Conversation with a Yogi
I choose to have this circle with you as I believe Yoga is a tool that methodically creates time and space to get away from the chaos of life and sort it all out.
As for being given the gift of teaching this practice, Why do you teach yoga? How long have you been a teacher?
It’s lovely how you say: „for being given the gift of teaching“ it’s exactly what it is. A gift. In Yoga I found the right tool for self healing, and teaching means to pass that tool to my students and to create that healing space. Many diseases are caused by stress and emotional issues manifest in our body because we don’t know how to still our mind, how to release and relax.
I teach Yoga because I believe that it gives many people what they so much need in life: less pressure, more acceptance, less ego, more love, less separation more connection, less outside more inside. In Yoga you can get a break of the speedy lifestyle we follow in the West, of that constant need of getting further — or of how you say it: „the chaos of life“. In the safe space of Yoga you can allow yourself to surrender, to simply feel and be without judging. That creates a high potential for self healing that not even in some psychotherapies you will find. And there’s no one you need to give explanations (but yourself).
I am teaching for one year now. And the first months were the most exciting and marking time I think. By simply doing what I love, I found my place in Yoga. Especially during the first 6 months, of teaching and learning by doing, my personal handwriting became clearer and clearer. How I teach, my personal style and which are the main points for me in my teachings were marked in that time. And I learned: when I connect to my inner wisdom and simply trust in myself, my Yoga classes are fluent and happen in the moment. People ask me which style I teach. And the best answer is: mine. I think the best is to be authentic and coherent in what you teach. I choose what seems right and true to me of all what I learn about Yoga. In my classes I put it together in order to give the students what they need individually and in the moment where they are.
But if I have to choose a favorite style, yes, I can say it would be Yin Yoga. As my teacher once said: It’s the essence of Yoga in one practice.
The best gift we can have sometimes is discovering our potential of self healing through postures and breaths, and Yoga can do that, based on your experience… what do you think ?
Absolutely! Yoga can do that. We all have this potential of self healing inside of us. There’s this inner wisdom about ourselves, about what is good for us, and what we should rather avoid. But we are disconnected from that knowledge. We are disconnected from ourselves. We lost the connection to that sensitive, intuitive part in us. And we need a practice to raise awareness, to practice our sensitivity and our capacity to listen to our own body and breath.
Yoga connects. It is union. When things are separated, when we feel disconnected, when our body is fragmentally treated instead of holistically seen, then we get sick, in body, mind and spirit.
In Yoga you can find this space to connect, to let go of the things we charge but don’t need, to get rid of exterior influences. And instead we can connect to what’s inside of us. This connection we have lost, to our self, our intuition and sensitivity.
And we are disconnected from our breath. This most powerful gift of all, which was given to us by birth, and will end with death. We learn so much in school, in university, in life. But we don’t learn how to breathe. We’ve never learned how to change our mood, how to cure us from anxiety or relieve our stress level, simply by mastering our breath. It could be so easy. Many diseases could be avoided by simply taking a moment every single day to breathe with awareness and to calm down. Connecting with that power of the breath is a practice we should add to our daily life.
So yes Yoga has this high potential of self healing. Because it re-connects. And when you’re connected you can heal and when you heal you are connected.
Did you had any experience with your students that was remarkable and touched your soul ?
Many. Especially in Yin Yoga classes when we go deep into the body and work on the meridians and emotional issues, many students can completely let go and surrender with healing tears.
I will tell you one story.
It was in my first Yin Yoga Workshop. We worked with the kidney and bladder meridian and the emotion of fear. And there was one student. She was in the seated forward bend (as Yin posture) triggering kidney and bladder meridians. And she told me that it hurts around the neck and shoulders. That there’s some pressure, which doesn’t allow her to really let go and release into the pose. There was something holding her back. I told her that’s ok. That we are working on the meridians in that area, triggering tensions deep inside of us. But that, it is fine and she can simply observe and feel. I told her to simply keep breathing deeply, sending love to that places. Everything else will come. „Ok“ she said.
Just a short moment after that, she melted deeper towards her legs. Tears were running down her face. Healing, liberating tears. She surrendered and connected to that healing potential she had inside herself. I was so proud of her! After class she wanted to share her experience and that she felt liberated and rejuvenated now. She also wondered that she had to go to toilet twice (kidney + bladder meridians 😉 ) It’s just amazing how powerful and complete Yoga can be. It touches you in so many levels and layers.
