Her Sadhana: Irena Bartolec

Her Sadhana: Irena Bartolec

1. As a woman, a mother and a yoga practitioner, tell me what do you find the most important teaching you’ve discovered from this practice and what would you share to those who are on this path?

Becoming a mother has put me more in touch with my feminine side. My practice has become more soft and less intense. More compassionate towards myself, and therefore towards others. It’s still the same asana sequences , but ultimately it is the attitude that matters. I  have learnt how to be more gentle with myself and to use this practice to give me the necessary energy to face all the challenges of 7th series.  Parenthood  and teaching are the same.  They are all about Seva, and having energy to serve others.  My family and my students are my Seva. 

As a woman and a mother I found great strength in this newly discovered softness.  I found it more enjoyable and sweet. There is a feeling of playfulness with the breath, and with life.  When you have kids around, I often return to my connection with the breath. Our breath can show us what is happening at certain moments, and at the same time the breath is our tool to access our nervous system and bring it back into balance.  Staying in the present moment is important. Asana practice is just a warm up.  Real yoga practice happens off the mat, when we are dealing with the whole world. 

2. What is Feminism to you? How do you feel women can support each other?

Feminism is all about sisterhood for me. When we women get together and unite we change the world. Feminism is acceptance of our true nature. To be who we really are, and be happy about ourselves, instead of trying to fit into some one else’s expectations. 

We are mothers.  By teaching our kids to be compassionate and kind we can help new generations to do it better.

3. In ashtanga practice, how do you feel we can keep the community strong and supportive for one another?

The Ashtanga community was always there for me when I most needed it. During the times when my life was chaotic, my Ashtangis were selflessly looking after me and my daughter. So the only way for me to give back to this wonderful community is to be there for them when they need me.  To spend time with them whenever I can.  This is a big extended family. 

Keeping Ashtanga Yoga alive by practicing it, and spreading the teachings in the way we were taught, is another way that we can support each other, and ensure the continuance of this lineage.  We are very fortunate to have this practice, to have the time and the freedom to do it, so we should give back to our community.  Not only the ashtanga community, but ultimately wherever community we can. 

Understanding that there is no difference between us all – that we all just want to be happy, and that every big change starts with the small steps.  Practicing compassion at home.  Teaching your loved ones or neighbors how to meditate or practice asana.  These are great ways to support the community around you. 

Like my Guru used to say “head in forest, hands in society.”

4. With this practice we are constantly challenging ourselves  both mind and body. This requires a lot of self discipline, focus and consistency in our daily routine. In this moments we are opening ourselves up, we are vulnerable and  processing whatever emotions that rises. What would be your advise in these situations? What did you find helpful to you?

Getting to know oneself is a long, challenging, and sometimes not so pleasant process. Its  about making friends with our shadows. This practice for me is physical, mental, and emotional hygiene. A chance to connect with myself every day. 

It is beautiful to have that tool in your life.  But sometimes it is not easy.  Those times when we have  the opportunity to practice self love, to be kind to ourselves, to silent the inner critic and sit with whatever arises, are often difficult moments in life.  We are making hard choices all the time.  The practice provides me with wisdom to negotiate those choices. 

Taking ourselves less seriously, and trying to be non attached to the stories that our mind and ego create, is something I often remind myself of.  Eventually our energy will change. The less we grasp to certain emotions, ideas or patterns, the faster it will change.

5. In this modern world we are surrounded by distractions, whether it’s the constant stream of negative news, social media and the perfectly manufactured image of how to liveness life, our appearance and body shaming. It has the power to knock us off balance. How do we nourish ourselves? How do we find acceptance?

Distractions are always many. Practice is here to bring us closer to ourselves. Things that make us different from others and from the perfect Barbie pictures that are saturating social media feeds, are things that make us beautiful and unique. Usually behind that perfect picture we see in the media, there is some product that companies want to sell us so we can finally be happy…… Once we figure out for ourselves that long lasting happiness and beauty comes from inside, and not from owning things or looking in a certain way, we will get less distracted. The more we are at peace with our own path, our inner critic will be more quiet. 

Our strength as individuals lies in our differences. Instead of scrolling screens and getting anxious about bad news and perfect pictures, we can use that extra time to meditate. We have limited time in this body and it is important to consciously choose what we are spending our time  on, and with whom are the people we are surrounding ourselves with. Everything we see, hear or read becomes food for our mind. By being irresponsible with that time, it is like making constant visits to fast food restaurants and complaining that we don’t feel well. So choose wisely. 

Being a single mom of 6 years old, my time is precious.  Time for myself is a rare luxury.  This has made me very conscious and picky about how, and with whom, I spend my time. 

Here on Bali we are living a simple and quite life. No newspapers or TV. My mornings are about teaching and practicing.  The rest of the day is 7th series, sunsets, waves and friends. 

6. Who are the women that inspire you, who are the women that you admire? 

Luckily I am surrounded with so many strong woman who are on the path.  They are brave and kind and keep making changes in the their communities. 

Since I became a mom, and realized all the challenges of motherhood, my mom became one of my heroes. I used to take her for granted, like it is her job and duty to take care of me…..  But now I can see that she sacrificed so much for me, just for pure love.  

7. What are your daily rituals and routines that you feel ground you?

Morning coffee. After practice and before my kid wakes up, I just love to sit with a cup of strong coffee in silence. Without it I am not sure what planet I am on. No coffee no Prana…… 

8. What makes you feel safe and secure? 

Morning practice. Meditation. Watching sunset with my loved ones. Bed time stories and cuddles.

9. Which element of nature do you feel most connected to?

Salt water does miracles for me.

10.Our energy is always shifting in our monthly practice, as female practitioners when we receive our ladies holiday, whether its a seasonal change or when we travel to different climates. How can we find a balance and a grounding when we feel these changes happen?

The nature of all things is that everything changes. Change is an inevitable part of our life and bodies.  If we learn to listen to our bodies, and be honest with ourselves, intuitively as women, we will have the knowledge of what we need to do to get back in balance and ground ourselves. Sometimes we need an extra rest day, sometimes it is a soft short practice, and sometimes we just need to move more. 

Checking in with the breath for me is a key.  If we think of this practice as a lifelong one, we can realize that our practice is always changing  together with our bodies and with our life circumstances.  This practice is like a dance with a life longpartner. Sometimes we dance faster, sometimes slower, sometimes we rest.  Sometimes we love each other more, sometimes less.  But ultimately we are still here, together, with love and respect for the process. 

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