1 As a woman, soon 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?
Through practice, I know myself better as a woman and I have learned to trust that everything will be ok whichever direction life takes. This came naturally by understanding that we humans can make changes within us and outside, but we cannot control everything. Yoga practice is an empowering and a very humbling experience at the same time. It helps you to perceive the reality as it is and it makes you free to dream and seek for your dreams. I was always quite intuitive, but I struggled with doubt, from fear of failing to my own expectations and especially those of my beloved ones. Confidence came with time, as I also learned to celebrate little things and focus on simple activities with much love and intention. This connects you to the present moment, brings calmness. Daily happiness is about positive actions in the present moment, without expecting anything to be perfect. These skills I attribute to the discipline of practice and I think anyone can develop this ability to find inner calm and peace.
Being on this yoga path helped me dealing with emotionally difficult moments. I experienced two miscarriages before this pregnancy. Practice gave me strength to accept it and heal myself. I personally felt good sharing my experience with other women. I think yoga teachings are not supposed to isolate you from people, but to help you connect in a meaningful way.
Practice has taught me to have faith. One early morning before the sunrise, as I was going on my bike to open the School, I stopped for a second in the middle of a still sleeping city, and directed a thought to the energy that is above and is stronger than me, asking: “please give me a chance to bring a child to this world”. I also kept this faith present during my practice. Few weeks later I found out I was pregnant.
During the pregnancy, I followed my intuition in regards to what felt right to do at different stages, without getting overwhelmed with too much information and advices. The ability to trust and listen to myself I attribute to practice.
For me, Feminism is education about the value of feminine qualities that our society needs. Men’s qualities are as important as those of a woman and should be equally valued. Feminism is also about cultivating balance and harmony between both natures as they can complement each other so beautifully. Mutual respect makes healthy relations, healthy families, healthy society. Unfortunately, the potential of particular feminine qualities was neglected during long periods of history, and sadly it is still discriminated in many parts of the World.
When I think of special values of the feminine nature, I see emotional intelligence, versatility for multiple roles in life, compassion, creativity and inner strength. From the unique and highly demanding motherly nature comes the ability to love, care, give, and still remain strong for whatever professional/vocational mission a woman decides to undertake in life.
Feminism should help finding ways to protect women from unhealthy pressure in our societies and eliminate stereotypes on their personal choices. By stereotypes, I mean ideas of what a perfect partner, perfect mother or a perfect executive woman should be. In our societies, a woman is often judged, also by other women, for not fulfilling expectations. Feminism can teach about acceptance and educate on shared family responsibilities to help maintaining long-lasting relations where everyone has freedom to grow in their chosen path.
Women can best support each other if they see themselves as one, by being more compassionate towards each other, more understanding and more respectful in their individual differences. It is also important to connect in communities to help each other when in struggle and share wisdom.
In our tradition, we start building communities at our small local Shalas, and by practicing together we also cultivate the feeling of belonging.
I am often asked about the advantages of practicing alone, as compared to practice at the Shala. Some people do not have a community nearby, others practice alone by choice. All of it is ok, because practice is personal and even when we are in a room full of people – we dive into our own inner world. Community does not mean physical dependence, but I believe, at some point everyone needs that feeling of belonging to a group of likeminded people, not necessarily to a Shala as a house but to a yoga community in a wider sense. For example, when we go to Mysore, we feel infused with a strong community feeling. When I think of the place where I first started learning and the space where I work with my students today – I feel the same way. It is very special.
This practice is not easy and being there for each other makes a difference. Without it – at some point, one can become very lonely and feel isolated. One of the purposes of yoga is union that transcends the individual work on the mat. We build up strong friendships. It is great to know that now I have a yoga family in Zurich and in many other places around the World.
Feeling emotionally vulnerable is important if we want to take care of ourselves. We are all vulnerable in one way or another. By knowing and accepting it – we become strong. Inner strength comes from self-knowledge.
The experience is very personal. All of us carry a certain baggage of emotional imprints, suffering that we collected and stored inside of us over time. There is also hardship of the present moment. Practice, offers very specific tools – especially breathing – to let go of what we are holding and allows to free up space for new energy to come, it helps releasing the blockages of the mind and body. Our practice is an amazing way of self-healing. Knowing that each day you have something to help yourself is so relieving – it is what keeps bringing many of us back on the mat.
It can be scary at first to face all these emotions that we used to hide deep inside, the work we do is very gradual – but the more you practice, you realize that you can easily learn to deal with fears, that fear is just an illusion and you just feel much better after you have gone through it. The discipline of practice means the discipline of love towards yourself, and is the best self-therapy I have experienced.
In our search for peace, we may surround ourselves by good people and not waste energy in unhealthy relations; give value to the time when we are alone with ourselves to listen. My advice for other people is not to fear being vulnerable, allow feelings to come and observe the change – see how much lighter and calmer you are after going through this experience.
Daily meditation practices are great to keep you away from distraction and opens awareness to love yourself as you are, find confidence to trust your own choices. If one dedicates just a little time every day for this inner work – the judgement or stereotypes from the outside do not affect our mental wellbeing. Meditation is like a “maintenance routine” for a healthy mind. Everyone can find at least 30 minutes for practice, it is just a matter of what you prioritize, what is important for you.
Women who follow their dreams, their vision, despites any obstacles, criticism or others opinion. I admire strength and emotional sensibility in women. I am also inspired by women who are simple, uncomplicated, generous, loving and giving. These qualities usually come together with beauty that shines from within.
Ashtanga yoga practice definitely grounds me best when complemented with a good balance of sleep. I always struggled with going to sleep early, but I know the importance of it by now and got better at keeping the energy levels calmer in the evening in preparation for sleep. Some days I chant yoga sutras, slokas or some songs that I learned in India – it connects me to my feminine nature and it calms the mind. I enjoy chanting especially now, during pregnancy.
I feel secure when I don’t go against my own nature, against who I am. Also, when I am surrounded by good energy, good people.
We can find balance by listening and practicing only what feels right for each stage/particular moment of the month, of life. When we start learning about this practice, we often focus so much on developing discipline (which is also very important) and often confuse it with pushing ourselves to keep up with the same levels of daily effort, while ignoring the changes happening within and around us. Sometimes it takes another few years to realize and learn how to listen to ourselves.
We find balance when we are truly connected to ourselves. Breathing is our main guide to find this connection. If we are not present, practice can easily become suffering rather than joy.
My first teacher – also a woman, taught me to stop before pushing myself to the limits. Sometimes she would say: give 70% of your energy today, so you have some left for tomorrow. She was always compassionate and stopped me earlier when she knew I needed it, when she saw me emotionally unstable, when exhausted, injured or recovering from sickness. Like this, with observance of ladies holidays and my life circumstances, I continue to practice today.