“An instruction manual for ourselves”: What is Human Design?

Human design and its different types – we have already heard about this in the course of self-optimization & Co. But what is it all about? I talked to Sandra about it. She discovered Human Design for herself, trained further and now coaches other people to help them live their best life.

Dear Sandra, let’s start with a question that I’m sure many people have in mind: What actually is human design?
Human design is also known as the science of differentiation. Even though we are all the same, we are still unique.

The Human Design System, a synthesis of four ancient wisdom teachings – astrology, I Ching, chakra teachings and Jewish Kabbalah – helps us to understand our uniqueness. It is a kind of instruction manual for ourselves that helps us to understand ourselves better and also to better understand our loved ones.

We also talk about the neutrino theory. It states that neutrinos are emitted by the sun and give us individual abilities and characteristics that can be decoded by experienced human design analysts.

Human Design works with so-called charts. How are these created and what do they tell us?
A Human Design chart consists of a body graphic in the middle and rows of numbers with small planetary images on either side.

The series of numbers are based on the exact dates of birth and reflect the positions of the planets at that time.

As soon as these numbers are entered into the body diagram, centers and channels are created in the chart. They are created by connecting individual gates.

In the end, we see defined (colored) centers that are connected by channels and undefined (white) centers. Both give us insights into a person’s personality, special abilities and characteristics.

The charts are like individual instruction manuals that help us to understand how we function, make decisions and generate energy.

Human Design Chart example of racecar driver Ayrton Senna

What are the benefits of this “instruction manual”?
The Human Design System is particularly helpful for recognizing your own conditioning patterns and understanding yourself better. It acts as a kind of user manual that encourages you to rediscover suppressed strengths.

Among other things, living with an open G-center (white square in the middle of the chart) and longing for love and direction throughout your life can bring peace. In this way, you can experience that love and direction for these people arise along the way and are not fixed. It can strengthen your self-confidence to trust and follow your own intuition again.

Knowing your own chart provides a wide range of insights, for example about how life unfolds most easily for you, how best to enter into relationships and which decision-making process best suits your individual design.

Craving valuable insights about yourself? Sandra and the Human Design concept might be able to help you with that.

What types are there in human design?
There are four basic types in human design: generators and manifesting generators (approx. 70 %), manifestors (approx. 8 %), projectors (approx. 21 %) and reflectors (approx. 1 %).

However, this distinction is not intended to pigeonhole people. It is rather the case that each of these types has a specific aura, and this is accompanied by different behavioral recommendations – in human design, we speak of strategies. Generators, for example, are encouraged to react to life and follow their joy, while projectors should wait for invitations and recognition in order to feel successful.

Knowing your own type is an important building block for living in harmony with your own nature.

Now that I know what type I am, what should I look out for next?
After understanding your own type, the strategy is important. It shows how good decisions can be made. There are a total of seven different authorities that provide further insights.

Knowing your own type, strategy and authority is usually enough to be able to live and fully develop your own potential. This does not mean that there are no more challenges. They do exist and may continue to exist. But we then also know how to deal with them.

What else can I do with this knowledge?
Apart from type, strategy and authority, the Human Design System offers a variety of other aspects such as profiles, centers, a possible split definition, the life task (also known as the incarnation cross), nutritional recommendations, relationship dynamics and life cycle analyses.

It gives us deeper insights into relationship and family dynamics, but can also provide information about how we move in the business world according to our design.

There is simply a lot about personal development opportunities. Everyone can decide individually how deeply they want to delve into the diversity of the system. Type, strategy and authority are the basis that I would recommend to anyone interested.

In which areas of life can Human Design “help” me?
Human Design can be helpful in almost all areas of life by providing inspiration to recognize one’s own path and make course corrections. However, it is not a panacea; especially in health matters, you should always consult with experts. Ultimately, we should always follow our own intuition.

In this context, I find the story of a mother with experience in human design, for example, whose baby always got stomach ache when she gave him a bottle. She spoke to the doctor and he said that this was the case with some children. In the depths of the Human Design variables, she then found the information that her child could only digest food well when it was cold. So she tested pumping her milk and then feeding it later with a bottle. It worked. The stomach pains were gone. I would never go so far as to say that this always works. But it can be an option and if it doesn’t harm anyone, it can be tested carefully.

How did you come to work with Human Design?
I spent a long time looking for a system that would help me to express what I perceive in others and what I feel about myself. The Human Design System provided me with the right words and a visual representation. This is how exchange can take place.

After I received a reading myself, I began to live by my design and test it out for myself. Shortly afterwards, I attended the “Living your Design” course and practiced it for a whole year just for myself. Once I was convinced, I deepened my knowledge of the basics and the analyst training.

The versatility, accuracy and practical applicability of the system fascinated me more than any other system. Most other systems are based on what we have learned in the course of our lives. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I really like the fact that it’s about characteristics and abilities that we have inherited by nature. From my perspective, living the way we were meant to can make us happier than living the way others thought was good for us.

To what extent do you advise people on the basis of human design?
My coaching sessions focus on working with one’s own chart, developing and strengthening self-love and clarifying relationship and family issues.

My main aim is to understand the dynamics themselves, to be able to explain them and to help my clients strengthen the building blocks of ME, YOU and WE.

I also support mothers in understanding their children better and accompanying them with care.

Overall, I help with self-love, partnership, parenting and finding solutions to current challenges in family life together.

Thank you, Sandra, for the interview!

Empowerment through ThetaHealing®: Insights from Mentor and Teacher, Tina

My guest today is the lovely Tina: a source of inspiration, facilitator, mentor for consciousness and ThetaHealing® teacher. She has completed numerous classical and spiritual training courses along the way, such as social psychology, alternative practitioner psychotherapy, energy work, systemic coaching, NLP, spiritual coaching, breathing training, bodywork, and meditation. Now the ThetaHealing® technique is at the heart of her work. In addition to individual sessions, she also offers training courses and seminars.

Dear Tina, welcome! We have an exciting topic today, namely ThetaHealing®. Before we go into more detail about what it is and what it can do, why don’t you tell us how you came to it?

For a long time, my life felt like a struggle, and I was constantly searching. Why am I here? What voice is speaking inside me? What is really for me?

When I started working with ThetaHealing®, I discovered elements I was already familiar with from meditation, hypnosis, brain research, NLP, prayer, quantum healing and also shamanic treatment methods. When I booked my first basic seminar, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it would be a meditation seminar that would enrich my training as a meditation teacher. But it was much more!

My very first contact with ThetaHealing with the wonderful Ana Meier gave me a deep feeling of “I have finally arrived home”. I am currently focusing on individual trainings and sessions and am accompanying the mentoring program “changinglifes”, which extends over 12 weeks.

Safe Space: Where the magic happens.

What does ThetaHealing® mean to you today?

For me, ThetaHealing® is the fastest and most direct way to show other people how they can actively influence their lives.

That sounds really nice. Let’s take a look at the basics: What is the ThetaHealing® technique and how does it work?

ThetaHealing® is a gift to us, with which we can cleanse and heal our body, mind and soul and find our inner potential. This method works through a special meditation technique that is so powerful and profound that healing can take place.

This technique was developed in 1995 by the American Vianna Stibal. ThetaHealing® is a complement to conventional medicine and is taught and used in conjunction with it.

We use the theta waves in our brain to access information and emotions.

What does that mean exactly?

We all have 5 main frequencies in the brain, one of which is always more dominant depending on the situation. Theta waves are active during hypnosis, the transition to sleep or very deep meditation.

Scientists have found that this frequency reduces stress and promotes relaxation. It can alleviate anxiety and supports mental clarity and creative thinking. It also inhibits pain and promotes euphoria.

And this is the frequency that the brain switches to during ThetaHealing®?

Exactly. In this way you can connect with what others call the “Higher Self”, God, the Field, the Universe or the Creator – as your heart believes it feels. We promote your inner healing by identifying your limiting beliefs and convictions together, deleting and dissolving them and replacing them with new, empowering, powerful and positive beliefs.

For which issues can this method be helpful?

ThetaHealing® can help with all life issues that limit or hinder you.

These can be fears and stress, relationship issues, trauma, realization, finding your life’s purpose, but also pregnancy and other family topics.

Family first! Tina is also a loving mom.

How does a session with you work?

First, we discuss your concerns and your desire for change together. Through an intuitive reading of your energy body and holistic observation, I am able to guide you to the core of your issue. I will ask you various questions about your issue. 

We create a common vibrational field through which deep-seated blockages and belief patterns can be dissolved, body and soul harmonized, and hidden potentials can unfold.

The theta state, which corresponds to our dream consciousness, allows us to directly access the areas of your unconscious that make up 95% of our identity and behavior.

If we pursue the intention of intuitively receiving an image in this brainwave frequency that contains all the information to solve a certain psychodynamic, a real treasure rises up. You are allowed to understand and recognize your situation and can now bring the experience home into your conscious existence, ready to change and integrate.

Who would you recommend ThetaHealing® to?

