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?
As a mother, the most important thing that I’ve learned from this practice is patience and acceptance… two lessons that have been very hard for me to learn. In our society, there is a constant and unspoken pressure to somehow ‘get ahead” or striving to be at the top – I’m still not sure of what. And that is very hard to let go of… I am slowly learning to accept myself fully in all the beauty of my mistakes, my physical limitations and even my days when I simply have no energy – to accept that and to know that tomorrow is an other day and that patience doesn’t eventually lead you to where you thought you wanted to go, but that it leads you to where you need to be. Even today when I see it with my daughters… and I feel that social media and apps can really distort one’s notion of their own image and who we are. I try to remind my daughters that being a kind, honest, compassionate and hard working being are so much more than anything where try to compare ourselves to others.
2 What is Feminism to you? How do you feel women can support each other?
Feminism to me is in fact women supporting each other and helping them to grow in every field and also deeply intertwined with how we treat the environment, animals and our earth’s resources. The first place to support other women is in girlhood and to ensure that every girl wherever she may live has the right to a decent education and to hopefully support that by providing decent role models. On a day to day level, women can support each other in their own fields of work… for instance, I run a yoga shala… I have chosen to invite women to share their experience, knowledge and expertise in an area that sees predominantly men as senior teachers.
3 In Ashtanga practice, how do you feel we can keep the community strong and supportive for one another?
I think in the Asthanga practice, there are several different ways we can keep the community strong and supportive. Firstly, to let all practitioners know that this practice is for everyone… there is no one size, one ability, one mentality. The practice if practiced with the internal awareness of drsti, breath and concentration on internal alignment should encourage all comparisons which are so poisonous to our minds to fall away and only leave room for support. I also feel that sharing knowledge of practice during pregnancy and post pregnancy and through injury and dealing with menopause also provides a support structure for women in this practice.
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 these moments we are opening ourselves up, we are vulnerable and processing whatever emotions that arise. What would be your advice in these situations? What did you find helpful to you?
My advice when going through moments when the practice is challenging is to try to stay with the asana that is bringing up whatever is arising… it’s very tempting (I can tell you from lots of experience) to stop just before you approach that asana or to say to yourself that today that you will do a modification for which ever reason you can find – but try to stay with the discomfort… to dive into it even just for a few breaths and accept whatever the result is. Also, it’s important to accept that practice can look very different on different days… some days it’s surya namaskars and the last three closing asanas, sometimes it’s a bit more, and sometimes its your whole practice. Lots of emotions can come up when we judge ourselves about that as well… try to again stay with the internal aspects of the practice and no matter what you do on any given day, you will see the benefits and that can help with the days when we feel vulnerable and unable to process what is arising.
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 live 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?
Its very true that negative news and social media have thrown me off balance on more occasions than I care to admit. When I realise this is happening, I severely restrict my time on social media and reading the Guardian. The best way for me to nourish myself when this happens is to go into the forest or at the coast for a long walk to clear the cobwebs out of my head or to go to the coast. Spending time in nature or even a park if that’s as much as we can manage in the city is incredibly nourishing. It also helps if you have a mentor or a very dear friend that you can speak to when you are feeling vulnerable.
6 Who are the women that inspire you, who are the women that you admire?
I have a long list of women that inspire me and who I admire…. in terms of inspiration, I am quite inspired by the young girls today who are involved in activism: Greta Thunberg, Anuna de Wever, Emma Gonzalez, Malala Yousafzai… the list goes on. I’ve also been inspired by my mother… to never give up and to fight for what you care about. I greatly admire my dear colleague and all the women that have inspired her. She works tirelessly to create a beautiful yoga centre and I’m sure she has inspired by a long line of wonderful teachers. I also must say I hugely admire all of my female students… all of them have work, children or both, and make huge efforts to make it to the shala to practice and to contribute to our little community.
7 What are your daily rituals and routines that you feel ground you?
As this a blog on Ashtanga, am I allowed to say practice? Anyway, my practice is a daily or almost daily ritual… and without it I am incredibly ungrounded. Also, my post practice/teaching cappuccino definitely makes me feel that the day will unfold as it is meant to. Waiting for the children after school is also very grounding… I feel that the afternoon takes on its own rhythm and the routine of coming home from school is very centering.
8 What makes you feel safe and secure?
Being with my family makes me feel safe and secure… no matter where we are… at home, on an over-night train in India, in a plane (I am terrible at flying), I also feel very secure when I’m at home and taking a nap with the cat.
9 Which element of nature do you feel most connected to?
I feel happiest when I am at the beach and I can hear and see the sea… so I guess water. Although I’m always described as being mostly earthy;-)
10 Our energy is always shifting in our monthly practice, as female practitioners when we receive our ladies holiday, whether it’s 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?
It’s very true that energy is always shifting… and I especially feel the shifts in energy during my monthly cycle and the seasonal changes. The shifts from summer to autumn and winter to spring I find especially challenging in the climate I live in (Belgium). Changes in diet can help as we adapt to the new seasons… trying to eat what is in season where you are, as well as shifting my bedtime and wake up time to accommodate the changing light. I also try to take oil bath at least once a week to keep me grounded and to change the oil I am using according to the season… castor oil in summer, sesame oil in winter, etc…