When I was in Belgium I had the pleasure to meet the founder of Aruna Yoga, Nicki Forman,  and to attend one of her workshops for the Teacher Training. What a ride!

What can I say. I came without expectations and left another person. I left a better writer, a better lover, a better friend, a healthier foodie and most of all: a better soul for my only body. This seems like a lot but it actually comes down to one thing: I left a better human.
How is this possible?
By teaching us about how the human body works, how emotions work and how energy inside us, acts. The writer, the lover, the friend, the foodie; they are all layers wrapped around my inner core. Nicki calls it the Source. With a capital S. The Self. It has many names. It is that spot inside of you that stays untouchable no matter what. No matter how many layers or trauma’s you experienced; it’s the purest form of who you are. This is interesting because I believe we are all traumatized by something and we all traumatize others. We try to compensate this with something outside of us: Alcohol, drugs, anger, shopping, the pheromones of internet, binging, eating crap, trying to be someone we are not,…  
‘These layers become our narrative. Our story,’ Nicki says to a room full of yoga teachers at the beginning of the workshop.

So what is my story? I am an unpublished writer, often a complicated wife to my husband, an unworthy person that doesn’t earn her own money, an angry daughter, a negligible granddaughter, a confused wanderer, an adventurer of the endless mind. I love myself but I am beating myself up, everyday. We all do.

What is Aruna Yoga?
It’s about getting rid of the labels: the mother, the lover, the ceo, photographer, therapist, teacher, the abused one, the traumatized one, the chef, the plumber, the gay, the immigrant, the poor,… What is left when you take off these layers — these illusions of the mind, and mistaken identities — and when you can reach for the Self?
‘Truth,’ Nicki says, ‘And the truth will guide you to what is working for you. Maybe it’s singing or diving, cooking, brewing beer, walking or meditating.’
For me it is writing. For Nicki it is yoga and for Davy, surfing. That is what, at the end of the day, I love about Aruna Yoga: there are no boundaries. It is based on my truth, right now. It is custom made and free of dogma. While travelling in India I met some guru’s & teachers but there was always some kind of sexual tension, some kind of patriarchal way of teaching; me as a humble disciple bowing in front off the master. That doesn’t mean I didn’t learn anything but I loved it when Nicki said that Aruna Yoga is dogma free. And honestly, I am happy that she is a woman. ‘You cannot talk about union if you judge the other yoga traditions like ashtanga or kundalini or vinyasa or satyananda,’ she says.

Nicki who grew up with Judaism and with family members who talked with spirits, and who dealt with anxieties and depression, was always hungry for knowledge & understanding. When she discovered the teachings of yoga, she finally felt like getting somewhere and for years she sat down with all the guru’s, practising all the different traditions until she hit the ceiling only to find out the ceiling grew higher.
I ask her if, maybe, those other yoga traditions are too masculine, and that she, therefore, as a woman, couldn’t find what she was looking for.
‘It’s more the rigidity with which they taught us their way. While everybody’s truth is very different. We are all stuck in our personal narrative, and Aruna starts there, using the language of yoga, the language of connecting through what is.’
‘Therefore Aruna is also a bodyless yoga, in that way that I am not interested in whether you can put your leg on your shoulders or not. Off course we do exercises to prepare the mind and body but all these yogi’s with their ‘Ooh life is wonderful!’: It’s bullshit. It’s fake. Accept yourself as you are, without the pair of Spandex that lifts your ass (laughs).’

