Vanessa Webb Interview
I met with Nico while he was in India leading a shared retreat with his beautiful wife Chloe. I immediately knew why students are so drawn to him as a teacher as he was so forthcoming and honest in sharing who he is as a person. Connecting was easy so I could easily understand his reason for teaching, and his total commitment to an authentic practice, and upholding that for his students. This, to me, explains his decision to lead retreats instead of teaching a regular hourly class in Lausanne where he now lives with his family. For him, retreats offer a format for teaching classes with people who want to go deeper with their practice and to study with him, versus attending an individual class with a random teacher. Perhaps in a one hour class Asana is developed quickly, but Nico feels his students get more from retreat as the depth of yoga can only come with time. He enjoys this intimacy with a group because it allows him to see what isn’t seen at first sight… students can get somewhere with the practice and get specific individually. Here students actually have the chance to connect with something deeper because over time the practice begins to test boundaries (“testing without pushing those boundaries”, as he wisely specified the difference).
Nico is honest about the reality that an authentic yoga practice means facing personal demons. And he totally stands by the fact that if the teacher is scared to meet this within himself, then that teacher is not capable of meeting his students there when they reach that place within themselves. As he says, getting close to those boundaries is scary because of fears and beliefs, but he feels it’s his job is to encourage students to face that, especially when he can see that a student wants to but is scared. Most people are scared of this level of self-honesty, but for Nico this means being ready for it. “Readiness comes when it’s ready, it’s within the collective group but it’s a personal decision; that readiness has to mature in the student, it can’t be forced”. A process like this is magical as it allows for the reshaping of the mind, of perceptions, which is what yoga is…becoming more of who we are by reshaping the mind. Nico holds this space to look at your demons and face them.
As a teacher Nico feels it is so important to ask, was I there with them? He feels that sharing in what the group is doing together is a powerful connection. This is why (though considered taboo in the teaching world) he will at some point during the retreat, participate in the class with the students. He loves the intimacy this brings, of everyone being connected to the same experience. This is how generous and transparent Nico is when having the opportunity to speak about something meaningful to him. I really picked up on how much it means to him to get beyond the mask, where there is connection between people.
Clearly he is far from fearing the truth. His honest approach to his asana practice means he can admit that his body goes through stages, sometimes open hips and a tight back, sometimes an easier backbend for a while, but it doesn’t frustrate him…it comes and goes with the practice. So he doesn’t struggle, as he says “struggle” goes against what is happening. He is also honest about his yoga off the mat, aware that he’s not always in line with what he teaches…the daily challenges of life still happen, but yoga is what makes him able to be more forgiving and more honest with himself…the reminder that he’s still learning. As he says, “if you don’t experience and feel your own suffering you won’t be able to feel the suffering of someone else”. Nico feels it’s about making space to be ok with the pain of others, having that relationship between equals, being able to say “OK, I get it”.