I can’t describe the feeling of joy and gratitude when I see a student surrendering and connecting to its inner potential, being able to receive that gift Yoga offers. That’s all I pretend in my classes, to create that safe space of acceptance and love, where people feel free of judgement and competition, so they can let go of all the ego and connect to their inner soul. When there’s union of yourself with your inner (higher) self, that’s the moment Yoga happens.
We always say the classroom is a reflection of the teacher and how she holds space. How can you describe your classes ?
Haha this is a question you should ask my students. They know best.
But sure there are some essential elements for me in my classes I can talk about.
Especially in the West, ego and exterior influences are mainly in charge in our daily life. And it’s hard to make time and space to connect to yourself and feel yourself again. Without all the impulses from the outside, social norms, expectations, pressure, ego…
My class is a moment where people can let go of those things and connect with the only moment where life happens: the here and now.
Just as we take a shower everyday to clean our body from the dirt, we also need to take time to clean our inside from the shit that comes to us from the outside.
I want people to feel safe and loved. It should be a moment in which your ego has a pause and you can feel whats beyond ego and mind, to feel and connect to your true Self — and learn to listen.
Once we feel and know what is ours and which are the things we put on our shoulders from outside, we can decide what we want to hold and what we want to let go of.
It’s a moment of self care, acceptance and self love. Yoga is no competition and non judgmental. And teachers should remind that in class again and again. The quality of acceptance and surrender is so important.
As a practitioner of Yoga, people seek comfort during Yoga moves. In case of lack of alignment, what do you do about it ?
How to make the difference between something feeling challenging, emotional or new and painful ?
In terms of anatomical alignment I just use a soft and loving hand. It’s very important for me that people are save in a pose. That the risk of getting injured is reduced to a minimum. But even more important is to have a good feeling in the pose. To enjoy. You asked about the difference of challenging, emotional, new or painful. If you experience a posture as a challenge you are usually still living from the ego part of yourself. By holding on to the idea of reaching to the final pose, you’ll make it harder to be relaxed in body and mind. No pose must feel as a challenge. It has to be pleasure even if it’s physically demanding. The secret is to stay in the present moment of enjoying the performance of a pose, no matter where you are on your way into it.
Asanas should be ease and steady. sthiram sukham asanam.
At the beginning this might be challenging as your body still needs to develop muscle strength to hold some poses. So the question is how can you find the joy within a challenging pose?
As always: the breath is the key. The more you struggle, the more you feel pain, the more you need to breathe deeply. When you breathe into a pose with a self accepting attitude, being respectful and gentle with yourself you can find the moment of joy in every pose, even if your body struggles. It’s a matter of attitude, of how do you practice.
The attitude while we practice asanas, while we are on the mat is essential. How are you treating yourself? With gratitude in every pose, to yourselves and your body. Or are you still trying to get further? Do you focus the end of the pose and not the moment when you are on the way? The moment of getting into a pose is very important and needs high dedication. Check your attitude several times during a pose. Are you listening to your body? Are you respecting your limits? Or are you frustrated because you don’t reach as far as yesterday?
As said before, ego is paused, we don’t need to push. Being humble is allowed. Respecting your (present) limits and going out of the pose is another important part in Yoga. And when you develop that self caring attitude to listen to yourself, there’s no question about when you need to change or go out of a pose. You will know.
So remember, when you feel a challenge, it’s because you are in a challenge with yourself. Let go of it. Connect with the breath and simply observe without competing. Enjoy that nonjudgemental space. Find joy in self acceptance. Where you are is where you have to be — always.
So anatomical alignment is one thing, but practicing with a certain attitude is another form of alignment. And for me even more important.
Every asana is a form of self expression of the student. That’s why I don’t push people into a certain anatomical alignment, but help them to find the right attitude and connection to their body to find their individual way into that alignment.
How do you manage to give each person special attention while keeping the whole class moving?
Tricky question, when you don’t teach a fast vinyasa style. Because then it’s not really difficult. There is simply time and patience. When people are in a pose for several breaths there’s time to adjust. Or sometimes it’s enough to give verbal instructions for self adjustment. For example remembering to place hands at the right place, to keep the chest open and so on.