To all people who feel: there is more to my life. To anyone who wants to understand why their world is the way it is. To all those who are ready to immerse themselves in their story without drama and are ready to rewrite it. To all those who want to gain deep understanding in order to live from the heart.

What advice do you have for anyone who would like to delve deeper into the topic after your interview?

If you would also like to offer ThetaHealing® or integrate it into your work, you should look for a Theta teacher with whom you feel comfortable and complete the basic training, which lasts 8 days. If you book a theta seminar, it should consist of 80% practice. Because only by working on ourselves can we become masters. Since 2021, I have been offering the basic training as a theta teacher myself, as well as some advanced seminars.

Thank you for the interesting interview, dear Tina!

Curious for more? Maybe you want to read the interview about Reiki next.

Pool instead of mat: Yoga in the Water

While researching about water yoga, I came across Christa’s Instagram profile. She’s been teaching water yoga to both students and yoga instructors for quite a while now and even wrote a book about it.

I’m honored to have her on the blog today! In the interview, we talked about her journey into water yoga, how it’s different compared to yoga on land and what her teacher trainings looked like. Let’s dive in!

Dear Christa, yoga is very popular nowadays. Yoga in the water, however, is new for many. How did you get into that specific type of yoga?

I actually was introduced to it by another yoga teacher from Florida. She had a client with a pool who started inviting her over for Friday Ladies’ nights with wine and yoga in the pool. When she told me this, it blew my mind. I was like “oh you can do yoga in the pool? Why has no one ever told me this?”

I met her at a teacher training for yoga for arthritis. Immediately afterwards, I googled it and went to a training the next month, because it sounded like the best thing ever. The training was a good introduction and yoga in the pool quickly became my passion.

Before, I also taught chair yoga and yoga for kids. Super athletic flows were never my thing, so this new path fit quite well.

Were you able to take learnings from the yoga you’ve taught before into the aqua yoga teaching?

Good question! In kids’ and chair yoga, there’s a community aspect to it that also can be found in aqua yoga. A pool isn’t your typical quiet, zen-like yoga studio where everyone talks in low voices. Going to the pool is way more social and it’s a dynamic environment. While I also enjoy the inward-facing energy of a studio, the social aspect is kind of what I lean towards when teaching aqua yoga.

In what way does the practice feel different in the water compared to practicing on a mat?

The element of quiet is different. Some people find it harder to concentrate in an environment like the pool, where it’s busier than at a yoga studio. But at the same time – that’s life as it is. If you practice in a busy environment like this, you might find it easier to recenter when your everyday life gets hectic. That’s what yoga is about!

And there’s also the physical aspect. Water is denser than air, we can use it in different ways. For example, it makes more sense to move your hands through the water to work with the resistance, even if that’s not how you would usually approach a posture. Also, you need to stabilize more through your torso and your legs. So, it provides different movement planes, and significantly different muscular usage.

Safety is also a point: In studios, we don’t really have many seniors. In the water, they usually feel more comfortable. Here, they don’t really have the risk of falling and less risk of injury.

Speaking of seniors: Are there specific target groups that you would recommend aqua yoga to?

I choose to work with people with arthritis and joint conditions. But from a more athletic point of view, it’s still a super valid way to practice. There’s a lot more muscular effort because you have to break the surface tension of the water. Other sports are using the benefits of water already, so if you’re an athletic person looking for a new challenge, you’re still going to get a lot out of aqua yoga.

Yoga is very beneficial for our health. Does practicing in the water support or even enhance these benefits?

We do have research in yoga and in aquatics, but we have zero research in aqua yoga, unfortunately. So, we can only speak of potential benefits here – yoga tells us one thing, and aquatics tells us one thing, so, in combination, what does that mean for aqua yoga? Can we expect the combined benefits? We don’t know.

What could we expect? For example, everyone knows that yoga increases your flexibility. In the pool, you’re even more flexible, due to the buoyancy of the water. It gives us more joint space, not that it makes them larger, it just restores them to their maximum potential, because gravity crushes them down. So, you increase your range of motion and get more flexible.

Today, you’re not only a practitioner of water yoga. Tell us more about your journey from water yoga enthusiast to water yoga teacher.

I was a new teacher in general when I went to aqua yoga teacher training. I live in Florida, where almost everyone has a pool, so it seemed natural to me. I started at the local YMCA, which was a great place to start. You never know who’s going to join you for class, so you teach a lot of different people and you become a really good teacher really fast.

How did it come about that you started training other teachers?

People were literally asking me! They saw my pictures, heard me talk about it and came up to me to ask how they could work with me.

It took me some time to develop all the content. Before Covid, I developed a course and delivered it in person first, and then the next year I created the online component. Then Covid hit, and I already had that in place, so that was really good timing.

Living in Florida, you have the ocean right around the corner. Could you also practice there instead of in a pool?

As long as you can safely do it, yes. With little waves and gentle slopes, there’s no problem. I have trained teachers from Mauritius who don’t have pools available, so they teach in the ocean. They have great weather, barely any waves.

The same applies to lakes. The bottom is often an issue, because it might be muddy and not firm enough.

So, technically, any body of water would work.

You’ve also written a book about water yoga. What came first – the book or training other teachers?

The training. I was training people, I had a manual for that, and again, people approached me and said “Christa, you need to write a book!”. That was my Corona project. Since I’ve published the book, I’ve gone on and done a lot more writing, for example poetry. Before I started the training, I also self-published a book on yoga philosophy for the pool. That was kind of my first step and helped get me started.

So, I guess yoga philosophy is also a big part of your training?

It’s a sizeable chunk. In the certifications, we spend more time on the movement, however, I include all eight limbs of yoga. I try to make the philosophy part as accessible as possible, because many come just for the movement, and might think the philosophy part is a little “woo woo”. I try to meet people where they’re at.

What else is part of the training?

It’s a blended program because I don’t only train yoga teachers who want to move their teaching from mat to water. I also teach aquatics professionals who would like to get into yoga.

Water science is a given. We talk a lot about that. The aquatics professionals might already know a lot about that, but the yoga teachers don’t. And the aquatics professionals know less about the yogic aspects.

As a yoga teacher, you might think “I’ve done yoga for years, I got this”, but then you get into the pool, and plank pose is just a disaster (laughs).

Also, we cover the topic of props. We have kickboards, and pool noodles, and aquatic dumbbells. So, implementing them into yoga sessions is an important part of the training.  

You can probably guess the next question: How do I actually do plank pose in a pool?

Obviously, you can’t just bend down and use the bottom of the pool. So, we need some sort of support.

Option one is the pool wall, which is very stable. It’s similar to using a wall or a chair in a yoga studio.

More challenging is when we do a plank in the center of the pool. At that point, we would need a pool noodle or two to support you. The principles are the same: your arms are straight; your body is in an approximately 45-degree angle with your toes attached to the pool floor. The challenge: the support is not attached to anything and your body tends to roll in the water. To hold that pose, it’s important to not bend the elbows, keep the arms straight, and engage the glutes.

What would you recommend to someone who’s a total beginner and wants to get into water yoga?

If you’re a total beginner, you’re probably more comfortable with trying a class. If there is no water yoga class, try one in the studio. Try your best to remember like 3 moves and then try them in the pool for yourself.

Relax about the thoughts like “am I doing it wrong”. If your chair pose in the pool doesn’t look like the one on land, that’s fine! Work with your breath and your mindfulness while you’re practicing.

You don’t even need to know how to swim! Just make sure you stay close to the pool wall and that your pool has a lifeguard on duty. If the water is up to mid-chest height, that’s ideal. Belly button level is also fine – less buoyancy offload but still less gravity than on land.

What’s next for you? Any plans for 2024?

I always have things in the works. I’m releasing a new book, that will hopefully be published in April. I’m also putting together 2 courses for people who already teach aqua yoga, as further education for this field is very rare.

Is that also what the book is about?

No, the new book is more about yoga philosophy: the Yamas and Niyamas, the Sutras… it’s aimed at beginners. It’s distilling it down to the most important aspects, so that you can easily integrate them in everyday life.

Sounds very exciting. Thank you for the interview and the pictures and good luck with all your projects!

A holistic approach: The magic of mindful movement

Sunita Ehlers focuses on a holistic view of the body. As a yoga teacher and mindfulness expert, she attaches great importance to individuality and adapts all postures to the respective body and life circumstances. She has been training prospective yoga teachers, mindfulness trainers and meditation leaders since 2015 and Mindful Movement Trainers since 2022. And it was precisely this topic – Mindful Movement – that I talked to her about.

Dear Sunita, we know mindfulness and we know movement. What exactly does “Mindful Movement” mean to you?

For me, Mindful Movement involves a lot. On the one hand, it’s about the uniqueness of my body, but also about the current circumstances I find myself in. I can draw energy from postures and movement sequences. I can recharge my batteries or let off steam. I can express myself and connect my body, mind and soul. In my eyes, integrating mindful movement into everyday life is the most valuable thing of all, because it allows me to get exactly what I need from short moments.

