She was waiting for us in front of the Venice Santa Lucia train station, hiding from a sudden summer shower. Unbothered by crowds or puddle-covered streets, Tiziana led us briskly to Cannareggio— one of her favourite districts. I could feel how naturally she mingled with the charming city, crossing arched bridges over the canals, and knowing all the narrow alley curves by heart.
This slender woman with a strong voice and observant eyes happened to be our host. She was a yoga instructor and a curious local guide in Venice during the Interrail trip around Europe. Only after a few days staying at Tiziana’s and talking to her, the story of her life started to reveal itself, layer-by-layer, year-by-year…
- A Dance With Yoga: Yoga Within The Dance
- The Feng Shui Path
- Entering Your Own Church Through Guerilla Yoga
- From Outside and Within
- Real City: Real Citizens
- Aligned with Human Needs
- „Le quattro porte del Feng Shui“ // “Four Doors to Feng Shui”
- Where and when to go for guerilla yoga in Venice
- Watch our video of the guerilla yoga experience in Venice
A Dance With Yoga: Yoga Within The Dance
One of the experiences that immensely “shaped” Tiziana Rettaroli was living and working in the USA. Coming there as a young girl with her nose in the air, as she described herself; she certainly faced some cultural differences.
For example, in Los Angeles, the streets are not like here (in Italy). You don’t have a square, a point of reference. People don’t have a place where they can meet each other during the day. It looks like you are walking on a sidewalk. If you go to a mall, everybody is friendly because it’s the only social situation they have. After you buy your groceries, however, your interaction ends; this is how architecture can make people selfish or close-minded, remembers Tiziana.
After the initial culture shock, she started changing her attitude, and stopped expecting or desiring anything. She then made some new friends, and things started to slowly change.
In the 1990’s, when Tiziana was doing ballet in the States, one of the dancers in the studio where she was training, invited her to practice some advanced yoga. This was a “wow moment,” for young Italian dance lover. Since then, Tiziana started doing yoga regularly, and once she got back to Italy, she continued with the practice.
For Tiziana, practicing yoga is way beyond simple physical activity. From her experience, when we do an asana, especially a complicated one, there’s no past and no future. You just keep your mind quiet and focus on what you’re doing. Yoga helps you to observe things, instead of reacting. It helps you to keep the mind concentrated and flat.
Thanks to yoga, Tiziana became more conscious with everything she does during the day. For example, an accident in the kitchen while you’re cooking won’t happen anymore because you’re there, fully present with all your being. Also, you get more pleasure in the things you do, for instance, when you start eating more slowly, you can taste more flavors.
Tiziana wasn’t always a big yoga enthusiast. She used to think that yoga was only for old, stressed out people, or freaks who needed to calm their nerves. I thought, I don’t need that, I’m not crazy; I want to be a dancer. But in the end, even if you’re a dancer, it can help you because you need to have the ability to be present. The difference between a dancer who does yoga and the one who doesn’t seems to be a talent, but it’s not. According to Tiziana, it’s yoga practice that transforms the dancer into the distinctive artist.
Recently, she created her own style of yoga: the vinyasa dance, where she aligns the asanas of hatha yoga with dance movements of falling down, going up, grounding, and rising again so the yoga session resembles dancing.
The Feng Shui Path
Another life-changing moment for the Italian artist was working as an architect in Hong Kong, where Tiziana discovered feng shui philosophy. At that time, she had just graduated from the university in Italy where she studied organic architecture (which she considered the most progressive type of architecture, yet she never learned anything about feng shui there).
All of that changed with the construction of a building in Hong Kong designed by her company. At some point, they realised there was something wrong with its feng shui principles, so to fix the issue and continue with the project, Tiziana was advised to contact a feng shui master who eventually opened a whole new world to her.
Getting into feng shui ultimately changed the way she approached architecture, her daily routine, and the way she started seeing the reality.
Entering Your Own Church Through Guerilla Yoga
Initially, Tiziana created guerilla yoga in November 2014 so she and a few other yogis could get out from the studio, and do yoga everywhere. After they shared a photo from the first session on social media, more people became interested, and wanted to join them for their next outdoor yoga event. Since then, she’s been trying to do guerilla yoga sessions in Venice and other parts of Italy more frequently.
Being an architect, Tiziana started to implement elements of architecture and feng shui into her yoga practice. Later on, the idea of practicing yoga in different places turned into a mission to explore the town from the point of architecture.
At that time, she was also writing her book about the concept of “a body as a church.” Tiziana studied the sacred geometry and architecture of French cathedrals that were built in a certain way. Their structure created a special sort of energy at the altar, which allows people to get in contact with the Holy Spirit.
Tiziana is confident that we are able to re-create that type of architecture and spiritual experience through yoga postures that reflect the structure of French cathedrals. As she explains, the light from the Universe comes through the top of the ceiling of a cathedral, and below the altar where telluric energy flows a cave is usually built with a well that becomes a channel for the ground energy.
The ground energy comes up, and the light energy goes down, making the altar the centre. You can re-create the same soothing frequency in the centre of your body when you do certain asanas. It will feel the same as if you had entered a French gothic cathedral, but in fact, you will enter into your own church.
