Where we begin is not always where we end up. Rough starts often lead to most beautiful blooms as struggles become the building blocks from which we first build ourselves and then pull up anyone willing to join us. This is how it went for the founder of BERLIN YOGA CONFERENCE, ANASTASIA SHEVCHENKO. Scoliosis, chronic back pain in early teens and a snowboarding accident at 19, which resulted in a broken and paralyzed arm, become incentives for growth rather than unfortunate circumstance that caused stagnation.
Nights tend to be at their darkest just before the dawn, but if you don’t close your eyes in fear, the sun inevitably peeks on the horizon. Difficulty gave birth to strength and a mission which resulted in building a movement we now know and love as the BERLIN YOGA CONFERENCE, returning for its second edition June 19-21 2020. So from Ukraine, across Canada, all the way to the metropolis of cultural cross influences that is Berlin, a year wiser and better, we give you a chance to get up close and personal with Anastasia Shevchenko, a yogini, business woman, kind and loving teacher, the mom of two and of BYC.
Read the previous interview with Anastasia HERE.
1.It’s been a year since we last sat down to pick your brain (and soul). Thank you so much for joining us once again. What has changed and shifted for you in this year gone by? What do you hope for and are working on for 2020?
Thank you so much for having me!
Now that the year is almost over, I’m quite relived 🙂
2019 was a very taught year for me on many levels: seeing the Berlin Yoga Conference take place in May 24-26, and all the preparations and hard work pre-dating the event, as well as all the work afterwards, like paying all the bills… It was an expensive project.
It was an ambitious undertaking, to make the first year of a yoga event so big and so expensive. I guess I was very naive and romantic in many ways: like I knew how awesome what I was trying to achieve would be, yet other people take their time to get to know something and to reach the threshold of trust and “I have to be there” attitude.
So Berlin Yoga Conference June 19-21 (yes, we’re celebrating the International Yoga Day together this way) is a bit smaller in scale, more intimate. Instead of 5 parallel classes, we will have 4, and we’re going for a smaller venue, a school campus.
What I would like to do in 2020 is to go for more of an industry event geared at professionals and people who are a bit more serious about their yoga & mindfulness practice and careers, like yoga teachers, coaches, mind-body workers, and just intelligent and curious human beings who crave more depth, authenticity, and quality.
2. The first edition of BYC came and passed. Thank you once again for the opportunity to participate. What have you learned from the BYC experience? Why do we sometimes feel anxious before big things unfold? Why is it sometimes hard to trust the process and internal logic of things? What are we so attached to that causes anxiety?
Thank you so much for being there and all of your support and help in spreading the word about the Conference! It was a pleasure and a privilege to meet you in person.
What I’ve learned in the process of putting together the 2019 edition of the Berlin Yoga Conference is that I needed to toughen up, set better boundaries, do better math and resource allocation, and be more picky about people and brands I want to work with, events I want to produce, and projects I want to take on the side.
I felt a lot of anxiety before the event not so much because I was scared of something specific to happen or go wrong, but mostly because I was completely out of balance mentally and physically – I was exhausted, over-worked, stressed-out, and worried about the event attendance, if I could break even. It didn’t help that in events these days a lot of people decide last minute, meanwhile I put in all that work since summer 2017.
It wasn’t the case that I didn’t “trust the process”. I knew that whatever happened was a direct outcome of my own karmic imprints and whatever lessons I needed learn. And I’m very grateful for that opportunity – I really feel like a changed person. I’ve matured in so many ways, which gave me more self-confidence and even self-satisfaction. In the process, I really did a type of Masters of Business Administration, which is awesome because understanding money is key to understanding the world and how it works.
I think what I was attached to the most is specific outcomes, like things I made up in my head and my own goals and predictions for the event. It was painful to let go of these attachments and welcome the kind of results that you didn’t expect or necessary want.
3. Will you be bringing some teachers and presenters back next year and what will be the focus of the BYC 2020? What core values would you like to cultivate for the guests of the conference and what new area of interest opened up for you last year? Can we expect any pop-up events leading up to the July finale?
Yes, for 2020 I’m definitely bringing some of the teachers back, partially because I enjoyed working with them on a personal level, and partially because the feedback was great. Also, I think it is important to build communities around specific people and ideas, and that process takes time. Whoever missed 2019, will have a chance to taste a part of it in 2020, and whoever was there in 2019, will have the opportunity to see their favorite teachers yet again, in a new setting.
So, because I’m going more for an industry event, I’m definitely putting more emphasis on in-depth, longer workshops and discussions, not just yoga masterclasses. I don’t want to make another lifestyle festival or a hippie gathering. I want the real thing.
The real thing, a yoga conference, for me comes together with the creation of space for learning, transformation, and discussions, that are not always all positive and comfortable. What I mean to say is that sometimes we need to sit down and talk about some of the problems and challenges, so that we can face them together and work towards a common solution. Hence the 2020 Special Theme: Ethics, Diversity, and Social Media, a workshop with Matthew Remski on creating healthier and happier spiritual communities, a workshop with Daniel Rama on the Yoga of Social Media, a discussion on Why We Teach Yoga and Where to Become a Yoga Teacher, as well as the panels on the Ethics of Teaching Yoga and Diversity in Yoga: practice beyond age, gender, race, and physical dis/ability.
