In this episode of Wellspringwords: The Podcast, Nkem has a full and deep conversation with Kata van Doesselaar, her yoga teacher trainer. They dive into embodying yoga as a life practice -- that means in a way that is compassionate and supportive to our holistic healing and growth in all areas of our lives, on and off the mat. They also discuss the importance of embracing pain as a pathway to liberation and wholeness, and so much more. This episode is packed with fire and wisdom! Let us know what it brought to mind or heart for you in a podcast review, on Instagram, or via email at email@example.com. Be well!
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Kata describes herself as an artist — she is full of creativity and loves learning about things on a deeper level, beyond just scratching the surface. Right now this takes form in her passion for yoga, meditation, and an awareness of herself: the purpose of her life. Kata and Nkem’s training has been going on for about a year now and they’ve found that they both see life from many different angles. What Nkem admires about Kata most is her philosophy regarding yoga and spirituality — Kata treats yoga as a life and spiritual practice rather than just a workout.
Kata has found that her passion for learning is especially important in our current times when we often reduce broad concepts of so much depth to just their superficial surface. People are constantly marketed ways in which they can learn about things in a quick and easy manner: “Apply today and become a coach by tomorrow!” Kata realized this when she started designing clothes. As she explored the actual process of creating clothes, she realized that our current system of mass-producing clothing has to die out. She believes people will go back to when there was one sewing lady in the village who would make something unique and beautiful for everyone; a relationship with clothes that involves an exchange and a depth that is tailored to you rather than superficial and diluted. The same mentality applies to yoga. When practicing yoga, people might look it up and think it's just about the poses, but it is more than that. It’s, more importantly, about the why behind these poses — how they were created, practiced, and the attitude of living that came with those practices, as can be noted in the ancient teachings of the book, Yoga Sutras of Patañjali. For Kata, yoga resonates with her so much because integrating the body is essential for grounding herself and creating harmony between her mind and body. When she gets on that mat she thinks, “On this day, how am I thinking of myself and my body? What do I feel when I take a breath? What is limiting me and where can I free myself?”
The questions Kata asks to check in with herself all center on what it means to be whole. As touched on in episode one, this season of the podcast is all about returning to wholeness, and part of that is discovering how that feels in the body and in the breath. It’s also about realizing who you were before your core wounds developed: a whole self. Kata is currently reading The Choice, a book written by psychologist Dr. Edith Eger, who addresses how there is no liberation without exploring your wounds of anger and fear. The book discusses the stories of the people who have come to Dr. Eger for help and through its diverse stories, highlights how we can’t compare pain. Underneath, there is always something deeper that causes our individual pain to affect us the way that it does. Returning to wholeness begs the question “Where is the self beyond all the stories we tell ourselves?” It is in our nature as humans to latch onto worst-case scenarios just to survive but there is a being beneath that who gravitates towards the light instead of the darkness. It is our trauma and anxieties that keep us stuck in a place of prioritizing protection instead of growth. Our current society values always trying to achieve more, have more, and take advantage of everything we possibly can — but this is because we haven't addressed the suffering of our ancestors and collective pain. Without grieving we can’t reach the true, full joy we deserve. Without addressing our history, we will continue bouncing pain off of each other, thinking it’s out of hatred when it's really just fear.
Addressing our history, whether that is our history as humans or the trauma we’ve built up over our individual lives, can be difficult when we are often taught not to embrace our emotions. Emotions come in waves and when you let them wash over you, naturally, they will pass quicker than you think. Suppressing them only grows their intensity, because, without expressing them, they build up. For generations, we have pushed away emotions in order to survive or because working and progressing as a society were prioritized. Recently, because of the pandemic, this has started to shift. We’ve become more open with our emotions because being in a global pandemic has pushed us to do so. The collective pain has been so persistent that we have to share and be vulnerable because we are feeling so much. Kata’s yoga practice is especially helpful for processing and letting go of emotions. Emotions are stored in the body, so when we suppress them, we store them in our tissues. Working with the body is key to truly letting go of the pain we hold onto. It’s just another way in which being vulnerable makes dealing with life easier and more enjoyable. Nkem believes the divine feminine force is awakening to show us that. The relationship between the feminine and masculine allows us to balance structure with flow and feeling. We don’t have to completely let go of our masculine habits — we just have to find a balance that will lead to a healthier and more sustainable life.
