Yoga Report: Rolf Solvik Visit

45" x 48"
(oil on wood and copper with handmade tiles)

I recently attended a fantastic yoga workshop at my local and very favorite yoga place in Birmingham, Heartwood Yoga. Visiting from the Himalayan Institute (located in Pennsylvania), was Rolf Solvik, a yogi, psychologist, and director of the HI. He comes to B’ham yearly, and oh, do I look forward to his visits.

At these yoga workshops we do yoga postures and relaxation sessions, but the great majority of the time Rolf gives a talk about a particular subject. This time we learned about the Bhagavad-Gita, the famous Sanskrit text. The Gita is a small part of a much larger text, the Mahabharata, which is kind of like the Bible in that it includes blindness, a bloody battle, bigamy, backstabbing, brutality, and bargaining with God. It also has some really good people who try to stay good in the face of all this blasphemy. The little section called the Bhagavad-Gita is the part where one of the good guys in the story gets some powerful advice from Krishna, the voice of God.

Now you’ll have to come to Rolf’s talks if you want the good advice, or you can read the Gita yourself. (Stephen Mitchell has done a marvelous translation.) But I will tell you what I took away from Rolf’s presentation, and it’s the same thing I take away from all his talks. There’s something transformative about being in the presence of someone who has devoted his or her life to spiritual pursuits. In Rolf’s case, it’s been almost 40 years. His serenity, centeredness, wisdom, humor, and humility spill off on you. I got “all churched up” (as they say in the South) just being around him.

And then there’s the presentation. Rolf has a way of making very esoteric, lofty, and enigmatic information accessible to us plain folk. He explores and imparts the message of the material in its ancient context, and applies it to our everyday lives. He can even make it light and sometimes humorous, but always manages to convey the supremely important message contained therein, the reason we do yoga in the first place. It’s all very uplifting.

Here’s a link to the Himalayan Institute. Sandy Anderson is another teacher there whose feet I would kiss if it didn’t make me look like a groveling weenie. In a time when yoga has become overly achievement-based—whether as a fashion statement, a weight-loss plan, or social club—the HI offers a connection to the original, more substantial aims of yoga, following a long lineage of devoted yogis reaching back to Patanjali, the original yoga “It guy,” from the 1st century BC. Two thousand years of bendy, happy dudes can’t be wrong.

So I’ll say thanks here to Rolf and Sandy for inspiring me each year, to Kate, my beloved local yoga teacher for inspiring me each week, and to my back (formerly known as bad back,) which brought me to yoga in the first place.


  1. I should try yoga sometime. I had a friend who was into Bikram yoga (where they keep the room really hot and humid), but I chickened out of trying one of those classes, though it sounded intriguing. :)


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