"How breathwork sessions helped Nina through hardship"
Q: Hey Nina, I’m eager to hear about your story and how you found out about the Life Awareness Project.
A: Actually, it was a coincidence in a way. Well, all things started with… "I have to tell my story because it's kind of intricate." I have always been a very physically active person my whole life, but I haven't been into yoga or anything like that. I was a dancer, climber, kayaker, skier and then dog musher and then all of a sudden, I got an injury, I had to replace one of my hips. Unfortunately, I waited and waited so long that I could not walk at all in the end, I couldn't walk at all because of the pain so I had the operation and replaced my hip. After that surgery, I was really stiff, physically very hurt in many ways.
And then, I just started, I saw the yoga class, I started with yoga. Calm Yin Yoga. I had many prejudices against yoga because I have traveled all around the world, been with lots of people and I don't like very narrow thinking, fanaticism, strict rules, or these things, niches, but I started anyway. It was slow and kind to my hurting joints and spine, and after a year there was a new teacher, and he did pranayama. He didn't explain anything. He just said, okay, we do this before the yoga. I did the pranayama with him for the first time in my life. And then I just realized, this is it, this is for me, this is my thing. We started very slowly and then just by coincidence, I found Michaël on YouTube and this is now more than five years ago.
Q: You said when you were doing pranayama this is ‘your thing’, but how did you notice that this is your thing?
A: I just immediately felt it. I felt this is more than the Asanas, more than anything. I just felt in my whole body and mind that this is the way to go. It was a very, very strong feeling. And then I started to search for it, I don't accept or adapt to any teacher, I am somewhat picky in my learning process, being an old dinosaur. So immediately when I saw and heard Michaël, I just had this instant feeling of "yeah, this is my teacher." And I started doing the breathing exercises with him on YouTube, especially in the beginning, different things to learn, the bhastrikas, kapalbhati and everything, you know. And then there is one session that I still want to do every day, it's called Michael’s advanced pranayama session. He's up in the mountains and he starts with bhastrika and he talks about it, very little, very stringent. It’s Bahya kumbhaka, Bahya pranayama and Nadi Shodana. I started doing this every day, just with him. Thus, I wasn't really into the Life Awareness Project or anything. I just had his videos. After that, I started doing his meditations without being part of a community. I was inside myself and he helped me. Doing it on a daily basis, helped me.
Well, these things happened to me but then in a short time span, both of my parents had died. I'm a dog driver and eight of my dogs died and my partner for 22 years left me without warning and I still had the other hip injured and it was hurting very much. And if that wasn't enough, there were like 3 meters of snow on the farm where I live. So there I was, not knowing what to do. The silence was immense, and it kept ringing in my head very loud as I walked and walked through the white forest. It was very strange because I had been a good daughter, a nice girlfriend, a loving mother for the dogs. And all that was left of this all, was me and the silence of the snow in these deep, waste woods.
Q: Everything happened at the same time. Right? That's what you're saying?
A: Yeah, all at almost the same time, and I also came into my menopause. I'm 55 now, this was when I was 52. So I couldn't sleep, you lose a lot of energy and your grip on things. I believe that was the time when I got kind of a little bit, maybe, addicted to pranayama. I had to take my driver's license, a lot of things demanded courage, I had to take complete responsibility for my own life - alone. Then I started doing pranayama with Michaël two times a day and it really worked. It gave you strength, courage, calm, peace of mind. And then I started with his meditations.
Until COVID came where he put out some covid-videos, remember this video where he says "let's change our story." He went out and he talked about the fear that people have during COVID and just work with themselves. He said something about remaking our history, it was very beautiful. I have sent it to all my friends, I sent all the meditations practices because, in the beginning, people are scared. I have friends all around the world because I traveled for many years.
Q: What kind of impact did that video about COVID have on you? Because that's what I don't understand yet. So you felt the need to share it with friends because then they would be less fearful, right? Is that correct?
