When I heard that Silvia Stojanovic was planning a workshop tour across Germany and asked her facebook followers which cities she should visit, I was among the first ones to shout out loud: Berlin! I’m a huge fan of Silvia since I got to know her and her teaching at the Portugal Spirit Festival, where she was teaching the final closing class called „Love Explosion“. I will always remember this class as very special and magical moment with many heart opener poses and the warm Portuguese September sun illuminating the so-called Sky Room on the upper floor of the festival venue Casa Santa Maria in Cascais. A truly awesome, very energetic class, taught by a very human and warm teacher, who was clearly not only transmitting her expert knowledge, but also sending out a lot of love and speaking to us from her heart. Everybody in the room could feel it. The energy was incredible. I cannot even say what happened in these 90 minutes, but at the end of the class I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. All I knew was that I wanted more of that.
And so I booked my spot in the Berlin workshop of the Love Explosion tour, which took place on a cold January weekend in a small cozy yoga studio in Berlin-Weißensee, called BiSee.
The class was smaller this time and there were only women participating. The only man in the room was Ido, an Israeli musician who accompanied the class with gentle music.
I don’t know if you’ve seen the film „The Revenant“ and if you can remember its score, composed by the Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. Ido’s music reminded me a lot of it: it was very minimalistic and atmospheric. He alternated gentle guitar picking with the sound of other simple percussion instruments, thus emphasising our movements and Silvia’s instructions.
Those who want their yoga to be „just” a fluid succession of asanas to follow, might not like Silvia’s style. To Silvia, who describes herself as an Ashtangi, the mat is like a laboratory for self-reflection and self-recognition, and her lust for experimentation is clearly reflected in her style.
I would describe her teaching style as an unconventional mix of highly professional instructions, playfulness and fun, spirituality and philosophy. She goes around, corrects each pose and gives tipps that help you better understand and improve. It’s not super serious, and laughter as well as inquiry are an integral part of it all. As is the chanting of mantras.
Silvia places great importance on the correct execution of the asanas, but also really wants her students to understand what yoga actually is and means. It’s not without reason that she calls her classes „Love Explosion“, as love really is the driving force behind everything Silvia does. She goes by the principles of self-love, empathy and compassion. Her goal is to create a better world. This said, she is not a missionary or a starry-eyed and naive idealist, who thinks that yoga can erase all world’s evils in the blink of an eye. But she tries to teach her Yogis to let their own light shine and bring love and light into the world, wherever they are and to whomever they meet. Silvia sees yoga as a work of consciousness. As a centuries old practice we should not only practice to steel our bodies and feel fit, but also to bring love into this world.
„Begin to love this body, and to make use of this room we are given. The yoga practice helps us to tap back into our force notwithstanding what happens before or after.“
The motto of this weekend was „softness”, which included not only the physical flexibility in muscles and joints, but also a mental flexibility and softness, the art of being gentle towards yourself, letting go of the constant pressure of always needing to be strong. Because when we are mentally soft, we stop reacting. Then we enter a realm of appreciation, acceptance and letting be …
By the way: funnily enough I had drawn exactly the word „softness” as my mantra for the next year, exactly a year ago.
Maybe I had not practiced this enough yet and the workshop was a way to remind me of this assignment? Or maybe we should all collectively, as a society, try to be more soft? Because it often seems as though this quality is not appreciated enough in our performance-oriented society.
„Become so soft that your heart falls down to the floor between your feet.“
In accordance with mental and physical softness, what you want to achieve is a „pain free practice“. This can be attained by knowing and respecting your boundaries and limitations, without trying to force anything. It really doesn’t matter what your neighbour on the mat is capable of doing. This has nothing to do with your own practice. Never forget that we all have different bodies and anatomies and that we’ve all experienced a different amount of training. Stay true to your body and your practice, stay true to yourself and be gentle with yourself.
All of this was passed on by Silvia with a lot of humour, while we were sweating and going through the asanas. And soon „chakalaka“ became the second mantra of the day, a kind of mantra from childhood, calling us back into softness when we were maybe trying too hard to be perfect in our execution. And then we danced. We played with our bodies, we laughed and rejoiced. The energy, the spark, had yet again jumped over and love was flowing from our hearts into the room, into the world. That’s body intelligence, baby!
And if want to you practice with body intelligence, one thing you should always be aware of is to never stop breathing. This sometimes happens when you try too hard, although everything is much easier when you combine and connect movement and breath. So ask yourself: „Are you breathing?“
Speaking of connection: I’m usually not a huge fan of practicing in pairs, even at school I didn’t really like it. That’s a bit weird if you think about it, as I am actually a pretty communicative and open person. But I also have a shy side and I can be a little perfectionist and control freak at times. As a result, I prefer to rely solely on myself when learning new things and skills at first, instead of involving others. And yet I know that partner exercise tend to be great fun in the end. And they definitely have their merits, because there are some things, you just cannot do all by yourself.
As with the next pose we practiced in sets of three: a backbend playing with the classic downward dog, a combined dropping and melting with external support. Awesome!
We finished the session with a „thai massage“, again in pairs. Because, again: you sure can massage yourself, for example the feet, but this is nothing like the feeling you get when you receive a massage from somebody else and can really let go.
Yoga-wise, the workshop covered everything you probably know for example from vinyasa classes: sun salutations, chaturanga, triconasana, warrior two … but we also practiced the art of flowing smoothly out of the asanas, trying to transform ourselves into elves. Which again added to the playfulness of the class – the chakalaka element – that for me adds so much to Silvia’s classed being transformative and touching, not only for my body, but also for my soul and my heart.
And with this I will leave you and I invite you all to become soft, to let go and to say the magic words with me: Chakalaka!