How does this concept go hand in hand with yoga?

Yoga is Mindful Movement, mindful movement is yoga, but also much more. While in yoga we find ourselves, reconnect with ourselves, stay on our own mat and start to feel, mindful movement goes one step further. For example, it is also about being aware of emotions. Getting the energy that I need on a daily basis. For example: I’m exhausted and lacking energy; then I can get the energy I need through the appropriate movements.

Does meditation also play a role?

Yes, meditation, yoga and mindfulness come together in Mindful Movement. They combine to form a whole and take a holistic view of the body, mind and soul.

What is so special about this method?

The really wonderful thing is to make the decision: how do I feel… and how do I want to feel. And then to integrate exactly that from the movements. When I’m angry, it’s okay to be angry sometimes. On my mat, so that I can deal with anger better in everyday life. Or perhaps not perceive it quite so strongly in everyday life because I have already acted it out on the mat. Of course, this can also be applied to other emotions.

Why is practicing mindful movement so good for us?

Because it is holistic. And because it is wonderfully easy to transfer to everyday life. Ultimately, it’s about learning that how I move has an effect and how I feel has an effect on my body. Emotions and the body have a reciprocal effect on each other – in both a positive and ‘negative’ sense.

Who in particular can benefit from this?

That’s very easy to answer: EVERYONE.

You also offer training as a “Mindful Movement Trainer”. How did that come about?

Hm, that’s a little more personal. I’ve been training yoga teachers for several years now. I love practicing yoga and yet, as an instructor, I also notice that I feel powerful on some days and not on others. Adapting postures and movements so that I can practice them every day was the logical consequence for me. This is how the concept for the Mindful Movement training came about. It combines my areas – yoga, mindfulness and meditation – and is therefore more holistic and mindful than the yoga training courses I had known until then.

Who is this training for?

For anyone who wants to get to know yoga and who wants to adapt the postures and movement sequences to suit the current state of the body.

What can I expect from the training?

Yoga, mindfulness, meditation, music, community, philosophy and, of course, anatomy. Plus, Ayurveda and much, much more. It’s always a wonderful group in which I can learn how to simply be.

Do you have a tip for anyone who has never tried yoga or mindful movement? How could they get started?

Yes, just try it out. My advice would be to look at different teachers and approaches and allow yourself to simply feel. And then, when it clicks – and it will! – just keep at it.

Thank you, dear Sunita!

Are you curious, what Sunita is up to? Then follow her on instagram or listen to her podcast!

Are you interested in the topic of mindful movement? Then you might also be interested in the interview with Danilo. Read our conversation about his unique concept here!

Working from anywhere as a yoga teacher

I first came across Lauren’s account when I started getting more into Ayurveda. I loved her informative content against the beautiful backdrop of her tropical home. When she started shifting her focus more towards online classes, I took part in one of her challenges. Surprisingly, I was lucky enough to win a spot in her program “Yogipreneur Academy”!

Meet Lauren – creator of the Yogipreneur Academy!

She started this program because she wanted to help others achieve what she’s built for herself: Making a passive income with online courses to have more time to travel, visit loved ones, and – yes! – teach in person.

In this interview, she shares her first steps, her learnings and all the perks of teaching online.

Dear Lauren, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview! First, let’s give the readers a little intro about yourself. You’re American, but you live in French Polynesia. Could you share a little about your journey?

Hi! Thanks for having me :)! Yes, I am American, from New Jersey, but I’ve been living in Tahiti since the end of 2018! I met my now husband while traveling in Portugal in 2017, and he is from Tahiti.  We traveled together for a few months, then he came with me while I was working in Bali, and then we came to Tahiti and we’ve been here since then!

How did you get into teaching yoga online? Tell us about your first steps.

I first got into teaching yoga online because when I first arrived in Tahiti, I realized really quickly that it was going to be really hard for me to still share yoga and Ayurveda in English with the community here because the language spoken here is French!  I also realized that I wouldn’t learn French overnight. So that’s when I had the idea to try to offer something online, in English, that people could sign up for from anywhere in the world. 

Teaching online, you don’t even need to leave your couch to reach your students.

In what way does teaching online feel different to you than teaching in person?

The beauty of having online offerings is that you’re able to connect with students all over the world! That is one thing that I really love about online teaching.  I still feel connected to my students online, because we have a private group for members, live Q&As, and we stay connected! I also still teach 2 yoga classes in person every week because I still enjoy teaching classes!

Why did you decide to get more into online courses?

I decided to go more into online courses because I realized how much I love my freedom!  That includes being able to travel, work from anywhere, create my own schedule and still share what I love – yoga, wellness, Ayurveda – but in a more passive way.  I also saw that it worked! I was able to bring in income every month thanks to online courses. There are many people who like to learn and study online from the comfort of their home.

Travel to beautiful places – while still making money!

What were your biggest learnings during the process?

I think getting all the tech set up was one of my biggest learnings in the process! Making sure students were able to sign up, gain access to the course, get a welcome email, upload all the course videos, edit the videos, etc.  🙂

Your focus went from sharing mostly ayurvedic tips to sharing advice about creating a passive income as a yoga teacher. How did that come about?

This came about because I already had some online programs at this point. I had a prenatal yoga course and an Ayurveda course. Then, other yoga teachers started to ask me how I was able to travel for 6 months last year. They wanted to know how I created online offerings, how I was able to stop teaching so many in person classes, etc.  That’s how it all started!

What does your life look like now, compared to before teaching online?

Before teaching online, I was either working full time as an elementary teacher and teaching yoga on the side, or teaching yoga full time. That meant meaning 14+ classes every week.  I was tired and constantly felt like I had to prove myself, never feeling like I was earning enough money.  Now, I teach 2 classes per week in person because I like to. The rest of my work is online! I love being able to go to the US and visit my family, go to Bali, create my own schedule and work for myself.  I’m still working, but it’s less physically demanding and I’m able to do it on my own terms. 

How did your work focus shift since teaching less in person?

Now that I’m only teaching 2 classes per week, I feel like it’s made me a better teacher both in person and online.  When I was teaching full time, by the end of the week I always felt like a broken record, not always remembering what I had already said to which class, if we had already done the right side, etc.  Now that I’m teaching less, I’m more present and happy to show up and teach, instead of feeling tired and burnt out. The same goes for online. 

Why would you recommend teaching online as a yoga teacher?

I would recommend having an online component as a yoga teacher. It allows you to still share yoga, but without having to physically teach tons of yoga classes every week.  I know a lot of yoga teachers experience burnout from having to teach many classes in order to earn enough money each month. By having an online component you can eliminate some of that!  Sometimes people think that it has to only be one or the other- ONLY online or ONLY in person classes. But personally, I love a combination of the two.  I love to see my students in person, and I love to have online offerings and have that more passive style of income coming in. 

Lauren still loves teaching in person – but on her own terms.

Tell us more about how your program “Yogipreneur Academy” came to life.

Yogipreneur Academy is a program that I created to teach other yoga teachers how they can create, launch and sell their own online courses.  It came to life because other yoga teachers started to ask me how I was able to travel, how I was offering things online, etc. so I decided to put together a program to show them how they could do the same thing.  I love helping other yoga teachers and wellness professionals create their own online programs so they too can have a more freedom-based lifestyle!

This could be you, making money with an online course.

What’s your favorite part about teaching that program?

My favorite part of Yogipreneur Academy is seeing my students selling their first online courses!!  It’s so fun to see and be a part of. 

What’s the most important tip you would like to share with yoga teachers who are thinking about creating a passive income with online courses?

Getting something done and ready to share with the world is better than it being “perfect”! Just start!

Thank you so much, Lauren!

A conversation about Vipassana Meditation

Dare to look inside

It’s an honor for me to have Maryia as a guest on my blog today. Not only is she an avid yogini and my teacher trainer, but she’s also an experienced practitioner of Vipassana meditation. Having heard about it a lot, I was curious what she had to tell from her own experience. Read on and learn more about this interesting topic.

Dear Maryia, let’s start with the basics. What does Vipassana actually mean, what is behind this term?

The term is in Pali, which is kind of a daughter language of Sanskrit. Historically, it is somewhat younger. Pali was actually even a spoken language at the time of Buddha. So it is the language that Buddha spoke. I am referring to the last historical Buddha, the prince Siddhartha Gautama, who was later given the title Buddha.

In Pali, “Vi” means clear, and “Passana” means to see. Put together, this term therefore means “to see clearly”. It is also translated as “insight meditation”.

So the aim of the meditation is already somewhat hidden in the name?

Yes, the name is basically a kind of description.

We are supposed to gain insight. Insight into what exactly?

Ultimately, it’s about seeing yourself clearly, as you really are and not as you would like to see yourself. Sometimes we think we are ideal, but then realize that we are not always at our best.

In everyday life, we like to say “yes, but that’s only because of external influences”. For example, you’re only scared because a dog has barked; or you’re only angry because it’s someone else’s fault.

