Honestly, preparing myself for today’s My expat story release, I had no previous contact with yoga either with her philosophy or with my today’s guest herself personally. It took me quite a while to get a little insight into her understanding and “feel” what Zuzanna Bilska-Jha is living on a daily basis – and I sincerely admit that first and foremost, I am under huge impression of a change that yoga can make in a person. Secondly, I enrolled myself in yoga classes already; thirdly, I would like to spread the good news and that more people can benefit from this experience.
Zuzanna Bilska-Jha comes from Poland, currently staying and living in New Delhi for 3 years, a happy wife and a wonderful mother of an adorable toddler. A fulfilled woman who perfectly realizes her passions and develops her interests keeping her balance day by day. She is a traditional tantra yoga teacher and conducts classes for individuals in Delhi. She is an extraordinary person whose self-discipline, desire for self-improvement and development spreads across and makes us, even though we live thousands of miles away, feel comfortable with it as if we were sitting with her in a peaceful cafe, drinking our favorite coffee and chatting about life.
Yoga is a perfect opportunity to be curious about who you are. Jason Crandell
Yoga itself is 5000 years old. Think of how much of everything around you is so old. Think about how little human-shaped things have remained until today, and how precious something must be that has survived such a test of time. Most sincerely inviting you to meet Zuza and to read her Indian-yoga experience.
Zuzanna You cannot imagine how happy I am to have you here today. So glad you shared your thoughts about yoga and your lifestyle. So – just to begin with – is there anything special in yoga? What is yoga for you?
Zuzanna Bilska-Jha: Yoga is my passion, my love, my freedom, Is my way to express myself. I can say, following yoga (especially traditional tantra yoga) is my Dharma – goal, and reason of my life. Yoga is the ancient wisdom and science, which explains who you are and how to listen to yourself. Yoga is teaching how to accept and understand yourself and the whole world. Once you know that, you can relax and enjoy life. Without understanding yourself it is hard to accept the Universe as we are simply confused and lost.
Yoga is also a balance: it connects the body, mind, and soul. Today it’s very common that we only focus on body (so we go to a gym to do exercises to look more attractive), mind (lots of people focus on mind and tend to forget about body needs and have no idea how to listen and respect body) and spirit (praying, many times we believe in something without even understanding, we just tend to follow because everyone else is doing or we are told). Yoga sees you as a whole, without cutting into small pieces. Thanks to yoga I know my body can meditate, my entire system is more healthy and happy. What started many years ago only on the mat, affects my entire life now. I have much better flexibility and strength on each and every level of my being. And I believe that’s very important for a person who decided to live in a different country and culture.
How did your yoga adventure begin? Have you started in your home country – Poland? What prompted you to teach yoga?
Zuzanna Bilska-Jha: Honestly, is not easy to answer that question :). Few things were pushing me into yoga, but for sure everything started in Poland. One part of my story is connected to my ex-boyfriend who was laughing I can’t swim and I’m scared of water. Because of him I went for aqua aerobic classes to get used to water and finished on normal fitness classes as well. After a short time I was spending more than 15 hours of fitness in a week and I ended up as a fitness instructor. At that time I had an allergy from pilates, yoga and stretching. That changed after the fitness convention where I went for PortDeBras class (is a mix of pilates, yoga, and ballet). That.s when I fell in love with body and mind classes, their simplicity and beauty. My first yoga class, which was AshtangaVinyasa, to stretch and to get to know about new exercises. Only after the first class, I felt like: wow! I can fly! I felt so happy and full of positive energy. I didn’t have flexibility, yet my yoga teacher kept saying: Zuza, leave fitness and do yoga only. Finally, I did what he said… OK, almost, as I still teach pilates and stretching.
The second reason I stuck with yoga was my lack of confidence and accepting my own self. I wasn’t happy, was living from weekend to weekend, from one party to another. I thought it’s normal, I never believed that I can live better and love myself. Yoga changed my way of thinking and taught me that pity life is not the only option we have.
The third reason which was pushing me into yoga was Buddhism. When I was around 12 years old I bought a pendant with Buddha. I started to read more and more about Buddha, his teachings, philosophy. That was the best what I knew, but at the same time, I felt there is something missing in this. After coming to India and learning in 3 yoga schools I reached a great place – Shri Kali Ashram, where I was learning traditional tantra yoga and where I found what was missing all these years. So my search is over. Now I just want to go deeper and deeper in that philosophy.
What prompted me to teach yoga? It came so naturally, that I have no clue how to answer this question. I was already a fitness instructor, so it was quite easy to teach. I remember my first work in a yoga studio in Wroclaw, Poland. I had a trial class and my boss, yoga teacher with 20 years of experience was observing the class. Once I finished she just said, she was shocked as I told her it will be my first yoga class and the way I was teaching sounded more like I didn’t do anything else all my life. For me, teaching yoga is part of me and my own yoga practice. Nowadays when I teach traditional tantra yoga, it is a real meditation to me.
Well said. I guess I would not dare to describe it in other words 🙂 As a yoga teacher you give yoga classes in your Indian home in Delhi. This is an unusual approach to business. What has motivated you to follow such a path? Is this initiative successful?
Zuzanna Bilska-Jha: Haha, the reason I decided on teaching at home is my baby boy. He is 16th months old now, he is too small for kindergarten. We don’t have any help or nanny to take care of him and at the same time I see how fast he is changing – I don’t want to miss that. As he is calm down and quite independent, he allows me to teach or do my self-practice (except Tridosha Balance series, which is the most important tantra’s sequence and my favorite as well. Whenever I do it and he is awake, he come to me and tries to have milk or sits and jumps on me). I’m not focused on business or making money. I do what and how I feel. It is much better than working for somebody and struggle with the boss, who most of the time is only money-oriented. By teaching at home I don’t waste time to travel, I’m close to my family. My “yoga & baby’s playroom” is clean – also energetically as I am doing Reiki for that place. As I am not business-oriented, I keep a balance between the number of classes, my family, self-practice, and learning. That helps me to go deeper in the science of yoga and slowly – into Ayurveda. I believe all of this is helping me to be a better teacher.
