Extraordinary Women: Celebrating Anne Devismes

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I had one of the most profound and transparent interviews with this extraordinary lady called Anne Devismes.

She is simply a refreshing breath of fresh air.

Her character is deep, and her story is one of soul searching, self discovery and self fulfilment against all odds. It’s an enriching and motivational journey that moved me every step of the way. Her strength, wisdom and tenacity are admirable and are unique qualities that should indeed be celebrated.

Almost every single word she utters strikes a chord and makes you want to get up and ‘Go.’ You will be inspired to look within and morph into a higher consciousness.

Without revealing too much I invite you to embark on an eye opening and enlightening journey that is Anne’s story and I promise you that the way you view life will never be the same again.

 

NEKITA:   Who are you?
ANNE:      Still trying to figure it out.

NEKITA:   Please tell us a bit about your background.

ANNE:   My name is Anne Devismes. I was born and raised in France, and I have an older sister.
Things were not exactly easy at home, with parents who didn’t talk to each other, a
father who barely talked to us when I was a teenager and eventually left. Looking back, I
think that this situation made me focus on my studies even more. Studying was like an
escape for me. Some saw me as a nerd. I am ok with that.
Early on, I was curious about spirituality, without knowing it was spirituality. But my
parents killed that in the bud. One of our grandmothers was quite spiritual but also quite
crazy. And each time I mentioned something remotely spiritual, my parents would make
fun of me and tell me that I was turning into my crazy grandmother. So, I buried that
side of me and went on to study particle physics.
I moved to Germany when I was 23 to do my PhD in nuclear physics. From there, I
moved to the US to continue working in research. After a few years of crazy lonely hours
in front of a computer debugging code, fighting for a permanent job, and having lost
touch with the real physics that I was passionate about, I decided to leave this field. I
was just too miserable.
I worked as a science editor for two large publishing companies in Columbus, Ohio,
which I totally loved. I am still doing some freelance editing, proofreading research
articles in various fields before they are submitted for publication.
Somewhere in the middle of that, I went through a severe depression. That’s when I
started on my yoga journey, in 2005. I needed something to do with myself, to help
myself out of this dark and scary phase. There was a yoga studio just down the road
from my apartment. I didn’t know much about yoga. I just needed to do something.
Some people have a very strong experience the first time they try. It wasn’t the case for
me. I liked it. I felt good. But it took me a few months of regular practice, going there
once a week, then twice, then almost every day, to really fall in love with it and
experience on a deeper level what it is about.
In 2008, I decided to move to Norway. I didn’t know anyone here. It was just something
that had been in the back of my mind for a decade, after spending wonderful vacations
in this country. I kept thinking that “one day”, I’d like to live there. And “one day”, I
woke up realizing that it wasn’t just going to happen by itself. I had to make it happen. I
had no strings attached at the time, I didn’t want to stay in the US anymore, at least not
in Ohio, even if I had built a really good life for myself. And so, I looked into the
possibility to move to Norway, and everything fell into place.
I was still practicing yoga regularly, and I was working as a project manager in the oil
industry when I first moved to Trondheim. I very quickly came to hating my job. The oil
industry represents everything I stand against. It took me a couple of years to have the
courage to quit, without knowing what I would be doing next. I just couldn’t stay there.
During the previous 2-3 years, my very first yoga teacher from Columbus had been
encouraging me to do a teacher training. I always refused, saying that I didn’t want to
teach, that I would be a terrible teacher, that it wasn’t for me. Well, with enough time
and money and nothing better to do after quitting my job, I finally signed up and
completed my first teacher training at the end of 2010. I have been teaching yoga full
time since then.

“I guess, sometimes other people see qualities in you that you can’t see
yourself. “

 

I am now running my own yoga studio in Trondheim. And I am so grateful that
I took that step. But more about yoga later.
Some people look at my story and say that I am impulsive, quitting jobs, changing
career, moving to Norway just because I wanted to live there. What those people don’t
see is that none of these decisions was taken overnight. Each time, I went through a
long process of being miserable for a long time and of exploring options. When we go
through that process, at some point, we find something that feels really right (like
quitting my project-manager job, moving to Norway). The obstacles and fears are still
there, but there is something much bigger than that, the knowledge that it is the right
thing to do, without any doubts. The obstacles then become mere practical details to be
dealt with. The rest falls into place.
I love being in nature. I love spending time alone (and need it a lot). Leave me alone in
a quiet cabin by the sea or in the forest with some good books and chocolate, maybe a
few cats and dogs, and I am the happiest.