During meditation, however, you realize that these so-called obstacles are on the inside – and you learn to overcome them.

Later, when the dog barks, you are less afraid, and even later perhaps you’re not afraid at all.

However, this is not behavioral therapy, but a natural result of inner insight. Something changes inside through the mindfulness that is practiced during meditation.

And the insight goes beyond yourself. You also gain a deeper understanding of the nature of all things.

Meditation as a path to more insight and deeper understanding

This insight sounds very desirable. How does meditation try to achieve it?

Vipassana is an umbrella term for several techniques. So we are not talking about “the” Vipassana – you can find different techniques, traditions and lineages under the term.

The foundation, however, is the Buddha’s teaching, which is based on mindfulness. You achieve introspection through mindfulness. This word is used excessively nowadays – but what I mean by it, in the sense of the Buddhist teachings, is the original Pali term “Sati”. This means something like “remembering”. It means to be aware of what is happening.

In one of the Buddha’s teachings, the Satipatthana Sutta, he mentions four areas in which this “remembering” can be developed:

The body – what body position am I in right now?

Feelings – pleasant, unpleasant, neutral – overall.

Mind – inner activity, for example thinking, planning, analyzing.

Objects of the mind, for example states of dislike or resistance, fear, anxiety.

The inner obstacles that I just mentioned belong to the group of mental objects that you can describe in more complex terms than just pleasant or unpleasant. You can develop mindfulness for them.

Develop mindfulness – not only for the breath

What does that mean exactly?

When I am sitting, I know – I remember – I am sitting. Or if I have an unpleasant feeling in my leg, I know – this is an unpleasant feeling. Or I think about what the weather will be like – that’s thinking at first, but then I might worry that it might rain and I might fall ill.

The transition from thinking to worrying is already a transition from mind to mental object.

Then there is a second very well-known discourse, the Anapanasati Sutta. Anapana is practically breathing in and breathing out, i.e. developing mindfulness in relation to the breath. This is why observing the breath plays a role in most Vipassana traditions, because we always have the breath “with us”. The body too, but the breath has a certain rhythmic change.

If there is a feeling in the leg, we could lose ourselves in speculation about where it comes from and thus no longer be present. Anapanasati therefore means training mindfulness of the breath.

Can you say a bit more about the different traditions?

There are some teachers from the East and the West alike, some ordained monks, some lay people, so many teachers who call their practice Vipassana and others who perhaps don’t have much to do with the traditions of Theravada Buddhism. This is the oldest Buddhist current, also known as Southern Buddhism.

Nowadays we find it in Thailand and Burma, for example, while Mahayana is present in China and Japan. This is a different direction, but is also based on the teachings of the Buddha. And then there is Tibetan Buddhism, which originated from Mahayana and is linked to the Tibetan tradition.

Regardless of where you studied or what background you have, someone may call their practice Vipassana – this is not a protected term. It is therefore always a good idea to find out what is behind it.

There are techniques that do not have precise instructions on how to practice. This is then quite open, such as “observe your breath and everything you can perceive” or “walk slowly and observe your steps” and there are techniques that define everything relatively precisely.

I personally have been practicing in the tradition of the Most Venerable Phra Ajahn Tong Sirimangalo since 2006. He was a very highly respected monk in Thailand who left this world in 2019. His teacher, when he was young, was a well-known Burmese master in Burma.

He defined this original idea more precisely and developed it into his technique and Ajahn Tong modified it even further. His technique is quite precisely defined. There are three exercises that are always performed one after the other and naming is also used, which is not the case with every Vipassana exercise. In this case, it is a tool for developing mindfulness.

Listening inside, defining what you feel

Is this usually guided or rather silent meditation?

These three exercises are explained to you in detail at the beginning and then you practice for yourself and, depending on the setting in which the whole thing takes place – just one evening or a whole course – you also have regular discussions with the teacher who is present on site.

This practice has the advantage that you are always accompanied and can always consult and check in with a person who is present.

How did you discover Vipassana?

A very good friend of mine did a course and told me about it. Then another friend said, “that’s interesting, I’ll do it too” and then I thought I’d give it a try as well.

And then you realized that it was something for you?

Yes, it’s been 17 years now and I have to say I’ve done it very consistently over the years. At least when I was still childless, I did three intensive courses a year, and even now I try to keep at it. The great thing is that you can also practice the technique in everyday life, not just on retreats – you can also talk to the teachers on the phone. This is a relief for many situations in life, for example when you have a small child (laughs).

Before that, I had actually imagined meditation differently. I thought it was just mental calm, that everything was beautiful and peaceful, and of course that’s something special. But I realized that Vipassana is different. You see things in yourself that you might not want to see – so not everything is beautiful and peaceful – but I felt the effect.

Situations that used to challenge me a lot in everyday life have naturally improved without me having to tweak anything.

You come back after a retreat and bosses, partners, landlords are the same, everything has stayed the same – but I feel better, I can cope better. That was the incentive for me to keep going and do more courses.

You are then with yourself and simply want to get better, and not just superficially, but from the ground up. That’s hard work. It’s tempting to say “one wipe with a feather duster is enough”, but one “full wash with detergent” is of course much cleaner (laughs).

A retreat is probably like a “full wash”. Can you tell us about how it works?

A retreat is indeed recommended for the “full wash”, even if you can also try out Vipassana in an evening.

In the tradition of Venerable Ajahn Tong, the first basic course lasts 15 days and the subsequent ones 10 days, in a meditation center, because there is on-site guidance and the whole process is designed to allow you to concentrate on the matter at hand.

It’s basically a vacation, but very different. At the beginning, everything is explained to you in detail, then you start with the exercises for yourself, and there are always discussions. There are two meals a day, there are always breaks between the meditation sessions. You don’t do much else, you don’t use your cell phone, you don’t read books, you just fully immerse yourself in the experience.

Retreat – a time just for you

So you shouldn’t plan it in such a way that you explore the place in the meantime?

No, I would do that before or after. It’s really important for the effect to get fully involved. Of course, it’s unfamiliar, especially the first time, so it can be good to do a short introduction beforehand.

To what extent does the type of meditation you practice differ from the meditations that readers may have already tried?

In yoga we tend to think of it as concentration and focus, in some traditions, meditation can also be dynamic, connected to nature or sound; there is such a wide range of what we call meditation.

I would say that if meditating with mindfulness appeals to you, then follow your intuition and try it out, but come with an open mind. Forget everything you’ve ever heard or done, because every method and tradition is somewhat different. Get fully involved for the chosen period of time and then you’ll see if it’s for you.

Ready for some contemplation?

If you’ve now got the desire to try it out, what would be your tip for someone who has never come into contact with Vipassana before but has been inspired by your words?

Of course I would be very happy about that!

We are very fortunate in Germany. The main monastery of the tradition is in Thailand, but we don’t have to fly there because we have two meditation centers in Germany that belong to this tradition.

On November 26, the director of one of these centers will give an introduction at our Yoga Vidya Center Frankfurt. She has been connected to our center for a long time and was with us for the first time in 2007.

This is an evening where you can get an introduction from her, ask her questions and have your own first experience. The event is on a donation basis, as is customary in all Vipassana traditions.

On December 12, there will also be a Vipassana evening at our yoga center with Venerable Phra Ajahn Ofer Adi, a Buddhist monk and meditation teacher who has been practicing Vipassana since 1989.

Who would you recommend Vipassana to?

Everyone! (laughs) I think everyone can benefit from it, but you shouldn’t do it with the idea that everything is just nice. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to gain insight for themselves.

Are there people you would not recommend it to or even contraindications?

Not exactly, but in the case of psychological problems or addiction, it would be important to clarify this with the teacher beforehand and to be completely open about it. If it really wasn’t suitable for you, you would get an appropriate answer.

Is there a guideline on how often you should practice?

Not officially, but like any other practice, it works best when it is part of everyday life. Ideally, if you manage to do it every day – maybe even just 10 minutes – you start to feel the benefits. But once a month is still better than nothing at all. Just make the most of the free time you have.

Thank you so much, dear Maryia!

Awakening inner child and inner warrior: The powerful concept of “Playfight – Flowcatcher”

When was the last time you just let yourself be a child again? Bringing a sense of ease and playfulness into your life is the purpose of Danilo’s very own concept “Playfight – Flowcatcher”, connecting you with your inner child and warrior.

Danilo has always been enthusiastic about physical movement, practicing yoga, dance and different types of martial arts. Today, he leads workshops to make you feel more free, grounded and light.

I sat down with Danilo by the Rhine River in my old hometown Bonn to talk to him about what he aims at with “Playfight – Flowcatcher”. It was very informative, and also a lot of fun!

Dear Danilo, in our exchange so far I could already tell: Playfight is your absolute passion. Why don’t you explain what’s behind this term?

Playfight is a word that’s coming out in a big way right now. You can define it as playing and brawling. It started in earlier times, as something mystical, a game with the spirits, a meditative activity. In the Middle Ages, the fun factor was added – for example, parents playfully scuffled with their children.