A: Well, what I had experienced, because I can assure you that when all these things happened to me, I got scared, even to the point where I got anxious for the first time in my life. I'd never, ever had it really. I was ashamed because I worked in a psychiatric ward for many years and I didn't know what it was until it came and it hits you. At the time I met Michaël, there was no community, just his teaching and they are so incredible and gave me so much peace of mind and so much strength and calm that I thought, okay, I need to share this with other people. Many people who I've sent it to, started doing Michaël's teachings. But there are also many people who have received it and forget about it because it’s too much for them. At that moment, I decided that this is the way I want to help other people so I decided to take the breathwork teacher course.
Q: Is that the first course from the Life Awareness Project that you did?
A: No, I took the ‘Breath is Life’ course. Or I didn't actually take that because I've been doing it so much and for like 2 years so I just kind of went through that as a repetition. Then I took the ‘Breathwork Instructor Course’, and that was absolutely wonderful.
The thing with pranayama for me, Julian, is that it's a very deep thing. It's not just the techniques, it's everything that goes on inside you. Michaël said that you can't teach something you don't have yourself, so I wanted it to be incorporated into my whole being before I teach. After that, I took ‘The 40 Days of Transformation course’, which was very great for me. This course is more intimate, the way he talks, he makes you be more independent because I have to admit that the first years I was very much depending on doing it with just the videos, just the voice, the instructions, everything But ‘The 40 Days of Transformation course’ really made me independent of having some instructions all the time or just his voice.
Q: What made you have your own structure more after doing the 40 days course, you were able to set your own structure for the sessions more, is that correct?
A: Yeah, much more, I do it myself now. I still like to do the practices with him, but I don't need it. Now it’s integrated into my everyday life that I can no longer separate myself from it, it is part of me. After I took that course and the sessions he’s made there are very good, as if my breathing had changed. It was as if I wasn't breathing at all, I don't really know how to explain this. In the beginning, you learn a technique, you're doing the technique, but then all of a sudden, there was a change. It was no longer me doing the technique, it was the breathing doing me, I was being breathed. Now it is part of my bodily functions if you see what I mean?
Q: I think you may internalize the breathing more as well, and then it becomes more of like a, yeah, natural thing. Is that correct?
A: Yeah, it grows on you, like when you do yoga. I took an education as a yin yoga teacher. And when you do any kind of yoga, breathing it through, after a while it grows on you, so it stops coming from all sides, it's coming from within you.
Q: That's interesting, right? Because with ‘The 40 Days of Transformation course’, we're trying to get people doing it consistently so you can reach more momentum and a deeper state of doing the practices. Is that also what helped you in this course? Were you able to do it consistently and did that help you as well?
A: Yeah. Well, after I did the ‘Breathwork Instructor Course’, I kept going, I had done that for two years before - the journaling, morning writings etc... but I just kept doing it as I felt I needed it more. You have assistance in the 40 days but not as much, it's more you doing it. On the other hand, when you do the ‘Breathwork Instructor Course’ - which is a gorgeous course - you are more concerned about techniques, breathing and all the scientific physiology and all these kinds of things, nonetheless, a beautiful thing. Afterwards, I did the ‘Awakening Meditation Course’, which is a very great course as well.
Q: That's great because I think you almost did all of them, what about the ‘Ocean of Energy QiGong course’…
A: Yeah. I have this one as well. The thing is I do a lot of physical yoga practice four or five times a week, plus daily pranayama. So, you have a window of how many hours a day you can do this, but if I could, I would practice these things all day.
Q: I understand. And I'm curious because you did the Breathwork Instructor Course’ so you were interested in teaching, right? Are you actively teaching as well or mainly doing it for yourself?
A: I haven’t started teaching actively and this has to do with many things. The main thing is that everything I've learned, both, in yoga asanas and pranayama, is in English and I'm a person of language. I find it so hard to explain, and the people I will teach in Norway are very afraid of everything that's spiritual. I mean, you can’t even say “om”… So, I kind of have to find a way to not scare them off. “Make some space, center yourself”. But I do it with friends here and in Croatia, and in private as well. I've done some one to one's, which I prefer. I want to understand each person’s individual needs. And of course, I want to find a language to reach the Norwegians but I'm sure I will with time.
Q: There may be some Norwegians as well in the LAP community.
