My Journey to Yoga, and Life

By Celine Levy

Celine Levy Yoga Teacher

MY FIRST YOGA CLASS…

To enjoy my summer holidays in 2009, I wanted a bit of a change from the surf destinations and so I booked a ticket to Thailand. As I liked to practice yoga when I was living in Australia 3 years before but have found nothing in France that was satisfying. I decided that everywhere I would go I would take some yoga classes on the side of being a tourist.

One morning in Chiang Mai, I entered a hall where a radiant beautiful ( I should say hot) guy is teaching five students. I feel a bit uncomfortable when he stops the class to address me and relieved that he sends me to another room to ask about the yoga program. I come back end afternoon to take the weirdest yoga class I have ever been to.  It was just a few postures with lots of silence and mind concentration. Aside from these bizarre moments, I feel inspired by the teacher as she looks exactly like I imagine a yoga teacher should look, glowing, always smiling, with a soothing voice exuding kindness and love.

After my first class the hot guy comes back into the room to give us a lecture about… sexuality! I wondered what was going on there, looking at that man who talks about ejaculations and orgasms to a captured audience. Surprisingly his lecture is amazing. Right then and there I had just met Arnaud (my future co-teacher) and stepped into Agama the tantric empire.

Arnaud pushed me so much to check the main school in Koh Phan Gan, he was so passionate about the teachings, he couldn’t stop talking about it. I then changed my plans and decide to give it a go. I will always remember my first class. I entered what really felt like a temple where students were religiously meditating. It was a big hall with maybe 60 of us. And the most stunning man, dressed in white, like a blond surfer Jesus Christ, was lighting candles. He looked like he was not walking but gliding on clouds. I was starting to wonder if they all looked like this in that school and what was their secret…

AND NOW, YOGA…

This yoga was challenging to me, my mind was all over the place, my body so stiff and I couldn’t stay still. Their practice is made of the same warm ups that last for ages, a few postures to hold for 4 to 6 minutes and exactly the same vocabulary is used by all the teachers. After 2 days it drives me bonkers! I hate them all with their white clothes their glowing face and their robotic class. The postures are killing me and I just wait swearing in my head that the teacher would say “that will do” which meant we were moving. After 2 days my mind collapses and for the first time of my life I faint. For the first time I was being challenged by life, I stay in bed one complete day because that was the only thing my body could do.

And I to be perfectly honest, I understand. I understand I have been pushing myself like crazy for too long and my system can’t take it anymore. I understand what they say in their lectures about the circulation of energy and what is now happening within me, I understand this yoga does something and those people practice and know these things. The day after, I had the biggest rush of energy through all my being. I felt so alive, energized and happy.

During 4 years I organized my life around the rhythm of the school. It has been a love/hate affair. I stepped into Agama the controversial tantric school led by the most controversial man. But let me tell you about the good things because until today there is nothing that influences more my teachings than Agama yoga.

THE TEACHER ENCOUNTER…

I met the most amazing teachers and to my surprise, they were teaching for free. This is how dedicated they were to yoga. They would help a student with anything, listen to you for hours and had the most dedicated spiritual practice I have ever encounter so far. It was a family and a community with its very special esoteric rituals. I have done them all, me the most skeptical French person and I experienced magic. And I did it because Swami has been to India and met the gurus who had the esoteric teachings and transmitted it to us. I have been feeling my body spiraling during full moon yang mediations. I have seen the face of the god Hanuman transfiguring a teacher. Numerous past life stories of people and I have seen the goddess Tara transfiguring me. I felt my chakras. Other’s hearts. I felt space as if it was a fabric. I felt time didn’t really exist. I have seen myself emotionally naked in front of strangers to reopen the broken pieces of my heart. I have seen people radically change.

The head of the school, Swami, is a walking encyclopedia. I remembered us listening to his lectures until 1 in the morning and asking for more. It would have been perfect that school if not the most abusive setting for women. I have always been torn between my thirst for those amazing teachings and my repulsion for the way they would transmit the sexual teachings by disempower women. That’s why they were all glowing. They practiced tantric sexuality and it really rejuvenates you. But the school was a big sexual mess which I wouldn’t recommend to any woman. Everyone was sleeping with everyone, the fragile women were queuing to share the male teachers with sexual superpowers as the open relationships were promoted in the school to smash your ego. But like any other yoga school, 80 percent of the students were women and only women were smashing their ego. Most of the male teachers, addicted to their status were enjoying the only place in the world where they could justify to sleep with hundreds of women from all over the world and be seen as spiritual healers for it! I promised myself I would go out of the school one day and teach sexual tantra to women the empowering way!

APPLYING MY OWN EXPERIENCE…

It is a long story but it has been hard to live Agama. Despite the mess, it has been a very spiritual place for me to grow. I have to say all the teachers I know who had the courage to leave and get out of this microcosm, are now actually doing very well. So I just want to be grateful for the teachings and for the fact that I am a strong woman who could say pardon my French “fuck off” to any agami who explained to me all those years that my anahata chakra was locked as I didn’t want to be part of their sexual mess or receive a yoni massage.

The massive departures from the school started when I was teaching in India. Most of us were attending Prem Baba satsangs and transitioning slowly toward this tantric master focused on the heart. This has been a very special time for me. Teaching in an ashram in Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the world, and walking by the Ganga every day to listen to Prem baba. The first time I went just to please my friend Angela. And when I entered a room full of westerner’s singing bajans I prayed that none of my friends would even see me there. But when Prem Baba started to talk I cried and then sat there on my ego for 3 months every day. I consider myself very lucky. Any spiritual seeker is looking to experience transmission from an enlightened being, it is an experience of a lifetime and the people I met there are still in my heart.

MY RETURN TO FRANCE…

When Prem Baba left, I went straight to a monastery in Dharamsala and began studying the Dalai Lama teachings. Coming back to France has been very challenging after such a year.

The rest is overwhelming yet not at the same time; some more trainings and studies. As I started to teach in France, on the side of my primary school teaching career, I could feel it was easier for the students to start with a flow practice. So I took anusara and yin trainings…I enjoyed my courses with Tara Judelle’s Embodied flow school as she is deep and knowledgeable.

In all honesty I never felt those trainings were held in a sacred space. I always struggled with the people coming into class chatting and throwing their mat on the floor. The postures demo and the clapping afterward, the fashion that comes with the yoga clothing, the music during class, the photos…..I was first taught the traditional way and for me discipline is a key element to go deep.

Last year I was attending a meditation retreat in the Himalayas with venerable Robina Courtin and the Dalai Lama. During the breaks we could move and practice yoga on the rooftop. And it came back to me, the feeling of a sacred space. Practicing in baggy pants surrounded by big trees and monkeys, the smell of India and other people willing to look within.

MY PRACTICE TODAY AS IT IS…

My practice stayed slow, focused and intuitive. What do I need today? I listen. Surfing, physical practice, yin, meditation, sacred feminine practices, rest…

That’s why I need to come to the room early when I teach and prepare the space. I need silence and incense, I need to focus and prepare the energy of the studio before the students show up.  I don’t want to see any phone in the room and I am not playing any music during class.

This has to be a sacred space for us to enter a sacred state, this is where magic happens and this is the gem yoga gave me. Your body-mind your temple, and my wish is to create the conditions for you to invite yourself in.