So has the fun factor always been there?

That’s difficult to say, you can only work with estimates. Nowadays, with games and scuffles, people are looking for a connection with others.

Forming a connection is a crucial part of Danilo’s concept

So not only among children?

Exactly. We know how it often is: I don’t know strangers, I don’t need to get close to them. But if you approach it playfully, it’s actually quite easy to reconnect and not be such strangers to each other. You often forget that, but we’re all the same when we play.

Playfighting also requires a lot of physical effort. Many people are no longer used to that.

Of course it’s physically demanding, but the good news is that it’s a game – a fun fight. While you’re playing, you don’t really notice how strenuous it is. Afterwards, you come out happily exhausted. If you then extend that – as I do – you integrate other parts of the body, strengthen them, relieve them. And that in connection with play… there can be so much for mind and body. Perhaps one has regained a piece of childhood.

I still remember myself how much I liked to simply scuffle as a child. Is that simply the basis of your workshops? You encourage your participants to be children again?

Being children again – Danilo and his participants

Yes, the thing is that I have often heard “I’m too old, I can’t play anymore”. Then I always have to answer “You didn’t stop playing because you’re old. You got old because you stopped playing.”

What is particularly nice is that in this context a protected space has been created where one can simply play quite freely. No one can see me making an ass of myself, so to speak, or playing like a child. You often feel ashamed, but when you have the opportunity to do that in a protected space, you often wonder why you ever stopped.

Do you also know cases where an aggressive energy came out rather than a playful one?

I’ve experienced both, but not really aggressive. You make it very clear at the beginning that you’re playing, that it’s not serious. You realize that relatively quickly, and respect also develops very quickly. You don’t want to show who’s better – which is not the point at all – but it’s just about playing and letting go. You can also agree on the intensity of the scuffle beforehand, for example, if you want to test boundaries.

One game I like to incorporate: I put on a sock, you put on a sock, and we try to take each other’s socks. And then pretty quickly you’re in a little playful wrestling match. You grab each other’s shoulders, push each other to the ground, but we start at the knees, there’s not much that can happen. That alone creates so much fun!

You just said it’s not about being better than the other one. But is there still a winner, or how does such a fight end?

In the game with the sock, for example, you can say that it starts over when a sock is taken off. You can also try to get out of a position, for example, if someone is sitting on top of you, or you can try to push your partner to the ground for three seconds.

Fighting in good fun: A break is always possible

If I am in a situation where I feel uncomfortable, how could I stop?

My workshops are not just called Playfight, but Playfight – Flowcatcher. That means I show a lot of different flowing movements and different types of playfight. When we fight playfully, I also like to show movements from self-defense. For the warm-up, I also show how to free yourself. Of course, you can always say “Stop” and take a break at any time you like.

What other influences affect your concept? You’ve already mentioned martial arts – what else are there?

A lot from dance sports, I like to dance very much myself, and have incorporated many movements. Flowing movements with the whole body are a great warm-up, Ecstatic Dance, Capoeira, Contact Dance can be mentioned here. This can be designed and varied in a very free and playful way. For example, with a blindfold you get even more into the feeling.

Playfulness is key – move as you feel!

Do people come to your workshops with friends or alone?

Most come alone; those who come in pairs are usually couples. Mostly people want to reconnect with others, because that has become really difficult nowadays.

Right now is actually an ideal time for that, because many have had a lack of physical contact due to the pandemic.

Absolutely. There are always those who have completely withdrawn due to Corona, but those are only a few. Most of them are looking for that connection right now and throwing themselves into it, and that’s really nice to see. I am very happy that I can experience this time now after this low – like a Phoenix from the ashes.

It gives me a lot to hold this space, to pass on my knowledge and experience and to see what happens when you let go a little bit.

Again, back to the dance and martial influences – you mentioned earlier that you incorporate them into your warmup. Do you also encourage participants to weave them into their fighting?

Awakening the inner warrior (Photo © Cherylin Vanzuela)

I also like to weave in animal moves, for example monkey walks, where you walk on all fours. You’re not used to that kind of movement anymore, especially if you’re doing a sedentary job. It’s incredibly good for you, because your spine is often under tension. Moving around in all kinds of ways strengthens and relieves the back. In between, I also always invite you to linger in the Yogi Squat, or just let yourself hang out if you find a pole in a playground.

Can I take part in such a workshop even if I am absolutely unathletic?

Of course! You don’t need to be athletic at all, it’s all about the playing and brawling, and everyone can do that.The beauty is that you don’t have to prove anything to anyone. There are always movements that are easier, but the main thing is to have fun and connect – also with yourself. That you rediscover or remember things, movements that used to bring you joy. As soon as you behave like a child again, you become more open – to other things and people. You repress a lot and no longer dare to act out this playfulness. I always see the heart open in the eyes of the participants.

Keyword “finding a connection with yourself” – that’s a parallel to yoga and meditation.

Connecting to yourself: Even more fun in nature! (Photo © Cherylyn Vanzuela)

As soon as you focus on one thing and block out everything else, which happens every time at these workshops, you are automatically in a kind of meditation.

Then maybe that’s even more accessible to those who say they can’t sit still?

Right. Of course, traditional meditation also has great qualities and I like to use it at the end of workshops.

It’s probably easier then after letting off steam.

Exactly, especially for people who never really move their body otherwise.

As for the yoga, after the warm-up, we mobilize and do a dynamic stretching session. Of course, yoga is also part of that.

Describe how a workshop like this works for you.

Danilo leading a workshop

First, we all get together in a circle and introduce ourselves so that we get to know each other a bit. Everyone shares a word, a sentence or an intention as to who they are and why they’re here. Sometimes I also include a trust game at the beginning, which can always look different. Then we continue with a warm-up to prepare the body. Here, too, I always vary. Then we mobilize and stretch to get in the right mood for the following movements. And then comes the playful part with animal moves – we imitate a few animals (laughs). This warms us up further and strengthens the whole body, without us even noticing. Then there’s a smooth transition to a contact dance.

Do you let people choose their own partners?

First of all yes, then I announce a change, so that people who brought someone with them also get in contact with someone else. With a new person you have to adjust all over again. This new adjustment challenges our “inner warrior” by testing boundaries – something we hardly dare to do otherwise. The inner warrior also stands for determination, assertiveness, qualities that we can always put to good use.

So the participants are in contact dance. After that, there is then fighting?

After that, I show a few more flowing movements, such as from capoeira. So then it comes to using dance moves to dodge attack maneuvers like kicks. Animal moves also come into play here, mixed with the martial – you become a Kung Fu Panda, so to speak. (At this point we had to take a break due to laughter).

You just realize, “I now have a large repertoire of movements and can move out of situations in many ways” – whether that’s kicking movements, monkey walk, or dog looking down.

And then from there it flows into playing and roughhousing. And since there are so many flowing movements involved, I call it flowcatching.

Always fighting with respect – and fun 🙂

Do everyone fight in pairs at the same time, or do only two fight at first and the others watch?

There are both. Someone can be in the middle and choose another participant as a partner. The others watch the playfight, then the one who was chosen picks someone new. But everyone can also choose someone and it is fought in parallel in the room.

It is also very important to me that the participants can always withdraw if they don’t feel comfortable with something, without justification. Of course, before the fight I also explain that the partner should be treated with respect, that you don’t want to hurt anything. In consultation with the partner, the tussle can be as gentle or as dynamic as you like. All in all, such a workshop lasts between two and three hours.

What does the conclusion look like?

First of all, we lie down on our backs, similar to Savasana, to calm down, relax and let everything take effect. Especially in the summer, when the workshops take place in the forest, this is very nice. Indoors you don’t always have mats, but often I take some with me. Sometimes I also recommend knee and elbow pads to the participants.

We also often do a circle where we share how we’re feeling. And then the class ends differently, maybe with an Om, maybe with a breathing exercise, a group hug – I do that spontaneously.

A bright smile: One of the benefits of playfighting (Photo © Cherylyn Vanzuela)

Speaking of hugs, you read over and over again how good hugs do you. So we’re bound to take something positive away from the physical contact at Playfight, right?

Absolutely, if only because we let ourselves get involved with another person and thus open up. For many, that’s an overcoming. The playful side also brings out not only the Inner Warrior, but also the Inner Child. In the times we live in, our childlike side is often no longer active at all, and many long to reawaken it – even to communicate just that, and to re-establish that connection with others.

And that’s your drive, too?

Definitely. Both verbally and physically, in a playful way. It’s just so inside me, I’ve always felt that, and then at some point I was able to give the first workshop and flourish doing it – not only doing it myself, but also passing it on. People are getting more and more infected now.

How do your participants leave such workshops?

It’s really magic, what happens there. One is happily exhausted and has noticed that one has become more open. For some it has a bit of an after-effect, others know immediately “that’s what I’ve always been looking for”. Many gain more courage from it and then want to pass it on – either in everyday life or in such a way that it fits their own activity. You also experience your body in completely different movements. On a physical as well as on a mental level, a lot of things come loose.

