Comfort zone

“Babe, could you please write 3-5 lines about yourself for the website please?” my friend @carlijnvandelaar asked me yesterday. “Yeah sure, I will, tomorrow, today it’s too busy”, I replied. Tomorrow is now. And now I am already staring at an empty screen for hours in a row. I have started writing, editing, rephrasing, erasing, rewriting. It is really hard to write about yourself.

Let me share a little insight in my inner process with you. So where do I start? With my name of course. I am Brigitte. Many call me B. And then what? Well, let’s throw in The Personal Yogi straight away because it’s my business, it is what I represent and what I want to bring focus to. So what would you like people to know about you? And this question alone already filters out what you don’t want others to know about you. Uhm, well, I want them to know that I am a woman (apparently I feel the need to make this explicit). And of course not just any woman. I am different. Really? Yes, of course. I am unique. I am a woman of duality, polarity and union (loving the clarity here, B). I want to be free yet deeply connected. I want to spend my days doing something meaningful, out of purpose instead of necessity. I want balance and therefore I stir things up within me and around me, all the time.

I am a mother, a wife, a lover, a child, a sister, a friend, a boss, a yoga teacher, a student. All roles that I want to fulfill to perfection. I am a perfectionist. I am never done, I can always improve something. That of course brings conflict because I can’t fulfill all those roles to perfection all the time and have time for myself, my needs, my dreams. So something has got to give. But how do I choose? How do I choose what to focus on and what to let go of? And do I focus on it from me, my perspective, my needs or from someone elses? Shouldn’t you always choose and take care of yourself first, before you can care for others? Isn’t that question the answer itself already? Or is that something invented by selfish people?

I find it really hard to choose me. To choose me first. To be selfish. I don’t like selfish people. I have a rather strong opinion on selfish people actually. And bam! Hello shadow side! Welcome to the show. Long time no see. Because, honestly, I would love to be just that: selfish. There are a lot of things that I would love to do, things that make me happy, but that I choose not to because I put other people’s needs and wishes over mine. And when you keep yourself in that situation long enough, it causes imbalance. It causes friction within, it is annoying, draining and it hurts. So I become rebellious, I push back and stir things up.

And that brings me to where I am now. I am going to put me first. Choose me. Choose to do what makes me happy. Me first, than the rest. And as I write these words, I realize I find it super hard and uncomfortable to put it down in black and white. That in itself says something too. It is completely out of my comfort zone. No more excuses on why something is not possible, not an option, not the right moment. I need to release my own inner rebel (yes, indeed, I benefit from my own training).

I am Brigitte. I am B. I am fierce and soft. I am determined and insecure. I am grounded and intuitive. I am altruistic and selfish. I am The Personal Yogi. And this time I am adding a picture of my face instead of a yoga pose, which is also out of my comfort zone.

Hopefully my friend is able to summarize this in 3-5 lines :-).

Wanna come out of your own comfort zone and release your own Inner Rebel, than please join us November 5th/6th. Check out for more info: RYIR

Fail? Yes please

I’ve been trying this “human knot” posture for a while now. It looks so accessible, but it is damn freakin’ hard. So I try over and over, I fall, I fail, I get frustrated, I laugh at myself, I question myself why it is so hard, I look for other ways to access the pose…and still I fail. And it actually feels awesome.

If there could be one and just one piece of advice I could give you, it would be to fail. Please fail, over and over again. Fail hard. And then learn from it.

Please fall, again and again and again. And then get back up and try again. Persevere.

We learn from failure, not from success. If you give up or not even try, failure is guaranteed. Success is always a lot less fun than failure.

And while failing and falling, laugh at yourself, laugh hard. Don’t take your efforts too damn serious, don’t see yourself as a failure just because something doesn’t work out perfectly from the start.

So fail big, fall hard because the bumpiest roads lead to the best destinations

Also note to self: it is just a posture or like @yogi_bryan says: it’s just fucking yoga

The dark side

“Unless you learn to face your own shadows you will continue to see them in others, because the world outside is only a reflection of the world inside you” – Carl Jung

In yoga there is often talks about about the body, the mind, the emotions, the breath and how it is all connected. It helps to positively influence the relationship you have with yourself. But there is an important part that is often neglected: your shadow side.

It is in our human nature to put more emphasis on the side of things that we like about ourselves. The characteristics we’re proud of. The things that we think makes us good human being. Because in the end, most of us want to be loved and liked.

