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I'm not willing to join just any Instagram yoga challenge

Outside yoga on the rocks by Czech yogini from Praha

There are so many things that people admire about her: she is passionate about the Environment and eco-conscious living, her Instagram posts are inspiring, educating & bring awareness to the Global problems. She has a strong opinion about social media and she is not attending just any Instagram challenges. Whatever she does has meaning. Today we are presenting a yoga teacher from Czech Republic Šárka . 

Q: How did yoga enter your life?

A: I think it happened twice. The first time I went to a yoga class, which was about 10 years ago, I didn't know what I was doing and what information I was taking in! I was new in the city, and I started to climb with my new colleague. All the climbers were talking about yoga being the ideal activity to improve your strength and flexibility, so we tried it too. It was an Ashtanga vinyasa class, which we went to quite regularly. Many things didn't make sense to me back then – and even less to my colleague, who was an expat and didn't understand the language in which the class was taught. Sometimes we were laughing and falling on our mats – we definitely weren't the spiritual students back then.

Lately, I got to understand this experience as the real beginning of my journey. Some things that the teacher talked about got saved somewhere in my subconscious, and they started popping-up when it was time.

I tried different yoga styles after this first experience, but usually, when the course finished, I didn't continue. Then about 5 years ago, I changed my lifestyle, and I started to practice on my own. Soon after I started, I found out that I was pregnant, and because I didn't feel good during the first few weeks of pregnancy, my commitment faded.

Shirshasana yoga pose headstand zenagoy jogamatka mandala
The moment when yoga re-entered my life, and it was here to stay was during childbirth.
It's hard to explain in words what happened with me in those hours, but I got to understand how much was hidden inside of me and that certain tools can help me touch this inner strength and wisdom. I haven't stopped practicing ever since.

My understanding of yoga changed, and it's still changing. I signed up for a Yoga Teacher Training two years ago, which opened a few more doors to self-exploration. The self-discoveries and things I uncover along the way lead me to new yoga styles and teachers. I hardly ever go to classes, but every few months, I attend a workshop or training to receive new impulses to develop my yoga practice.

Sharka's yoga mat - Mandala Empire blue

In my mind, I still think of handstands and of having full control of my body in difficult yoga poses, while the Universe leads me in detours through yin yoga, yoga Nidra, or meditation. Ideas such as yoga goals or sun salutations every day slowly fade away, and what remains is the enjoyment of the exact point I'm currently at.

Q: What do you like the most about Instagram yoga challenges?

A: What I like the most about them is very different from why I started to participate in them. 

I joined Instagram shortly before my yoga teacher training. I was searching for motivation to keep up with my physical practice because I didn't feel particularly fit after having my son, and I was concerned that the teacher training could become very physically demanding. The first challenges I joined were all about arm balances and inversions – and to be honest – they brought me to a point where I felt bad about myself because I couldn't perform everything on the list. I often thought that I didn't get any response because my account was small back then. I participated in challenges that, in my eyes, turned into competition and advertising. It was a valuable lesson learned. There were times when I wanted to leave Instagram – until I built a genuine community.

I love yoga challenges that encourage discussions on different topics and are designed to connect people. I like honesty – I like to read the stories behind the pictures and how people deal with their daily struggles. I also choose challenges that are sponsored by conscious companies and little businesses – it's a way to support them. 

Challenges, of course, are a lot about advertisement too and advertisement itself isn't a bad thing. It only becomes a bad thing when it isn't honest. We all know the shiny images of young skinny gymnasts in expensive yoga clothes – they are designed to make us feel less and make us want to buy things, so we come at least closer to what they present. That is the opposite of what I want to achieve with yoga. That is the reason why I filtered my Instagram a lot – I'm not willing to join just any challenge anymore.

Q: What was your motivation and aim behind organizing the #couragewithyoga Instagram yoga challenge?

A: I think my previous answer already explains it – I wanted to organize a challenge that would encourage people and wouldn't make anyone feel intimidated. The whole challenge started with a little IG story – 4 ladies reacted and said that they would like to host it with me. We were lucky to find quite a few sponsors that aligned with our ideas.

Q: Your favorite yoga pose?

A: My favorite asana is headstand (Shirshasana). No matter how I feel, it always calms me down and brings new perspectives. There is no space for overthinking, negativity, or judgment when you are upside down! It always brings a wave of positivity and calmness. I think being upside down really takes you out of the common concepts, out of the conditioned thinking, which is needed to move on.

Related article: Styles of yoga

Czech yogini on Zenagoy mandala yoga mat doing headstand

Q: What is your favorite book, and why?

A: This is such a simple question, but I don't have an easy answer. I'm someone who really likes to write and read. I feel happy in communication; I have always considered literature a way of communication. I like to read poetry – I like being influenced by the messages in between the lines. I love it when people play with the language and search for new connections.

I studied language and literature, which was a good time, but I feel it damaged my relationship with books. We were expected to read a few books a week, and I read so much in those 5 years that it became hard to absorb the messages contained in the texts. The way I started to read was "empty reading "- instead of taking it in and letting my feelings be influenced, I began to search for "highlights" that I could repeat and talk about. It got saved so deep inside that whenever I took a new book, all I wanted was to be done with it as soon as possible. I couldn't get rid of that feeling, so I gave up on reading novels after I graduated.

I have a few books in my library, which I return to, but I don't read from the beginning to the end. I like my books about yoga. And what book do I read the most? "The Calm Buddha at Bedtime".

Q: What would your best friends tell us about you?

A: It would probably depend on who you would talk to! I think that people who I still consider good friends and who haven't seen me for a while would probably describe someone else. I changed a lot – mainly thanks to motherhood and yoga, but I guess many attributes stayed the same. I think they would all say that I'm social and talkative and I like to move my body – I often take my friends to long walks. 

Q: What does your weekend look like?

A: Ever since I met my partner, weekends haven't really existed for us as he works on shifts. We have no weekend routines at all. This autumn is very special because we just moved out of the city to the countryside and he started a new job, where the team is still being built up. Thus, the shifts aren't established yet. The last three or four weeks were the first "regular "weeks we have ever had in the 8 years together!

Sometimes it's hard when he works during the weekends, but it gives me time to be with my friends and family. I also used to have a flexible job, which made the few weekdays the best days for us. When everyone else was working, we would do things that people usually do during weekends – going for trips to nature, climbing, or relaxing.

Q: What would be your advice to a yoga beginner?

Headstand yoga asana on the beach on Mandala zenagoy yoga mat
A: Learn to listen to yourself. I know it's easier said than done, but no one else knows better than you. If something that the teacher tells you doesn't feel right and/or it creates pain that is hard to be handled by you, it probably isn't right for you (yet).

There is a certain level of discomfort connected with the yoga journey because it touches our weak points and aching spots. In the beginning, it may be hard to distinguish between the discomfort that is good for us and the pain that is harming, but more and more of this understanding will come with the practice. The purpose of the practice is to extend our comfort zone safely.

Try not to compare yourself. No two paths are the same. After all, no one really cares how your yoga asana looks or how you sound when you breathe – if you stop caring, it will bring ease and ease brings progress.

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