Q: where do you place the needle on ”yoga as a spiritual practice” versus ”yoga as a body shaper” scale.
B: Yoga is for me is unity. Therefore, it’s hard for me to place that needle anywhere. I see no opposition between spirituality and embodiment. There is nothing about your body that is not totally divine! No spiritual practice takes place outside the body. Without a body you´d be dead. I like to see it this way: If one side of the coin is spirituality and the other is embodiment yoga is the whole coin as such. That which includes and transcends all opposites.
Q: what drew you to yoga?
B: When I was about 8 years old, this little bird crashed into my window and died. My mother helped me bury it in the garden. I was devastated. She said it would go to heaven. However, I had trouble getting the whole idea of paradise. I imagined as a tropical version of my parents garden and figured there would not be enough space for those beings that die. Where do we all go? I wondered. That night I dreamt of the bird and in the dream, it came to me that maybe this world is nothing but paradise. That there is no outside to our existence. We never leave. The bird would rot and turn into earth and nourish a plant, get eaten and turn into part of an animal or excrements or food for worms or whatever. It never stops. In the dream, there was no heaven to go to. This was it! So we had better make the most of it, I thought. After a dream like that, I suppose the wise thing to do would be to just go out and enjoy life. Nevertheless, I didn’t. I got extremely interested in everything spiritual, supernatural or mysterious. In my late teenage years, this brought me to Buddhism where I studied with a Tibetan lama for about 10 years. My grandmother had introduced me to yoga as a child and I did go back into it again when it became fashionable in the mid 1990ies. However, I wasn´t really drawn to it until I met my teacher Godfrey Devereux. He spoke like someone who had fully realized that this was it. It was not just an idea from a childhood dream. He was living it and in his class, I was experiencing it. I was hooked to yoga right there and then.
Q: And how often do you really practice yoga.
B: There is always an opportunity for self-enquiry whatever I am busy doing. From that perspective, I practice yoga 24/7. … I got away with that one too easy didn´t I? I guess that´s not what you meant. My formal practice is mainly sitting on a cushion, which I do every day if possible. There are definitely days and sometimes even a week or more where I don’t get to do my posture practice, it depends how interested I am or whether I’m preparing for teaching.
Q: Do you ever loose motivation for doing yoga? How do you get back on track?
B: Of course. When I do, I just wait until interest takes me back to the mat. Right now, for example, I prefer sitting in meditation to doing posture practice. However, it can reverse again at any time. Interest and motivation comes in waves and I like to just to wait for the next one. You can’t push the river as they say.
Q: Do you do any other form of exercise?
B: I just started running this summer to challenge my asthmatic lungs. I´m shit at it though! I doubt it will last the winter. It´s probably just one of those silly projects.
Q: Who inspire your yoga practice?
B: The whole community around Dynamic Yoga is a great inspiration for me. Several of my colleagues in Denmark, the other Dynamic Yoga senior teachers and senior trainers are feeding my work and challenging my assumptions all the time. And I love the teaching language that is cross-breeding between us. My main inspiration is of course my teacher Godfrey who is the originator of the Dynamic Yoga training method. I´ve been studying with him since I started teaching. Lately I´ve been on retreat with a zen master who taught Godfrey way back in the 1980íes, his name is Genpo Roshi. I definitely want to do more with him too!
Q: Have you ever felt so attached to someone or something that you couldn’t let them or it go even though they didn’t serve you any purpose?
B: Sure! All kinds of lame things. I´m quite attached to a pair of Jimmy Choo stilettos that I never managed to wear for more than once, and only for about 20 minutes. I just can’t drop them even though they hurt my feet and are totally useless! I´m also still quite attached to my sense of self and all its little fantasies about its own existence and power. I just can´t seem to let go of it, even though it has become quite clear to me that it’s a fantasy. The idea of “me” has no grounding in reality. I´ve already been so many different people in this life that it makes me sweat just thinking about it. Still I hopple on with my stupid stilettos in my hand calling myself Birgitte as if that was a solid and permanent entity. But hey, if I really had “learned to let go of attachment” once and for all, there would be no “me” left to make that claim. It would be tricky to do an interview with such a person ha ha ha.
Q: How do you suggest we learn to let go of attachment?
B: I suppose letting go is not an act of doing. It’s something that happens when we stop doing. Letting go, surrendering is a spontaneous impact of doing yoga. It happens when it happens. I did at one point get very intensely into my practice and put my relationship with my yoga mat above everything else for quite some time (quite attached, paradoxically). That resulted in quite a few years where i got very “detached” from my friends, society, politics, science or the world in general. Life outside my practice simply did not interest me very much. I actually woke up one morning looking at my two kids and found myself thinking “child” rather than “my child”. It just happened! I really didn’t mean to. Let me stress: I don’t see that sort of behaviour as an accomplishment at all! In fact, I think that all my so-called detachment was just a cover up for a great big fear of being vulnerable here in this crazy world where things can hurt like hell and your loved ones can be taken from you at any moment. Detachment, when turned into a project in itself, can easily become a form of spiritual bypassing; a way of using spiritual practice to not have to deal with the difficulties in life. So to me attachments are part and parcel of being human. It’s just one side of a whole coin. My two kids need me to be deeply attached in order for them to survive. And one day I’ll need to let go of some of that attachment for them to thrive and live their own life. Right now my practice is just to live and be present in relationships with other living creatures as fully and freely as possible. Not trying to hold on and not trying to let go either. I´m not saying I’m good or bad at it. It´s just an enquiry.
Q: if you could only do one pose what would it be?
B: Savasana! Or wait…sitting in half lotus on my cushion… argh! That´s a hard one. I’ll have to think about it.
Q: how do you eat? What foods do you include the most? What do you avoid?
B: I eat whatever my body wants. Except peanuts. I’m so allergic you could kill me with a bag of peanuts.
Q: do you have any advice for us to become less disconnected to ourselves and more in tune with what goes on in our body/mind?
B: We have a saying in Dynamic Yoga: “Follow the delight – Feel sensation”. Right now your body is breathing, feel the nostrils changing temperature. Right now your heart is beating, feel the pulsation of blood in your chest, your hands, your fingers. Feel the pull of gravity, feel your muscles respond. Feel your feet touching the ground, your lips touching each other, the soft pressure of air against your skin. It´s always available right now. Sensations will keep streaming as long as you are alive. You have never been disconnected from your bodymind. Being consciously aware of body and mind it is just one side of the whole consciousness-coin. Our being includes it all. Yoga is to me an invitation to engage, to say yes to being at one with that which is always, already right here.
Zenia Santini –naturazin.dk
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This interview was done at the Copenhagen Yoga festival 2014. Written by Zenia Santini