While developing the concept of guerilla yoga in Venice, Tiziana found some experts in sacred geography who explore where the meridians and chakras of the Earth are. As they confirmed, the Grand Canal in Venice is on one of those meridians, which makes Venice an attractive place for visitors from all over the globe.
From Outside and Within
So, how does guerilla yoga work in practice? Basically, you join (or organise) a group of other keen yogis, and you pick some interesting or energetic places in town. Then, you go do yoga there.
We had a chance to take part in guerilla yoga in Venice in June 2015, which was a totally different experience of yoga than we had known before. Why? Well, to stay in asanas in a closed cozy space with a well-trained instructor is one thing. To do yoga postures in the middle of a busy bridge, on ancient squares, or hidden corners while keeping your body in tricky balance positions and your mind in peace… is something different.
Tiziana combined her knowledge of yoga, sacred geometry, and architecture to create a full day itinerary of guerilla yoga in Venice. The event that we joined started near the Piazzale Roma station, right in front of the Church of sant’Andrea della Zirada.
Following Tiziana’s concept of the body as a church, we actually entered inside the church and did a few more asanas alongside the cooling and refreshing ancient walls, before heading to do some meditation on the bridge Ponte di Calatrava.
Detaching from the noise, voices and laughter around, and focusing on our breath was not as easy as it might sound. Burning ground from the harsh midday sun challenged us. It really did.
To balance the summer heat, we headed to shade of the city garden Savorgnan, and then continued to “the window to the sky,” spot near the canal. The more sun we were exposed to, the more our muscles were relaxed and flexible. Well, relatively, because doing yoga is sometimes a big mystery. You never know how pliable your body can be during the exercise.
Guerilla yoga with Tiziana brought us not only through different asanas of vinyasa dance, but also to some amazing places in Venice, where she added some historical and cultural background of each place.
Real City: Real Citizens
It’s obvious that Tiziana knows “her city” pretty well. She arrived in Venice when she was 18 to study at a university. At that time, there was nothing in Venice. We used to meet each other in our houses. Venice used to be a dark city, which was kind of scary. Now it’s full of lights. From darkness to light, maybe it’s good, huh?
She also witnessed some major changes in tourism in the Italian romantic city. Not only has the number of visitors has increased rapidly, but tourists seem be unaware and disrespectful of the fact that Venice is a real city with real citizens, not a pageant.
Once, a tourist approached me asking when they would “open up” the water. He basically imagined that high water in Venice is an attraction for tourists that happens every day. Well, here it isn’t all about attractions. It’s a city where people live; that’s the reality that tourists are sometimes not ready to understand.
Aligned with Human Needs
When Tiziana started working as an architect, she was influenced a lot by trends, but at the end of the day, she felt everything she created very distant to her.
With feng shui, I understood that architecture could be considered differently. Buildings are done for a human, but what an architect creates is something that is aligned to nature, something that isn’t a human creation. That’s why if a human needs a house, it should be a match of human needs and the needs of nature.
According to Tiziana, this doesn’t mean trendy design, but going deeply inside the human psyche, and understanding what he or she really wants. What people really want is something they need to explore. It’s not like you see a photo of a beautiful house in a magazine, and you ask me to do the same for you. People think that this is something they want, but actually what they really want is to feel good at their place. You need a house that is a friend to you, a friend who doesn’t complicate your life.
To feel comfortable at home, Tiziana suggests being present with everything we do during the day: how we eat, how we sleep, what we feel when we enter our house, and know why we feel it. As she says, it’s not all about having a nice house with an organic bed (because you can have all of that and still feel bad in your bedroom). That’s the moment when you can get help with feng shui.
Obviously, there’s a difference when people ask Tiziana to design a commercial project and a residential one. In the first case they want to get rich, in the second, clients wish to stay healthy and avoid fighting with a spouse, or having any problems with their kids. She does this by applying feng shui principles accordingly.
„Le quattro porte del Feng Shui“ // “Four Doors to Feng Shui”
If you read Italian and you’re interested in the concept of feng shui, you might want to check Tiziana’s latest book, Le quattro porte del Feng Shui. After 10 years of studying feng shui philosophy, she decided to compile everything she’s learned in a simplistic way, so everybody can understand it; as she says to, clear her ‘brain archive’ so new ideas can arrive. She worked on the book for three years.
You can also find more info about feng shui, yoga, architecture and natural style of living on Tiziana’s official website.
Where and when to go for guerilla yoga in Venice
If you would like to join Tiziana’s guerilla yoga events, and experience Venice in a special way, you’ll have a great chance to join her and other yoga fellows on the 20th of March 2016 for spring equinox or on the 10th of April 2016 in Florence.
For more details, please follow her Facebook fan page of guerilla yoga events.
You don’t need to be an advanced yogi or passionate about feng shui when participating in guerilla yoga with Tiziana. The most important thing is to allow yourself to be attentive to your body, and to let the unexpected emotions arrive, observe them, and let go — being more conscious about the space around you.
The feeling of how we can actually mirror and connect to the environment we live in thanks to some asanas is pretty amazing. Perfection of the yoga positions is only a bonus, not a condition. Fortunately.
Watch our video of the guerilla yoga experience in Venice