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”!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
“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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Today I am in conversation with Vimala and am especially excited about it. Vimala is a trained florist, yoga teacher, spiritual coach and also a yoga teacher trainer. I couldn’t imagine my own yoga teacher training without her – so I can’t think of anyone better to talk about this exciting topic to! Even though she now trains yoga teachers, she is always a student herself and is constantly continuing her education, for example to become a relaxation trainer or in the area of pregnant women’s yoga. She especially enjoys teaching themed classes and workshops. When she is not on the mat, you are most likely to find her in nature, doing geo coaching or photographing. I am very happy that in the midst of all her various activities she found time to talk to me about yoga teacher training, tell me about her own yoga path and share anecdotes from her training groups.
Dear Vimala, tell us a bit about your yoga path. How did you get started with yoga?
I started yoga thanks to my best friend and my physical therapist at the time. I had work-related tension in my shoulders and neck and the physical therapist told me to do something that involves movement, like yoga. I ignored that for the time being and devoted myself to autogenic training. This did me a lot of good, but it didn’t relieve the tension. I was still of the opinion that yoga was not for me and so I didn’t bother with it any further… until my best friend suddenly started talking about nothing else but yoga. So we both decided to attend a beginners course at Yoga Vidya Frankfurt. With the firm conviction to do only this one course and that yoga is absolutely not for me, I went to our first class…
… and you were proven wrong?
Yes, it was love at first sight. I felt so good after the first class that I actually threw my preconceived notions right out the window and yoga has been an integral part of my life ever since.
What was it exactly that made you stick with it?
That the effects are so profound. Yoga works not only on the physical level, but also on the mental, emotional, spiritual, all levels. I noticed this quite quickly and I also very quickly had the feeling that asanas are only the tip of the iceberg. I don’t know where the knowledge or the certainty in me came from, but I wanted to go deeper, to get to know and understand yoga in its entirety.
I went to the yoga center almost every day and I’m still there on average three times a week, even though I no longer work right around the corner.
So yoga takes quite a big place in your life today?
Yes, yoga, or rather holistic yoga, is my approach to life, so to speak. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are my main guide and also the Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures have becomean important part of my life. Meditation is at the heart of everything.
How do you integrate your practice into everyday life?
The whole life is practice 😊
That’s a beautiful attitude! Did it also lead to the decision to train as a yoga teacher?
I was approached about it. One day a sevaka, an employee of the center, said to me that I should do the training. I was at the center several times a week and asked for yoga literature. My first book about yoga was the Yoga Sutra by Patanjali with commentary by Sukadev. A sevaka recommended the book to me, saying, “It’s good for a start.”
I read the book, sometimes indeed laboriously, to the end, and it awakened an inner fire within me. I truly did not understand everything, but it ignited the spark and intuitively I knew: this is my path. The classes and open hours I attended were good, but they felt like they were only scratching the surface, and so after this stimulation from the sevaka, I actually began to think seriously about doing the training.
I was still of the opinion that I needed more experience and practice first, but it germinated in me. I then met many fresh yoga teachers or trainees who all told me that the training was the best thing they could do. At some point I gave myself a jolt and signed up, half a year before the training began, that was in 2011. Then in 2012, the training finally began.
How did you experience your training?
On the whole, it was wonderful and very enriching. I made friends, found myself again and had great experiences. However, there were also moments that hurt or when everything was in disarray. I haven’t changed externally, but my entire outlook on life has changed and this is not always easy. The training is just so incredibly transformative, I didn’t expect it to that extent. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
I felt very similar, and there were only a few exceptions throughout the entire training. Others, however, have also had “dry spells” and thought they would never make it. Do you know something like that from yourself?
Not really. In fact, I was never overcome by thoughts of ending my training prematurely, and I never really had the feeling of a lean period. But I seem to be the exception to the rule when it comes to what I experience as a trainer. As I mentioned earlier, the two years were not always easy, but the training also carried me through “difficult” times. The only thing that got on my nerves a bit was the exam preparation and the constant repeating of the questions. This is where the feeling set in that now it’s enough and it could slowly come to an end.
What happened after your training? Did you start teaching yourself straight away?
I started teaching my mother and her work colleagues in the first half of the training. Through this group I learned an incredible amount, especially being flexible and able to change the plan spontaneously, because they had all kinds of aches and pains and couldn’t do this and that.
Towards the end of the first year, I started assisting in yoga classes and from the second year, taking substitutions for classes.
I can recommend the assistance to every new yoga teacher, because you take a lot with you.
From about the second half of the second year, I was already teaching regularly at the center, including pregnant women’s yoga and continuing to teach my mother and her colleagues.
