Jennifer has taught modern/contemporary dance, improvisation and yoga at studios, festivals and companies in Holland, Germany, Austria, France, Taiwan and an- nually at the “Bolzano Danza” festival in Italy. She is a faculty member of DANCE- WORKS berlin and offers dancer training regularly at Marameo. In Marameo, she also teaches “Yoga for Dancers” and is organisationally active as a board member. She is certified to lead the Group Motion Workshop, an improvisational evening focused on the universal language of movement and collective healing. Jennifer studied yoga in the USA with Iyengar Yoga teacher James Bryan and in Germany at the Yoga Akademie Berlin with Yogacharya Ananda Leone. She is now a certified member of the BDY and the European Yoga Union (EYU). She is currently furthering her yoga education in the study and practice of Yin Yoga. Her yoga classes take place in a variety of spaces, ranging from businesses, festivals, dance studios, yellow yoga and at Yoga Sky, a beautiful yoga oasis in Berlin.
When did you start this program? Why?
I decided last June, with much happiness, that “YES!!! Im going to finally create a yoga retreat!” Students and friends had started to ask me if I ever offered such an opportunity: a full immersion practice, away from home, somewhere in nature. Up until that point, all kinds of excuses found their way into my assuming that I was “too busy” to organise such a project: my full teaching schedule, various work responsibilities, family life. As I began to contemplate the possibility of offering a retreat, a growing curiosity and excitement filled me, yet I was simultaneously aware of the hesitant voices that accompany such a decision: “Will yogis follow me all the way to another country for this retreat? Will they commit to registering? Will they book travel arrangements?” With some more introspection, I realized there wasn’t any reason why they wouldn’t, and that there really wasn’t any reason to entertain these intimidating questions any longer. It is time to move forward and realize this adventure, this vision! The moment the decision was made, a shift occurred. Fear transformed into joy. This new project felt so right and the idea immediately emerged to dedicate a week to the yogic practice of “santosha” which means observing contentedness. Contentedness? How does one practice that? There is actually a yogic observance suggested in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, an important philosophical text that yogis regard as a kind of guide book (dating back to around 400 CE) that suggests one cultivate more inner peace by accepting one’s circumstances….simply to be ok with one’s lot, with how things are. This does not suggest becoming a victim to life’s injustices, or not to aspire or set goals, but it means to relax overbearing ideals and the intense expectations we often put on ourselves. Concerns about how we should perform, physical appearance, comparing oneself to others, even Facebook can play a subtle role in how we measure our level of self acceptance and happiness. I notice in many conversations I have with friends, students and colleagues, that there often seems to be a small seed of discontent with one’s life circumstances. Relationships are not delivering, work or study conditions are not satisfying, financial disappointments and attachments to specific outcomes and dreams create inner pressure and fear of failure. I also recognise this dynamic in myself. Whenever I am reminded of santosha, this space, this possibility to relax and take inventory of all the positive things in my life, to focus on the “cup half full” as opposed to “half empty”, I immediately relax and a natural sense of contentedness begins to well up. Yoga defines this state of inner peace and joy as who we actually are in essence!!! Its just that its clouded over by concepts we picked up along the way, about who we think we are and who we should be. I feel that this is an important topic that deserves more attention than a single 90 minute class. We need time to release resistance and to discover the lightness and freedom that accompanies self acceptance and appreciation for what we have.
What is a yoga retreat?
A yoga retreat is an opportunity to retreat into a space that is protected from the distractions and activities of everyday life, so that one can immerse themselves more fully in their yoga practice, or “sadhana”, spiritual practice. Everyday tasks such as cooking, cleaning, planning and work related responsibilities are set aside. Space is dedicated to yoga, and self reflection. There is time to move one’s attention inwards, towards the Self, paying attention to the well being of one’s body, mind and heart. We spend so much time in the outer world, active and busy, caring for family members, projects that demand our attention, and paying the bills. These things are important, but if one is not careful, they can become overwhelmed and burned out by this solely outward movement. In a retreat, the life dynamic is reversed, one moves inward. Meals are provided for you. Yoga sequences are designed for you, encouraging mindful movement and breath. You are lead through meditations and relaxation. There is more emphasis on stillness and simplicity. We think we need more but often discover we are happy with less! Most retreats take place in nature, reminding oneself that they are connected to the earth, the weather, water, sun and air. City life becomes distant. Feelings of fragmentation or disconnection tend to subside. And this is not selfish!!! A concentrated week of self love and care only helps one to show up again at home.This investment harvests inner clarity, energy while refreshing the impulse to give again. It can strengthen and stabilise relationships, sharpen focus and creativity on the work front.
Why does someone go on a yoga retreat?