A: There are. The thing is Julian, this has been so life-changing for me. It has been very, very important in my life. And that is why - when people are to give this on to somebody, you really want them to understand what it is. And I have a lot of self-confidence, but in this, I have a lot of respect for the power of pranayama. So, I am hesitating because it's one of the things that I love more than anything, like nature and the ocean. I'm maybe a little bit scared to teach it without it being received the way I'd like to transmit it and also because it means so much to me. How can I transmit that to somebody without overcomplicating it, because you can't give everybody the whole package at the start, you have to start easy and then let them feel this themselves. It meant so much to me. I'm scared that if I teach it in groups, it wouldn't be understood. It wouldn't be received, or maybe I will overdo it.
Q: I understand. But first of all, it's really amazing to hear how this helps you so much. What I'm thinking is, there may be people in a similar situation. And then if we don't share it, the people that are ready for that, or want that, or are in this situation, they don't get in touch with it. And that's why I think even though in any circumstances we should try to share, what is your vision on that?
A: Yeah, I know. 2 years ago, I got operated on my second hip. This doesn't mean much to you, but they take a motor saw, and they cut off your thigh bone and then they take a drill and they drill a hole and glue the titan into you. It's a very violent thing to do to your body and thanks to pranayama, and also do yoga and huge doses of vitamin C, I had very little pain, I could stand on my leg less than 24 hours after the operation. Now I have no pain anymore. The healing went so quickly considering my age. I'm 55 but I feel like I'm 30 and my hip feels like 18. I feel so good physically. And of course, I had my share of things coming back, spiritual work to do, more dogs dying, spending months alone in the woods, but mentally the depression, anxiety, everything, the sadness, the grief, it went through me and it went out. This is very important because, for many people in the world, depression, sadness, sorrow, and anxiety come in and stay. So what pranayama does is that it goes in, of course, you have to relate to all these things, but what Michaël has taught me is that it comes in and it goes through you, and it diminishes, it transforms, if you observe yourself without judgment, you forgive yourself and everything in the breathing process. This is maybe the most important thing with pranayama - plus of course all the physical benefits that you gain from it. Your relationship to your body and cells and ability to heal yourself, to ground.
Q: What kind of physical benefits are you getting from the practices?
A: You want to know just the physical ones? You get strength in your core and core muscles that are incredible. Muscles I didn't even know I had, you start breathing with your deep diaphragm, and you do this throughout the day without even thinking about it. You basically start breathing in a whole different way. Since I started with pranayama, I haven't been sick, not one day. Also, there is a million physical, good things it does for you. It's beautiful. It's good for women and their hormones, their sex life and libido, it's good for losing weight and good for not having belly fat, it's good for your skin, your stress level, blood pressure. It's good for all these kinds of things. Mostly, I think what it is very good for is that you really get in contact with your core and with your spine. And for me, everything in yoga, everything in any physical practice actually, comes from your spine. Your spine, your grounding and your breathing are all. When you understand that, all movements are actually coming from your spine and your core and your feet, then everything changes. And your body gets very happy. Pranayama really helps you with this, because this is what you're working with. You're working with your spine and your breath and your core all the time. So that's the physical thing. And then you have all these mental wonderful things.
Q: How was it for you because you haven't been doing this all your life. You started doing this when you felt more anxiety basically, right? So there it helped you but I'm just very curious what kind of other mental benefits it gives to you.
A: Yeah. A very good mental benefit, which you can get… of course you can get it from not only pranayama, but it's the way you manage to observe yourself without judging yourself. So, you're saying, "okay, I feel like shit today" or "okay, I'm angry" or "okay I feel disappointed" and that's okay. It's all good like Michaël always says, it's fine. But it’s not a postulation, it becomes and it is the truth, you do the pranayama or the breathing or the meditation, and then afterwards your message to yourself is received. In the beginning, it's very hard to observe yourself in a way without judging, but quite quickly you get used to just saying, “oh, so there is another person. Someone inside me is smiling at me." There is more me behind this “me” I identify with and listen to. This wasn't really new to me, as old as I am, but I believe it is for many of us. Writing every day and doing these practices, helps you to change your patterns of behavior and the ways you think of yourself and what happens to you and what you want.
