Entering Annie Pace’s Yoga Shala brings a calming clarity to all six senses. The incense, the lighting, the alignment, and the energy washes over you with aweing suddenness as you walk through accolade arches. That was what we five “beautiful women” experienced in the first moments of being in the shala, or room for spiritual study. Annie asked us if we wanted to sit and upon hearing the affirmative directed us to the “toy box” for pillows, folded blankets, and assorted cushions.
The room exemplified maximization of space, heat, light, water, and energy. Concrete and abstract explanations alike account for the achievement of a “perfect medium” we felt in terms of temperature and temperament. All of the buildings – her house, equipment room, and shala – on her solar powered property insulate heat with plastered hay bale walls, a six inch mud foundation, and bamboo floors. The shapes and sizes of the rooms follow Yoga energy guidelines and optimize natural sunlight. Other intangible forces collaborate with the energies. Perhaps for this reason a room, about the size of a child’s bedroom, felt open and intimate, informative and inviting, simple but glorious.
Annie began by explaining the name Shakti Sharanam Yoga Shala. The shala is a refuge for Shakti, cosmic energy. Sharanam means to surrender to this power, no doubt a blissful feeling when participating in her lessons. Ashtanga yoga refers to the eight limbs of yoga, which emphasize the balance of body, mind, posture, breath, movement, concentration, and meditation. The energies in Annie’s shala are governed by gods, represented by three adorned statuettes in wall alcoves.
For Annie, life is never boring, because she is always dancing with the energies. Yoga, she explained, refers to this dance. Directly translating into union in Sanskrit, yoga means an intertwining of everything – body and mind, the inner and the outer, the physical and the spiritual, humans and deities, movement and breath, left and right – all playfully interacting and aligning towards enlightenment. Ironically, many who practice yoga are unaware of this significance of their activities. Annie pointed out the power of yoga to attract the “ego,” a lower state of human awareness distracted by material fulfillment and selfishness. For Annie and her students, who come from around the world to practice under her tutelage, the invaluable experience of the discipline retains its original importance.