From Dream To Reality
I am watching the sun set over the fields. The colors on the wheat fields changing as the sun goes down. From bright yellow to orange to penetrating red and, just for a brief moment before the sun disappears, purple. And dusk falls. If I wait long enough, I will see the milky way shining brightly in the sky. Here in the countryside there are no city lights to hide it.
My house sits in the wheat fields of an old station town, close to the Swedish Riviera and is an ideal location for a yoga ashram.
My toughest adventure
I bought the house as a renovation project. After looking at hundreds of other houses I instinctively felt was the right place, without the slightest doubt. In my mind, it was more than just a house; it also felt like a setting for a dream I had not yet seen. I could see myself creating Yogi Living Ashram here.
At the time I was actively pursuing my university career in political science. I did not know the house would manifest as a yoga ashram; I had not yet dreamed it. So, I could not possibly have anticipated the immense challenges getting here, nor the financial and personal struggles.
I became a self-taught entrepreneur and managed the whole project but could not have done it without the help of my many yogi friends. Despite the huge challenges I found it to be the most rewarding time of my life. Even though it was very hard at times, I would not change a thing.
A personal journey
I have met knowledgeable, wise and interesting people. New horizons have opened and I have gained much knowledge, especially a deeper understanding of myself. I have taken on roles that were foreign to me, becoming an entrepreneur, leader, organizer and manager. I am not a natural leader and found it particularly difficult to assume authority. That’s a process I’m still working on.
Yogi friends are a unique kind of workforce. They cannot be fired because they aren’t employed. They don’t get paid and don’t work well if their task is boring. Most projects require instructions and explanations because they are rarely skilled in the tasks needed. There are many topics I know nothing about, and problems are solved by an internet search and a “how about we do it this way” discussion. How do you do this Winnie? I don’t know, but we can figure it out as we go along!
There have been so many challenges along the way. So many projects started that had to be done over and over again. I needed a fair amount of humor to get through those processes.
Working with yogis also took a lot of time. I can’t count the hours I spent making prints for people, finding band-aids, going to the doctor, etc. I counseled people with personal identity issues, gave relationship and life advice, and was their failsafe when things went wrong. That said, yogi friends are always there for you when you need them most.
Challenges and misunderstandings
Learning how to manage people who volunteer their time and energy can be challenging. Having visitors from many countries provides a lot of room for misunderstanding.
A French woman who didn’t understand a word of English painted the yogi hut in the garden. For a whole week she painted and painted and nothing happened. It was as if she was painting with invisible paint. Of course, it turned out that instead of white paint, she’d used a pot of clear varnish. An Argentine man, who was supposed to lay out a straight path of stepping stones, made a bend in the middle. When asked why, he replied, “There was a bicycle parked there, how else could I’ve done it?”. He didn’t think to put the bike away! When converting your house into a yoga space, humor and patience are very important!
I can’t even count the number of times my arm got stuck in sticky garbage trying to sort out mis-sorted garbage, cleaning drains of long-haired girls’ hair, and tiles coming off because the wrong kind of glue was used.
Still, I admire the energy, creativity, and beauty that my yogi friends brought to this project. They invested their time and hard work into creating Yogi Living Ashram. They gave the ashram its special Yogi touch: every rock placed, every bush planted, every piece of art painted is the result of their energy, love and commitment. There are a few loose tiles here and there and constructions are rarely perfect, but that is part of the charm.
Holistic healing with yoga
In the West, we tend to think of health as sufficiently coping with life with the help of medicines and therapies. To increase our energy we drink energy drinks and coffee and to relax we drink alcohol and smoke weed. After coming to India, I adopted a more yogic view of health. According to this view, you are only healthy when you feel happy, full of energy and vitality. In my experience, the way to get there is through yoga.
I am not superhuman. I feel just as exhausted as anyone else. But if I keep to my practice, I have twice as much energy. The experience that yoga invigorates me is one I have had over and over again.
Creating Yogi Living Ashram often required the ability to manage 5 or more different tasks at once. When I skipped my daily yoga practice, I found it difficult to manage the daily challenges. Yoga was the only way I could find the excess energy needed to juggle so many aspects at the same time. Yoga kept me healthy, energized and happy. It is a continuous holistic healing of body and mind.
What gives me the most satisfaction? I think it’s when the people I’ve taught yoga to give me long-term feedback. One girl who participated in a test retreat and later became a friend told me
Yoga for beginners
Before I started my own yoga retreats, I had virtually no experience teaching people with no yoga practice. I taught yoga teacher training courses in India and to my surprise, many of my inexperienced students had a more yogic approach than the participants in my training courses in India.
When I decided to stop teaching yoga teacher training courses and start hosting my own retreats, I discovered a whole new dimension in myself as a yoga teacher. In the past, I had not identified as a person with healing abilities. But when I started my own classes and teaching in an intuitive way, I had a whole new experience. I was able to help people release fears, negative energies and even trauma.
The spirit of yoga
Regardless of what appears on Instagram or Facebook, yoga is not about perfection. Perfection is the antithesis of yoga. At its core, yoga is about change that happens within. Your level of flexibility or the brand of your yoga pants has little to do with how deep you go within yourself. These things don’t release negative energy or create real change in your life.
I developed the yoga techniques I use from feedback from my first students; they were my guinea pigs. In my students, I found an audience that was open to personal growth and looking for something deeper and more profound than the average yoga class offers.
I can’t say who makes my classes so blissful: me or my students. Many expressed feelings of floating, lightness, or elation. I too feel uplifted in mind and spirit. I don’t feel addicted to anything in my life, but if I were addicted to anything, it would be teaching yoga. Teaching yoga is healing and creates lasting change in people’s lives. It gives me a sense of completeness.
Opening Yogi Living Ashram
Looking at the artwork on the walls of the ashram my thoughts go to the many yogis to have visited this house. They have helped me transform an ordinary building and give it a touch of yogi magic. Each individual has left a little bit of themselves here in creating Yogi Living Ashram. And each individual has left an imprint on my heart.
I have one last project: building additional living space for the retreat participants. As always, I no idea how this will be done, but I know for sure that it is going to happen. All in all, everything is almost finished and the ashram is ready to be opened. I am ready to do what is closest to my heart: empowering people to heal through yoga.