Episode #16: Yoga, breathing and the positive health benefits – Interview with Antje Lewerenz

Antje is a Freediving Instructor, Yoga Teacher and Breather. She is the first freediving instructor and the only woman who is teaching freediving on Gozo. She has more than 15 years of teaching experience in the water and on land.

Antje has always been a water person as long as she can remember. She could already swim when she was really young and she always wanted to dive. She was fascinated by freediving and snorkeling. At some point, she learned scuba diving and became an instructor. One day there was a freediving course on Gozo and she went for it. She discovered a whole new world of freediving and learned all the different aspects of it. Since yoga was already part of her daily routine before she even moved to Gozo, she started teaching yoga and also freediving. Both of those are a great combination because they have one thing in common, which is breathing. 

When Antje she was still living in Germany, she was working in the hotel business. She went to business school and worked in marketing and sales for a hotel chain, which she also combined with event management.

When did she decide to change careers?

Her original idea was to have a sabbatical. When she came to Gozo, Antje wanted to work as a scuba diving instructor and she only planned on staying for half a year.  At that point, she was working for a pharmaceutical company which was not familiar with the idea of a sabbatical.  So Antje decided to leave anyway and find a new job when she returns to Germany.  She ended up liking it so much on Gozo that she decided to stay for good. It was an easy transition for her because Gozo already belonged to the EU when she moved there, which gave her the possibility of going back to Germany quite easily. In Malta, the second language is English, which also made things much easier for her because she was able to talk to people.

What does Antje love so much about yoga?

The yoga exercises as we know them in Western countries are only one part of yoga. People do exercises on the yoga mat and as a result gets fit and healthy and are able to calm down their mind. The nice thing is that Antje doesn’t just work on her fitness but also goes on a deeper level in a physical way to work on different layers of the body and her energy system. In the end, the way she looks on the outside is just a side effect but the actual effect is much deeper on the inside. This will change her without her having to change actively. 

For anyone who is not that familiar with yoga, how can they imagine what really happens to someone when doing yoga?

There is a sequence that she follows in a yoga session, but she always does a variation to fit people’s specific needs. As an example, Antje talks about doing a shoulder stand. When she does that pose, her whole weight is on her shoulders and she squeezes her throat. Because her body is upside down, it’s good for her organs because everything is flowing the other way around. It’s also good for the throat, the thyroid and stimulates the brain.

What is it about the breathing exercises that makes it special?

Breathing, even outside of yoga is special, because it’s the bridge between the body and the mind. While I can’t consciously choose how my body and my organs work, I can consciously choose how to breathe.

When you take your time and breathe slowly, you are able to slow down your heart rate. It works both ways: When you have certain feelings such as stress, that also influences your breathing and you will automatically start to breathe faster. But you can also influence your feelings if you consciously breathe in a certain way. It’s a very healing experience and Antje wishes that this would be used by more people in different situations in life instead of just taking a pill.

I had a personal experience recently when I went to the doctor for a check-up. I always used to be very nervous when going to the doctor, but this time I focused on my breathing and even the doctor was very impressed with my blood pressure. 

Can diseases like high blood pressure be related to breathing?

Yes, it can be related. It’s a combination of the whole lifestyle that can impact your health. It can be your diet, stress and how you spend your time. If you control your breathing, it calms you down and you don’t have the need to eat unhealthy food or distract yourself.

Tips on how to relax in a better way

Antje recommends trying yoga. Things like watching Netflix doesn’t relax your nervous system and just distracts you instead of actually relaxing. That is not just a waste of time but also your brain starts working too much and you start thinking a lot instead of actually relaxing. Exercise is the best way to relax. And if you exercise or do yoga, leave your phone or music at home and don’t watch anything at the same time. Just focus on one thing, so you can fully focus on it. Don’t start with meditation if you are not used to it and start with just one change. This will ensure that it won’t be too much for you so you don’t give up.

How to manage that your mind isn’t constantly running?

To Antje meditation means that it is something she goes into, not something she just does. It means that you don’t have to think. Just like yoga is the journey to come back home, you can’t become something that you are not. You have to see who you are and become the best version of that. Meditation is something that happens. Especially when you are starting out, just sit down and become aware of your thinking and what your body feels like. Then you can start working on your breathing. The next step is to become aware that you feel and how you feel.

If you are not aware of your emotions, you might miss a lot of them. We constantly try to feel in a certain way. There are feelings that we like and feelings that we don’t like. Antje doesn’t believe in positive or negative feelings, that is just the way that she feels. That is just another judgment, and while we are not able to stop judging ourselves or others, we can become aware of the fact that we are judging. If you are aware of when and how you are judging, it will eventually decrease.

3 final questions

Favorite book or podcast:

–    Safi Nidiaye is her favorite author who she also did 2 seminars with, and she always comes back to her teachings. Safi has implemented a method which is called “shortcut to happiness with the ten keys to the heart”. It is a meditation method that you can do in a pair and it helps you to get to know yourself.

Quote Antje is living by or feels inspired by:

–    “We should do more things that don’t have a goal, that don’t need to be worth anything and you won’t get anything for.”

Magic wand with a gift to people:

–    Common sense and the idea that we can empower ourselves, for example through breathing. 

links

Link to Antje’s website

https://www.gozofreediving.com/

Links to Antje’s social media

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCc4eh9B9KctVH-4hFpACgbg/

https://www.facebook.com/Water-Earth-Air-2082117408774214/

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