Q: You became more aware of that, right?
A: Yeah. You get practical tools to go through life without being a slave of your own thoughts.
Q: I understand that. I'm wondering because a lot of people there, maybe not doing this right now because they think, okay things are, things are going well. And my question to you is, do you think it's important that also these people do these on a daily basis, these kinds of practices? Or do you think it's not? What is your view?
A: Everybody should do these kinds of practices every day, incorporate them into their daily life. I'm very sure that for any person that just tries it for 1 to 3 times, you don't even have to tell them, they will feel it immediately and when something is good for you, you tend to continue with it – if it makes you feel so very good. Many people think it’s a little bit like “Hare Krishna” or a hippie thing, but what I want to do is to take pranayama really down to earth. It’s for all of us, no matter what we believe in, do or want. What I sincerely want to get across is that if you just start doing the conscious breathing, then the rest is actually coming to you. You don't really have to think too much about if it's spiritual or physical or anything, just do it. Your body immediately understands what you're doing. And it loves it.
Q: Basically, you say, start doing the practices, experience it, and you will experience the rest of it basically, and keep doing it?
A: Yeah. This is what I believe. I believe if you do this practice a little bit every day, you will do it more and more. And then it's as if everything you are understands immediately that this is the right thing to do, that it's a good thing for you. You will notice it in your body and your temperament, and in the way, you feel - in the way you relate to difficulties, in the way you relate to good things. It's just a very natural thing. After all, it’s the breathing that your life is made of, it becomes part of yourself in a very natural way. After a while you use pranayama without even thinking about it, it's incorporated into your daily life and your relations. For me, this is magic, accessible plain good magic. I try not to say this to people because then they think you're crazy, but I'm not crazy because it was, both physically and mentally. I can only speak for myself but this worked for me, like magic, it gave me acceptance and trust, like no medicine from any doctor or any pill or quick fix or anything could do for me. So, I'm very happy I found it.
Q: That is really great to hear. I'm curious if your progress in these areas also has an influence on your environment, are there other people that can see that you are having these kinds of benefits that they also start doing the practices for example?
A: They are getting very curious, at least. And some people, actually some friends of mine had COVID so I've given them Michaël's videos on YouTube, and some people I have given the courses. Another friend that had cancer and started doing all the courses says that she is feeling really good about it. Nonetheless, I don't preach, I just give the material and I say, listen, this has helped me and for those who know me can clearly see the benefits it had on me because I was limping around and now I don't limp anymore, I have no pain anymore, I am strong and flexible and capable of doing whatever I want, and I feel this joy and lightness in my body and my heart. I'm healthy and strong again. Everybody can see this and people might be thinking, "okay, she's doing something right."
Some people are scared of breathing because it brings up things in us but these are things that are necessary to bring to the surface. Some people that obviously ought to do it, don't want to do it, but then I have friends that have started doing it. Not like me, because I'm the type of person that when I find something I love that works, I take it to heart and go for it. But some of my friends started doing it slowly and like it. They do experience the benefits of it, such as good sleep, feeling calmer, having less pain and stress, etc... So, I am just being an example and tell everybody about it and planting a seed wherever I can.
Q: Two weeks before our interview, we did an interview with Lee, Lee Fernandez.
A: Oh, he's my friend from Breathing Cold. I love Lee!
Q: We asked him how he found Yogalap and he had mentioned you, and it was really great to hear his story as well.
A: That's so cool. I told the people there because this was not a very good course, at least not for me. Sorry to say, but I was very displeased with this course because it was supposed to be a breath instructor course. And it had no pedagogic insights in it. It was like a cabaret of all kinds of techniques of breathing. I'm too old for this, you know, I need a real teacher. Then it turned out that we were a few people that were not so pleased so I took the opportunity to talk to them about Michaël and how great it is to do the pranayama practices. It's also very interesting to do together with all this Wim Hoff and ice baths - in this kind of breathing. I do that too. For the physical benefits, it gives you.
Besides that, I also do shamanic breathing with Steph Magenta, a lovely, cleansing practice once a week.
