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anita boentarman

Mind, body and soul

“Yoga teaches you to be in tune with your body, your mind and your en­vi­ron­ment. And I think it’s very im­por­tant for your life­style. It’s like an es­cape from my day-to-day life,” AnItA BoentArmAn, a co-founder of the rumah Yoga stu­dio in Ke­mang and the an­nual na­maste Fes­ti­val, tells Ajeng G. Anin­dita

When Pres­tige meets up with Anita Boentarman at her in­te­rior de­sign show­room in Ke­mang, we could never have guessed that the place is also a yoga stu­dio. Anita greets us with a smile while still steam­ing her out­fit for our photo-shoot. Of­fer­ing us some snacks and cof­fee, she tells us how the place came to­gether.

“There’s a yoga stu­dio up­stairs, and it was ac­tu­ally one of the first to open in Jakarta,” she says. Anita points out that while Jakarta may not lack yoga stu­dios nowa­days, it was quite hard to find a proper one in the city 10 to 15 years ago.

“Rumah Yoga was the brain­child of five friends,” says Anita. “It was in 2000 that we all first started yoga. For a cou­ple of years we were prac­tic­ing at Amalia Wir­jono’s house. Then more and more peo­ple started to come. Cer­tainly, we re­alised were go­ing to need more space for this!” says the 55-year-old yogi.

In 2002, Anita and her friends set up Rumah Yoga in Ke­mang to meet Jakarta-based yo­gis’ re­quire­ments for more places to en­joy se­ri­ous yoga ses­sions. Fully equipped with ex­ten­sive props and pro­fes­sional teach­ers, Rumah Yoga has be­come one of the most es­tab­lished stu­dios of its kind in Jakarta.

How did the in­te­rior de­signer dis­cover yoga? “It was mainly be­cause I was trav­el­ling to US and Europe a lot,” she re­calls. “I think at that time, peo­ple here were start­ing to fa­mil­iarise them­selves with yoga. It was not as big as it is now, but in other coun­tries it’s been pop­u­lar for two or three decades.

“I started to look for a yoga teacher in Jakarta, and it was quite dif­fi­cult to find one. There weren’t a lot of cer­ti­fied yoga teach­ers here. You could count them on their fingers of your hands. Fi­nally, I met a jour­nal­ist from Lon­don who al­ready had a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in yoga. He was not a cer­ti­fied teacher, but he prac­ticed Ash­tanga (a modern-day form of clas­si­cal In­dian yoga) reg­u­larly. So I started learn­ing yoga with him.”

What are the ben­e­fits of these prac­tices? “Yoga teaches you to be in tune with your body, your mind and also your en­vi­ron­ment,” Anita ex­plains. “And I think it’s very im­por­tant for your life­style. You will feel al­most in­stantly bet­ter in mind and body, and be­yond, when you fin­ish a ses­sion.”

The soft-spo­ken de­signer con­tin­ues: “Yoga may seem easy to do, but it’s ac­tu­ally not. At first for me the dif­fi­culty was the con­cen­tra­tion and how to con­nect your breath­ing with your move­ment or flow. You don’t re­alise how dif­fi­cult it is un­til you ac­tu­ally do it. The more I prac­ticed, the eas­ier it be­came, and now I couldn’t imag­ine my­self not do­ing yoga. It’s like an es­cape from my day-to-day life. It’s my way of self-care.”

Yoga was first de­vel­oped by the In­dus-Saras­vati civil­i­sa­tion in North­ern In­dia over 5,000 years ago. The prac­tice is com­monly un­der­stood as an ex­er­cise for health and in­ner well­be­ing in the modern world. One of the big mis­con­cep­tions about yoga, Anita points out, is that it ad­heres to any par­tic­u­lar re­li­gion or be­lief sys­tem. But it ac­tu­ally has al­ways been ap­proached as a way to achieve in­ner well­be­ing, “I guess peo­ple are more open-minded about it now, as yoga is go­ing all around the world and is seen as a good way to achieve well­be­ing,” she says.

“An­other thing peo­ple like to say about yoga is that they’re not flex­i­ble enough to do it. Well, the rea­son you should do yoga is just be­cause you’re stiff! It im­proves both your strength and your flex­i­bil­ity. If you’re flex­i­ble but not strong enough, you could get in­jured eas­ily. On the other hand, if you’re not flex­i­ble, there’s this say­ing: ‘You’re only as young as your spine.’ So if you’re not flex­i­ble, age­ing is go­ing to be hard for you.”

While the ori­gins of the prac­tice can be traced back to 1,000 years ago, the yoga uni­verse is ever-ex­pand­ing. Some gu­rus are cre­at­ing new styles, more and more of which have been in­tro­duced dur­ing the past 10 to 20 years.

“When I first prac­ticed yoga, I started with Ash­tanga,” Anita says. “In Ash­tanga, you have to re­mem­ber all the se­quences by your­self. The teach­ers will not lead you in class. They only guide you and cor­rect your align­ments. Iyen­gar is a yoga style you can do with props. Hatha is more

clas­sic and tra­di­tional. It’s quite gen­tle com­pared to Vinyasa. Yoga is al­ways evolv­ing. There are so many styles now, and that’s why it’s re­ally great to have the Na­maste Fes­ti­val here. You can try a lot of dif­fer­ent styles with dif­fer­ent teach­ers.”