I think that an individual is attracted to a yoga retreat when they feel it is time to move into a space of silence and simplicity. They feel the impulse to re-balance and move inward to nurture their bodies and inner space. This might take the form of a physical detox, a cleanse through movement, body work or healthy eating. It might show up as a period of contemplation and self reflection about their overall direction in life. It might be a returning to a more natural rhythm and relationship with nature. Whatever form it manifests as, on a retreat, a lot moves and transforms within when the distractions of daily life are not present. Nature is a mirror, silence is a mirror, yoga is a mirror, meditation is a mirror to how you are genuinely feeling. Illusions and false beliefs are exposed. Resistances are exposed. Truths become revealed. This can be painful, this can be liberating, this can be exhilarating, maybe a mix all of these experiences come up becoming the ingredients for transformation and growth. I think every one desires more freedom and there are times when it’s obvious the old method of operation and survival tactics no longer work. Then its time for self renovation!
What makes your program different than others?
It is my intention, as a retreat leader, to structure the yoga sessions physically, mentally and energetically around the theme of santosha. The individual sessions will not be random. Specific groupings of asanas (the yogic postures), flows (the movements that link these postures together), pranayama (direction of breath and energy) and meditation will progressively engage the participant with this topic in different ways. The body, as our most intimate space, our home, will become a kind of santosha practice field, a portal to growing more acceptance, satisfaction and inner bliss. Every session will begin with the body, stabilising weak areas, opening blocked areas, re-balancing and relaxing our relation to our physical selves. This will naturally pan out into the energy, emotional body. Time will be given to journal or contemplate about what covers up our happiness, what comes up to distort our definition of what success is, why one tends to complain and focus on the negative while constantly moving outwards rather than inwards. Why is simplicity not enough? The body will naturally go through a gentle detox through the two yoga sessions we will do every day, but one’s inner space will also reap the benefit of a thorough spring cleaning as well!
The day will be very balanced, starting with a more moving, vinyasa based dynamic sequence in the morning and will wind down with a cooling Yin Yoga practice in the evening. In Yin Yoga the postures are held for longer periods of time, allowing gravity to open the dense connective tissues around the muscles and joints. These postures also stimulate energetic flow, somewhat like acupuncture. To quote my Yin Yoga teacher, Josh Summers: “When one’s energy circulates with with unimpeded ease, the ensuing response is one of calmness and contentment. This may be why many Yin yogis report feeling a deep parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system response after the practice, marked by a lasting feeling of relaxation.” This more receptive evening practice will always end with a silent sitting, allowing time to simply be as you are, free of concepts, projections, expectations, clean and clear, enjoying the pureness and simplicity of being.
The yoga sessions will be scheduled in a way that allows ample time to explore the beautiful rolling hills of Angeli di Montefiore, make a day trip to the sea, or to simply enjoy a relaxing day by YogaItalia’s chlorine free pool. This time is also a part of spiritual practice: the space that yogis will have to digest their yoga practice and to experience its fruits off the mats, in nature.
Someone you admire in the yoga world or someone who has inspired you?
My teacher, mentor and the founder of Shiva Shakti Yoga, Ananda Leo- ne, has always been a great source of inspiration for me. I was attracted to his teaching, because I liked how he integrated yoga philosophy into the physical practice of yoga. In his teacher training education, he encouraged us to really confront our own shadows, concepts and beliefs, so that as yoga teachers we could be more transparent and clear within ourselves while sharing the teachings. He taught me that there is no separation between life and yoga. He taught me that our shadows are just as important as light. On this path, he was strict and expected a lot from us, as we relentlessly practiced teaching under his watchful eye. Some moments of the education I thought that I might break down, I felt I couldn’t handle the study/ life/work balance, but he gently pressed me forward anyway, helping me expand my potential through the challenge. To this day, I still sometimes ask for his guidance and I continue to learn from his experience, advice and friendship.
Why should expert yogis come? Why should beginners?
My retreat in YogaItalia is an invitation for more advanced and intermediate yogis to come and enjoy a full yogic lifestyle, for seven days deepening their practice over a longer period of time, without distraction. Expanding the usual 90 minute class into 7 days of yoga can be an opportunity for self discovery, transformation and growth. The practice will have a much stronger effect while remaining in the energetic field of yoga with other yogis, practicing with the same intention. Delving deeper into one theme will work on other aspects of your being, taking yoga off the mat and integrating it into more layers than the physical. Advanced yogis will also enjoy practicing more advanced asanas and pranayamas that often are not featured in the mixed level classes I teach in Berlin. Inversions, deeper backbends and hip openers will be properly prepared and guided.
The retreat is not intended for pure beginners, but you are welcomed to attend if you have practiced yoga consistently for at least 6 months. This retreat might be your first immersion in a deeper yoga practice. You will find that your yoga practice will grow tremendously simply by being in yoga everyday. I have a lot of experience teaching variations for all body types and level of experience. This means that there will always be a place for you in the yoga session, where you can comfortably practice at the level that is appropriate for you. You are welcomed to come taste the yogic lifestlye with me in YogaItalia.
To find out more information about Jenny and her Yoga retreat, please visit yogaitalia.de . You can also find her on Facebook at: facebook.com/mannasana. If you have any questions feel free to contact Jenny directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.