After the training, I also began quite quickly to teach outside of Yoga Vidya and also took very many substitutions in the most diverse places. I was allowed to learn so much and am grateful for it. In the meantime, however, I hardly accept any substitutions outside of Yoga Vidya, because my schedule is quite full and there has to be time for my own practice, and I also have a part-time job as a florist.
How did it come about that you now train yoga teachers yourself?
I was simply asked if I could give the yoga class for the 6 Darshanas at the center weekend and I said yes. That was my first yoga class as part of a training and the topic is known to be one of the most complex of the training.
Then followed the question whether I could give the theme evening “Pregnant Women’s Yoga”, since I have been teaching this for some time and had also attended further training on this.
And at some point, I was asked if I could imagine giving most of the Hatha part of the training. Why I was asked, I don’t know (laughs). I said yes directly, without knowing how I could even reconcile that with my work. In 2017, I started my first training, which I accompanied completely.
For all those who were not lucky enough to be in one of your training groups: What are your responsibilities at Teacher Training?
I teach 90% of the practical part, but often also give the lectures and lead pranayama and meditation. In addition, I am available to the participants for questions and like to give sometimes special lessons for the training in addition. During the pandemic, things like technique preparation and technique consultation have been added. Giving good training requires some organization and intuition in the background. The lesson plans, for example, are not that easy to create and you have to pay attention to a lot of details here. My colleague and I complement and support each other very well here.
What do you like most about it?
That’s hard to say, because I enjoy almost everything. Sure, checking the lesson plans with the literature references and such isn’t quite as nice, but it also has to be done and serves the greater good.
It is simply wonderful to be able to accompany people on their way for two years and to see the developments. So it fills me with deep joy to be able to give the trainings.
Is there also something that is rather difficult for you?
Proofreading the lesson plans is not necessarily my favorite task and of course some topics are easier and others more difficult for me to teach.
How long have you been a part of Yoga Vidya now?
In the training team since 2017, but before that I have also taught one or the other topic in the yoga teacher training.
In these 6 years of training support, has one experience in particular stuck in your memory?
This year (2023) I was present for the first time at a final weekend in the Westerwald and this was very touching and beautiful.
Overall, there were many beautiful and touching, as well as many funny and exhilarating moments. For example, the son of my training colleague, he must have been 4, sat down on my seat shortly before the beginning of the hour – most of the participants were already in Savasana – and simply said “it doesn’t work like that, you’re all doing it wrong.” Last year he was there almost the whole time during the partner yoga, despite his arm being in a cast, and we all had fun, especially when he then asked completely seriously who all wanted to eat pizza after the class.
How did you experience the trainings during Corona?
I was able to learn the names of the participants much faster thanks to the name insertion in Zoom (laughs).
Oh, it’s rather rare to hear people pointing out advantages!
That was definitely an advantage. Overall, I felt the training was even more intense in a certain way, and I can’t describe it exactly.
Suddenly, a lot of the training leaders’ work revolved around technology and optimizing it. We had to adapt many things again and again at short notice on all levels and a lot of time was spent keeping up to date with the Corona regulations. All this organization was going on in addition to the actual training, and that was quite a challenge. For example, I now know what can be used for online lessons.
It may sound strange, but in retrospect, the crisis has been very enriching for me. Many new ideas have developed and some of them have already been implemented. Without Corona, many of them would probably not have come into being.
Nevertheless, I am very happy that the actual training now takes place exclusively on site again, which makes the training evenings much easier. Whereas purely online is also quite okay, but hybrid is really exhausting, especially when the technology or the Internet does not play along.
A less enjoyable and extremely challenging part of the time was the division of opinion among the training participants regarding the Corona measures. We always tried to bring everyone along, to understand everyone, but unfortunately, we weren’t always able to.
What kind of classes do you give when you are not training new yoga teachers?
I often give the pregnancy class or the class at the center and teach online on Sunday mornings. The last two years I have given a lot of workshops. This year I am leading the meditation teacher training in a weekend format at my place in Bad Nauheim Steinfurth. I substitute for a class now and then or teach additional classes, gladly special classes.
Before Corona I also had a great group in Steinfurth, but unfortunately this fell victim to Corona. At the moment, however, I don’t have the feeling of wanting to set up an additional permanent class again. Let’s see what the future brings.
Where would you like to put your focus in the future?
Right now, everything is good as it is, and everything else will show up and happen.
What do you wish for future yoga teacher trainings?
Motivated and inquisitive participants and a great training team.
In closing, what tip do you have for anyone considering taking a yoga teacher training?