Feeling free: Danilo loves passing on his passion

If I want to continue after a workshop, how would you go about finding someone privately to do it?

If I want to continue, I actually just have to take the initiative by getting myself to do movements from my childhood again, without fear of looking ridiculous. Playfight can be done anytime and anywhere, with friends, family members….

Sometimes, of course, you meet people who don’t really want to open up anymore. You can’t force anything, all you can do is share what you’ve experienced that’s beautiful, and maybe that sets an impulse. For me personally it was like that, that I heard about a workshop, took part and realized “this is it, finally!”.

We’ve talked a lot now about the benefits. Who can particularly benefit from it, who would you particularly recommend your workshops to?

Both young people and adults. Very many young people don’t do any sport at all, and I think the body simply has to be used. Often they simply haven’t discovered what they like to do yet. Especially these young people should be shown as wide a range as possible of what you can do with your body. Through all the movements that flow into my workshops, you can easily find out what you like and what you don’t like. And the prevention of physical ailments at a young age should not be underestimated.

Physically demanding but still playful: Playfighting is for everyone!

Do you differentiate between age groups in your workshops?

No, not at all, only the benefits are different, everyone takes away something different for themselves.

That’s nice when generations meet, isn’t it?

In any case, it’s a very interesting experience to do this playful exercise with someone who belongs to a different age group. In this atmosphere, age is quickly forgotten.

What would you like to pass on to people who have now developed an interest in the subject as a result of this interview?

Through word of mouth and social media groups, you can find information and dates for workshops. I think everyone should have tried that to see what happens to you. What can I discover or rediscover? What can my body do? In general, it’s a great way to connect with others and foster openness. In this day and age, we especially need that!

What do you say to those who would like to, but don’t dare?

My message would be: since we have a body, it should be respected, savored and used to the fullest. It would be much too bad not to discover it.

Beautiful conclusion, thank you so much for this interview!

Connect with Danilo and stay up to date about his workshops via Instagram or Facebook!

More than music: The healing power of Mantras

“Mantra” – we have all heard this word before, even if it is only through the phrase “repeating something like a mantra”. But there is much more behind this term. Many yoga novices perceive the chanting of mantras at first as rather alienating (yes, me too!), but then discover their love for the mystical sounds. But what are mantras and how do they affect us?

I talked about this topic with Suryadevi and Devadas.

Suryadevi has been an enthusiastic yogini for about eight years and has already experienced various yoga styles on her way. Music has accompanied her since her early childhood: she was passionate about playing the flute and singing in the choir.

Since 2022, she has been learning to play mantras on the harmonium and has recently begun practicing the ukulele. When she is not performing music, she makes beautiful jewelry for which she also uses the power of mantras: she energetically charges her handmade gemstone malas and bracelets with her own special healing mantra.

You can get your own handmade Mala on request.

Devadas has been interested in spirituality since childhood. After graduating from high school, he came in contact with the Bhaktiyoga movement, where he was deeply inspired by chanting and reciting the mantras. As a result, he devoted himself completely to the spiritual path, traveled to India several times and also began to play the harmonium there.

Back in Germany, he began to play it in downtown Munich. Today he lives his vocation as a mantra musician, but also as a yoga teacher, health advisor and director of an Ayurveda correspondence course.

Dreamteam: Devadas and his Harmonium

One of Devadas’ seminars brought the two together – fittingly, it was one called “Mantra Singing from the Heart.” Today, they share their lives together, as well as their passion for mantras – not only with each other, but with the world. As a couple, they give numerous seminars on mantra singing, learning to play the harmonium, or mantra meditation; Devadas has also released several mantra and yoga CDs of their own.

Dear Suryadevi and Devadas, first of all thank you very much for taking the time for this interview! With your experience in the field of mantras, you are the absolutely ideal interlocutors for this topic. How did you come into contact with the healing power of mantras?

Devadas: I read the Bhagavad Gita during my high school graduation in 2001-2003. After graduating from high school, I twice attended a Sunday festival of the Hare Krishna movement, an international society for Krishna consciousness, in my hometown of Stuttgart, where kirtan was sung intensively and also very interesting and moving things were said about the transformative effect of spiritual mantra practice.

This motivated me to visit a spiritual festival of the Hare Krishna movement. The impressions I experienced there and the intense energy of the mantras did not let me go from then on. I then spent two years in the temples of the Hare Krishna movement and traveled to India five times in the following years. It also made me decide not to study medicine but Ayurveda and yoga, which I still think is the better way for me.

Suryadevi: I first came in contact with mantras during my yoga teacher training in the desert of California. While chanting the Gayatri Mantra, which is one of the oldest mantras, my heart immediately opened wide. Since then, singing mantras with others has given me immense joy and become my great passion.

A beautiful passion! For those of the readers who don’t know anything about mantras, what is a mantra?

Suryadevi: Mantras are primal sounds that help us to detach our consciousness from excessive identification with material sense objects and reconnect with the spiritual source of consciousness. Mantra is a Sanskrit word and literally means “that which liberates the mind.”

Devadas, you mentioned the term “kirtan” earlier. What does it mean?

Devadas: Kirtan translates as “praising the holy names of God.” It refers to the chanting of mantras and spiritual songs. Kirtan and mantra singing are interchangeable terms. Mantras and kirtan songs are traditionally chanted in alternation, with one person singing before and the group chanting after.

This alternation of active singing along and passive listening can be a very meditative and joyful experience, if one is willing to engage in it. Typically, kirtan is accompanied by harmonium and possibly drums and cymbals.

The phrase “repeating something like a mantra” probably originated from this alternate chanting – what does this repetition do for us when chanting mantras?

Suryadevi: The mind can come to rest through it, if one gets involved in it, and an expanded spiritual state of consciousness arises.

Through which then the meditative experience just described comes about?

Suryadevi: Exactly.

Repetition aside, how do mantras and kirtan affect us in general?

Devadas: Mantras and kirtan bring us into connection with our true Self, the original source of all sound and energy. We enter an expanded spiritual state of consciousness that is experienced as very sublime and pleasant.

The heart opens, so to speak – the access to our Spiritual Self becomes very easy to experience. Thus, the qualities of the True Self, such as pure divine joy and love, can show themselves unhindered.

Guiding a kirtan evening together

That sounds very similar to the spiritual effects of yoga practice. Is that why mantras and asanas complement each other so well?

Suryadevi: In short, our energy body consists of chakras, the energy centers, and nadis, the energy pathways, and the Sanskrit word nadi comes from nada, which means sound. So the word nadi already contains the hint that we can have a healing effect on the energy body through mantras and sound. Asanas do the same, they affect both the gross and the subtle body.

Also, each asana is associated with one or more chakras and life themes, which we can support through the action of mantras, which also each act on specific chakras and their life themes.

Devadas: The soothing sound of the mantras helps yoga practitioners to better unwind during the yoga class and easily go deeper into the asanas.

Serenity and stability in asanas thanks to mantras

Do you also personally use the power of the mantras in this way?

Suryadevi: For us, too, we regularly sing kirtan and use mantras daily for blessings, for example before meals, for protection and energetic purification, and for healing. From time to time we also do a Homa – a fire ritual intense fire ritual with mantra recitation to effectively enhance the effect of the mantra.

Devadas: When we practice with mantras with participants of our seminars, yoga classes and concerts, it is a wonderful uplifting sadhana (spiritual practice) for ourselves. Sharing the dimension of mantras with our fellow human beings is also the greatest joy for us, for which we are very grateful.

This sharing takes place in the form of seminars. What is the purpose of these seminars and how do you want the participants to feel afterwards?

Devadas: In our seminars we focus on healing and transformation. We are aware of the healing power of sounds and silence. But also we always connect with nature.

Suryadevi: Our seminars are inspired by our own lifestyle and healing path. Therefore, we want to share our knowledge with others and inspire them to also joyfully walk the path of healing and spiritual transformation themselves. The main qualities we teach are relaxation, joy of life, self-love, and playful lightness.

In front of a beautiful backdrop while teaching a seminar in Westerwald

Where do the ideas for your topics come from?

Suryadevi: The topics and content for our seminars come directly from our personal experience with mantras, healing and spiritual transformation. Our whole life is deeply connected with mantras and these topics – so you could also say that the topics for our seminars are taken from our everyday life and experience itself.

Do you also choose the mantras for your yoga classes according to these aspects?

Devadas: Yes, each mantra yoga class is named after a particular life theme, such as “BHAKTI – God Love & Self Love”. The mantras, sutras and sometimes self-penned poems are each chosen thematically to fit this theme and the respective yoga exercises.

To what extent is a mantra yoga class even more profound than a yoga class without mantra accompaniment?

Devadas, you have even recorded several CDs. How did that come about?

