London to Warsaw, Delhi to Bangkok with a few dozen stops in-between. Last year saw Renata of Jee Yoga go on her own Journey of body, mind and spirit. FROM A EU FUNDS CONSULTANT TO A YOGA TEACHER, ARTIST, AND TRAVELER. IT'S HARD TO IMAGINE A MORE INTENSE 180 - degree turn.
"Life felt like one deadline after another.
We sat down to discuss The Matrix, Carl Jung and Spiritual Graffiti, Cherry flavoured Vodka, an Old Indian Guru and other Polish stories.
I've never interviewed a polish before.
I'll try to be gentle.
Before we start: Are you now or have you ever been a communist spy?
It would be very unprofessional for a spy to answer that...
YES OR NO?
I am not a person who puts a nose into somebody’s business. NO.
But you remember the fall of the Berlin wall
I was 7, but even then I was a bad communist, I had a Sony walkman from the black market and all I wanted was a pair of funky sport shoes. Maybe it's because I was born during the time of martial law in Poland and raised in time of rationing first need goods.
Is it true Polish drink vodka for breakfast?
It's a half truth. I only drink hazelnut flavored vodka. I'm not a real Polish, apparently.
How much vodka have you drunk today?
There is no good vodka in this part of the world.
Tell me how did that happen that you are here.
My journey started in May 2014, after leaving my career and friends .It took 7 months to start to learn what I want from my life. And then I had to go back.
Money. Money. Money. I guess, I wasn’t ready make final decision. One month in London and I was sure I had to get back to traveling.
How was London?
Like going back to the matrix. Big cities aren't for me any more, not for living anyway. I felt disconnected from nature and myself. If I had gone straight to London from Poland I wouldn't have seen that much difference, but after living the island life here on Koh Phangan, it was hard to adjust. But I have to admit, that ten years ago London was a lot nicer, the economy is really weighing down people's mentality.
What did you do there?
I was teaching yoga privately, but I decided I didn't want to stay there. So, after a brief, yet triumphant interlude as a barista (coffee maiden) for cafe in central London, I booked a ticket to India to continue studying. But honestly London was exhausting. In the end I was working three jobs and teaching yoga on the side.
Then you went to Warsaw...
My grandma bribed me with food. But it was weird going back. I had changed so much during that journey and I returned home to find everything else had stayed exactly the same.
What did yoga bring to your life?
I became more connected to myself. I felt better physically. I started to love my body not physically the way that it looked but you begin to live with your body not just in it. It was that courage that I took from yoga that gave me the strength to leave my old life.
When did you begin playing Yoga?
Twelve years ago. In the beginning I was too shy to look for a yoga school. I'd practice with a friend or alone. I hear this from a lot of people that they're too scared to even try. They think they’re too overweight, too old, they have this idea they are too much of something and not enough of something else. Newcomers are put off by advanced poses and people twisting themselves abstract shapes. Really this has little to do with yoga. A yogi isn't someone who is flexible or strong,but who understands the pose, who moves in and out of it with grace and attention. Yoga is an active form of meditation.
Is that why you teach private classes?
Yes. Personally as teacher I like to feel a connection with my students. In a class of 1 - 5 people the energy is a lot more intense. It allows me to really support every student in their practice.
Where do you teach?
My place or yours . Most people feel comfortable practicing at their own place. But I have a secluded place in the jungle with balcony and a beautiful wild jungle view.
Where did you get the name Jee Devi
A crazy Indian Guru. He would call me every morning at 4am just to make sure I was out of bed and practicing... Jee means "Soul" and Devi means "Goddess" and it’s based on time of birth and astrological Indian tradition. He gave me this name after a month of this routine, during a yogi’s initiation ceremony.
How was your Indian adventure?
Insane. I hated it and loved it. I can't speak for all of India, most of my time I was studying in Rishikesh. This was May/June/July last year. It was 40C with a 4am wake up call. Most days I was one of few western people in town. Every other traveler was smart enough to head north and escape the heat. But it gave me a lot. In between yoga sessions it was too hot to venture outside. So I started painting with Henna to pass the time.
Your henna designs have been receiving a lot of attention recently
From some people. I'm incorporating traditional polish patterns and Slavic symbolism into my work and the response has been really encouraging. Traditional Polish culture has been covered up for a long time first by the catholic church then by the occupation, now everybody wants to move to London and hide their accent. Well not everybody, I've been invited to a summer festival in Poland to share my artwork.
Tell us about your Art Mediation?
It's a different approach to making art. The focus is not about a beauty but expression which is "helping to attain and integrate non ordinary states of consciousness” as Carl Jung said. He was fascinated with intuitive art in a form of mandala painting. He saw the mandala as a microcosm of the mind, as a physiological expression of the self. And he used it to observe his own as well as his patient’s psychic transformation. Mandala carries information between conscious and unconscious, ego and the self and helps the mediator to envision what's inside himself. Modern psychology uses meditative art as a part of many therapies, but it’s commonly used for ages by Buddhist monks.
That's what I explore with my students. It's surprising how much you express about yourself in a process of creation. But it's not all philosophy and theories. I do it because it's fun. When I'm at the beach I make mandalas out of whatever I find around.
What do you do when your mind tells you not to practice?
Go to the fridge. Just kidding. I am just trying to stay still and wait till the laziness passes. And it does! Then you start to feel you wanna do something and you practice.
Your Yogic Idol
I had a 74 year old student and she had only began practicing two years before, but was really dedicated. Yoga isn't about hand stands.
What is yoga missing today?
Nothing. It is as it is.
When did you realise teaching yoga was going to be your life?
Teaching my first class. I love to create and share my passions with others and teaching yoga, leading meditation and meditative art workshops is what allows me to do that.
What's the craziest type of yoga you've tried?
Kids yoga. They bring imagination back to practice. I'm forced to be creative and be with every moment. It’s crazy and tiring in comparison to adults classes, but I love it.
You've been working with kids a lot recently
Yes. Me and my friend Rachel from Bluebell Healing, are running "Shanti Kids" a workshop for kids between 4-12 full of yoga, art, conscious games and singing. Rachel is a qualified primary school teacher, Reiki master and extremely creative and cheerful person. I am happy I have her support as my experience with teaching kids isn’t that extensive. But this March I will be completing my 110 hour Children Yoga TTC with another inspiring yogi teaching kids - Laura from Divine Light Yoga, which takes place in Thai Child Development Foundation. This place is great. They support a at least 30 underprivileged and disabled Thai children. On a daily basis!They run a beautiful resort with organic food from their own garden in the rain forest of Ranong. If anyone is looking for a place to volunteer some time check it out. They do great work.
What drives you?
A need to create, learn and improve.
What does KP need?
A real community that is more concerned not only about spiritual but also sustainable ecological development.
What does Yoga mean to you?
It's the only one thing that's stable in my life. It's my base.
Your signature pose
I love balancing asanas. Recently, I have the most fun with "Toe Standing Pose". It's a challenging balance posture. the concentration required to stay in the pose really calms the mind. The pose is great for strengthening the core and lower parts of the body.
What is your life philosophy?
Keep your heart.