Interview with Sherie van den Wijngaard
For this yoga blog, I had the opportunity to interview one of my teachers: Sherie van den Wijngaard. Since I always learn new things in each sadhana practice guided by Sherie, I like to share some of her insight with you in this interview.
Freedom of movement and freedom from pain
Freedom of movement and freedom from pain were the two main reasons why Sherie van den Wijngaard started practicing yoga in 1992. A few years later, she was invited to study Vinyasa Krama and yoga therapy in Bangalore, India. After that she started to practice bikram yoga in 1998. Eventually resulting in finishing the teacher training in that style as well in 2006.
That being said, being in Sherie’s class means practicing yoga in its 8 limb system including asana, pranayama, meditation, kriya and Vedic philosophy. She knows how to give personal attention and teaches us to move therapeutically in yoga asana. What’s good to know about Sherie is sometimes she likes to express movements empathetically with sounds!! All of her regular students know it’s normal to get a hug before or after class.
Which teacher(s) have affected you the most, and why?
“I'm grateful for everyone and I have learned from every single person I have ever met. On most days my favorite teacher is gravity!”
“I’ve found what’s most important is to learn how to be a student. So in many ways, I feel that once we learn how to learn everybody is our teacher. I think what really blocks people from finding a teacher is that they themselves are not willing to be a student yet. It takes a lot of compassion with ourselves to be able to handle having a teacher. Hearing feedback about our behavior is confronting when we first start out, but it’s crucial to our development.”
“Eventually we are all our own teacher. When I can be steadfast in the present moment and extend it to my teacher anything seems possible!”
“In turn, I don't like saying my teacher’s name very much. I've never heard him say my name. It comes from a lineage that believes the more energy to the ego, the less service to the yoga. It comes from the belief in equality again; That if it wouldn’t have been him, it would have been easily been somebody else. We have the tendency to think that everything is so personal and we forget that. So, we’re all the same AND we all need a teacher.“
“I’m grateful to all the teachers that I have ever met! I've learned from watching things go really badly in classes. I have been like ‘pfew’, I didn't knew that those things could happen. Lesson learned and thank you for teaching me that.’ And I have learnt from having classes being so good that I have been like ‘wow’. “
“The one thing I can say is that anybody who has ever been truly themselves, has really affected me. All the teachers that have been able to answer questions or allowed questions to be asked have really impacted me. It’s a benchmark of Socratic teaching and learning; being able to answer questions and ask questions. I welcome my students questions. We get a chance to start a conversation instead of feigning omnipotence and mysticism.”
What do you think about all the different yoga styles that are taught?
“What’s good to know when you ask this question is that yoga has no real styles. There are varying sequences that people fall in love with, however all yoga can be defined by Sutra 1.2. ‘Yoga is stilling the modifications of the mind’.”
“Movement of body and mind through breath is wonderful, but seeking an exercise regime and calling it a spiritual practice doesn’t make it yoga. This is almost controversial to say in a post lineage/modern postural-yoga business world. Yet, we must be fair and honest about its inception and intention. You’ll never see goats, puppies, chocolate, beer or wine added to cross-fit or ballet. They are clear methods of practice, and so is yoga!”
“I don't think it's a bad thing that the word yoga is everywhere. It's not my place to judge. I'm always going to look at it from a place of ‘do no harm’!!! If someone is doing ‘yoga’ to hip-hop, with dogs or beer, at least they're not killing people. I said the other day “As long as you are not hurting somebody something good will come”- and before you know it you inquire within and then you're practicing yoga. Yoga remains an oral tradition to this day and the teacher part is way more important than the sequence you choose!”
“This is harder these days because there are so many new teachers and so many photos on social media of their more extreme postures. People assume somehow that doing great posture makes you a great teacher. It’s very far from the truth!”
“Then there’s the other side of it: people who can't have a healthy relationship with their body or don't continue to develop physically and emotionally may choose to abandon the process. It’s wise to keep a connection with all of it, even if in the end the only posture we truly maintain is corpse pose. After 25+ years, I still need to practice a little asana each day to stay grounded. I have to get right with myself to be able to serve others.”
“Consumer markets also allow us to shop for a teacher. As the customer we can drop them as soon as the teacher doesn't prop up our illusion and find and buy another one on line. I used to find this weird and a little sad. I’ve since learned to let go of those thoughts because people will go through their process on their own time in their own way.”
“Over the decades I’ve met many wonderful human beings and I am extremely grateful for the students I have. They are doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, surgeons, multi PhD mathematicians and physicists. There are single parents, artists, musicians, college students, and pizza makers- all walks of life! They are all so intelligent in their work and I don't know those things. Yet when we sit down and I'm teaching them, they see what they know in a different perspective. And that's my job. There is a science to that. About mirroring people and reflecting back. And that's what heals us. When you have that kind of relationship you want to keep it because it makes you more aware.”
“It can be a really beautiful relationship about intimacy, non-judgement, honesty and it's tailored to each person. In a class we come together knowing it’s ok to be ourselves and that we can only meet each other where we are. Every human being is good enough- yoga is an ancient method to learn how and why!”
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