Small group classes help to provide individual support. That’s why I love them. 5 persons in a class is perfect. Ten is still good. But if more it gets difficult provide special attention to the students. It’s simply impossible to have everyone in your eye range.
Apart of the usual adjustments I like to give my students some support to release and relax. Some people really don’t know how to let go, how to give up muscle control and relax.
When they are in child pose I go to every student and help them to release their lower back, giving them a slight pressure to lower their buttocks more towards their heels. So they can really experience this moment of melting towards the ground.
Or another time I use energetic healing or Reiki, especially when I feel a person is struggling a lot with its emotions or blockages. So there are many elements about how to give special attention to students.
To observe the energy of the room, do you often ask people how they are feeling to know which issues to address whether it is a physical, mental, emotional or spiritual ?
Usually I don’t. Maybe I should 😉 But my intuition is my guide. And till now it worked very well. As a yoga teacher you are a trusted confidant for your students and should be sensitive about how they feel or their daily state. So sometimes during class I simply change rhythm. I don’t plan classes usually. They just happen and come out of me. The same works for what I say in class. When I talk about mental, emotional or spiritual subjects…I don’t control very much, I let be.
Who was your great mentor/ teacher?
Hm. Almost every person you cross in life teaches you something. So I could say many people were a mentor to me, like my mum or my very special doctor, who I have since I am a baby.
But the greatest is life. Life knows which person it will send to you, which people should cross your way in order to grow and develop your potential. I just walk through life with open heart being receptive for what comes. You can be calm and trustful. Life will do the rest.
YOGA can guide us in each action, interaction. What obstacles has yoga helped you overcome?
Yoga is my everyday companion, my teacher (oh true, yoga can be a teacher too!!)
It is there for me everyday and helps me to deal with the usual up’s and down’s in life. It helps me, when I feel lost, when I lost direction or don’t know what next, when I struggle with moments of stress, emotionally or professionally. Or when I have one of those usual short existential crisis we are passing again and again in life. In general: It helps me to take the drama out (something we all need so much). We should understand and accept there’s nothing to worry about passing through emotions like sadness, anger, frustration, discontentment, depression. They are part of the human experience.
Right now I am in a very intense relationship. Sometimes this relation is a challenge, hard work and exhausting. Another time it’s magical, moments of bliss, feeling true connection to myself and my partner. So we can sum up: many up’s and down’s. That relation makes me grow in a speed I’ve never did before. It touches the deepest of me, the good and the bad. That can be confusing or causes a lot of emotional trouble in myself. My mind is getting busy. Then I go on my mat, I breathe and connect. There’s nothing to worry in life. Taking out the drama of emotionally moving situations is a big task we have to learn. And yoga can be a good guide. Right now for me it’s a challenging relation, but it could be a loss of a loved one or a big change in life, then you can go on your yoga mat and find support and shelter.
If you look around, division and separation abounds, why is yoga so important for the times we’re living in?
Great observation. Your questions are really good! I love them.
It’s true that today’s societies are more and more marked by separation and division instead of connection and cohesion. That’s why it is so difficult to find coherency in life, persons, work.
Yoga means union and as I mentioned before it’s about a space of connection.
Telling from my own experience there is a moment you can feel complete union with everything. And once you realize (and here yoga can help very much), that we are one in this world, we might question and change the way we treat each other, how we treat the earth, they way we consume, eat, live. Which products do I buy? Should I really smoke? Am I following a self respecting lifestyle? Am I grateful for what I have? For the person I have next to me? For what earth is providing? Am I respectful the way I treat my environment? Do I harm? Am I harming myself or treating my body and being with self love and respect?
When you practice yoga with dedication and devotion, your life will change. Because yoga has this power of transformation.
Your favorite quote?
Yoga can do 😉
About Joanna and yoga-can-do.com:
Inspired by her experiences in India, Joanna created Yoga Can Do as a way to spread the picture of yoga as a whole, because it’s more than asanas. On her blog yoga-can-do.com she shares how you can live Yoga on and off the mat and how to experience the power of yoga everyday.
In her work as a Yoga teacher and coach she helps people to heal from within, to practice self care and self love and follow a healthy, self responsible lifestyle. Therefore she uses the wisdom of yoga and its self healing potential.