruji drank tons of coffee with tons of sugar, so i guess if Guruji did it, its fine. I try to eat a well balanced diet. I’m probably one of the only yogi’s out there that eats meat. But I’m also an athlete and feel that eating protein is important seeing that I train for climbing 4-5 days a week as well.

Favorite yoga philosophy? About yoga as being a process. In our modern society people are often fixated on the achievement of the end goal. In our lives we are so goal oriented that we loose sight of the process of reaching those goals or not reaching those goals. Yoga teaches you about that process…the end goal not being the most important thing. I want to touch my feet and I cant get there, but day by day I get closer. That carries into other aspects of life too.

Anything else about yoga you would like to share?
(Sigh) Just keep practicing. (Laughs)

Any thank yous?
I just want to thank all my teachers and their teachers and their teachers’ teachers.

Read another interview with Olivia at the Sterling Ropes website!

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