Kata’s experience with the divine feminine goes back to her childhood and is rooted within the women in her family. Her grandmother wore one necklace for Virgin Mary and one for Nefertiti to help tap into the feminine energy she held inside herself. In contrast, her mother was rational and practical — more masculine — but Kata did not identify with that side as much. She connected more with her grandmother who embodied the feminine and was the first to lay out a pathway of connection to something higher than the human self. Kata believes we have a biological mother and a cosmic mother: the goddess. She looks to the cosmic for guidance when her own mother does not show her the ways of nurturing, growing, and loving.
Though Kata has long felt this deep connection with the feminine and with God thanks to her grandmother, she has still faced many doubts along her spiritual journey. To be guided by something bigger than you and have it flow through you, you have to be open. Rather than teaching openness, her mom taught her to always be doubtful; doubt is safe because it gives you the opportunity to control everything. Her mom doubts out of love but in actuality, it has only passed on unhealthy anxieties to Kata, when she would be better off being confident.
Now, Kata trusts her inner voice instead of doubting it. Conviction is key if you truly want to care for yourself. When her eating disorder got to its lowest point, she had a voice in her soul telling her “What are you doing? Stop this. You’ve played enough games, come back home.” Her spirit spoke up to say, “This is not good for you, wake up.” She knew when she had to put an end to the negativity she was indulging in, but she also knew when something was good for her. When Kata first saw that yoga mat, it was like coming home, but that kind of conviction about something comes from devotion and practice. People would ask her during teacher training, “How often should I do yoga for the benefits?'' But when she started on her yoga journey and saw how it made her feel, she thought, “Why would I go a day without doing this when it makes me grounded, clear, and happy? If this thing gives me such a good feeling, why would I ever want to take a day off?”
Fortunately, yoga came into her life at a time when she was in desperate need of a way to truly care for herself. After dealing with depression, she was determined to finally be happy and get rid of what was limiting her. This made her extremely committed to using the tool of yoga — because it helped ease her suffering. Being in a place of sadness and negativity can be comforting, but Kata realized she could have spent all that time she used ruminating on her sorrows to instead create joy. Now, she looks at every little demon inside of her and says “No, I choose happiness and I say yes to myself and to my life.”
Hearing that advice can feel like an attack when you’re actually in that depressed state, but with clarity on the other side of things, it’s clear that claiming your agency is the best thing you can do for your life. When your emotions stay in the mental and don’t find a way to be expressed physically through the body, or through a hobby or practice, they can easily become debilitating. Instead of externalizing our power and waking up ready to put back on our anxiety and fear, we can take control. Kata once had a teacher tell her about the practice of inner fire-keeping: if your flame is stoked by something, it is your responsibility to keep that fire alive. It will not stay alive if you just sit on the couch and count your excuses by blaming others. You need to find what works for you — little things that make you feel a bit better even when you’re in deep shit. Try to love yourself enough to get out of a bad situation.
External conditioning is the main culprit when it comes to the way we get trapped in negative cycles of thinking about ourselves. Something that can really help is pulling away from structures, systems, and media to see, “Who am I when I'm not attached to these things?” Disconnect to reconnect: when something is sucking your energy, it's going to be hard to put your energy towards something better. Kata’s something better is her yoga practice, but we can all find something that works for who we are. It just takes a reevaluation of the systems we were born into and a willingness to invest in our own wellness. If you’re interested in trying out yoga with Kata, you can check out Rise and Shine Yoga.
Let us know if this conversation brought anything to mind or heart for you in a podcast review on Apple Podcasts or Podchaser, on Instagram, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be well!