Devadas: In 2007, a passerby encouraged me to record my own kirtan CD while I was singing kirtan in the pedestrian zone in Munich. That was actually the trigger that this passerby repeatedly encouraged me to do so – even downright challenged me 🙂

From 2006 – 2013 I sang regularly about 3 times a week for a few hours mantras in the center of Munich as a “Transcendental Street Musician”. This resulted in my first three CDs “Mantra Rasa – Transcendental Street Music 1 – 3”. In later years, starting in 2015, another Kirtan CD, a meditation and deep relaxation CD and two Mantrayoga lesson CDs were created.

In the meantime, you have started your joint heart project “Surya Spirit”. Tell us something about it to top off this interview.

Suryadevi: “Surya” stands for the sun and “Spirit” for the immortal soul. Translated, it means something like “the radiant self.” With our project we want to remind people to find the access to their true self in a simple and understandable way. We inspire them on their transformative healing path of spiritual awakening.

Thank you so much, you two!

Are you curious about what Suryadevi and Devadas have to offer? Then check out their seminars!

Follow the path of their heart project “Surya Spirit” on Instagram, on Facebook or their website.

Nutrition & Psyche: Nenja and her journey to becoming a nutritional psychologist

What is your relationship with food? Is it quite relaxed or is it marked by doubts and feelings of guilt? Nenja, my interview partner today, knows a thing or two about that. After training as an MTLA, she studied molecular medicine and has since worked in the healthcare industry. When she’s not spending leisurely hours with her husband or her two sweet Goldendoodles in nature, she has also been involved in the topic of for quite some time now with the topic of nutrition… and psyche. No wonder that she came across Ayurveda at some point. But even the training as an Ayurveda Coach did not quench her thirst for knowledge.

Cooking with passion – and positivity!
Nenja’s Doodle girls love food, too

In this interview, she tells you more about her path, her education and her offer for you.

Dear Nenja, thank you for taking time for me today! The project that’s so close to your heart revolves around nutrition and psyche. What experiences have you had with this topic?

All my life I have loved to eat. And for half my life I have been trying to remedy the consequences of my diet, instead of the causes.

Since I sometimes like to eat in stressful situations or for emotional reasons, I was searching for a “why” for years.

Why do I eat all the time? By emotional reasons I mean situations like frustration, excessive demands, sadness, fear, boredom, anger, annoyance but also joy. I could not really feel and allow feelings somehow. Who wants to feel negative emotions? So they were numbed with food. Food solved my situation. At least at that moment.

But I wanted to know why. So, I set out to find an answer.

After training as a nutritionist, I knew how one “should” eat… But that didn’t help me as much as I had hoped.

And then Ayurveda came along?

Exactly. In my Ayurveda Coach training, I learned how nutrition should be suitable for me, so that it really benefits me and my body. It went in the right direction. I felt better. I slowly felt hunger and satiety signals again. I also learned that the psyche or the subconscious has a huge say in the choice of food and the reasons for eating. I learned not to constantly scold myself when I ate too much. But the habits crept in again….

What was the reason for that?

What I still didn’t know was where my own personal reasons for eating came from. At the time, I couldn’t put my finger on the fact that I eat when I’m depressed. Or sad. Or happy. I just ate, felt good for a short time, and then got upset that I ate again. Followed by anger, rage, frustration – and – you guessed it? More eating. A vicious cycle. Until I started my training as a nutritional psychologist.

Preparing healthy meals

What is this training all about?

You get to know nutrition from the psychological and pathopsychological side, and in each new block of topics there were aha moments for me. You learn about factors that influence your nutrition, such as early childhood, social environment, media and advertising from the past to the present, model learning from parents, friends, influencers etc. You learn influences of genetics – which is often used as an excuse why people “can’t” lose weight – and that most of the time they are actually just excuses. In fact, the activity of genes can also be influenced by what we eat. You learn how beliefs and habits are formed. That was exciting. One recapitulates situations in one’s life and some aha moments followed. More about that later!

In the second part of the training, you learn how to apply and use all this knowledge in practice to support clients. You create anamneses, diagnoses, learn to weigh what the client needs in terms of knowledge to be able to help them without overwhelming them with too much information, you learn interventions – these are basic aids and alternative behaviors for the respective problem of the client, and – most importantly – you learn relapse prevention: What do I do if everything goes wrong? We tend to throw everything away according to the all-or-nothing principle and say “it doesn’t matter anyway” and “I can’t do it after all.”…. Beliefs. Habits. The subconscious. We consider and work with all of that. It’s a longer road than crash dieting. But crash dieting just doesn’t “solve” the problem either. At least not in the long run.

An incredibly extensive topic! Why is it so important to you?

It’s because of the effects I’ve had through my training. Especially through the nutritional psychology training, I can accept, perceive and understand myself in a completely different way… And food no longer determines my everyday life…

My two biggest “aha” moments in training are also responsible for this. Looking back, they were curious and relieving. What was curious was that I was constantly – unconsciously! – on diet behavior, I was constantly taking in far too few calories throughout the day. ME?! – who feels like she is constantly eating?? This often caused me to have bouts of cravings in the evening… and of course, I judged myself for it. When I understood that I can, may and should eat more during the day, the urge for evening snacks, for example, became much less.

And the second aha moment?

That one was relieving. We learned about the gradations of dysfunctional eating from “goes on a diet once in a while” to eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. I had always thought I wasn’t normal. I thought I must have an eating disorder – and that’s not something you want to admit to yourself – BUT: No! I have “dysfunctional” eating behaviors, but I am not eating disordered. And with that, a huge stone fell from my heart. Not only because I was not “clinically” symptomatic with it, but also because it means that I can – and more importantly, may – help EVERYONE who feels even remotely similar to me. I am not allowed to treat clinical variants of dysfunctional eating behavior, for example eating disorders, because I am not a doctor or therapist. However, with the knowledge and all that I have learned in the training, I can now help so many people to go their personal way to a normal eating behavior. As soon as one decides to go the way I am there and can accompany. Explain. Resolve. Help.

Good for body and soul

What does this help look like?

It’s so liberating to fundamentally understand what’s actually going on. Working on that takes time. It’s not a switch that gets flipped and then everything is magically ok, but I know I’m on the right path. Every day. For me. Without diet. Without restriction. Without pressure… And that’s what I want to make possible for everyone.

And you do that through coaching?

Yes! There are 1:1 coaching sessions and soon a modular course for emotional eaters that can be done actively or passively.

There are different coaching packages that I offer. Here, everyone can decide for themselves whether they just need an assessment and a nudge in the right direction or guidance along the way. If both don’t quite fit the person and situation, there is always the option to create an individual coaching package that fits the client exactly and will therefore deliver the best results. If long-term coaching for six months or more is desired, I also offer that in combination with prior coaching. After all, long-term implementation and sticking with it is the most important thing. New habits are not formed overnight.

Nenja helps you develop new habits

And how does something like that work?

You often worry: Do I have to change my whole diet, get plans and then I have to eat like this forever?

A very clear NO. That is exactly the point.

In my coaching sessions I combine nutritional counseling, Ayurveda and nutritional psychology.

– Nutritional counseling to give you the basic knowledge you personally need.

– Ayurveda to show you what makes you tick, what is good for you and what is not – very exciting!

– Nutritional psychology to understand yourself better, to work on the basic issues, to implement and to be able to accept and appreciate yourself again.

There is no one size fits all concept, that I just show you, then you do that and everything is fine. It is a process. Everyone has their own underlying issues that we look at together and resolve if possible. Habits and beliefs, deep-seated experiences and resulting attitudes can be recognized and thereby also invalidated and changed. In combination with all the tools I now have at hand, I firmly believe that I can help you too. You just have to be willing to take the first step.

Since not everyone is up for coaching, I will additionally create a course for emotional eaters.

What makes this course special?

I want to reach all those who don’t dare to talk to someone about it. And those who would rather try to change something themselves.

The plan is to have a modular structure of small courses, because everyone has different issues and is at different stages of development. It is also planned that you can do the course passively for yourself or book individual coaching hours. This is especially useful if you are not getting anywhere on your own or if you realize that you would like to have a nutritional psychological assessment and coaching.

Before deciding on a consultation: What are your top 3 tips for readers who are interested?

Tip 1 is my favorite quote: if hunger is not the problem, then food is not the solution. That really sums it all up.

We have learned to want to solve our problems with food. Food is our valve. Other valves are for example smoking, sport, playing, painting, music, but also drinking or aggressiveness. In the best case, you live out your feelings and don’t need an outlet. Everyone has learned other ways to deal with their feelings.

Tip 2: EVERYONE can take the first step today. Not tomorrow. Not next Monday. Not next month. Or New Year’s Day. How much can you accomplish if you start today and change just 1% of your decisions? You’ll be in a completely new direction after just a few days! And vice versa. How do you feel if in 3 months you are still at the same point, even though you could have actually done something for yourself for 3 months? Aren’t you worth changing something for the better for yourself? Now?