Your own Inner Mastery
Nicki was a lawyer in South Africa. She practised the law during apartheid, during the transformation to democracy and even met Nelson Mandela. But ironically, the law, is where the seed grew to stop listening to facts (‘They are boring and distracting,’ she says) and to start listening to the narrative. ‘I learnt South African history through a white perspective. But the black community had a very different narrative. That is what interests me. Those stories, that is where trauma’s can be found, big or small and where we can be healed from sickness, auto-immune disease, depression, anxieties,… and so on. But we get stuck in the narrative if we suppress those trauma’s. But you know what? If shit hits the fan, don’t run away from it but dive into it, go through it and you will grow or heal.’
‘Aruna is a direct living experience,’ Nicki says,  ‘I have my story with my sister getting healed from an ‘incurable’ disease, with my brother dying when I was 24 years old, with my search for knowledge from religion (Judaism) to the spiritual (psychic) to my massive yogic journey. But those are my teachings, from my inner mastery. You come with your teachings and each person in the room is learning to embody all of the knowledge that they have in the same way through their own experience of the Self. Through their own inner mastery.’
‘Ironically enough, it’s simple! You come, you sit, you open up, bring up the awareness and use the emotional work, based on Truth and Presence. But It’s also hard work; being in the present all the time, being aware of your emotions into every aspect of your life. You have to work with that because everything that is not the Self is illusionary, is not real. That sounds Dantesk but it’s Maya, it’s Leela, the divine play. And everything that is the Self, seen every day in a different perspective, is true. So you focus on that. And where do you find that? Right here in this moment. No matter how traumatized you are, the Source remains intact. Watch your narrative like you watch a movie and it will guide you.

You come, you sit, you open, bring up the awareness and use the emotional work, based on Truth and Presence.

Natural magic
After this short introduction about Aruna Yoga, we have a two hour yoga class with asana’s to prepare for meditation, and for the rest of the morning, nothing really happens. Nothing comes up. Not one conflict, nor emotion comes to mind during meditation! Except for my ego, which is really happy with my ‘inner balance’.
Until, after a small lunch, we have to lay down and Nicki guides us through a Yoga Nidra where we have to set an intention, in my case: maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It only takes me a couple of minutes to arrive in some state of I don’t know what. Am I awake or not? I am floating, not like water but more in the way fire moves and for some reason I visualize flames. In the meantime, I hear Nicki’s voice speaking to us. I am not freaking out, I am just listening to this voice in a docile but attentive way. And then I wake up, am not lying anymore but I sit in half lotus pose after a kundalini exercise. I open my eyes and look straight in Nicki’s gaze. Freaky! And then all the emotions pop up. I try to get a grip on myself but this energy running up and down my spine doesn’t let me. Wow, this energy! The pain I had in my uterus some moments before is gone. Coincidence? Wishful thinking? Magic? Nature? Am I going to live a healthy lifestyle now :-)?

Luckily we get a small break, I run to the toilet only to find out that I suddenly got my periods. Coincidence? Euhm, wishful thinking or pure nature, haha? Nobody is surprised when I tell this. ‘We are working with inner energy,’ they all say, ‘… And you are in a room full of women.’ I feel like crying. What the fuck just happened? Who is Sophie when all the layers, the narrative, the roleplaying is gone? When you don’t have to fake it anymore? I start to get a notion of this potential, this powerhouse inside of everybody, where we are unique and yet the same. No matter if you are black or white or poor or angry or whatever, we all have this truth, this Source inside of us. And that, is pure magic.

No matter if you are black or white or poor or angry or whatever, we all have this truth, this Source inside of us.

Aruna yoga makes sense to me, like only the truth can make sense, and I know, I know, it’s a lot to take in. I want to take care of this Source by keeping a promise to my intention: living healthy and being aware of this natural power. This new kind of awareness will guide me through it. And maybe you think that I lost it and from now on will live with the spirits drinking kombucha for the rest of my life. But it’s quite the contrary. After all, one of the reasons I moved to Portugal is getting rooted, finding freedom, and trying to be true to the person I really am.

More info
* Aruna.yoga
* Aruna Yoga in Ghent: MAF (Merelbeke)
* I participated in the workshop in Breda. For a Teacher Training, check this website.

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  1. Reply

    That’s Aruna Yoga! One falls in love with it from the very first moment and healing happens, on all levels and awareness arises <3

      • sophie
      • 16/09/2019

      it’s natural magic :-). We have to start believing in magic again!

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