Let’s focus on the truism that everything around us is balanced with an equal opposite. Health only exists because of sickness, strength only because of weakness, light only because of darkness. Therefore, focusing only on your positive side shows just half of who you are. It’s equally important to get to know the other half, your shadow side.

Everyone has a dark side, a secret side. Characteristics or traits they prefer to keep to themselves. And that’s ok. But what would happen if you yourself would embrace that side? If you would embrace your own pain, instead of ignoring it? If you would allow your anger or sadness to just be present, without feeling the need to change them into something positive immediately? What if you faced your most shameful actions or didn’t back away from your weaknesses?

When you get to know your own dark side, you get a deeper, more complete and balanced understanding of yourself. When you accept that not so glamourous side of yourself, it becomes less scary. You will also be much more appreciative of all the goodness and positive that exists in you, because you realize it wouldn’t exist without those shadows.

But damn, it is not easy. It is ugly, hard, harsh, to look at yourself and acknowledge your flaws and shortcomings. To face and embrace your shadow side you need some serious guts. But with the shift of seasons, literally moving into darker days, there is no better moment than now….ready step into to the dark and see?

Yin for self-love/self-care

I woke up way too early last Saturday morning. Feeling exhausted I craved a coffee, but decided to do some yoga first.

The slow kind, the soft kind, the yin kind. The kind that takes time. The kind where time stands still. The kind that makes you wanna stay on your mat for a looooooong time. The kind of yoga I so needed in that moment.

Below the sequence I did. Depending on how long you hold each pose, it will take up 20-45 minutes of your time. Put on some relaxing music of your choice or enjoy the sounds or silence around you. Hope you enjoy!

Breathe

Breathe in, breathe out. Left hand on your heart, right hand on your belly. Connect your heart and your gut. Feel into your breath. Love yourself.

Neck stretch L/R

Gently stretch your neck and release some tension. I love to focus on that sweet sensitive spot right at the base of the neck where my neck and shoulders meet.
Feel in to your own sweet spot. Love yourself.

Spine and shoulder stretch

Lengthen your spine and arms, releasing tension in your shoulders and shoulder blades. Breathe deeply. Love yourself.

Heart opening pose

Recline, lay down, opening your chest and heart space. Bring the soles of your feet together and let the knees drop out. Let go of any tension in your groins and inner thighs. Left hand on your heart, right on your belly. Connect your heart and your gut, feel your breath. Love yourself.


After some minutes, open the arms out wide. Allow the knees to drop out further. Let go of any tension, let go of expectations, let go of any assumptions. Breathe deeply in and out. Feel into the openness of the pose. Feel into the fragility that comes with that. Surrender. Love yourself.


Finally, hug yourself. Embrace yourself. Hold yourself. Love yourself.

Sit

Sit. Breathe. Do a breathing exercise. Meditate. Maybe a metta meditation. Love yourself. Namaste.

Coffee

Now have a coffee and enjoy your day!

It’s not about you

I often find myself in a situation where, usually at a highly inopportune moment for me, someone comes to me with a random story, problem or question. And even though I try to maneuver my way out of it, politely explaining that “sorry I am actually in the middle of something and now is not such a good moment”, I feel trapped and in a strange way obliged to listen. It happens and it leaves me feeling exhausted after.

Then I remembered a situation some years ago during a yoga retreat in France. A fellow yogi was sitting in a deckchair by the pool when his girlfriend came, sat next to him and talked to him about something that had just happened. He was sitting there, acknowledging her presence but for the rest, completely ignoring her. When she was finished talking, there was silence. When she then asked for some sort of reaction he replied in the calmest way possible: “Did I ask something? Did I ask you a question?”. Being on a deckchair not too far from where they were I overheard what he said. I was shocked by his blunt and rude response. Poor woman. All kinds of curses I called upon him, this macho rude dude.

Later that day I was in the kitchen preparing dinner when he came in to help. So while chopping unions and washing the veggies I asked him if I could ask him a personal question. Of course, he said. So I asked about his response to his girlfriend that afternoon by the pool. I also added my unvarnished opinion of the situation and that I didn’t understand his complete lack of empathy. His response will stick with me forever.

“Have you ever considered how rude it actually is for someone to take your time and energy without asking? When someone takes something from you without asking, let say your wallet, it is called theft. Something that is completely embedded in our society as wrong and unacceptable. But when it comes to our own personal space, our time and energy, we feel it is ok for others to just take what they need, whenever they need it and enforce it upon us. A wallet can be replaced though, but your time, your energy cannot be returned in any way. So I do not consider myself rude or careless, I was just clearly setting my boundaries and preserving my energy”.

