The Many Faces of Yoga: India Edition – Daniela Leinenweber


daniela mf of yoga 2

I met my dear Chilean friend Daniela in Anjuna. I had such a wonderful experience exploring the with her and being part of her photoshoot journey there. Daniela talked to me about how yoga helped her deal with living with fibromyalgia, giving her the confidence to leave her job as an engineer and moved out of her house and leave with just a backpack and her camera. Daniela now travels the world practicing ashtanga yoga and following her passion of photograpy. You can follow her website and see some of her inspirational work so far, which I had the pleasure to witness.

What brought you to yoga?

Since I was very little I remember having lots problems with moving and feeling my body, everything hurt a lot and when I was sixteen I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia,. I started trying all types of alternative treatments: reiki, massage – everything that you can imagine because nothing from traditional medicine gave me any solution. The only way to control the illness was with a lot of medication for the pain.

Life wasn’t easy for me and I used to travel a lot because there I could find space to find myself and explore. In one of those trips I came to Asia and I saw people getting up really early to do yoga before starting their day and I tried it too. I remember going to the park to do yoga in the  morning and starting to feel like I could move so easily, when usually the mornings were the hardest time for me to move. Since then I practiced different types of yoga on and off and when I got back home after my second trip to India I decided to take it more seriously. A friend of mine was practicing ashtanga and insisted that I try it and from that first practice I loved it and it became my daily healing source- it changed my life forever. Now I don’t have to take any medication – I just take my ashtanga yoga practice in the morning.

What was your idea of yoga before you began to practice?

When I went to ashtanga for the first time I had no idea what it was about. My idea of yoga was the impression I got on my trips to Asia, seeing how important yoga was in other parts of the world and how it was first before anything else to keep you grounded and help you move your body.

How did your idea change?

I started to experience all of this magical transformation process, my life started changing completely. I was the queen of the party before, I was drinking and smoking a lot but the practice changed all of that, not me. My body didn’t allow me to do these things anymore. When you start practicing everyday you start a whole internal change and it all happens organically, its not something you decide. It changes the way you eat, the way you talk, your interests, how you live your life, it changes all your patterns. Its like a healing process that starts happening through the body. Its like your unconscious is showing you what you are not able to see. Every posture that you are doing is showing you how you are handling those things in your life – I think its a total reflection of your life, its so amazing.

Did you find your attitude to life or yourself change?

Since the moment I had my first practice I felt peace, it was such a deep peace. Since then the practice heals everything for me. What I have most learnt from the practice is to accept myself, not forcing myself and treating myself with love, accepting how I am everyday. To nurture myself instead of pushing myself.

Practices changes you completely, it changes your frequency. It changed me from one way to another, I am a totally different person now. It changed the way I am towards myself, my family, friends, with all the things that are important to me. I changed my job, my city – I changed my whole life. The practice started showing me that you can build what you want for yourself, we can do whatever we want. It showed me that I was capable of doing things that I never thought I was capable of – so I started believing in myself and in the power of transformation.

You travel around the world taking photos and practicing yoga, what inspired that?

I always wanted to be an artist but due to my physical issues I wasn’t able to do this – I think I had too much fear of not being able to do it or not being creative enough so I studied Industrial Engineering instead. However, that was not my love or my passion and travelling exploring the world with my simple backpack and my camera was always my gateway to this parallel universe where it changes everyday and all is possible. In those trips I discovered my deep connection with the camera. When I look through the lens the world stops for me and I could shape reality and capture so many emotions and sensations… it was like doing magic! So as soon I finished my Engineering I started studying photography and got deeper into it.

When I finally decided to change my life I left my job, got rid of my house, got divorced, sold and gave everything away just leaving some essential things in my parents house, grabbed my backpack and my photography equipments and now I’m travelling around the world looking for the best places to practice ashtanga yoga. I’m discovering these amazing places and beautiful people that are on the same vibe as me, living the life I want to live and making it work.  For me photography is my way of expression and the gateway to my imagination, it is a gift that helps me to show the world in the way that I see it. Shooting yogis around the world combines all my passions – travel, practice, nature, connection and creation.

It took me a while to believe in myself, I have spent the last 10 years working on building the life I want. I tried to live the life that I am ‘supposed’ to live for a while, but I was living someone else’s dream. If you don’t do what your soul tells you life becomes sad and it doesn’t make sense anymore, you can´t just ignore it.

How do you find practicing yoga here in India?

For me the first month was difficult, the mornings are a hard thing – waking up at 4 am to go to practice. It was something I never dreamed I could do before.
Its is amazing to practice with Rolf, he has such a pure and special energy that includes the whole shala – soft and gentle but strong at the same time, with no pressure and total acceptance to find you however you are everyday and guide you on your daily journey of the practice.

The whole energy of living here is really special too. Such an intense background doing its thing and the people we meet and experience who all share with each other helps open our minds and in the “letting things go” process. Here I find lots of people who are living the same way as I am trying to live and that encourages you to keep going and gives you the power to believe in yourself.

Anything else you want to say about yoga?

I invite people to experience it, not necessarily ashtanga – it depends on your personality and which lineage or style works best for you. I just want to encourage people to look for something that makes them to connect with their inner self, that gives them peace and makes them feel better everyday – more awake.

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