Teacher Interview / Teacher Training / December 12, 2018

Maud Gerritsen ~ A belly full of Yoga

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I love yoga. I love its physical, mental, subtle, philosophical and spiritual aspects in equal measure. Most people who have a deep love for yoga can identify with the feeling of yoga making a shift in their life-path.

For me it was physical at first; having a chronic illness (Crohn’s disease) and the many surgeries had left my body weak and traumatised. Then, in 2010 for about 3 months, I had private lessons at the Power Yoga Company (PYC) from Marie-Laure and the change was dramatic. My body started to realign, and with it, my mind.

A lot has happened since those first classes; I started practicing more, joining classes, then lost touch and got ill again, had more surgery, came back to the mat and deepened my practice and then in spring 2016 I took the plunge and signed up for TPYC Teacher Training. It was tough and challenging, yet deeply nourishing and transformational. Since then I have completed a Yin teacher training, have qualified as Thai yoga massage practitioner and just recently qualified as advanced teacher of therapeutic yoga (at Kripalu, USA). I teach Flow & Restore at TPYC and also teach yoga to my colleagues at the office. As I said, a lot has happened!

All these courses have planted little seeds, which need to be cultivated; so I practice, go to workshops and I read a lot of books. I feel the urge to deepen my understanding about the scientific aspects; the anatomy, the brain function, the history, the philosophy… I like facts (a bit too much perhaps; I studied maths and computer science). However I’m finding myself ever more drawn towards the holistic research; I’m not just learning about the muscles and connective tissue and how they are impacted by postures, but also how the mind has an impact on all aspects of the body; the power of visualisation, affirmation and gratitude.

I’m learning about the functions of the brain, but more relevant; I’m learning about how the body and brain impact each other and how we can influence this. I’m learning about the breath and how it brings everything together. I have had so many book moments where my mind is blown wide open -and my heart fills- by what I am learning; from epigenetics, to polyvagal theory/HPA axis, to Zen mind training (Lojong), to the power of the mind, the impact of meditation and compassion on the brain. BKS Iyengar, Stephen Cope, Alan Watts, Eknath Easwaran, Pema Chödrön, Eckhart Tolle, Michael A. Singer, Bernie Clark, Bo Forbes, Bessel van der Kolk, Mo Gawdat, the list goes on and on and on… I’m eternally grateful for the writers of books!

Research is confirming all those findings from the Vedas (which are over 2000 years old) and the Yoga Sutras; the mind has a massive impact on our well-being both in a positive and negative way. The egoic part of the brain (ahankara; that monkey mind jumping from thought to thought) which is constantly judging/fixing/comparing to keep us safe, is hardwired to look for the negative and can really bring you down and make you anxious if you let the noise get too loud. Stilling this part of the brain is yoga (yoga sutra 1.2; yogas chitta vrtti nirodah). Yoga is mind training; using focus and meditation to become aware of your thoughts, and to become aware of thought-patterns and habits, is the first step towards change. Taking care of our bodies, feeling healthy and well in our physical shapes, keeping a balanced mind, equanimity (sattva), so we are not constantly worrying about the future (rajas) or lingering in the ‘I should haves’ from the past (tamas).

Using the yogic model of the 5 layers (koshas) of self: the physical layer, energetic (or subtle) layer, mental/emotional layer, wisdom layer (witness) and underneath all those layers of conditioning; your deep essential self. Realising this means you are not your thoughts and you are not your emotions. We get so carried away with living in our minds, we identify with what is in our minds and the modern world thrives on this; it creates a lot of anxiety.

Using yoga as a practice to embody; to switch from thinking into feeling mode and from doing into being mode. Tune into your body’s wisdom. Your body is amazing. Your mind is amazing. You are amazing. And yoga can help you feel this.

What’s next?

Why not try one of Maud’s classes or read her blog?