Meet Sanna. This beautiful flower has traveled all the way from Finland through Singapore, France and Germany. Her blossom continues transmitting knowledge from 20 years of practice and 10 years of teaching. Sanna has been infinitely inspired by Sri K Pattabhi Jois and authorized by Lama Marut to teach Tibetan Heart Yoga. Here’s more about her beautiful story!
1. How long have you been in Bali and what brought you here?
My family and I have been here just over 2 years now. With our love towards Asia and yoga, Bali was the logical choice. Our family wanted to be situated close to Singapore, which was our previous beloved home town. My partner and I also wanted to have good yoga practicing options and allow for me to continue working as a yoga teacher. So Ubud was the perfect fit.
2. Can you tell us a little bit about your yoga journey?
This is challenging to put into a short explanation.
Already at quite a young age, I was questioning things and was a curious being. Especially I felt this special pull towards the Eastern Philosophies and Religions.
At the tender age of 15, I stumbled across a Hare Krishna Temple in Helsinki, Finland. They were advertising ‘a free vegetarian Sunday meal and service’. I went in and found myself repeating this Sunday tradition for a few years.
I was working as an aerobics instructor in the early 90’s. Around that time I was also doing modeling and partying a great deal. I had my heavy exercise regime to counter balance the addiction to drinking and a wild lifestyle.
One time, when I was jogging together with a good friend, who was a fitness professional and a great source of inspiration at the time, she shared with me how she had tried something really awesome and I should go and try it too. She told me it was better than any other exercise regime she had tried before. She explained how she had got this sense of a both physical and mental satisfaction like never before. I was really excited. I wanted to hear more. It was ashtanga yoga she was talking about.
One weekend, I joined an introduction course and there was no turning back. We were the first ‘ashtanga pioneers’ in Finland at the time since there wasn’t even an ashtanga studio founded yet. My teachers Petri Raisanen and Juha Javanainen rented a room from a dance studio and we got together every morning to practice ashtanga yoga.
So.......after founding ashtanga yoga, I started to practice more yoga and teach less aerobics and the partying was still there however it decreased heavily. Later, after starting with Tibetan Buddhism & Tibetan Heart yoga I found the final peace which I had been looking for.
It was a slow yet steady step-by-step process. My addiction to partying shifted to yoga, both inner and outer practices.
Our big name teacher at the time was Lino Miele, who paid frequent visits to Finland and I joined every single workshop he gave. It ended up being many! I was a very dedicated student of Lino for many years before I started to switch to other big ashtanga names. Suddenly, I was travelling everywhere to follow all these inspirational teachers. In the midst of it all, after circa 13 years of practicing, I joined my first teacher training just to ‘deepen my practice’. My intention was never to start teaching. I was too happy to be a student and just every day to do my best on my own mat.
It was only from the firm advice from my teacher trainer, Elizabeth Connolly, that I started to teach. She wouldn’t take any of my excuses. She kind of forced me and I’m ever grateful to her for that. She was a very powerful woman and I learned a lot from her.
The definite highlight of my ashtanga path was to practice with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. One of the sessions with him, which I will never forget and I certainly learned a lot from, was to practice the intermediate as a led class with him. As Guruji ordered me to go to the front row, he was standing most of the time right in front of me. It was a very powerful and truly humbling experience. I felt how in ashtanga there can be power yet lightness at the same time and the practice becomes like a dance where the practitioner goes into a form of trance and reaches a meditative state of mind. Guruji had this very special presence. It was just magical to practice in the same room with him.
Later on I was fortunate to meet other great teachers of the other yoga styles too. One workshop particularly, which I always remember with certain level of warmness was with David Life (co-founder of Jivamukti) in Berlin, Germany. We had a very interesting Q&A after the practice. I had so many thoughts and things I was wondering about. David kept on patiently answering and I apologized for having so many questions to which he warmly said: “Your questions are everyone’s questions. Keep on asking”. I remember something shifting there and then.
3. What is your favorite book and why?
“How Yoga Works” by Geshe Michael Roach. After reading this book my life took a whole new direction. I found Tibetan Buddhism and started to study with Geshe Michael Roach. I was really lucky to be one of the very first members of the Asian Classics Institute – sangha in Singapore. We took our studies really seriously. I felt I suddenly was on a fast track into something I had been searching for so many years. I learned and understood the importance of forgiveness. I let go of holding onto old painful grudges. After some time I found my heart Teacher and Mentor Lama Marut.
I started to follow him to his various talks and retreats. He totally empowered me and my partner too. Thanks to Lama Marut we finally ‘jumped out of the wheel’. We got totally sickened with consumer capitalism. Started to give away heaps of stuff. We chose voluntary simplicity. Hence the final drop being the move to Bali.
So for me “How Yoga Works” was way more than just another book I’ve read. Shall I say, “it saved my life”.
4. Coffee or tea?
Green tea, a good espresso and when in Singapore definitely “thee c koso”. In that order!
5. How did teaching Tibetan Heart Yoga transpire for you?
First see the reply to no 3. After being a devoted student of my Lama he authorized me to teach this very special ‘heart opening’ form of inner practices.
6. What is your favorite dinner spot in Ubud?
Since my son Axel is a mixed diet eater and enjoys meat as a treat every now and then, I gotta say Café Des Artists since it works for the whole family. If it was only for me and my partner my answer might be different
7. Sanna, you have been known to have an awesomely radiant personality. Where do you get your energy and what keeps you inspired and lively?
Erm, thank you. I get inspired by my partner, who’s constantly designing new sustainable houses and I get a kick out of his kick He sees beauty everywhere and is a highly positive and grounding person.
I get inspired by our studio founder Daniel Aaron. He is my true inspiration when it comes to Radiantly Alive Vinyasa and I love how he implemented the complaint free challenge, not only to the studio staff, but also for the students and the whole community! His Radiantly Alive Teacher Trainings are the highest quality I have ever seen anywhere in this world. I feel he has so much to give and I’m privileged to be working for him and RA.
Lastly and most importantly, I owe everything to my Lama Venerable Sumati Marut and my Tibetan Buddhist Teacher Cindy Lee. The very pure and highest form of inspiration comes from them. I had Cindy Lee’s Mother participating my Tibetan Heart Yoga class recently. It was a huge honor! I feel I’m living a truly blessed life and my mission is to help the others to feel happy too.