What’s with all the Ashtanga in Helsinki?

The other day, I was checking the “official” list of Authorized and Certified teachers at the Ashtanga Yoga Institute (I’ll admit, I was making sure I wasn’t forgetting someone as a I pieced together a perfect Ashtanga retreat), and something jumped out at me.

I’ve asked a few people, and so far no one knows the answer:

What’s with all the Ashtangis in Helsinki?

Seriously. Here’s the list:


    • Anne Nuotio authorized level 2 Ashtanga Yoga Shala, HELSINKI
    • Daniel Caplan authorized level 1 Astanga Yoga School of Helsinki, HELSINKI
    • Hanne Sydänmaa authorized level 2 Astanga Yoga School Helsinki, HELSINKI
    • Juha Javanainen authorized level 2 Ashtanga Yoga School Helsinki, HELSINKI
    • Liisa Karikuusi authorized level 1 Ashtanga Yoga School Helsinki, HELSINKI
    • Maarit Nevanpera authorized level 1 Astanga Yoga School Helsinki, HELSINKI
    • Marketta Murtomaki authorized level 2 Ashtanga Yoga School of Helsinki, HELSINKI
    • Matti Rasanen authorized level 1 Ashtanga Yoga School Helsinki, HELSINKI
    • Monna Gronlund authorized level 2 Ashtanga Yoga School Helsinki, HELSINKI
    • Petri Raisanen authorized level 2 Astanga Yoga Helsinki, HELSINKI
    • Pia Lehtinen authorized level 2 Ashtanga Yoga School Helsinki, HELSINKI
    • Raisa Heinamaki authorized level 1 Ashtanga Yoga Helsinki, HELSINKI
    • Taina Sandelin authorized level 1 Ashtanga Yoga School Helsinki, HELSINKI
    • Teija Pullinen authorized level 2 Ashtanga Yoga School of Helsinki, HELSINKI
    • Virpi Karjalainen authorized level 2 Astanga Yoga School of Helsinki, HELSINKI

I also can’t tell if that’s three different yogashalas or just a lack of consistency to the name. Either way, that’s an embarrassment of riches.

For instance, Italy has all of two authorized teachers. Germany, one. Russia, six. Only the U.K. has more than Finland. But, not so much Finland, just Helsinki.

Is there a greater concentration of authorized Ashtanga teachers anywhere? London might be close, but the greater London area has somewhere near 7.5 million and 8 million people. Helsinki and environs? More like 1 million. New York City might have a similar number of teachers, but something like 9 million people (that can double when you start talking about its environs).

It may outdo Encinitas!

Does anyone know what the deal is? I know Helsinki was on Sharath’s last European tour and it has been a destination for past trips by Guruji. But that can’t explain it, can it?

Seriously, what’s in the water there?

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

5 thoughts on “What’s with all the Ashtanga in Helsinki?”

  1. i moved to Helsinki eight months ago. I knew that Ashtanga was popular here but even so was surprised at the abundance of great teachers (and students with advanced practices).

    It definitely punches above its weight in terms of population: Helsinki has less than 600,000 people, and Finland has around 5 million.

    I’m not sure exactly why it is so popular here, but I have guessed that it is something to do with the warmth and heat that Ashtanga generates. It keeps you going through the long, dark winter. After all the Finns are big fans of the sauna. The other thing is that perhaps the silence of Mysore practice is appealing: again, tolerance for silence is one of the famous attributes of Finnish culture. One more factor is that the Finns take pride in a cultural characteristic they call ‘sisu’ which is “loosely translated into English as strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity” (thank you, Wikipedia). And that obviously has resonance with Mysore practice.

    Oh and it is just one school but there are a few locations.

  2. As an ashtangi living in Helsinki, I guess one big reason is that we’re quite conscientious, rule-loving folk. (Come and see the traffic, for example ;)) I find traditional Ashtanga practice, as tought in KPJAYI, deals quite a lot with rules – in order to develop in asanas, to avoid injuries, to respect the tradition etc. I believe its also about “sisu”, wchich means guts, determination, perseverance, as Celia told.

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