Tip 3: Talk. You wouldn’t believe how many people have problematic eating behaviors. But you don’t talk about it. You adapt, you function in society. And when you’re alone, you eat. For example. That’s why: Talk. Get help. Feel free to contact me through my website or on Instagram via DM. I know the situation, I know how to feel. I can help you. I can also just listen to you. Give an assessment. Once you talk it becomes tangible and not so bad. There is nothing wrong with having a problem with your eating behaviors.

I offer a free 15-minute get-to-know-you session before each coaching session which is bookable through my website. Feel free to use this opportunity to show your weaker self who’s in charge now. Your weaker self will find 1000 reasons why YOU can’t do it right now. Your weaker self is the epitome of your habits and of course he wants to change absolutely nothing. But, if you just feel bad the way it is now… then NOW is also the moment to change something. For you. For your future self.

What a beautiful conclusion – thank you for your time, dear Nenja!

Interested in what Nenja has to offer and/or want to learn more about nutrition and psyche? Connect with her on Instagram and check out her website:

Website: https://www.ernaehrungundemotionen.de
Instagram: @ernaehrung.emotionen

Movement is Medicine – Personal Trainer Richi talks about the importance of movement

Richi wasn’t always a personal trainer – or even a sports enthusiast. It took him years to get excited about incorporating sports and exercise into his everyday life. Once convinced of the positive effects of regular exercise, there was no turning back; on the contrary, this aspect of his life took up more and more space and eventually became a new career. With RH Personal Training, he now helps sports enthusiasts and exercise bums alike to lead a healthier lifestyle while having fun.

This makes Richi the ideal person to talk to about the benefits of exercise; but also what to do when you’re struggling to get going.

Dear Richi, as a personal trainer you live by the motto “Movement is Medicine”. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about why movement is so important?

Hi Doro, all the things that we do in everyday life – movement is what enables us to do these things in the first place. From an evolutionary point of view, that had already been the case when humans had to run away from an imminent danger. Those who did not move died.

Currently, a lack of movement threatens us with other dangers that can affect our physical and mental health. Those who move frequently can do themselves a great favor in terms of health.

In what way?

When we exercise, we get sick less. The likelihood of catching an infection decreases; the risk of suffering from lifestyle diseases such as high blood pressure is reduced. In addition, Harvard researchers have found that we get a better handle on our emotions and thoughts when we move regularly. We develop the ability to “get over” negative feelings better. The reason for this could be that we fall into brooding less.

As recently as October 2022, the WHO published a study showing that millions of people around the world don’t move enough. What do you think might be the reason for that?

In my opinion, the reasons for a lack of exercise are complex. From an early age, we start sitting for long periods of time when we start school and get used to it. This usually continues in old age when we subsequently pursue our professional obligations, for example through an office job. Add to this the sedentary time spent commuting to work, as well as time spent on the couch in front of the TV, and it’s not surprising that we don’t move enough in our daily lives.

Unfortunately, the balance to the job and stressful everyday life is often not compensated by exercise, but by an unbalanced diet and media consumption.

Do you find it easy to exercise regularly or do you sometimes have to force yourself to do so?

Most of the time, I don’t have any problems with exercising regularly. It gives me a balance in my everyday life and helps me clear my head. The feeling of having done something for your body and feeling pleasantly exhausted is great.

Always smiling after a good workout!

How do you motivate yourself when you don’t feel like it?

The emerging feeling after a training session of having done something and that I am doing something for my health is the best motivation for me.

Did you consciously integrate balancing exercise into your everyday life before or was it a gradual process?

For me, it was definitely a gradual process. When I was in school, I was lazy and had to push myself to incorporate exercise into my daily routine. My parents put me in different sports clubs, but it was always exhausting for me. Fun was not something I associated with sports at that time.

When did that change?

Only from the beginning of my education, when I started going to the gym. Shortly after that, I got back into team sports for a few years and played soccer. After moving from Rheinbach to Bonn, I focused exclusively on strength training. Gradually, I became more interested in sports in connection with healthy nutrition, so that both are now an integral part of my everyday life.

What kind of exercise do you personally like the most?

Strength training and short high-intensity interval training, called HIIT. For fun, I also like to participate in obstacle races.

Mud races for fun

What excites you most about that?

Definitely the emerging thrill of tackling and overcoming the obstacles. Each obstacle presents you with different challenges, requiring not only strength but also technique. This also requires endurance and coordination.

Especially the variety in an obstacle course makes it so appealing to me. Body and mind are strongly challenged.

How do you prepare for such a race?

I divide my preparation into strength and endurance. Specifically, I focus on exercises that resemble the possible obstacles. These are essentially pulling exercises in which you have to pull yourself up a wall or shimmy along a bar. For endurance, I incorporate short intense sprints in addition to my distance runs.

How did you end up becoming a personal trainer?

The idea developed during my sabbatical year. Originally, I wanted to go to Japan for a year. Unfortunately, this had to be cancelled due to the pandemic at the time. Accordingly, I had a lot of time to think about what I could do alternatively. And that’s when the idea came to me to continue my education elsewhere, ideally in an area that I enjoy. And so it came about that I started to complete an online training course to become a B-license fitness trainer. The education led to the fact that I wanted to educate myself even further and more intensively and I started to look into being a personal trainer. I was so excited about it and started training as a personal trainer after completing my B license.

What do you enjoy most about training people?

Seeing the person rise above and realize how many forces can be released that they never believed in before. It is like a gift to observe how exhausted, but also happy this person is after this session and to thank them for this hour. This kind of feedback is indescribable and motivates me even more to train people and make them healthier.

All the better if the motivation comes directly from the clients! What do you do when you notice that their motivation is waning a bit?

Then I take a playful approach and join in with the exercises and challenge my client to a duel. Who can plank longer or hold a 3 kg dumbbell longer with the arm stretched out to the side, things like that. Or tug of war with the battle rope, that’s fun and also gets the motivation back. Or I try to spur the person on a bit by saying in a casual tone of voice that he or she has managed more weight before. Usually, I don’t need to wait long for the counter-evidence!

There for you: as a personel trainer, Richi is with you along the way

Of course, you don’t get this incentive if you only train for yourself. What other advantages does personal training have over going to the gym?

With personal training, you have a person working with you individually on your health goals. In concrete terms, this means that during the training sessions the personal trainer ensures that you perform the exercises correctly, get the most out of yourself and go to your maximum in terms of daily form. Due to the intensive support, the training can be made much more effective and targeted.

It is important to mention that the support does not only refer to the training sessions, but also beyond. The personal trainer is available for all questions about fitness, health and nutrition and ensures that you achieve your health goals, for example, to lose weight, get stronger or simply look better. In short, the personal trainer takes care of you holistically, adapted to your life situation.

It is also possible to train specifically alone in the gym. However, this requires, among other things, that you train regularly and consistently, know your body, which exercises are suitable for your health goals and how to perform the exercises correctly. Unfortunately, this is not always the case because people don’t want to spend a lot of time on it or don’t have the time.

Have you ever used personal training yourself? What inspired you and what would you like to do better?

Actually, I haven’t used personal training yet. But I definitely find it interesting to take the opposite role. Who knows if I’ll take the opportunity to broaden my perspective in the near future.

Not only in the gym: Moving your body is even more fun in nature

What else do you emphasize in your training sessions?

The preparation and general flow within the training session is important to me. I tell my clients to warm up a bit before we start our training. I usually spend an hour with the client, which I like to use as effectively as possible. This means we start right in with the main exercises and don’t stress out at the end of the session when we start the cool-down and can do it at our leisure.

How does a training session with you go?

We usually start with our main exercises because the client is already warmed up. The main exercises are divided into so-called super sets, which means that we primarily work on one muscle group, for example lower body, and then switch to another exercise that primarily works the upper body without much of a break. Only then is there a short break before continuing with the other sets. This has the advantage that we can perform many sets and repetitions within a short time. This is recommended for people who are very busy due to their job and still want to do something for their body.

Describe your ideal clients. Who is most likely to benefit from your program?

For me, there is no one ideal client. Generally, my focus is on people who have a job that involves a lot of sitting at a desk, are very busy at work, and want to effectively do something for their health in their short free time – for example, reduce body fat, build muscle…. I also offer my personal training in the early morning as well as late evening hours, so that my clients can pursue their commitments throughout the day without stress.

Can I turn to you even if I am totally unathletic?

Absolutely. I don’t presuppose that someone has already done sports and has a certain level of training.

Finally, what advice do you have for anyone who knows they need to exercise more, but doesn’t have the courage or can’t get up the courage?

Start with small steps. It doesn’t have to be a 10km run. The important thing is to start moving in the first place, like skipping the elevator in the office building and walking up the stairs instead. Or even going for a short run during your lunch break. Gradually, you find it less difficult to take longer walks.

The important thing is to start and keep moving permanently, in whatever form. The best investment is the investment in your own health.

Thank you for your time, Richi!

If you would like to stay posted about what Richi is up to or even try a personal training session with him, connect with him on Instagram.