I would check out the center beforehand, get to know the style and tradition a bit, listen to yourself and if it fits to some extent, then just be brave and go.
Did you know? Just about every disease, every symptom has its origin in hyperacidity. Tina, my interviewee today, has experienced firsthand what hyperacidity can do to you – and the benefits of an alkaline lifestyle. Her dharma (life mission) is to serve. She is sure to be on this earth to make it a better place, a place full of health, abundance, consciousness and bliss. She pursues this path as a yoga teacher and soon as a holistic health coach, always keeping in mind the alkaline way of life. That’s what I talked to her about.
Dear Tina, let’s start right away with what I’m sure many are wondering: what is an alkaline lifestyle anyway? What does an alkaline lifestyle entail?
Great question, thank you so much for that. I take a holistic approach to this. It’s a holistic concept, starting with an alkaline-surplus and nutrient-rich diet, to proper breathing, to stress management strategies, to proper skin care, to the appropriate mindset.
You can think of your acid-base balance a bit like a bank account.
In what way?
With every decision you make, you are either depositing alkaline-rich, or withdrawing acid-heavy. As long as the postings are in balance, all is fine. But many factors contribute to many people overdrawing their account, letting it slip too far into the negative. And then you find yourself with symptoms, then you are weakened and live virtually on credit. With an alkaline-surplus lifestyle, we make sure that the alkaline-forming part predominates, so that we can live healthy, fit and vital lives.
The acid-base balance is a physiological control circuit that keeps the pH value of the blood in a relatively constant range.
What does this mean?
PH stands for Potentia Hygrogenii and means the power of hydrogen H, it is a measure of the hydrogen ion concentration of a liquid. The PH scale ranges from 0 – 14, with 7 being the neutral midpoint. Anything below 7 is acidic, anything above 7 is basic. We work here on all levels body-mind-spirit, because a slagged mind is just as unhealthy as an over acidic body. The point is to return the body to its natural balance. Because just about every illness, every symptom has its origin in hyperacidity.
Every day our body struggles to regulate the acid-base balance. Every day we are confronted with many acid traps, starting with our diet, but also electro smog, noise and especially stress contribute to our slagging. Your body has a certain buffer system that can cushion all the influences; but at some point, even these reserves are exhausted and our body becomes enormously burdened.
Of course, we can control a lot through our diet. It is always about the metabolism, into which building blocks a food is broken down in your organism. For example, a lemon is alkaline, but this does not necessarily have anything to do with its taste. We differentiate here between alkaline-forming foods (80% of the diet), which provide our organism with valuable minerals such as vegetables, fruits, herbs, sprouts. Good acid-forming foods are metabolized in a weakly acidic way, but also provide us with important vital substances, such as pseudocereals like quinoa and legumes like chickpeas. Good acidifiers make up about 20% of our diet. Bad acidifiers actually deprive us of nutrients during metabolism, as they must first be neutralized for processing in our organism. Bad acidifiers include alcohol, nicotine, highly processed foods, meat; in the alkaline-surplus lifestyle, we avoid these entirely.
How can I know that I may be suffering from hyperacidity?
There are many signs of hyperacidity: frequent infections or colds, lack of drive and energy, aching joints, bone loss and even osteoporosis, cellulite, brittle nails, menstrual cramps, skin problems and any kind of inflammation are just a few of them.
How did you get into the alkaline lifestyle?
I experienced firsthand what it means to be affected by hyperacidity. I spent almost a year of my life virtually non-stop at doctors, in clinics and in waiting rooms. My chronic, cramping headaches, irritable stomach, irritable bowel and chronic gastritis had me in a tight grip for a long time and ruled my life. I could hardly take part in life, was numb and slowed down with little quality of life. I constantly had to cancel on my friends because I felt too bad to do anything. My everyday life was dominated by the pain. The odyssey from doctor to doctor also cost so much time and energy. No one could help me; I was desperate and felt alone. I was given medications that supposedly fought the symptoms, but never the cause.
Then in 2017, the alkaline lifestyle came to me… there’s no other way to put it. I turned all my habits upside down, changed my way of life. And achieved what no doctor, no medicine could give me: I got my life back! All the symptoms disappeared and have not returned until today. Instead, I got more energy, more quality of life, more zest for life and more strength than ever!
Wow, what a story! This radical improvement was then probably your reason for sticking with the alkaline lifestyle?
Yes, this new attitude towards life was the total confirmation that the alkaline-surplus lifestyle is exactly right for me. It is very easy for me to stick with it because it is never a MUST for me, but a WANT. I am totally motivated because I can feel the positive effects directly. I’m not a fan of short-term diets, blanket diets or anything like that – no, rather my philosophy is a sustainable, all-encompassing lifestyle change.
