Featuring Deidré Baatjes from South Africa

Friday, 14 August 2020

by Justine of Just Yoga in collaboration with Deidré Baatjes

Deidré Baatjes is a caregiver to her octogenarian parents and a part-time yoga teacher. Her first experience with yoga was at a Virgin Active gym, twenty years ago. At the time it just felt like stretching, which she did quite enjoy. Twelve years later, she discovered the true depth of yoga, when she backpacked through Guatemala. 

When she thinks about it now, she realises that it was actually an epiphany that led her to yoga. During her first silent retreat at the Pyramids Meditation Centre in Guatemala, she came across a painting on a wall right next to the temple where she studied. It was an image she had seen, vividly in a dream, eighteen months before while living in London. The picture was of a paraglider jumping off a hill over water. She later realised that the significance of the dream wasn't in its content but rather in the momentary sense of having transcended time and space. She didn't know exactly where it was but somehow she knew that she had to go there because the vibration resonating within her, when she saw that picture, said "I feel at home there, at peace there". By following synchronicity and intuition, she somehow arrived at the place she knew she had to go to without knowing exactly where "there" was. 
"If my conscious mind didn't lead me here, then what did? Why was I supposed to come here? What I am supposed to do here? These questions just flooded my mind and I felt exhilarated at the thought of getting answers." 
At the time, Deidré was flooded with the most profound and philosophical questions about her life's purpose. That experience of following her vision, eventually led her to start teaching yoga that year.  Going rogue, she was a self-taught yogi in the beginning, learning from experiences, interactions with yogis and books and teaching what she learnt.

Something that stuck in Deidré's mind, is the definition of yoga in many texts. It is often stated that "yoga means union". While that is an accurate literal translation, the deeper value of yoga is hinted at by Patanjali's sutras 1:2 - 1.4, yoga is to still the activities of the mind then pure awareness can be at home in its true state, otherwise it takes itself to be the activities of the mind. Deidré believes that the biggest benefit that yogic practices can bring is the deconditioning of and disidentification from one's mind and the revelation of and resting in one's true nature of stillness. 

Deidré ended up living at the magical Lake Atitlan and studying at The Pyramids for four years. These years were full of absolute wonder for her, diving deeper into yogic and metaphysical studies with increasingly longer periods of silence and various initiations. She also served as Guardian of Silence at the centre supporting practical matters for those in the retreat. Always trusting her intuition, Deidré felt drawn to a yoga school in Mazunte, an undeveloped beach village on the tropical southwest coast of Mexico. Here, she qualified as a Hridaya Yoga & Meditation teacher which was a six hundred hour course. She later served as the General manager at the school and taught asana, philosophy and meditation classes over a period of three years.

Following her mother's heart attack in 2019, Deidré decided to shift her priorities and move back to Cape Town to care for her ailing mother. In hindsight, moving back to Cape Town at that time, could not have been a better decision. Being able to be there for her parents during the pandemic has been a fulfilling experience for Deidré and she sees it as a labour of love.
"Caring for my parents is a labour of love and very much a deepening in the practice of seva (selfless service) and karma yoga, defined by Hridaya as 'conscious love in action'."

It wasn't long before Deidré established herself in Cape Town, offering silent retreats and teaching yoga classes. She has taught at various schools in the Cape, namely Revolutionary Yoga, Holding Space, Sport Science Institute and the Leading Edge gym. Earlier this year, Deidré felt honoured to be part of the first free Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) course aimed at previously disadvantaged young adults in the township of Langa near Cape Town. The course was offered by Yoga Without Borders and Health Warriors. Here, Deidré taught the anatomy section and held space for the group's weekly heart circles. Currently, she is teaching an online hatha yoga class every Sunday at 10:30am GMT on Revolutionary Yoga's Facebook live. This class aims to raise funds for the Free Food Kitchen set up by Roseline Nyman.
"Having witnessed the positive impact the practices have had on me; both my sisters, my adult niece and nephew; regularly join for yoga and meditation classes and self-practice."

Deidré's daily spiritual practice consists of meditation, prayer, karma yoga and journaling. Every other day she practices asana and pranayama according to the needs of her body and mind. More crucially, she aspires to more fully embody the Yama and Niyama in the way she lives her life. She lives by Mahatma Ghandi's quote: 'be the change that you wish to see in the world'.
Practicing first thing in the morning works best as my preferred "boot-up sequence" to elevate the vibration of the day.
Her favourite asanas are the Supta Baddha Konasana (reclining butterfly) and Balasana (child's pose). She finds that the reclining butterfly pose offers her effortless hip-opening benefits, while child's pose giver her a deep pratyaharic effect which is that calming feeling of withdrawing into one's shell to find peace within. Deidré has an injury to her right humerus which dislocated into her armpit, when her full body weight landed on her right shoulder, in a scooter accident. While regular yoga practice has helped her to regain full range of motion in that shoulder, she now finds asanas that require upper body strength more challenging. Her workaround is to alternate between such poses, and to not hold positions like downward dog for too long if strain appears, and compassionately exploring those limits each time she practices. These days she approaches various pranayama techniques with great openness to explore boundaries and different states of consciousness in a relatively efficient way. She had severe asthma throughout her childhood, so breath retentions tend to stir up some of related fears and anxieties. Mastering pranayama techniques is another step to shedding those fears and anxieties.

"Yoga has helped hone my awareness of my experiences in each moment and to more carefully discern between physiological and psychological messages." 
Yogi Deidré Baatjes would recommend yogic practices to anyone regardless of age, gender, mobility, religion or race. She believes the benefits are too many to list and can be felt on a physiological, psychological, energetic and transcendental levels as consciousness expands. Many of her students have deepened in their yogic journey, and some have also qualified as yoga and meditation teachers. In particular, an elderly Canadian student has just secured a spot on the Hridaya Yoga TTC and is scheduled to graduate after his 76th birthday later this year. On the other end of the age spectrum is an eight-year old Malawian student, a regular at Deidré's Factreton class, who feels that yoga has helped her to concentrate on her schoolwork and to take better care of her body.
"The benefits of yoga are so varied and everyone gets what they need by becoming more aware and responsive of their own needs. So why not put aside all assumptions and expectations, whatever you may have seen or heard about yoga, and try it for yourself. The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding is the practice."

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