EVERY TIME I STEP ON MY YOGA MAT, I ARRIVE HOME:
MY SPACE OF CONNECTION, TRUTH, COMFORT & LOVE
“I teach because yoga and mindfulness have transformed and lightened my life in so many different ways. It is my wish to create a space for others to find this transformation and lightness.”Heleen Zondag
I’m a Yoga and Mindfulness Teacher with 20+ years experience and the co-founder of Monterey Yoga in Monterey California and Kids Yoga Fun.
Born and raised in the Netherlands, I started practicing Yoga in 1992 during college. For 7 years I practiced Sivananda Yoga and eventually completed their Teacher Training in upstate New York in 1999. From 2000-2004 I lived in London, which is where I discovered Ashtanga Yoga. I studied with Liz Lark and John Scott and John inspired me to go to Mysore, India in 2002 and study with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute. I stayed in India on and off for 2 years and returned to study with Guruji every year until I became pregnant with my first child in 2007.
Yoga and Mindfulness have always walked hand in hand in my studies, practice and teachings. In past years I’ve dived deeper into the Mindfulness practices through the MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) programs and teach these practices, combined with Yoga, in the form of workshops, intensives and private instruction.
After a long relationship with the expectation that Yoga should “fix me” or “fix my life”, I now know that Yoga or Mindfulness doesn’t fix anything unless you allow yourself to be fully present with what is happening. To truly dive in and be mindful of what is going on in that moment. You have to practice consistently and be open to whatever shows up, with no judgement. Daily! And then with the magic of love and compassion for yourself, everything changes.
My family recently moved back to my home country the Netherlands. There I live life and continue to teach Yoga locally, internationally and online. I look forward to meeting you somewhere along the yogic path.
WHAT YOGA & MINDFULNESS HEALED FOR ME:
At a very young age I hurt my back in Gymnastics and I always kept having back problems since then. Most of my adult life I woke up with a sore back every day, sometimes so bad it was hard to even get out of bed. When I started Yoga more seriously in my early 30’s (meaning, practice Ashtanga Yoga 6 days a week), things started to change. After about 4/5 months of intense practice my back pain increased excruciatingly. It was so bad, I could hardly move at all without being in pain. This lasted for months. I believed in the Yoga though and stuck with what I was able to do every day (even if it was just raising my arms). Every day I did a little more, I trusted and I moved through this phase. It got better! It got so much better that I no longer woke up with back pain and eventually had none at all. I still don’t. I practice yoga 5-6 days per week, and have a daily formal Mindfulness practice. I know that Yoga changed the shape of my spine and brought a lasting strength in my body. My overall body structure has a much better alignment thanks to a consistent yoga practice.
DISTORTED SELF IMAGE
At around the age of 17/18 I became aware of my body, how a lot of my peers were on diets and I didn’t have to but really wanted to fit in and do it too. Fit in… that was the big underlying theme for what followed next; a distorted body image and never being good enough. I developed an eating disorder by rationing my food intake and go for a run every time I felt I ate too much. There was no self love, just self pity. And whatever amazing journey I took (I traveled a lot and took some very brave steps in life), I never valued myself for it and it was never interesting or good enough. Until I started practicing Yoga daily, until I learned how to use affirmations, until I learned that attitude and perception is everything. Yoga gave me my natural body, health and acceptance of myself. My life has gone from “have to” to “want to”, from “I’m not good enough” to “I rock!”, from “no one sees me” to “I see me!”. I’m in my 40’s now and understand that how we see life really depends on the pair of glasses we put on. You can feel good if you choose to, but you have to commit to practice consistently! It really is up to you and your commitment to living a more content and happy life.