I think it’s so important to get to grips with what’s going on in our bodies, because it’s through this knowledge that we find it easier to integrate things into our everyday lives. When you are aware of what the impact of your (consumption) behavior is, then your motivation of implementation becomes intrinsic. Then you will WANT to implement the things instead of “HAVING TO” from the outside. It is not at all about doing without something – on the contrary, mindful enjoyment is in the foreground. Every decision you make is either FOR your health, for your well-being, for yourself. Or against it. YOU have the choice, you are the creator of your circumstances, of your life. With every decision, day after day. I am very aware of this power I have.
Does this lifestyle fit into a stressful, hectic everyday life?
Absolutely! Because if your body, your mind and your soul are strengthened and in balance, you can face all the challenges of everyday life well-armed! It’s also a lot about mindfulness and self-reflection. Once we identify the stress factors, we can come up with a strategy to either eliminate them or, if that’s not possible, navigate them skillfully.
Of course, this involves a certain amount of structure, planning and preparation. This can be exhausting at times……but, you know what else is exhausting? It’s exhausting not to feel good; it’s exhausting not to feel good in your body. It’s exhausting not to live in your full power. Not being able to develop your full potential because your body is sending you little and big symptoms. And believe me, I know what I’m talking about, since I have been going through life like this for years! I just decided years ago to take responsibility for myself and my health! We all know the saying “You are what you eat” …. I would go even further and say: You are what you take in! You are the food you consume. But you are also the subjects you deal with, the books you read, the movies you watch. The people you surround yourself with. It is these many small, supposedly comfortable decisions that we make every day. But in the end, they make us uncomfortable!
Of course, it’s convenient to eat fast food, no question about it! But in the long run it will become uncomfortable, precisely because it doesn’t nourish your body and so you get into a deficit & your body then sends you symptoms or a disease. Of course, it is comfortable not to take responsibility for your own actions, to reflect on your own behaviors, to maybe look for the blame outside. All this is comfortable. But I’ll say it again: in the long run it is uncomfortable. Because this is NOT how you grow, because this is how you always end up in the same situation, because this is not how you can develop.
What role does yoga play in this?
Yoga is an integral part of a holistic lifestyle. This is because the movements circulate blood to the organs, muscles and tendons, and stimulate the lymphatic system. However, yoga is so much more than the asanas, the postures practiced on the mat. You relax and activate your autonomic nervous system, your parasympathetic nervous system. This allows you to reduce stress, inner restlessness, anxiety and tension can be released. Thus, yoga has a calming effect, promotes relaxation and helps us to cope with stress – and stress is an enormous cause of acidity.
CO2 generally accumulates as a metabolic end product in all cells. This gas is physically dissolved in the blood as carbonic acid. To remove the carbonic acid from the body, we exhale CO2 through the lungs. In everyday life, we often breathe shallowly, but in yoga, proper breathing plays an important role. Through targeted pranayama, or breathing exercises, we can consciously use the detoxification capacity of our lungs.
During yoga practice, we also practice presence and mindfulness, bringing more awareness to our actions. The advantage of conscious movement is that it allows us the opportunity to make a difference at any given moment. As a result, we are not stubbornly stuck in our automatism, but can be consciously aware of each moment and thus change direction as needed.
In connection with an alkaline lifestyle, you also often hear about “alkaline fasting”. What is it and how does it work?
As a small “reset” and time out, an alkaline fasting cure is highly recommended. I personally do it quite regularly and benefit from the many positive effects. Alkaline fasting is a mild form of fasting in which you eat only purely alkaline foods for one to two weeks, or sometimes just for a day or a weekend (otherwise the ratio is more like 80% alkaline, 20% good acid-forming foods). So, with alkaline fasting you do not starve. This makes it easy to implement and follow through. You completely avoid what burdens you; this leads to a cleansing and relief of the organism. The alkaline fasting period can be arranged individually according to one’s own needs and, for example, can also be combined with a colon cleanse. One speaks often also of the three steps of the purification. The first step is to dissolve the waste products in the organism, followed by neutralization and then elimination. We have various tools for this, such as alkaline teas, alkaline powders and alkaline baths.
Again, the holistic approach applies, sufficient sleep, relaxation, exercise, breathing, time in nature,… all this we may consciously integrate during the alkaline fasting. In general, I recommend – especially for the first fasting cure – the accompaniment of a fasting guide – like me, for example (laughs). If you already have experience with fasting, you can also do the cure on your own, although fasting together in a group is of course also additionally motivating and inspiring.