The an­nual Na­maste Fes­ti­val was founded by Anita in 2010. Usu­ally held for three days, it’s an event where mem­bers of the lo­cal yoga com­mu­nity meet and share their knowl­edge about yoga and be­yond. The fes­ti­val of­fers many classes of di­verse yoga styles ev­ery year by lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional teach­ers. Last year, the fes­ti­val fea­tured sattva yogi Caleb Pack­ham, artist-yogi Daphne Tse, Qi Flow founder Ro­nan Tang, celebrity yoga in­struc­tor Fa­jar “Penyo­gas­tar” and Tymi Howard, among oth­ers.

How did the fes­ti­val come about? “The Na­maste Fes­ti­val started from my dream ac­tu­ally,” Anita re­calls. “At that time I was trav­el­ling a lot and I saw there were so many yoga fes­ti­vals tak­ing place in other coun­tries. I thought that maybe we could cre­ate one for In­done­sia. Why don’t we bring all those ex­pe­ri­enced and ded­i­cated yoga teach­ers here and in­tro­duce more styles of yoga to a lot of peo­ple? That was the idea.

“For some­one who’s ex­pe­ri­enced at do­ing yoga, the event is a good op­por­tu­nity to catch up with oth­ers in the com­mu­nity and maybe to try some new styles. For be­gin­ners, it could link you to new teach­ers and you can gain more in-depth knowl­edge about yoga, be­cause these peo­ple that we bring in have so much ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­per­tise.

“The first Na­maste Fes­ti­val was in 2010, and peo­ple were so ex­cited about it. They felt re­ally grate­ful that this event ex­isted so they could learn more about the yoga uni­verse. So for the com­mu­nity, this is like a rare op­por­tu­nity, which is great! Since then I have al­ways tries to find more teach­ers to come, new styles to in­tro­duce. It’s great be­cause these peo­ple are also cer­ti­fied, and it’s al­ways nice to deepen your prac­tice with the right teacher.”

Liv­ing a healthy life­style is no longer a strange con­cept in the modern world. The wave comes mainly be­cause of so­cial me­dia like In­sta­gram to pro­mote ways of achiev­ing well­be­ing. With so many new fit­ness and yoga stu­dios open­ing in Jakarta, Anita is more than happy to see how the yoga scene is ex­pand­ing here. “If you could imag­ine how hard it was to find a good yoga stu­dio a few years ago, you would ap­pre­ci­ate these peo­ple try­ing to in­still healthy life­style in ev­ery­day life.”

For some­one who has just started tak­ing reg­u­lar ex­er­cise, go­ing to yoga classes can be in­tim­i­dat­ing. Anita ad­vises be­gin­ners to take it slowly at first. “The first thing to do is find a suit­able style,” she says. “Yoga is all about know­ing your own body. You need to lis­ten to your body more than what your friends or even your teacher tell you, be­cause you know more about your own body than they do?

“Af­ter you find some­thing that’s suit­able for you, I sug­gest to take it easy. Don’t take it too hard, you know. Some peo­ple only need weeks to be able to do Wheel Pose. Oth­ers may take years to master it. Ev­ery­one’s abil­ity is dif­fer­ent, and there’s no com­pe­ti­tion in yoga. Ev­ery­one has a dif­fer­ent jour­ney in yoga. It’s not that one is worse than an­other. You just have to fo­cus on your­self and your prac­tice.

“It’s also im­por­tant to find the right teacher. Choose a cer­ti­fied one, so that they can prop­erly guide you and make sure your align­ment is cor­rect. For some­one who prefers to do yoga alone, or at home, there are a lot of yoga apps that you can down­load on your phone or tablet. They’re quite easy to fol­low. You can start from there and prac­tice reg­u­larly. But again, you’ve got to be care­ful with your align­ment, be­cause no one is watch­ing you, right? At least once in a while you should try to go to class, so you can be sure you’re do­ing it right.”

Hav­ing ac­cu­mu­lated so much ex­pe­ri­ence, has Anita thought about be­com­ing a yoga teacher? “I’m ac­tu­ally cer­ti­fied for 200 hours of yoga teacher train­ing,” she says. “I just don’t have the time yet to teach be­cause of my busy sched­ule and my travel com­mit­ments. I think a lot peo­ple now see yoga teach­ing as a real pro­fes­sion.”

As we be­gin our 2019 jour­ney, Anita ex­presses her hopes and dreams for the year to come: “I want to do yoga even more of­ten. Maybe I can es­cape to some place for two to three months and just do yoga there. My sched­ule is quite full right now, but I feel like that kind of re­treat is what I’m look­ing for.”

“Why don’t we bring all those ex­pe­ri­enced and ded­i­cated yoga teach­ers here and in­tro­duce more styles of yoga to a lot of peo­ple? That was the idea”

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