“You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.” — Eckhart Tolle
I was born in the “Pearl of the Far East”, Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam), where I used to be a rhythmic gymnast as a child. After moving to Germany at the age of 13, I turned to aerobic dance, jazz dance and standard dances for a few years, all the while trying to adapt myself to the new language, culture, society. When I started university, I stopped doing any kind of dance, thinking that it was time to “grow up”, to push aside my most beloved hobby and start making money by pursuing well-paid corporate jobs, hoping that money will bring me happiness. Ironically, I succeeded in fitting in, but always felt out of place with myself. As my desire to “do things differently” grew more and more impatient, I realized that though I always knew the next step to take, I never had a clear idea of what I truly wanted in life, long-term. I was able to do everything I wanted, but there was no real, long-lasting passion for anything. I felt empty. I had no purpose.
I missed dancing, but always found an excuse not to do it, like “I’m not flexible anymore”, “I don’t have enough energy”, “I don’t have time” etc. I turned to fitness studio, which I often skipped as I was too tired from work. I dieted to quickly fix my body or to distract myself from emotional downs and dissatisfaction that was increasing within me. The endless cycle of dieting then overeating then dieting again, being too tired, getting dissatisfied with oneself then exercising like crazy for a short time, then getting tired again… repeated itself like madness for years. During this time, I heard about Yoga here and there, deriding that it was only suitable for “unfit”, “older” people due to its slow and static movements… Even though it helped my mom recovering from an intervertebral disc prolapse – an ailment that usually occurs due to a sedentary office lifestyle, however, as naïve and ignorant as I was, that did not convince me.
Out of curiosity, I became vegan 1 ½ years before starting to do Yoga. The plant-based lifestyle quickly started to free my body from the vicious diet and exercise cycle, lightened up scars from accidents some 10+ years ago, healed my digestive issues and regular headaches. The fog in my head lifted slowly, and I began to see a glimpse of my life mission: to help the animals, people and planet. But how? At that time, I was only able to think of making donations and doing educational outreach.
Despite a 40-45 hours work week, my partner and I have been relatively active since eating plant-based, riding 10km to the office every day plus a longer 2-3 hours bike tour on the weekends. Even so, in 2015, my partner suffered from a pelvic obliquity which was followed by sleepless, painful nights. The pain seemed to randomly wander from the lower back to the calf unpredictably. Neither the physiotherapist nor chiropractor were able to tell where it came from or knew how to heal it completely. Only massaging the aching area and doing light stretching exercises seemed to bring some relief. Within a few weeks after my partner’s agony started, I got hipshot. The effect of this mild hip dislocation was pain in the left hip. I began to suspect that the long sitting office hours played a major role in presenting us this challenge. And sitting on the bike for additional 1 to 1,5 hours a day was not helpful either. We were just entering our 30s.
On a day when the discomfort was highest, I recalled the spine incidence with my mom, and started looking up online for the benefits of doing Yoga. I decided to try a Yoga retreat with my partner, this time with an open mind. It was there that I saw the healing properties of Yoga on my partner with my own eyes and felt it within myself. My partner started incorporating Yoga in his life since then, at least 2-3 times a week. The pain gradually went away after being on this path for a few weeks and has not come back since, while he has been able to continue his daily life without any constraints or pain. As for me, within just 5 days, my hip pain went away, and my left hip, which I thought was “closed off”, opened up. Since then, I continued to do Yoga every other day, at the office or at home, whichever was doable. Yoga was not only healing to that apparent pain, it also improved my fitness conditions and steadily brought my spine’s flexibility back to when I was still a gymnast. I was over the moon to realize that Yoga is a type of dance in itself, and that endless variations of movements and asanas can be created and combined with my previous experience as dancer. My co-workers began to get curious and joined me at my office Yoga lessons. It was then that I thought of becoming a Yoga teacher, as the positive feedback confirmed me that this is the profound service I feel blissful giving. I knew then that what I always wanted in life is not to fit in, or find a passion, but to be unconditionally happy. The emptiness in me started to fill. I found my purpose.
“One gram practice is better than a ton of theories” – Swami Sivananda
This was the favourite quote of Swami Sivananda, the guru who first introduced Yoga to the Western societies. One of his most devoted Hatha Yoga students, Swami Vishnu-devananda, designed the Yoga teaching curriculum that can be completed within anywhere from 4 weeks to 2 years. This systematic approach to learning the philosophy of Yoga is nowadays widely known and applied all over the world. His student, Sukadev Bretz, who has been dedicating his life to spreading Yoga since more than 25 years, opened the largest ashram in all Europe which is situated in Bad Meinberg, Germany. This is my “home away from home”, a greenish little paradise hidden away from the bustling city life where I love to retreat to every now and then, and also where I earned my first 200 hours Yoga teaching certificate. This was the place where I had the most life-changing 4 weeks study of my life. Moreover, this is one of the very few Yoga ashrams in the world that advocates for a vegan diet, eliminating milk products from the Yogic sattvic food group while still teaches the traditional Hatha Yoga style (Yoga Vidya, originated from Sivananda Yoga or Rishikesh Yoga style). For me, it was clearly a sign of the universe that I was led onto the right path towards my purpose. It was here that I fully experienced the immense benefits of the daily practice of Yoga, breathing techniques and meditations, combined with a 100% sattva diet. There were moments in which I arrived at ananda – pure, unconditional blissfulness.
Ultimately, the combination of Yoga and the vegan diet led me to a truly peasful lifestyle, trying to tread as lightly as possible on the planet. The vegan diet healed my physical ailments and emotional eruptions from the inside out, while Yoga brought my fitness to the next level, awakened some sleeping potentials and passions that I never knew I had, and invoked my spiritual awareness. Practicing Yoga for over 2 years and living on a peaceful diet for over 3.5 years has made me an absolute believer of this powerful combination. I have never felt better, been fitter, happier and at peace with myself, people and the environment around me. My purpose is now clear to me as day. And this is just the beginning…