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MeGarudasana
NEKITA:   Describe yourself in two words.
ANNE:      This is hard! Complex and caring.
NEKITA:   What’s your best quality?
ANNE:      I am driven (stubborn?). When I set my mind on something, I get it done.
NEKITA:   What’s your worst quality?
ANNE:      I am stubborn (driven?). I don’t easily give up, which often leads to burning myself out.
NEKITA:   What do you do, and what do you hope to be doing in the next 5 years?
ANNE:       I run a yoga studio, teach yoga, and do some freelance scientific editing. I try to spend
time in nature as much as possible. I hope to be doing pretty much the same thing in
the next 5 years, maybe with a better income and more time in nature. I would also like
to travel a little more.
NEKITA:   What was your inspiration to get into yoga in the first place?
ANNE:      Depression. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t know much about yoga, but I knew that I had to do something to get out of this dark phase (and out of my house). I was lucky to start with a fantastic teacher. And even though it took me a while to really get hooked, it was the best possible start for me.
From the beginning, I could feel how it was making my body feel better. And once I
started to practice more than once or twice a week, I also noticed the effects on my
mind. It wasn’t just about the practice though.

“What kept me going back was also meeting so many like-minded people, so many kind and friendly people.”

I also finally had found a safe environment in which to explore my spirituality, which I couldn’t do growing up.
NEKITA:   Where does a person who would like to take up yoga start from?
ANNE:      I highly recommend to start with a qualified, experienced teacher.
There are many different styles of yoga. You first have to decide whether you prefer
something more relaxing or something more physically demanding. Hopefully, you will
have a good experience with your first class. But if that’s not the case, don’t give up on
yoga. Find a different style, a different teacher.
There are many yoga studios everywhere now. Gyms also offer many classes. I can only
talk about Norway in that context, but I would suggest to join a yoga studio rather than
the gym. The quality is just not the same.

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NEKITA:   Why is yoga so trendy these days?
ANNE:      Partly because some people are doing some clever marketing.
But there is a lot more to it.

I think that more and more people are tired of the crazy
lifestyle that society / culture is expecting of us. Work harder, make more money, buy a
bigger house.

“People are stressed and getting sick. They feel stuck on the hamster
wheel, trying to keep up with the Joneses. Western medicine mostly offer more pills to fix the symptoms.”

But people are beginning to awaken to the idea that there is another
way. We don’t have to work harder all the time. It is ok to be happy, to be content with a
more simple life. It is ok to let go of having to perform a certain way, of appearance, and
to come back to more simple but more meaningful values. It is ok to enjoy life.

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NEKITA:   Does yoga teach people to be calm and zen?
ANNE:      Absolutely. A calmer mind and a better ability to respond to life challenges is definitely something we gain through the practice of yoga. It teaches us to consciously respond to situations with a clear mind rather than react unconsciously.
NEKITA:   Must one already be flexible in order to start doing yoga?
ANNE:      Absolutely not. Flexibility is one of the side effects of yoga, but it is not a goal and it is not a prerequisite.

“Sadly, what sells is to show pictures of skinny super-flexible girls doing crazy poses. But that’s not yoga.”

It doesn’t matter whether you can touch your toes, put your foot behind
your head, or balance on one hand.

What matters is whether you are still breathing,
whether you are focused on what’s happening in that moment, whether you use your
body in a safe way.
The poses are not goals in themselves. They are tools to help us learn something about
ourselves and develop skills to live a better life. So, it doesn’t matter whether you can
touch your toes or not. What matters is what happens as you are trying to reach for your
toes. That’s where yoga is, not in your flexible hamstrings.

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NEKITA:   Is yoga similar in anyway to Tai chi?
ANNE:      I am not very familiar with Tai Chi, so it’s hard for me to answer this question.
There are also many different styles of yoga, some that focus more on slow movements,
some that focus more on physical challenges, and everything in between.
But I would guess that the idea behind both practices is the same: be present, be
content, be connected.
NEKITA:   Is yoga healthy for the body?
ANNE:      When practiced safely, with the right intention, with an experienced teacher, yes, definitely. Moving is in general healthy. Building strength and a reasonable range of
motion keeps our bodies healthy and vital for a longer time. And we definitely get that
through most styles of yoga.
However, injuries can happen: when we try to push too much to do something that the
body is not ready for, when we don’t have good instructions and guidance about proper
alignment, when we let our ego and vanity take over.

“The body will always let us know whether something is right or not. We only have to learn to listen and respect our physical body, using it as a cherished tool to experience something.”

NEKITA:   Is yoga spiritual?
ANNE:      If you want it to be, yes.