What are your favorite alkaline foods?
As a snack, definitely dates – they are so delicious and versatile. Alongside that, carrots – they just taste soooo good to me. Guess how many I eat per week?
Hmm, maybe a kilo?
Easily double that – between 2 and 3 kilos! I also love my sprouts very much; they simply refine every dish. The alkaline cuisine is so delicious and diverse! I always try to focus on regionality and seasonality, so it never gets boring.
What are your best tips for beginners?
Ridding yourself of accumulated waste and hyperacidity is not going to happen overnight. Just like your body didn’t get into trouble overnight. As a rule of thumb, for every 10 years lived over-acidifying, it takes one year to de-acidify. Every change is a process and succeeds step by step. Allow yourself to really take your time here. Start slowly. Piece by piece. Stay patient and celebrate the small progress along the way. Because as the saying goes, “The journey is the destination”! Always remember your WHY, be proud of yourself, don’t be so strict with yourself and don’t forget that you are doing all this FOR yourself. Detach yourself from all expectations and go through the process with an open heart, curiosity and joy. It’s not about reaching a specific goal, but rather having fun along the way.
Thank you for these great tips! You did mention your potential use as a fasting leader. How else could people work with you, what are your offerings?
I love to do consultings. However, I actually don’t have a lot of openings right now and am almost booked up for the time being. At the end of the year there will be a great offer for a 3-month coaching where we will work holistically on all levels – I will stand by your side, support you and help you to help yourself. You are so valuable! You are wonderful! It is your responsibility to take good care of yourself. I am happy to be able to support you in this!
I am also currently working on my first group Alkaline Fasting course…stay tuned 😊
“You guys really need to exchange ideas!” That’s what my friend Verena kept saying about Kirsten and me. At some point, this exchange finally happened and it turned out: We actually have a lot to say to each other! Kirsten is not only a marketing manager, but also a successful yoga teacher and podcaster. She launched her 14-week online program “Office Balance” to bring more balance into the office. I had a chat with her about this topic.
Dear Kirsten, thank you so much for being here! Please introduce yourself briefly to the readers!
Hi, I’m so happy to interview with you today, Doro! I’m Kirsten Schneider, yoga teacher, marketing manager and podcaster. I’m on a mission to bring more relaxation to the offices of the world with a targeted 14-week online program “Office Balance”, live webinars and my podcast. I combine the world of management with the world of yoga and also bring in many aspects from my world travels, which I had the pleasure to learn through other cultures. Readers can also find more of my story on my podcast.
You are passionate about teaching yoga. When and how did you start practicing yoga yourself?
I was at the point in my career in 2018 where I realized that long days at a desk weren’t leaving me entirely unscathed. I was struggling with back pain, tension, and also stress-related sleep issues and felt my batteries were draining pretty quickly.
In 2012, I first became aware of yoga during a relaxation seminar. As a group fitness instructor, I had been practicing autogenic training at the end of my workouts with participants for a very long time. My first yoga class in 2012 as a participant showed me that there is a lot of potential in it for everyone. At first, I was put off by the yoga image that it is only for limber people – but I have been anything but limber and am more in the shortened muscle category. The more I gave yoga a chance and the less I compared myself to others on the mat, the more I found myself.
I was and still am captivated by the fact that even short and targeted exercises can be super effective. That’s why in my programs I also follow the mission to accompany the participants holistically with 5 to 30 minutes, both at work and in everyday life at home. Because at the end of the day, my learning from numerous yoga classes is that if you don’t integrate elements into your daily professional life as well, the consequences of stress and long periods of sedentary work will not go away. So an evening yoga session is just a drop in the bucket. It needs a holistic, time-efficient integration.
What made you decide to train as a yoga teacher?
I made a clear break in my professional career in the spring of 2019. I traveled around the world for a year to first primarily find a solution for myself on how I want to deal with stress in everyday life. Which exercises help me physically and which ones help me mentally?
In the first months I had a wonderful meeting with a great person who recommended the yoga teacher training in Rishikesh India as well as the Vipassana Silence Seminar. Looking back, this was one of the most formative moments and the best decision in my life to train as a yoga teacher.
At this point I can also recommend the training to every yogi who does not want to teach, because you learn so much about the technique and philosophy. Very valuable for your own yoga practice as well as for everyday life.
Where did you do your training?
I was intensively in Rishikesh for one month and was able to experience the culture of India first hand, but also to dive intensively into yoga. The training was super multi-layered and I was able to take different techniques from Hatha to Vinyasa Yoga to Yin Yoga and adapt them for my goal of a “holistic yoga program for the workplace as well as for the home” with my know-how from the management world.
