Into The Light // Kundalini, Yin Yoga & meditation guru Bettina Oberndorfer talks finding the light with TPP
The sun has only just started rising, the temperature hovering around 8°C, but Bettina Oberndorfer, who has been moving in and out of yoga poses on a secluded dock by the lake all morning, is – as ever – unfazed. Silence surrounds us, the clicking of Zaucke’s shutter and the crystal-clear water roaming freely beneath us creating an almost meditative rhythm. It comes as no surprise that today’s shoot oozes serenity, for when in the presence of Bettina abundance surrounds you.
Bettina, or better said Boyo – a nickname formulated from the initials of her first and last name paired with ‘yo’ for yoga – has become a fundamental element and guiding light in our everyday life. Having dealt with debilitating panic attacks and severe, free-floating anxiety all of our life – when we say severe we mean not being able to leave the house, unable to focus on our phones or anything else, just hiding in our safe space until the nauseating feeling eventually passes – Bettina is one of the women who taught to us see things from a different perspective. To us, Bettina is the living and breathing image of the woman we strive to be: courageous, empathetic, strong, joyous and always positive.
Bettina is a licensed yoga and meditation teacher in the five lakes region, a very sought-after residential area just outside of Munich, Germany, and has practiced her craft for over eighteen years. “From the moment I took my first Kundalini (a special type of yoga we will elaborate more on later) lesson, I witnessed first-hand what an immense effect this healing practice had on my spirit, body and mind,” Bettina tells us. “I quickly became aware of the fact that my burning desire in life was (and still is) to share this knowledge with others, especially with those who have previously shied away from yoga, believing that they are too inflexible, unable to sit cross-legged or, in your case, stand still.” Bettina is right. Until recently, just the thought of standing still used to trigger us into an indescribable state of panic. Bettina helped us to understand that in yoga (and in life) you are first and foremost confronted with the things you need to work on. In our case this meant standing still, in a confined space, eyes closed, focusing solely on our breath. Although this notion still doesn’t come easy or natural to us, Bettina gave us the tools and confidence necessary not to turn and run away from these situations.
Bettina teaches Kundalini and Yin Yoga, both of which are fully adaptable to the individual. She tells us that “it’s not about doing the pose perfectly – it’s about understanding how the pose works best for you.” Kundalini Yoga was first introduced to the western world in the seventies and taught by Yogi Bhajan. “It’s a millennium-old discipline that, when practiced regularly, can expand and strengthen our consciousness. Subsequently the technique has a positive effect on our central nervous system and balances our glands,” Bettina explains. In Kundalini Yoga, the practitioner is guided through dynamic body, energy and breathing exercises and ultimately lead into a physical state of rest and relaxation. Because each series of exercises refers to a specific area of the body, mind and soul, Bettina tells us that she often teaches extended workshops during which she focuses solely on one subject matter, for example the heart.
“By fine-tuning the duration and sequence of the individual elements, every series of exercises has a harmonizing and health-promoting effect on the entire physical and mental system,” Bettina says, fully in her element.
Yin Yoga, Bettina goes on to explain, is a meditative practice of mindfulness in which one relaxes into the poses and lets the breath flow freely. This enables the practitioner to arrive at inner peace and releases subliminal tensions within the organs and muscles. Yin Yoga is a very quiet and passive style of yoga as most positions are practiced sitting or lying down. Bettina explains that it is the perfect companion to the more dynamic Kundalini Yoga. “You have to reach the point of too much and not enough. When you do, you can sink deeper into the position and hold it for three to five minutes,” Bettina explains, her velvet voice creating the soothing and calming effect it always does when she speaks. “The magic of Yin Yoga is, that when practiced regularly, you are subsequently training your mindfulness because only you have the power to define the point where stretch and relaxation meet.
Just like us, Bettina is into crystals, incense, self-healing and practices yoga and meditation daily (even during today’s shoot). Beyond her year-round work as a yoga teacher, Bettina is a loving mother, wife and during Munich’s annual Oktoberfest a Wiesn Wirtin (there is no adequate translation, so 'owner' will have to do) at her husband’s renown beer-tent Die Knödelei. Despite this envy-inducing life, flecked in all the mentions of feeling grateful and fulfilled are moments of real talk. Not only is Bettina a highly sensitive, receptive and empathetic individual – I cannot recall how many times she has called to tell us that she stopped her car in the middle of moving traffic to help a hurt animal – she has also had to face serious health-related adversities of her own. Bettina explains that when confronted with such a reality, everything is put into perspective. Today, in the midst of life, yoga and meditation are central to Bettina’s lifestyle.
“Yoga allows me to work on my body, mind and soul in order to purify and balance my energy systems,” she concludes.
The sun hangs heavy over our heads, illuminating the smooth surface of the now sparkling lake. We decide to move out of the midday heat and towards our second shooting location. Just as Bettina slips out of her yoga wear and into a beautiful Ganni wrap dress, two fishermen let their electric boat into the water. Although the young men try to keep their eyes on the boat, they cannot help but steal a glance of the commotion on the dock. We throw Bettina an apologetic look to which she responds nonchalantly, “when you’re my age, changing in public doesn’t bother you anymore.” Bettina beams her million-dollar smile, full of love and light, and all is well with the world.
Q&A PART I
What time do you wake up?
What's your morning routine?
I walk my dog and then feed her at home, make myself a coffee, sit with Bruni (my dog) on the terrace and look into the garden
How do you mentally prepare for the day?
In bed I do the butterfly (yoga pose) and breathe consciously
Favorite city to visit?
When you are not teaching yoga you are...?
A yoga student
Who is your style icon?
I don't have a style icon
Preferred mode of transport?
Beauty product you can't live without?
Selfmade calendula cream
Q&A PART II
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
Something everyone should try at least once?
Something everyone could learn from yoga?
Conscious breathing, awareness and to stay with oneself
Last film you saw and loved?
What does friendship mean to you?
Trust, laughing together, helping each other, to be reliable in tough situations but also to give each other space if needed
What's your star sign?
What/who is a source of inspiration to you?
Something you want to learn?
Q&A PART III
Best gift you ever received?
Celebrating my 50th birthday in LA — from the surprise visit of my eldest son (who flew all the way from Munich to LA to surprise me despite his fear of flying), a private yoga lesson on the beach, spending the afternoon surfing with my husband and our two sons Moritz and Felix, all the way to the celebratory birthday dinner at Nobu Malibu — all of that combined was, in all honesty, the best gift I have ever received.
Last book you read?
Ich heisse nicht Miriam by Majgull Axelsson
Favorite ice cream flavor?
Words of wisdom you would tell your younger self?
Strengthen your navel chakra and be true to yourself. Don't try to please everyone!
What do you hold close in life?
Family (with my dog) and friends
Dinner party at your house. What do you cook?
I order food
Something you recently discovered?
That I need more quiet and time for myself than most people
Q&A PART IV
Do you prefer to text or do voice notes?
Something you recently splurged on?
Incredibly original high healed sandals! They are so beautiful I constantly find myself staring at them in my closet
Cat or Dog person?
What kind of question is this? Dog!
You're invited to an impromptu party. What do you wear?
I decide spontaneously and listen to my gut
What's on your bedside table?
Calendula cream, lavender oil, my kindle, lavender eye pillow