But pranayama is different. And what I also love so much about the way Michaël teaches, he's very kind and very gentle, but he also says very clearly that you will not experience progress if you don't have discipline. And this is where it attracted me a lot - because people want quick fixes. That's what people want, quick fix, tablet, pill, doctor, anything, plastic operations, whatever, fix it quickly and life is just not like this. Pranayama is like the essence of the life you have. It's beautiful, it's nice, it's kind, it's loving, but you need to have discipline.
So yes, I told these people about Michaël and many hungered for this, all the ones that jumped off that course, went to Michaël directly and we started a group with people from there.
Q: So you actually know quite some people from the community. Do you also feel a sense of community feeling in Yogalap?
A: Well, now you ask me the worst question I didn't want you to ask me. I felt a very strong community, of course, with Michaël and, and then also Sarah, when she came in and Lee and Brad and the others I knew, but now it's getting bigger and bigger, so I'm a little bit overwhelmed and I realize what you're doing and it's nice, but it's becoming like this huge brand. And of course, there are more and more people coming into these Facebook groups etc... and in the beginning, I wanted to know everybody but now there are thousands of people... Nonetheless, I feel very connected.
What I would like to do is to go to a resort in Portugal and meet these people. It's been a little difficult lately.
Q: Well, I think you have an interesting point because what I'm actively thinking about then looking to do is like, how can we still make the most committed people feel connected? And if that's not the case right now, then there's something that needs to be done about that in my opinion. So there are different things we can do about that, but any ideas are welcome of course. I think setting up things in Portugal or online for the most committed people, I think that's, that's super interesting. And that those are things that we’re actively thinking about with the team, but that's still in progress. So we're working on that, but it's great to hear how you feel about that.
A: I'm a dinosaur, you know. I got Facebook when COVID came, just because that's where they teach yoga and that's where Michaël and everything else was. So I'm not a pro at this. I get all these messages from the inside group, but also from the other groups and from the new beginners and from those who started just yesterday, from everywhere and it's just bombarding me... I don't particularly like that, but this is me. It's due to my lacking capability of selecting, I'm not a good selector. It's getting big, Julian, and that is most likely good but I even sent a DM to Michaël saying really man, take care because you're gonna feel you're gonna be eaten up. This has become huge because I feel that when he's there, he's completely there, he kind of gives all of himself. But I guess he knows what he is doing.
An important thing, this is also very good when we have the Zoom meetings in the courses like the ‘Breathwork Instructor Course’ and ‘The 40 Days of Transformation Course’. When he's there, he's there. And he listens to you, and many people in these situations are of course very consuming because - we are in… we're in a huge transformation, very intimate period of our lives, where you really want to try to know yourself and find out things. And so it is demanding for the teacher because everybody feels that it's just me and him. And of course, it's not. This is a balance and an equilibrium. That's very hard for anybody that is going on the internet because you have thousands of people all being an individual needing you.
Q: Yeah. But I still think you can create smaller or more connected circles for the people because they're their differences in the way people are being committed to as well. So I think that may be interesting.
A: I think I would like that in a way, I made an intimate connection with Yogalap – and here I’m actually saying Michaël, because he's my teacher - and this will continue for me no matter how big it gets or whatever happens, I have this relationship and it works for me. It's not a problem, not a problem at all. And I have his music, which really means a lot to me. Every day.
Maybe it’s really weird that a person that you never met in your whole entire life can be so important in your everyday life and everything that has happened to you. This is actually a miracle. I think it's very cool. It's really cool. After I made it my own, the presence is not so much needed anymore, because it has become part of me. But the voice is needed, and the voice I will come back to, always.
Q: I think that's really beautiful. And you should meet as well because when the time is there, it would be great to have you in Portugal as well.
A: Yeah. I'm coming. It's just a little bit of a mess. I don't want to have the vaccine. In Norway, you need to have this corona pass and you have to have this and that... We’ll see. In a way, they're trying to force you to have the vaccine, I'm just keeping my cool and I will see, I will know what I’ll do and when to do it.
Q: I think at some point they will not. Hopefully not talk so much anymore about those things and focus on the things that matter. That was actually the last question I wanted to ask because what do you love most about the Life Awareness Project? You can name one thing.