Did you already know during the training that you would like to focus on office yoga?
My goal from the world trip was to find a way for me primarily that supports me holistically in everyday life. That means a yoga program that offers me yoga at the workplace and accompanies me before and after the workday. Office Yoga was an obvious choice. The idea of an ondemand, flexible, time-efficient and everyday program came to me during the Vipassana Silence Seminar.
After a few days, when I had completely arrived at myself in the process of silence, a voice inside me became very loud: Bring relaxation into the management world.
I’m a person with a lot of drive and positive energy who goes full throttle at work. But to balance that out, you also need conscious breaks in your everyday life. But the offer was simply not there on the German-speaking market. Apart from 3 YouTube videos, there was nothing to show how to do something good for your back in the office, flexibly and at your own pace.
So I tested a program myself, developed and improved it in the course of company yoga cooperations, and finally launched my first holistic online program/online course “Office Balance”.
Why did you choose this particular topic?
Stress is one of the main stress factors in management. Over 66% of employees suffer from stress, every second sick leave is due to muscular related issues that come from sitting for long periods of time. As I have seen it myself with each year of my career, what stress does to the environment as well as to oneself, it was clear to me – I want to work to change this!
As a trained business yoga teacher myself, I think yoga fits perfectly into the office, even better than other forms of exercise. How do you see it?
The beauty of yoga in the workplace is that it’s not only good for the body, but it also brings people back to themselves and reduces stress levels. So yoga has a great advantage. I’m a big proponent of yoga in the workplace. But that doesn’t have to be just physical yoga exercises, that can also be, if you look at it according to the yoga philosophy, simple things like “moving in nature”, practicing “serenity” and just connecting with breathing or sharing with people to bring variety into the workday.
Your program is about balance, as the name suggests. What does balance mean to you personally?
If you imagine life as a pendulum between the poles of “giving everything” and “relaxing”, balance for me means letting the pendulum swing from right to left again and again in order to recharge the batteries, to come back to yourself. Balance for me means to get a holistic conscious picture of oneself and to understand one’s needs more with each day in order to be in balance in the long run.
It would be a lie and an illusion to say that there are only positive energy days and that you can always go full throttle. That’s not how it is in reality and certainly not under the current circumstances in the management world. Balance means consciously allowing myself longer recovery phases after high-peak work phases and also consciously incorporating breaks into my everyday life.
How do you balance work and free time yourself?
I see balance in the entire course of the day. For me, balance means consciously starting the day and, of course, days off look different from work days. On a work day, my day starts with small conscious activities like short check-ins:
After waking up – Mindfulness meditation into the body for 2 minutes – Consciously drinking the first glass of water – Circling arms three times and stretching upwards – Do NOT look at your cell phone first, but first arrive at yourself WITHOUT thinking about the day’s to-dos.
– During the work day: 5 breaks in the work day: – Micro-break 5 minutes per hour – Mini-break 10-15 minutes 2x a day – Recovery break // Lunch break 30-45 minutes
The time after work is flexible and I deliberately alternate it. – 1 free evening a week just for me! – Get out and about to get some fresh air, sports that stimulate the cardiovascular system, meeting with family and friends – Time for me
Now this sounds like a gnarly program, in the end it’s not time intensive at all. It all starts with 1) setting one as a priority, 2) understanding that our health is the most valuable asset we have, and 3) understanding that when we give ourselves breaks, take time for ourselves we have more energy for the job as well as our personal lives.
However, I would also like to relieve readers at this point that it doesn’t happen like this every day for me. There are always days when the schedule speaks against it and you can not follow his routine – that’s life and that is also fully OK. The important thing is to be aware of this and to take care of it / for yourself to get into prevention even in times of health. Because often the motivation leaves us in times when we are doing well. This is exactly the phase in which it is worth staying on to get into prevention, because because of our actions we are exactly in this state of health.
You can learn more about how to bring more lightness into your everyday work with little time investment in my latest webinar.
You travel a lot. How do you manage to integrate yoga on the road?
An important factor when traveling is to make the space for yoga. I’m now on my second trip around the world and an essential factor is 1) blocking out time in my calendar for yoga because I know it will do me good and 2) always having my travel yoga mat with me! This travel mat is foldable and weighs less than 1, 5 kg, making it an ideal companion. I love to practice yoga outdoors as well. But often the reality was that it took place between the kitchen table and the couch. Even there, it doesn’t matter WHERE and HOW you practice yoga, but that you turn your gaze inward while doing yoga. What I was able to observe is that in the apartments or places where I practiced yoga, I felt even more AT HOME, the place felt more familiar to me. As a tip for all those who have problems falling asleep in strange places or feel uncomfortable at first when traveling. Yoga can help you.