I guess many people would be happy to learn these magic techniques from you. You mastered living a happy and less stressful life with such ease 🙂 So can we ever get bored with yoga?
Zuzanna Bilska-Jha: Can we ever get bored with ourselves? I believe not. First, there are many different styles in modern yoga: fast and powerful Ashtanga Vinyasa or Power Vinyasa; slow and gentle HathaYoga; traditional tantra yoga and it’s body meditation. Of course, there is only one yoga, but there are many methods, schools, which focus on different aspects. It is not like that you are supposed to do or follow only one style if you feel to change please change. I started yoga from AshtangaVinyasa which gave me lots and lots of positive energy. Then I started bit slower integrative yoga which was always bringing me a big smile. And from last year I’m doing only traditional tantra which is very gentle and relaxing, where you can meditate in each and every pose. The only time I had off from tantra was during pregnancy. First, you shouldn’t do this yoga at that time, but I also needed something strong – so was doing power yoga, pilates, and functional training. Then I came back to my tantra and have no need at all to do any other style of modern yoga.
But what is the most beautiful in yoga is that it’s just starting on the mat, but slowly it starts changing you and your life. You are getting flexibility in your body and mind. It is the way to really find out who you are and what is important in life, and this is what gives strength to be you in daily life.
So I would say yoga is a lifestyle, a way to lead your life respecting our inner needs and external world demands. In this case – how yoga and Ayurveda, which you are also interested in, do they function in your daily life. Is it an ascetic cell with vegetable food bending your body? How does the typical day of Zuzanna look like?
Zuzanna Bilska-Jha: I’m not strict with me. I love myself and listen to my body’s needs. I can feel what makes me feel good and light and simply concentrate on it. I remember when I went back to India, I visited my first Indian yoga teacher. We went for lunch and he got chicken! I was really surprised and he was seriously laughing at me. In my favorite ashram, we had fish for lunch from time to time, also sometimes with friends we were going out for a beer. There is no point to be strict and doing things. Yoga is a balance; going in extreme in anything is not the goal. But at the same time is important to feel and understand our body and mind after a meal. I feel much better after eating dal than after chicken, so I’m eating dal much more often. I don’t start my day from coffee, as it didn’t work well for my stomach. Instead of this, I start my day from doing gargle with coconut oil (is doing good for gums, teeth, sleep), then I have warm water with lemon and honey, which is waking up gastric fire (Agni) in a nice, gentle way. After that, I have class or tea and walk with my family. After which hot, tasty family breakfast in a good, stress-free atmosphere. During the day I try to find time for myself, most of the time is time for my self-practice. That’s very important, as thanks to it I’m not getting easily frustrated or irritated. Rest of the day is about playing with my baby boy, cooking, cleaning, walking… and in the evening talking to my husband about all and nothing
And all this makes you happy it seems! What would you advise people who would like to start their yoga adventure? Where and how to start?
Zuzanna Bilska-Jha: Don’t be afraid if you have no flexibility! Yoga is not about flexibility (even if you can stretch a lot). Think about what would you like to get out of yoga. Is it about relaxation? Maybe more energy? Maybe you struggle with body pain? Maybe you just want to stretch? According to your needs, go for tantra /Hatha /power/flow/ Iyengar, etc yoga. Check yoga schools around your home or work. A great option is to get private classes as then the teacher is focusing only on you and your goals. Whatever you’re you decide, check teacher: does he/she has a certificate? From which school? How many years of experience? Even if you will find an experienced teacher, you should like that person and respect him. You should feel comfortable, confident and relax with the teacher.
It doesn’t matter why you want to start. Yoga is a process, which will ‘bring you back home’, which will make you understand who you really are and how to express yourself. It will teach you you don’t have to be better as you are already perfect. And on the way to your real self yoga will solve your all problems (tensions, stiffness, body pain, imbalance, stress, lack of courage, etc)
To sum up I guess yoga shaped you in a very beautiful way. Could you please share with us what is the most important thing in your life?
Zuzanna Bilska-Jha: Freedom in being me. Following my potential. Learning and experiencing. All this I’m getting from both my family and yoga. Thanks to yoga I’m better mother and wife. Thanks to my family, I’m a better yoga teacher. Isn’t it perfect? 🙂
Without any doubt, good yoga teachers do wonders for your health. Exceptional ones do more than guide you through asanas. They adjust your posture, help you relax, understand your body and your needs, enhance and smoothly personalize your practice. A respectful relationship with a teacher goes a long way toward building your self-awareness, unity between your body, soul, and spirit. Through persistent practice, we discover within ourselves what goes beyond the body and beyond the simple functions of the mind. We discover inner depths. I truly believe many can find Zuza as this kind of person.
Yoga does more than burn calories. It’s a complete mind-body workout that combines strengthening and stretching poses with deep breathing and meditation or relaxation. As there are many things to try in life that will put you into personal transformation, personal change-maker and a sincere promoter of your passion, you always have the choice to pick up from the variety that life provides. From Zuza, I know that one of them is yoga. Either it is a fast-paced and intense or gentle and relaxing style, you will feel the change happening in your life. So next time you are giving excuses to yourself Am I too old for yoga? Is yoga for me? rethink it and give it a try to enjoy it from childhood to your advanced years!
If anyone wants to stay in touch with Zuza – some useful resources you may find helpful: