Mindfulness – or: How to keep cool
only using a yoga mat
From a buzzing advertising talent knee-deep in overtime to a calm and relaxed full-time yoga teacher with her first brand-new studio: The story of Stuttgart based yogi Maja Mast shows just how easy it is to change course in life. And how wholesome the outcome can be.
These are fast-paced times. Hectic, full of pressure, overtime and the ticking of a clock somewhere at the back of your mind. No one knows better than Maja Mast, a young woman who just opened her first yoga studio in Stuttgart-Dürrlewang – Yoga Studio Fox. Who let the fox in, you ask? Well, thanks to Maja’s foxy red hair, her first nickname as a yoga teacher was Fox on a mat. The studio may be new; the name stuck anyway. The space is bright and breezy, a comfy atmosphere welcomes us equally warm as Maja’s smile and determined handshake. Yes, she is a yoga teacher now. But not long ago, her life was looking strikingly different. “Prior to discovering yoga, I was grinding away as an advertiser”, she recalls as we sit down in the middle of the room. “After a couple of years, however, I had to admit that all the clichés connected to these fields were entirely true. Exciting work, to be sure, and just the right thing for me at the time, but after tons of overtime and weekends spent working, my body was telling me that it was time for a change.”
And not in moderate tones: Developing back problems in the mid-twenties sure isn’t the best sign! She laughs. “Not really, no. Back then, a friend of mine took me to a yoga class she was attending at the time. Hesitant at first, I tried it for a couple of times – and completely fell in love with it. It’s safe to say”, she today says, “that my demanding job has driven me into the arms of yoga.” Quite a couple of years passed. She began establishing a fierce yoga routine, attending more and more classes until she decided not only to practice yoga but to teach it. “I wanted to dig deeper into the philosophy behind it and began the first of many yoga apprenticeships”, she says. “I got schooled in many different styles, approaches and varieties of yoga before I gave my first classes. The philosophy behind yoga truly is fascinating, it’s more of an individual journey to a common goal than a guided tour.”
Not long ago, she was teaching in offices, at private homes or in rented rooms normally used for something else. Then she stumbled across this beautiful location in Stuttgart-Dürrlewang, a bright, modern and cosy room ideal for personal yoga classes that are a far cry from overcrowded yoga halls or cliché-laden Indian stereotypes with incense and pictures of Vishnu on the walls. “In the beginning, I really enjoyed switching locations, but I realized rather quickly that I needed my very own rooms to bloom and to do the things the way I wanted them to do.” This location was absolutely perfect for fulfilling her dream, she emphasizes: “A lot of yoga studios are far too big and frequented by far too many people as to guarantee an effective or healthy class. In fact, certain problems can even get worse once the practice is not overseen properly and constantly. That’s why I prefer smaller classes. They guarantee that I can monitor everyone and can step in if necessary – not to mention the close personal contact.”
Her approach is a decidedly contemporary and personal one still honoring the ancient origins of the philosophy – much like Willems Eyewear using tradition to create progress. “Yoga is really there to help you”, she continues. “Of course, you have to fully engage in it and of course you need a teacher who knows what she or he is doing; that given, yoga will make your life better.” She must know: being tall and slim, her body was prone to backache. Now there’s nothing of the sort. “My body became a lot stronger”, she beams. “More stable. These days, I can spend quite a lot of time crouched in the most uncomfortable positions without feeling any pain. It’s much more resilient.” Equally important, though, is what changed mentally: Yoga and mindfulness are fundamentally intertwined. “Yoga is all about freeing yourself from outside influences. News, ads, other people, everything there is influences and steers you through your everyday life – mostly subconsciously”, she says. “Yoga is here to teach you how to block all that out and to focus on yourself. Consequently, this is what leads you to what you really want because you are not influenced anymore. I know this may sound a little esoteric, but it’s just a fact, to be honest.”
Does yoga teach you to become a better person, in the end? “At least a more relaxed and kinder person”, she answers after due consideration. “Just take life as it comes, try to go with the flow. It’s just not worth it worrying too much. Plus, yoga is all about your relationship to your surroundings. Karma, non-violence, the origins of vegetarianism can all be traced back to the doctrines of yoga. Be kind to others and others will be kind to you. It’s really as simple as that.” Of course, you need some time for it. “Oh, and patience”, Maja laughs brightly. “Some people want too much too soon. That’s not the way to do it. You need time for your body and your soul to adapt.” If you willingly let it happen, she promises, the results can be a game changer. For her, they already have been. “I have to young kids so teaching yoga is the best way for me to keep my balance and my cool.” She laughs. “God knows this would not have been possible in my old job.”