Yoga will meet you where you are. If you are not ready for the spiritual aspect of it, no
worries. Start where you are, with what you are comfortable. Simply be open.
I have met many students who started yoga for the physical aspects of the practice.
They were closed to the spiritual side of it. After a few months of regular practice,
something shifted, and a new door opened for them.
Many new styles of yoga have appeared in the western world during the past 20 years,
and some of these styles have nothing spiritual about them. But yoga is an ancient
tradition, with deep roots in a spiritual world. Can we still call the practice yoga when we
completely ignore these origins?
NEKITA:   What exactly is yoga and how did it even start? Which country did it originate from and how did it spread?
ANNE:      Yoga is an ancient practice that started in India / Himalayas more than 5000 years ago. Back then, it was a quite different practice from what we commonly call yoga nowadays.
It was a lot more about mediation, literally sitting in a cave in the mountains for years,
to achieve enlightenment. Some yoga pose were performed to prepare the body for the
long hours of sitting still.
Those who wanted to pursue this path would give up everything they had, leave their
families, and look for a teacher, a guru, who would accept them as their student. Teacher
and student would then spend years together in remote places.
It is not until the end of the 19th century that yoga reached a larger population when
Krishnamacharya was told by his guru that he should go out into the world and teach
yoga. Then, it was mostly meant for teenage boys.

A few pioneers travelled to the US and to Canada at the beginning of the 20th century and started to spread this practice. However, people who wanted to study had to travel to India. Several came back and went on writing books about their experiences and
translating ancient texts into english, which allowed more and more westerners to be
exposed to yoga.
Three of Krishnamacharya’s students in particular started to spread yoga to a larger
audience, first in India and then to the Western World.
Many of the physical forms of yoga that we know today are very recent though, barely a
few decades old.
For me, yoga is a lifestyle. The poses we do on the mat are never goals in themselves
but rather tools we can use to learn something about ourselves and develop skills to live
a happier and more meaningful life. Yoga happens on the way toward a pose.

“How do we handle fears, frustration, limitations, excitement, successes?”

The mat is a safe place on which to play and challenge ourselves. In that safe place, as
we use our body to explore, anything can happen. Insights popping up as if out of
nowhere and buried emotions coming up to the surface. The practice teaches us to
welcome all of these experiences, take a deep breath, and make a conscious choice
about what to do with them. This is a skill we develop on the mat and that we can then
take with us off the mat.

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NEKITA:   How many types of yoga are there and which type do you practise?
ANNE:      Hard to tell how many types there are now. It seems that everyone is coming up with a new style all the time. I would say there are about 15-20 more established styles and many variations from there.
I mostly practice and teach vinyasa and alignment-based yoga.
I have also practiced anusara, ashtanga, and yin. I have attended kundalini workshops
as well.
NEKITA:   Do you have a website with that women may visit in order to learn yoga?
ANNE:      You can learn ABOUT yoga online, but I wouldn’t recommend to learn yoga from a
website. It is important, especially at the beginning, to have a teacher who can guide
you and correct your poses to keep you safe.
To read more about yoga and online classes:
http://www.yogajournal.com
http://www.yogainternational.com
Online classes:
http://www.yogaglo.com
http://www.oneoeight.com
Some of my teachers:
http://www.yogamaze.net
http://www.jordanbloom.com
http://www.jasonyoga.com
NEKITA:   A lot of women are dying to know – does yoga help people lose weight and stay in shape?
ANNE:      Moving in general will help you stay in shape. Moving more than you usually do will help you lose weight. So, yes, in that sense, a physical form of yoga will help.
But yoga helps in another, much more important, way. It helps you make more conscious
choices, it helps you listen to your body more. So instead of reaching for the snack
without thinking, you ask yourself whether sugar and calories really are what you need
or whether there is another and better way to nourish your body and your mind. You
might also realize that the food craving is about an emotion you are trying to numb or
avoid. Yoga gives your the awareness and courage to handle emotions and situations in a
healthier way than reaching for food.
Being more in touch with our bodies and being able to make more conscious choices is
the key for a healthy body.
I think yoga also helps us find more acceptance for who we are. Some of us have more
curves, some of us are skinny without trying. Thinking that we all need to look a certain
way to be beautiful is wrong. And yoga helps us love ourselves for who we are and take
better care of ourselves. We can’t wait to lose weight or look a certain way to love
ourselves. It has to be the other way around.

“When we love and respect ourselves, everything else falls into place.”

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NEKITA:   Do people who practise yoga have to follow a particular diet?
ANNE:      Certain styles of yoga do require a particular diet, usually veganism.
Most styles however don’t have any requirements.
But you have to be prepared for things to change and shift. As you get more in touch
with your physical body, you will start noticing what makes you feel good and what
drains your energy. You will naturally adjust your diet to something that sustains and
nourishes you. Be open to the changes.
NEKITA:   Are you a vegetarian environmentalist or animal rights advocate?
ANNE:      Yep. I became vegetarian a few years after I started yoga. It wasn’t a deliberate choice, like “now I practice yoga, I want to be a vegetarian”. But slowly, it felt less and less right to eat animals. I haven’t looked back. I am not missing any of it.
I am not here to tell people what to eat or not. But I like to make people aware of what
they eat and where their food comes from. Eating meat in itself is not wrong. Eating
meat from animals that are abused, mistreated, and tortured is wrong. It’s wrong to
treat any living beings in such cruel ways as the meat industry does. And the quality of
the food suffers greatly. Is it worth it to eat something that has so little nourishment, to
eat an animal who has suffered so much?