What does your everyday life look like today, in contrast to what it looked like before yoga?
Yoga has been a real game changer for my life. I have developed a much better understanding of my body and a valuable awareness of my needs. Accordingly, time for myself and conscious breaks already find more place in my daily work routine than it did before yoga. Yoga has also greatly enhanced my compassion, empathy and serenity.
How did your Office Balance program come about?
Office Balance first consciously came to my mind in the Vipassana Silence Seminar. I knew when I started the journey that if I could find a way for myself to get out of stress and into relaxation in the workday, that it would be a great opportunity for the management world.
I developed Office Balance based on yoga teachers, my practice as a corporate yoga teacher, and my experience as a long day manager. It is based on the insights of yoga philosophy, my interactions with other cultures while traveling the world, and numerous studies of work psychology. It is thus the first course available that combines the world of management with the world of yoga from a manager and yoga teacher perspective. I tested the course with managers and was thrilled with the feedback, so in the summer of 2022 I decided to offer the course “Office Balance- back fit. relaxed. happy.” for both individuals and corporate clients/teams.
Tell us a little more about the program – what is it and who is it for?
The idea behind the course “Office Balance- back fit. relaxed. happy.” is to accompany managers in their everyday life in a very flexible way, according to their own needs in everyday life, with exercises for the office and for home, to encourage them to redesign their everyday life and thus to find a way for themselves in the long term to experience their everyday working life with more ease.
The course consists of 14 modules, each of which offers a triad of yoga on the mat/at the desk, relaxation exercises and reflection. Step by step, participants learn how to make their daily office routine more relaxed, what really does them good and how they can bring more “office balance” into their lives, without a large investment of time. After 99 days, the participant will have all the tools in hand and will be able to redesign his or her life independently and sustainably. Will be more with himself, more relaxed and also happier with his life.
Yoga experience is not a prerequisite for the course and the sessions are guided in such a way that they pick up and take both yoga beginners and yoga professionals ideal.
So could I sign up even if I am a complete yoga newbie?
The course is also ideal for yoga newbies. I’m a fan of putting things simply and sharing yoga in a modern and motivating way for everyone.
Finally, your #1 tip for a balanced daily life?
My secret tip is to consciously do a quick check-in with myself every now and then. To take three deep conscious breaths in and out into my belly and feel into myself- how am I doing right now? How do I feel? What do I need? And then getting into the action, whether short micro, mini or longer recovery break.
Thank you so much Doro, for the opportunity to share with your community my insights on office yoga! For those of you who want to learn more, feel free to check out www.officebalance.de.
While I’m talking to Felix on the phone, he is sitting on a beach in southern Turkey. His companion has injured her knee and needs a few days off, so they’re pitching tents on site for now. “That’s the way it should be then,” says Felix, who can handle unexpected events with enviable composure – an important quality for a trip like the one he’s experiencing right now.
Felix has spent the last few years as a sevaka at Yoga Vidya Ashram Bad Meinberg and is now on a mission to spread yoga around the world. To do this, he has embarked on a journey to Rishikesh, the origin of the Sivananda philosophy, which has enriched his own life. In this interview, he told me about his travel plans, experiences along the way and his mission.
Dear Felix, you are currently on a very unusual mission: riding a bicycle from the Yoga Vidya Ashram in Bad Meinberg to the Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh, India. How did this idea come about?
Because I have been an avid cyclist for a long time. In my hometown of Innsbruck, I was on the roads full time as a courier driver. This is a different form of cycling, but it definitely fueled the idea. For me, cycling is a dynamic meditation. Whether fast or slow, I’m focused on my breathing and my surroundings. On top of that, cycling to India has been at the top of my To Do list for about three years now. The motivation behind it is to trace the roots of yoga, but also to get there, travel, and learn about alternative lifestyles and cultures along the way. On the bike it is possible for me to get to know the planet in an environmentally friendly way. In times of climate change, it doesn’t feel right to me to hop on a plane to beam myself to another place quickly. The journey is the destination and that’s how I perceive it.
What do you want to achieve with this great journey?
On the one hand, I want to put myself in situations where I can grow – “seeking discomfort” is my motto here. It’s very easy for me to sink into my comfort zone within the comfort of my own four walls. I quickly find the path of least resistance. But I feel better physically and also mentally when I master challenges. That’s why I’m actively entering a challenging life situation with this bike trip, from which I may subsequently emerge greater.
