Zarouhi Grumbar: Backbends Require Bravery

As our hearts and opening to the possibilities of what we can release and discover.

Unfurl and Release is the new six-part course taught by Zarouhi Grumbar. The course is developed to get comfortable in easing into backbends, working on physical and mental strength to open the heart and create greater flexibility with tutorials, asana drills and final, concluding flow. Check out the course now on Wanderlust TV.

Based in London with a young family, but originally from Trinidad & Tobago, Zaz’s teaching style is nourishing and empowering, with attention to alignment underpinned by her studies in applied anatomy. She brings an insistence on self-awareness and on discovering all that you are capable of.

Providing clear guidance through detailed cues to help students level up or drawback based on their needs, she believes in taking every opportunity to challenge the mind’s perceptions of what we can do, and to empower students to move in accordance with honoring their energy and needs in that precise moment.

How did Yoga enter your life? 

One day on my way to work I was hit by a motorcycle, which left me with twisted vertebrae, and in a cycle of being trapped in bed for days at a time, unable to move and in a lot of pain. A visit to the osteopath would help for a month, but any jarring movement would trigger the pain again. This went on for two years, and I was falling into depression, while battling an eating disorder at the same time.

One day, a friend insisted I come with her to try out the “latest trend” – a vinyasa yoga class. From the first breath on the mat, I felt at home. I reconnected to my body and learned acceptance; breathwork helped enormously and magically, and as a result, those jarring episodes became rarer and rarer.

What is your favorite part about being a teacher?

I feel completely humbled to be a teacher and to guide people in their practice – my favorite part about being a teacher is the impact we have on people’s lives and when someone tells me that they have discovered something within themselves that they never thought possible. It’s like teaching someone to find their inner superhero!

Your new Wanderlust TV course is all about heart and chest openers, unleashing creative and loving energy. Could you dive into details on how unblocking of that energy happens? Are there particular stages that one goes through? From rejection to awareness to then acceptance?

Ooh yes! Backbends require such bravery because we often instinctively curl our front bodies forwards to protect ourselves and our personal space. So the resistance to opening fully can be present.

We also have an anatomical tendency to dump into our lower back. Working to mobilize the spine from the thoracic section means figuratively sending our heart upwards and outwards, and this is where we may begin to combine strength and bravery with surrender and curiosity. During this process, we are lifting the coiled energy from the base of the spine upwards, we are coming into moving gently with awareness yet with power, while also lifting our hearts and opening to the possibilities of what we can release and discover. 

Backbends are simply a magical process. 

Zaz GrumbarWorking on heart openers also means becoming more vulnerable. How can we turn this vulnerability into mind plasticity and resilience?

Being vulnerable can be construed as being weak, but it is actually the direct opposite. It takes incredible courage and strength to risk vulnerability, to be so open. It is not for the faint-hearted and this is why we take the time to prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally for the journey that heart openers take us on. Willing to be vulnerable and finding safety in that space, we become aware of our resilience, of our power, and of our capacity to uncover what we are truly capable of.

Is there a heart-opening asana that you could call a “magic pill”?

If only! I think that the answer to that would depend highly on the individual’s anatomy, but also on any given day what backbend posture best suits their energy and heart space. For me personally, I love that transition from the wild thing – Camatkarasana – to the full wheel – Chakrasana, and it feels as if everything falls away in the shift between the two. 

What does your personal practice look like as a student? Is it self-practice or do you attend virtual classes?

My practice is a mixture of meditation and self-practice as well as attending virtual classes. I love learning from other teachers and sometimes, having someone else tell me what to do. At other times, my self-practice is exploring movement on the mat, yoga postures, sometimes dancing, and just feeling my way into my body!

Is there one tip for making the most out of a virtual class? How do you connect with the teacher and with yourself more when practicing online?

I find it feels more real if I make a connection with the teacher before or after. With social media, it is so easy to see what they are like, what parts of their practice they showcase, what thoughts they share, and to interact by commenting and starting a dialogue. When I practice with a teacher online, I feel that I know something about them, it’s like practicing with a friend. Connecting with myself is the easy part – I always fall into my breath and come inwards.

Now, one question we ask everyone: if you could have dinner with one influential person, past or present, who would it be?

I would really have trouble choosing just one person as I love dinner parties 🙂 If I could have more than one I would have Maya Angelou, Lena Horne, Alexandre Dumas, Anne Frank, Gillian Anderson, Cicely Tyson and Mary Magdalene. If I was forced to choose just one, it would be Cicely Tyson, and I would ask her where her resilience came from, her fearlessness in risking her career for her beliefs, and in the midst of the time she grew up in, what inspired her to have the self-love and self-respect she had.