Stories from the road is an interview series with inspiring people all over the world. Meet backpackers, expats, nomads and full-time travellers, and learn how you can do it too.
Meet Josefine Bengtsson, a traveller, yoga instructor, and the mind behind Yogiakademin
When I discovered the practice of yoga and meditation a new life began – a life with more presence, love, and harmony. This shift has been so powerful that I see no other choice than sharing it with people around me – with you. I truly believe that the spread of these practices alone will make the world to a better place.
After five years of studies at Stockholm School of Economics, and one year of work as a strategy consultant, I know what it is like to live a stressful and demanding city life. A life completely driven by the mind – a mind that is never satisfied, a mind that is either in the past (analyzing) or in the future (planning).
This is why I use yoga postures, meditation, and relaxation techniques to guide myself and others from their mind into an exploration of the bodies, breath, and inner landscapes.
I appreciate every single day I can share these practices with people at yoga studios, events, companies, teacher trainings, retreats etc. Nowadays, I am mostly traveling with my retreat company – Yogiakademin – to teach retreats on beautiful & sunny places around the world.
How did you discover/begin with yoga?
Hmmm… I have always been a hardworking, high-achiever living a life completely driven by the mind – a mind that is never satisfied. So when I first met the practice of yoga and meditation on a beach in Thailand it was like finally finding a place where I could relax and let go. A place where I could be myself. A place where I could let go of the stressful city life. A place where I could just be with the sensations in my body. A place where I could heel.
For a lot of people trying yoga for the first time, it can be difficult with the breathing and getting the different positions, how long did you practice before you felt like you were more flexible and got through a class?
I don’t think this is a matter of time. I still have ups and downs in my practice. Some days I am super-connected to my breath and body while other days I am somewhere else – trying to solve a problem in my head.
I would say, yoga is very little about flexibility. It is more about starting to listen to our bodies and learning how to be more present in life. Of course, in the beginning, it can be difficult to find that presence since we are used to be so much in our heads (and so little in our bodies) but if we continue practicing we will experience more presence in our life and start to listen more carefully to our bodies. By that our bodies will automatically becoming more flexible at the same time as we will notice that it is easier to take deeper breaths.
What Yoga positions would you recommend for beginners?
When it comes to the body we are all very different. Some are over-flexible from the beginning while others are super stiff. Some got problems with the knees while others have a stiff neck. Thus, I cannot recommend any specific postures that fits ALL beginners. I would say in the beginning (or always!) yoga is more about starting to be aware of our breath and the sensations in our bodies. When we start to listen inside we will also know what feels good and not, what position we need to do in order to allow the energy to move freely in our bodies.
Yoga isn’t just about expanding flexibility but expanding the mind. what’s something right now that’s maybe a little bit outside of your comfort zone that you would like to try or learn?
Surfing! This amazing activity has been so close to me the last couple of years since my boyfriend is all about surfing and I am running Yogiakademin with the guys behind Surfakademin. Thus, I have had the opportunity to go surfing with world-class instructors on the best spots all over the world – but every time I am paddling out I am sooo very scared to get injured. Some days, I am facing this fear but I really want to allow surfing to be inside my comfort zone because I know deep down in my heart that I will love it if I could just let go of this stupid fear.
You run the travel company Yogiakademin, tell me a little about it
YEAH! I am traveling like a crazy one, teaching retreats all over the world. It is actually very hard for me to put words on this amazing Yogiakademin-experience. PURE MAGIC is created on every single retreat. I would say it is something more than a general yoga-retreat, we are mixing and matching different yoga forms such as Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Restorative, Yin with Breathwork techniques as well as with dancing, Vipassana- and Osho-meditations. Together with that, we are enjoying amazing healthy food in beautiful places such as on a paradise beach in Goa, a castle in Bretagne & a house in Biarritz. I am soooo very grateful that I have the chance to share my passion on these retreats.
It looks amazing practicing yoga on a beach and meditating during sunset! But how do you incorporate yoga and mindfulness into an everyday life?
Hanging out on the beach is my daily life ;-). Haha…no, but actually no matter where I am in the world I am starting the day with yoga and meditation. That is a ritual I very seldom let go of. Some days, I am enjoying a few minutes of Kundalini shaking and others I am flowing for two hours on my mat.
You spread so much inspiration through your social media channels and yoga classes, but who and what inspires you?
I am inspired by everything around me – teachers, friends, students, life, nature, music, travels, and much more. From the beginning, of course, I got a lot of inspiration from my teachers, training, and techniques I have come across so far. Particularly, I want to mention my major yoga teacher training in India at Sampoorna Yoga (with Deepak Sharma) and at Brahmani Yoga (with Julie Martin). I am also very thankful for the more specialized trainings I have been a part of that really inspired me, which include Hatha Yoga (with Ratheesh Mani), Restorative Yoga (with Jodi Boone), BioDynamic Breath and trauma Release (with Giten Tonkov) and Ayurvedic Yoga Massage (with James Winston).
Besides that, I am forever grateful for having the practice of Vipassana meditation in my life and the “Goenka” retreats I could be part of so far. Also, an old guru named Osho has given me a lot of inspiration.
Yogiakademin offers retreats in different countries around the world, where has your favorite place to practice so far?
I would never be able to choose… Bretagne is my dream-home during the summer, Biarritz in the autumn and Khola beach during the Swedish winter ;-).
What’s the best thing you’ve gained from introducing yoga into your life?
It sounds like a cliché but these practices have truly shown me that the only way to happiness is to be in and accept the present moment. And the only way for me to enter this moment is to first arrive in my body. Thereafter, I can practice acceptance and non-judgmental awareness of what is showing up in that moment.
This is why I return to yoga postures, meditation, and relaxation techniques to guide myself from my mind into an exploration of my body, breath, and inner landscapes.
If you could only give one reason to start practicing yoga, what would it be?
Getting to know oneself and from that place, we can meet others in a more respectful and open way. For me, yoga is an honest meeting with myself.