Meet Gabriel Stinga Rihani

As part of our focus on providing Sydney with world-class teachers, we’re delighted to welcome Gabriel to our yoga team. A long-time practitioner, Gabriel began his yoga journey in 2003 – and although his roots stem from the path of Buddhist meditation, he moved to a dedicated Ashtanga practice in 2008. Gabriel has studied under renowned teachers like Sharath Jois, Rolf Naujokat and Louise Ellis, and has taught yoga around the world.

Well-versed in the Mysore Method and one of 15 KPJAYI Authorised Level 2 teachers in Australia, Gabriel is a passionate senior practitioner who has spent thousands of hours on the mat and is looking forward to sharing his love of yoga with our members.

What gets you onto the mat each day?
Love for the practice, but more than anything, discipline and positive routine. I also don’t feel as good when I miss practice. The body-mind connection is very strong, so my asana practice really gives me enhanced quality of life. It also helps that my wife, Nadia, practises daily, and we support each other.

How do you maintain your yoga discipline?
Through logic and habit. I feel better and more balanced when I practice, and I also believe that if you teach, you have to practice. Teaching can only be an extension of one’s own practice, so the day you stop practising is the day you stop teaching.

How do you spend your free time?
I like to be as close to nature as possible. I love the mountains, particularly the Himalayas – I’ve had the opportunity to visit regularly to study and I also teach an annual retreat there with my wife. Although we don’t have mountains in Sydney, we are blessed with amazing beaches and I try to get into the water almost every day.

Who inspires you and why?
I’m inspired by people who are intelligent, humble and kind. People that live to help others. My teachers. As well as a few asana teachers, I have three main spiritual guides or gurus: His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Mingyur Rinpoche and Dsongzar Khyentse Rimpoche. Something they all have in common is that they live their lives for the benefit of others.

What do you wish you knew when you started yoga?
I wish I knew to respect my physical limits. Asana teaches you discipline, but if you don’t respect your body there is no benefit. Doing your practice is what’s important, not what it looks like that day; what happens once you arrive on your mat is just a detail. With prolonged daily practice, you may be able to do all sorts of impressive things with your body – but at the end of the day this is a consequence of practice, not a goal. Being able to put your legs behind your head or standing on your hands will not make you a happier person!

What is the last book you’ve read?
In Love With The World by Mingyur Rinpoche. The author is one of my spiritual teachers and his book tells the story of his almost four-year-long wandering retreat as a beggar. It’s a rare and intimate account of a world-renowned Buddhist monk’s near-death experience and the life-changing wisdom he gained from it. I also love reading a good Murakami novel.

What inspired you to become a yoga teacher?
Teaching became a natural progression of my own daily practice. I started by assisting my teachers and covering for them when they needed time off, and I spent many years studying.

Where have you studied and practised?
For Buddhist Philosophy, I’ve spent several years studying in Northern India and Nepal, while for Ashtanga Yoga, I keep going back to Mysore in India. Study is ongoing and lifelong, and I believe that daily self-inquiry through meditation, prayer, mantra and asana becomes part of your study. I’ve also practised with different teachers in Goa, Bali, Rishikesh and several places in Europe and the US, and have taught in many places throughout Europe.

What drew you to Elixr?
The students are well-taught and receptive, which is the result of being exposed to many good teachers over the years. I feel honoured and excited to be part of the yoga community at Elixr, and I’ve found the management to be very supportive and compassionate. This is a positive environment that breeds learning rather than competition in the classroom.