On the other hand, I wish to take yoga out into the world. I got to know and appreciate yoga in the ashram. Now sharing my knowledge and practices in the outside world will be an adventure, but also has a great added value, because I can inspire people who have no points of contact with yoga and would not come to an ashram.
What was the planning process like?
I looked up the approximate route on Google Maps and divided the total mileage by travel miles per day. That’s how I came up with nine months. Now, however, I realize that this was utopian. On the way there are so many surprises, the weather is sometimes unpredictable, meetings with and visits from great people make the trip longer than expected. Of course, sometimes the muscles are tired or you make flying visits to massage centers and yoga studios. But all of that is totally okay and just right the way it is.
As the next step in the planning process, I organized my material and bought it secondhand and coordinated everything with Yoga Vidya. Then it was time to pack up and leave everything else to the universe.
To what extent do you also leave the route planning to the universe?
Quite a bit. The destination is clear and the route lives from what I hear and see on the way. Locals give recommendations, political situations change, routes look more attractive in my navigation system than others – by a lake or a river, up a mountain or along a federal highway. For me, it works best to set stage destinations just a few days in advance. Even those are allowed to change depending on my state of mind. In this respect, the universe also has a hand in it.
You’ve also taught in various yoga studios along the way. Tell us a little about these collaborations.
Mostly it was in Yoga Vidya studios. I used social media to draw attention to my trip and thus established collaborations. I taught Hatha Yoga in the Yoga Vidya style, but also Acro Yoga and Laughter Yoga. Partly I slept in the yoga studio, also I was referred to friendly yogis from the area. Pretty cool! I was also cooked in some places.
When exactly did you start your journey? How did you experience the first time?
I started in August last year. In the beginning, it was an adjustment period. I kept the daily stages small and quickly realized that 40 km a day is too little. 80 km is more realistic, but sometimes more is possible. Since I started late, the autumn reached me quickly and accompanied me actually until today weather-wise. Often it has rained for days and I was allowed to learn that there is no bad weather, but only bad thoughts. Sounds easier than it is.
You’ve been on the road for 5 months now. Which countries have you crossed during this period?
Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, and finally Greece.
Wow, 10 countries! Which experiences do you remember the most?
I can list a lot…
I can imagine that!
Lots of sunrises and sunsets, waking up in nature, not knowing at the beginning of the day where you will pitch your tent, but knowing that you will always end up in a beautiful place – by chance, meeting nice people… It is also wonderful to be able to live and pass on my enthusiasm for cycling and yoga.
In Greece, on the beach one day, I called out “Hey, I’m doing a yoga class!” and sure enough, about 10 people came and joined in.
Yes, we then practiced yoga together every day.
All ages, I assume?
Yes, it felt great to unite everyone together. It broke the ice and we were like one big family. After I left, I was sent another video from a participant of them doing sun salutations together.
What do you enjoy about your trip, what do you find more challenging?
Being outside all day is awesome, but it also exposes me to the elements. When it gets dark early and is cold, personal hygiene and laundry are very minor.
Sitting on the bike and moving around as my main job also appeals to me, but I don’t find it at all easy to practice yoga on the side. Especially when it’s cold, the ground is damp and prickly.
Where are you right now and when will you continue?
In southern Turkey, on the Mediterranean coast. In a few days you will go on to Antalya.
At the moment you are traveling with a companion. How did that come about?
I have Yoga Vidya to thank for that! Leoni, my current companion, was once in such a workshop about two years ago. A year and a half later, just as I was getting on my bike to start the journey, she wrote me a message to congratulate me on my venture. She herself had been on the road for three months at that point, so she sent me some tips. Then, in Greece, we teamed up. Cycling, laughing, practicing yoga, doing handstands and cooking are even better together!
If the universe wills it, we will travel to India together. She will continue her journey there.
What a beautiful story! When do you plan to arrive in Rishikesh – alone or together?
That is all still uncertain. The route of the ancient Silk Road takes us through countries where we are still unsure about the visa situation. But we estimate in about half a year.
How long will you stay there?
You can ask questions 😀 I can’t say yet. It will come as it should come.
What do you want to experience while you are there?
To absorb the Indian Spirit, to come closer to enlightenment.
That’s an ambitious goal! Just like the whole journey. What will your return trip look like?
That’s also still uncertain, but I think I’ll dust off my flying carpet and saddle up for the return trip.
I hope you and Leoni continue to have a lot of fun and a great trip!
Felix started his journey with a sponsor and is now continuing the trip on his own. If you enjoyed the interview and feel like contributing to his journey, you can do so here.
Curious what these two yogi cyclists are up to? Follow their journey on Instagram:
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