Francesca Giusti. Born in 1971 in Tuscany, Italy. She travelled many countries before settling down in the UK with her partner Andrew Wrenn. Together they started "Pure Yoga Cheshire", a yoga studio near Manchester.
Francesca was the first additional teacher to join EkhartYoga and was involved with the website from the beginning. She is a radiant, talkative but surprisingly modest woman with a flamboyant Italian accent. Sometimes chaotic in speech ("I am not a talker") but definitely a steady and experienced teacher, always looking for integrity in her practice.
Sitting in front of me at our kitchen table, steaming tea mugs and some chocolate in the middle, Francesca radiates vitality and colour. After three days of filming in the EkhartYoga studio and going back to England early next morning, I asked her if she wouldn't mind doing an interview with me after dinner. She was delighted to do so, so here we are, the table cleaned and ready to start.
Francesca, what attracted you to yoga in the first place?
It was unexpected… I remember a friend inviting me to a workshop in Ashtanga yoga. I had never heard of it. I had done some yoga before but didn't enjoy it very much to be honest. I didn't see the point, really, just doing some stretches. Then my friend invited me and I thought, ok… let's give it another try, why not. So I went, and it was quite a shock to my body, it was really hard! Especially for a beginner like me. But somehow this time it woke my curiosity.
I've always been interested in spirituality since I was a little child. I remember thinking: Why do we do these things that have nothing to do with what Jesus said? I was brought up in a strong Catholic family but I could never find my answers in the Catholic faith. So I guess I was curious about this Ashtanga Yoga and what was behind it. Not so much in the physical part… I never was physical person really, not at all! I was a bit fat growing up, you know, not really comfortable in my body. (laughs)
So what happened after doing the workshop?
I was hungry for more. I was about 29 or 30 years old. I went to Ireland and started following regular lessons there. Yoga wasn't booming then as it is now, so there wasn't much to choose from. I practised with DVDs at home. I remained curious; went to retreats and workshops abroad and wondered where this was all leading…
After 4 years of this I felt I wanted to go deeper. But the only lengthy course I could find was a teacher training in Australia. So I quit my job and went.
And after that you could call yourself a yoga teacher.
Yes, I would never have thought that.. me, a yoga teacher! Back in Ireland, I started to teach in Cork. By that time yoga became more popular, so there were enough studio's where I could teach. That is when I met Esther Ekhart, in 2007 during a yoga training. She told me she was making yoga videos for youtube, together with her husband. I was really impressed, wow…Then some time later we met again, and she asked me if wanted to be part of their project. I was delighted! And shocked..I didn't believe I would be good enough..but she believed in me. I suppose. (laughs)
You weren't that sure about your teaching?
Well, by that time I was not sure if teaching yoga was the right thing for me to do. I was teaching the asanas, which I was good at, but I felt I missed the deeper meaning behind it. I needed to find out who I was, really.
So I went to India for six months, to the ashram of Ramana Maharshi to do a training there. That was …that wasn't easy…. I came upon many issues in myself, but I also discovered a deep devotional aspect, that is strongly embedded in the Indian culture.
In the ashram, life was full of rituals, with statues, flowers, incense and endless schedules….although Ramana had said that rituals mean nothing!
I guess what I found was the paradox of life, form on one hand and what we really are on the other. Between form and no-form. It's the contradiction of life really, we are here to find out who we are but we don't really access it because…living our life seems to prevent us from seeing who we are.. but at the same time, what's the choice?
You can only just live your life.
So how did this experience influence your teaching?
I found it difficult to come back and teach again after India. What was I going to teach? I did the asanas, my practice, but didn't know how to bring across what I had gone through. And I'm not a very good talker… not good at expressing myself. I always find it difficult to find words, you know. So slowly I just simply went back to my classes, teaching the asanas… Doing the same as before basically, but now definitely feeling a deeper connection to my body.
What is the most important thing you want to bring across in your classes?
Well…to become more still...I hope I can pass that on a little more. That's the most important thing. And also to emphasise that you can use the body as a tool to enter the silence. It's not about physical achievement. I would recommend that people go more into self-inquiry, sit still more often. To connect to the body without expectations.
I like to hold the space for people so they can explore yoga without me interfering too much. I'm not a person who would tell you strongly how to do something. There are teachers who are very charismatic, good with words, drawing crowds of people. I'm am not like that…I'm almost afraid that words may spoil it. Afraid that the ego will be in the way, no?
But sometimes people are really interested in what you have to say, in that sense it can be very important to speak your truth...
Yes…that may be a challenge for me. You know, we all have our own ways of teaching, there is no one way in yoga, you have to find that out for yourself. And for now, I prefer to be true to "not knowing" instead of thinking I have achieved something or that I have all the answers… Anyway, that is my personal inquiry, really…(smile) most important is that what I hope comes across in my teaching is that the daily practise of yoga is an invaluable tool forself-developmentt, in the physical, spiritual and mental level.
What do you do besides teaching yoga?
Yoga is pretty much the main thing! (laughs) Besides that I love traveling. And nature! I love to go for long walks. I also spend time with my partner, Andrew, watching films, practising yoga and meditation together. Well..that sounds a bit dull, really…but it's fine with me! (laughs)
What makes you really happy?
Quiet time makes me happy. And I love clean, clear space…without clutter. What else? Being with my loved ones of course. I also love my family in Italy, I go there twice a year, that's important to me.
OK, last question. Why EkhartYoga?
As I said before, I met Esther, and I was impressed! She had this beautiful centre in Ireland where she taught yoga, built by her husband. Her classes were really, really good quality. So I was happy to join them, to join in the whole project. Later Andrew joined the project too.
Why EkhartYoga…It's a lovely team, I'm happy to be part of it. I've seen it grow from the beginning, it started from nothing really, from a sparkle, an idea of love and two people trying to put it together. Think about it!
Have you tried a class with Francesca yet? Check out her latest classes here.