A: The voice. The voice is my friend because I don't always use videos or course material – so especially the voice, the meditation, not only the words... The voice is my friend. Every day, in any situation. His voice has kind of guided me and given me a kind of… I'm not really so into that things have to be secure or safe or anything, because safety outside does not exist I believe, safety is inside yourself… but it really helps, it helps you when you need it. This energy has helped me to feel that: okay, it doesn't matter, it’s all good. It helps you to build up your own integrity and your own security in yourself, find your authenticity, your acceptance of life - so that you need less and less from outside to feel deep peace, love and joy. But with one exception, I need that voice.
Q: I think the voice is a really interesting answer because that's what makes it unique is, in many ways, to do other things that are out there. And I think that's one of the best.
A: Yeah. And I'm picky, I can assure you, I'm very picky. I don't buy almost anything. So, that's a great compliment, actually. Indeed.
Q: Yeah. I like it. And is there anything else you would like to share?
A: There are probably very many things. What is also the second-best thing for me is the way of teaching something that is actually quite complicated, but the process is made easy, accessible - or in a way, not easily accessible, but accessible in a very clever or good and warm and kind way. And at the same time, it's asked of you your commitment, your discipline - and to mix this in this way, maybe I shouldn't use this word, but it's actually quite elegant. It's sophisticated. It's a way of teaching that is happening by itself. It’s art. You don't notice it. It just happens because you listen to this, you listen to that. So, you kind of grasp it without it being imprinted in a way.
But all these videos, the way he does it is very subtly done. So that it kind of goes into you as if you breathe or something, which is very clever. And that's maybe why I don't teach, because I think, oh God… this is the way to do it because it's a genius way of teaching. And I love that for me. And I am me, I'm just talking for myself – and for me, this is like creme de la creme of teaching.
Q: Amazing. Thanks so much. You broke up a little bit, but thank you so much for these compliments and I will share this with the team and it will be very inspiring to hear. Besides that, I truly believe you should start sharing your wisdom and knowledge with your community and loved ones, even if it's with a small group, you've got so much to share.
A: Yeah, what I want to do is to mix pranayama with yin yoga – for healing. I believe very much in asana yoga where we're working with the fascia because that's what helped me. And it's very slow. So, to mix these things for people that have had operations and injuries and are in pain and help them out is my motivation, like it helped me back to strength and joy - to teach them that you can be free of all these things if you want to if you do it. To make something like that, that's what I really want.
Q: I think it's amazing. Thanks so much. I think it's super interesting. It's really great to hear and as I mentioned before, I really believe you should share your strength with others.
A: Well, it's not only that it helps, but it completely changes your attitude to life. Thus, it does not actually help, it changes your life. It’s a way of living. The eight limbs of yoga are a whole way of living. Everything changes into this other way of living, you know, a way of life and who you are in it. And life changes drastically, bit by bit, like a peaceful tide coming in, not scary and abrupt, but kindly and loving. And it becomes very close to you instead of something that's coming from outside, which we often experience in this world, or our culture, is crazy, it probably always was, but maybe now more than ever. You know everything is coming from outside asking, asking, be this, do that, buy this – taking, sucking, consuming you. And then this other, deep way of living is that it's coming from your inside or from, yeah, we don't often want to talk about the “universe/God”, but so you understand, this a whole way of changing your whole dimension - or your perspective on your life changes on who you are and what life is. Maybe you always knew, but somehow on the way you had forgotten. And that is quite drastic if you ask me. And immensely liberating and empowering and beautiful.
Q: Yeah. I think the only way to really understand this principle and what you're saying is to do it and experience it, and then you'll feel it and understand it. Correct? Thanks for sharing.
A: I believe in communication, that’s why we’re here. When it comes to being an ambassador, I don’t really look upon myself as an ambassador for anything in particular, unless then – an ambassador of truth. Truth the way I see it and have experienced it. I do not hesitate in communicating what I believe to be true and genuine, things that bring light into our lives. So, Peace and Love, dude. And wisdom.
Q: Thanks so much.