What values I think are important to have to enjoy the Conference are: seeking depth over breath, focusing instead of trying to do everything and to be everywhere, keeping an open mind for learning while at the same time maintaining critical thinking to be able to assess the information provided and practice discernment. Finally, at an international, inter-cultural event such as the Conference, one needs to love coming in contact with people from different backgrounds and experiences, as well as meanings and cultures.
4. Where will students be able to catch you outside your regular schedule? Are there any new projects and events on the way besides the BYC 2020 and what are you working on currently on your own private time? What topics are you interested in? Is there anything specific or more of a general lessons on how to be a better human being on this planet, experience and serve in congruence with your own mission?
I went back to teaching, as before I needed to focus solely on the event to produce it for the first time. Aside from my weekly classes, I continue traveling to a few events in the next few years myself as a teacher and a participant, and in January 2020 I co-lead a 200H Yoga Teacher Training in Berlin with my good friend and colleague Nica Agapova. I’m also hosting an Embodied Yoga Principles Teacher Training with Mark Walsh (UK) in February and The Method Workshops with Talia Sutra (Israel) in May.
What I have become especially passionate about now is fighting for the rights of the yoga teachers, pushing towards legalizing this profession, setting clear regulations around it, especially when it comes to qualifications, working conditions, and ethics.
I also would like to “clean” the local Berlin/Germany yoga market from digital platforms that take advantage of us instead of help us, and if worse comes to worst, I envision some kind of a yoga teacher’s union, lobby, or association that would protect us against destructive market forces that seriously threaten the health of our communities.
5. How big a role does experience play in how good a teacher you become and are the best teachers those who dedicate themselves to the role of students of life all the time? In what ways are you a better teacher now than at the beginning? How has motherhood affected the way you teach? Is there a new discovered patience in being a mom that translates into classes as well?
That’s an excellent question, and a very complicated one!
The majority of people go for teachers who are “popular” and not necessary because these teachers are exceptional in what they do. To be a popular yoga teacher you need to have charisma, a certain type of very laid-back and positive personality with a talent for speaking in very simple and catchy phrases that sounds “spiritual” and exotic, allowing the people’s imagination soar and magic take over the reality. On top of it, you need to look a certain way, have a strong and over-flexible body that can easily perform breath-taking acrobatics and look good on photos and videos.
When speaking about the philosophical implications of being a teacher, you also need to differentiate between artists/performers and teachers. It’s like soloists and music professors. There is a difference, as very often these are not the one and the same person. The first category are creators and are primarily concerned with self-expression and soul-seeking through their art. These people you love to watch and get inspired by. The second category are great consumers of information and processes that can digest, integrate, and re-produce the art of doing something in a step-by-step fashion, in a way that teaches people with different learning styles and on the different point of their journeys. These people you love to hear and want to be guided by. It is indeed exceptional when you have both in one person, which makes a true master.
Finally, a great teacher is doing their job for the sake of the students, not for their own sake, or the sake of their own ego. That doesn’t mean that they should not be fairly paid for their work or properly respected for their achievements. What this means is that when a person is teaching – they are there to guide others, not to show off, not to consume all the attention, but rather to create the space for others to come in touch with their own essence and intelligence. True teachers/masters NEVER make you dependent on them and their teachings for wisdom and practical life guidance. Instead, they create the circumstances for you to heal, become empowered, and transform your life through the practice of yoga. And when the time is ripe for you to leave them – they will let you know – instead of trying to milk you for more money and power.
Myself, I think I learn a lot by observing others because I catch a lot of information about people and situations. I’m an extra sensitive empath. Through the Conference and some work-related traveling, I get to see, observe, and come in contact with a lot of people, some of whom are yoga rock-stars and others are less-known, local teachers.
I used to spend way too much time reading books and gathering other people’s experiences, but now I’m definitely on the path of finding my own truth and expressing that through my practice, teachings, and life choices on a daily basis.
I’m not so much preoccupied about becoming a “popular’ yoga teacher, because I know I don’t have it in me: even though I have an extraordinary practice and a lot of personal insight to share, I’m much darker, more serious, heavier, and more honest than an average yoga rock star out there. Realizing that was such a big relief, because then you can focus on reaching exactly the “right people”, instead of the masses.
Becoming a mother (I have a boy and a girl, so in that sense I am very accomplished) definitely added a spice to my understanding, because I realized how many structures we pick up at an early age and how ingrained these patterns therefore truly are. Plus, it created a different dynamic and a change in the relationship between me and my own parents. I came to see them more with compassion and understanding, instead of judgement and blame. That in turn, creates a positive impact on the way we build relationships with other and come to see them. We are not reacting to others as much based on our mother/father issues and all kinds of personal shadows resulting from them. Finally, being a mother helps you to attune with your students better, since you treat them more as children who pretend to be very important and play at grown-ups 🙂