I think we all know that there are people that suck the energy right out of you for no apparent reason. The so-called “energy vampires”. And if you pay close attention, you’ll find that it are actually those suckers that never ask.

I know I cannot change someone else, but I can take back control of my own time and energy. So from now on I’ll ask more often: “Did I ask something?”. And if the answer is no, I will not feel guilty for not responding or reacting, I will simply remind myself of the story and self-preserve.

Yoga with a capital Y

It took me a while to get to write my first blog. Mainly because of daily dynamics like work, kids, studying, household chores and trying to maintain some kind of social life. Also, because sometimes I am just plain lazy and when having an evening without stuff to do I just want to lie on the couch and watch Scandal or Broken Skull Range and drink wine. “Real” yogis would say that’s a choice, a simple matter of priorities. Surely, like me, there are “other” yogis that will immediately recognize the judgmental tone in that statement.

Another reason why it took a while is because I didn’t know what to write about. Yoga, yes, of course, but what about it? The topic of yoga is so diverse that any subject or theme can be turned into a story about yoga. Also, yoga is a hot topic and so many already write and blog about it making it difficult to add something noteworthy.

So I chose to write about what yoga means to me in this part of the world. Because let’s be honest, the ancient yoga philosophy that dates back thousands of years and originates from the East, is not always practical in the contemporary Western society. Don’t get me wrong, yoga philosophy intrigues me; especially Pantanjali’s eightfold path. And I consciously try to integrate bits and parts of it in my life. Even though, at times I find myself integrating it in a rather opportunistic way, like conveniently forgetting the discipline of “nonviolence” when I put my teeth in a juicy steak over dinner.

Also, the spirituality, rituals and devotion that are part of daily life in the East fascinate me. But I don’t need to sit still at the foot of the Himalayas, detached from anything materialistic, to be able to meditate and find inner peace. I am convinced that doing anything with full attention and focus, being it wiping the floor or playing with your children, will also bring stillness and inner peace.

There is more to yoga than pretty poses on a mat, that’s a fact. But in the West, it is the most known, most practiced part of yoga. In a way, by narrowing it down to “just” the mat, it has made yoga more accessible and easier to start with. And perhaps by spending more time on the mat and experiencing the benefits it brings, you might also become curious about what else there is to yoga. So for me, just yoga on the mat is definitely yogic. “Real” yogis will probably disagree with me on that.

I am well aware that the term “real yogis” is rather judgmental. But there are as many different types of yogis as there are opinions. So let me try to explain what I mean with it. I am talking about those yogis Namaste-ing their way through life, with a constant peaceful smile on their face. They never curse or swear, always speak truthfully and do not harm a soul. They live by every letter in the big book of yoga, no excuses, ever. When practicing or teaching yoga, the smell of incense is never far away. It is like they speak some kind of secret language. And I am not just talking about all the unpronounceable Sanskrit terms they so casually throw at you while you are trying your best to find stillness and peace in a certain pose. It’s these yogis that give yoga a woolly image, only accessible for the happy few. Instead of lowering the threshold to step on the mat and into the unknown world surrounding yoga, they consciously set the standards for practicing yoga and leading a yogic life so high that people find it hard to relate to. Or perhaps don’t even want to relate to. It either annoys them or scares them off (or both). In my case, both.

So, where does that leave me? Am I not a real yogi? No, not in the way as described above, but I guess still real in some other way. I find it really hard not to curse or judge. Living a “nonviolent” life in the way Patanjali describes it is probably my biggest challenge ever. But I try, I consciously try.

Yoga has touched my heart, my soul and I cannot imagine a day without yoga. Being it on or off the mat. Yoga gives me a feeling of happiness, of worthiness. It has made me healthier and more sane, both physically and mentally. It has challenged me and still does so daily. It has confronted me with myself, revealing my biggest fears and flaws. So I persistently continue my self-exploration, my self-discipline, remaining faithful to my own truth and accepting where I am and who I am at this point in my life, today.

That’s the main reason I became a yoga teacher: to give back to yoga what it gives me. And it all started one day, a long time ago, on a mat. So go ahead and give it a try, step on the mat and embrace the potential magic you carry within you to become the best possible version of yourself.