NEKITA:   Are your family members – husband and kids into yoga too?
ANNE:      I don’t have any kids. My boyfriend also practices yoga.

NEKITA:   What has been your most rewarding career milestone?
ANNE:      Hard to choose only one!
Landing my first job as a scientific editor in the US was quite a milestone.
And opening my own center, alone after a failed attempt with business partners, was
also a huge step.
NEKITA:   What advice do you have for others who wish to follow in your career and life footsteps?
ANNE:      Teaching yoga is one thing. Running a yoga studio is a completely different thing.
Opening a yoga studio because you love to teach is not a good enough reason. It is a
business, and it has to be approached as such. Even if it’s in the yoga world, where we
tend to trust more and care more, it is still a business. Bills have to be paid, contracts
have to be respected. Put yoga on the side for a moment, and make sure you actually
want to be an independent business owner, before going down that road.
NEKITA:   Who are your yoga mentors?
ANNE:      Noah Mazé is my current teacher. I have been studying with him for a year, doing an advanced teacher training.
Jordan Bloom, Laurel Hodory (my first teacher), Jason Crandell (my next teacher), David
Regelin.
My cat: she reminds me to be in the moment and enjoy the simple things.
NEKITA:   Which exemplary female inspires you the most?
ANNE:      Anyone who didn’t take no for an answer when she was told she couldn’t do that thing she really wanted to do and went on and did it anyway.

NEKITA:   What is the greatest lesson you’ve learnt in life?
ANNE:      No matter how hard we fall, we can always bounce back.

NEKITA:   What has been your biggest accomplishment in life?
ANNE:      Starting from scratch again, and again, and again. New countries, new careers, new relationships. This is about not staying in situations that make me unhappy, even if it takes quite some time to actually take the necessary steps.
NEKITA:   What has been the most trying obstacle that you’ve overcome in life,
and how did you overcome this?
ANNE:      Not believing in myself. Still working on it every day, but growing older helps.
Many other things help as well: yoga of course, setting realistic goals and expectations, a
conscious and honest assessment of what I have accomplished so far, not comparing
myself to others.
NEKITA:   Everyone has a sense of fashion and personal style. What’s yours?
ANNE:      Comfortable and practical, with a little dose of cute.
You have to be practical when you live in a country like Norway!

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NEKITA:   What is unique about you?
ANNE:      Maybe the fact that I have a PhD in nuclear physics and that I teach yoga?
Although I actually now believe that both fields have more in common that first meets
the eye. They are both looking at the origin and meaning of life, from different
perspectives. And that’s something that I would like to teach about someday. But it’s a
discussion for another time.
NEKITA:   Tell us a secret about yourself that no other person knows.
ANNE:      I am not sure I have one. I have talked with enough therapists that even my darkest secrets have been shared somehow.
I am also not shy about sharing personal experiences. I really can’t think of anything
right now.
NEKITA:   Tell us in two sentences what you think of sex, love and marriage.
ANNE:      Love is so much bigger than sex and marriage.
Sex and marriage without love are a sad waste.

NEKITA:   Which movie has inspired you the most?
ANNE:      I am more inspired by books than movies.
Maybe Good Will Hunting.
NEKITA:   Which popular personality inspires you the most?
ANNE:      That changes depending on what I am going through.
The past couple of years, I have been quite inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert.
NEKITA:   What is your life’s slogan?

ANNE:      “Thoughts become things.”

NEKITA:   Do you believe that yoga can change the world?
ANNE:      Yes. Yoga teaches us to be kinder and more compassionate. We realize that we are all connected, that our differences don’t separate us, that there is enough for everyone.

Separateness and greediness are the roots of so many of the problems and conflicts in
the world right now. We need to realize that there is enough for all of us and that we
don’t have to agree on everything to live side by side harmoniously. Yoga definitely helps
us understand that and connects us to each other and to something so much bigger. It
also gives us a sense of peace, calm, and serenity. We find contentment.

“You don’t need to fight with your neighbour when you are content with your life.”

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Follow the links below if you would like to see more of Anne and what she does:
http://www.terrayoga.no/
https://www.facebook.com/terrayogatrondheim/
http://www.facebook.com/anne.devismes.3
https://www.facebook.com/groups/terrayoga/

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