How can a yoga instructor find balance in everyday life, in the online space, and in the yoga room? How can we consciously build a self-brand and immerse ourselves in finding what builds both our body and soul? These are some of the questions we asked Petra Szappan, founder of Petraflow. Interview!
Yoga is not only a physical exercise but also a philosophy: it requires introspection. You have previously worked in advertising, and as a marketer, you have also helped the work of Mandala Yoga Studio, and you are very consciously building your own brand, Petraflow: you are active on various social media platforms. How have you managed to reconcile these two different states of consciousness in your daily life?
First of all, the question is a great one, and it is a great way to ask; thanks! I say this because it is indeed often difficult to switch between activities, tasks, quasi-roles, which is really a question of the state of mind, of attunement. I think a big part of where I am now is thanks to my ability to do that. There is no arrogance; I am simply aware of it, which helps a lot.
Honestly, I’ve often felt that I’d rather do yoga instead of “posting on Instagram” because I’m not an exhibitionist by nature. What has helped motivate me to do this is the idea that social media is a communication platform where I can share my experiences to make others feel better or simply inspire someone who, as a result, starts doing yoga, meditating, living more consciously. So, when I post something, I always ask myself this question: what is my purpose with it? Does the photo and/or the text serve that purpose, or is it just an ego booster to show how fantastic I am and just pulls down people or discourages others because I don’t want to do that.
In a previous interview, you said, “Yoga is a healthy psychedelic, without harmful side effects.” Can the same be said about digitalism? Also, how do you see, has the rise of digitalism influenced more people to turn to yoga, for example?
I believe that you can do everything right and wrong: overdo it and consciously keep a sense of proportion. To let it take over and become bigger than us, or to use it for what it’s meant for. I think the same about digitalization. Here during Covid, it has been increasingly demonstrated how much it helps (and of course, no question, it can hurt) us. People have been left completely isolated from each other… couples, friends, families stranded in different countries… think what would have happened if it hadn’t been for the internet. But it also played a significant role in panic, hysteria and manipulation, so it’s clearly a double-edged sword.
I started my online classes during Covid, which—judging by the feedback—has helped a lot of people, and I was happy to read the comments. It has also helped me a lot, of course, as I have kept my job, which is not the last aspect. I think that in every area of life, including this, the most important thing is awareness: to be self-reflective, to realize when something is no longer serving us but rather harming us. I know this is very difficult, many times for me too. I think it is a lifelong learning process. But it can be the key to maintaining a healthy balance in all areas of our lives, including our digital lives.
And to answer your second question, Eckhard Tolle says that in a crisis we react in one of two ways: either we sink deeper, we abandon ourselves, we become desperate, or we wake up, so to speak. We take control of our destiny and make the changes that we should have made a long time ago, but which were not yet unbearable enough, and thus not yet sufficiently burning. I believe that many of those who have chosen the latter have now taken up yoga and/or meditation to consciously face the increasing challenges of life. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s impossible to do this in other ways, through other means, but yoga is a direct path and toolkit in that direction.
How much does the use of different digital tools affect your life, especially in these trying times, during COVID?
Quite a lot, but I try to use it wisely. For example, when I had covid, I deliberately didn’t read the news. But unfortunately, I found that the earlier alarmist articles were enough to make me feel bad even so. I think that the fact that I had a hard time with the disease was partly due to the mental dread that the earlier news had burned in my mind—hospital videos, pictures, statements, horror stories. At the same time, these articles helped me to orientate and inform myself about my own recovery, but I just had to filter them well, which is not an easy task.
At the same time, one of the greatest gifts that came into my life during Covid and from the digital world was finding Sam Harris’ “Waking Up” app, which radically changed my yoga practice and, without exaggeration, my life. Since then, meditation has become a daily part of my life, and thanks to this, I have also started an (online!) mindfulness course. Both of which I would prescribe to everyone. Since then, I’ve incorporated the smarts I learned there into my classes, and thus it gave a whole new meaning and depth to everything.
Do you do a digital detox from time to time?
Not really. I am not a fan of extreme, strict solutions. Obviously, there are situations in life where you naturally use it less; for me, it’s holidays, where I like to be present, rather than pose by the pool with a “duckface”. I try to develop a rhythm that is sustainable in the long term. But of course, it works differently for everyone…A period like this can be great for experience—to find out how good it is without it.
And some short questions to be answered…
Google Calendar or classic diary?
Google, I always lose the papers.
Netflix or cinema?
Both. I would definitely prefer to watch a beautifully photographed grandiose movie in a cinema, but the popcorn + blanket + cuddly dog combo at home has its own romance. Or at least there I can talk during the film, which is, unfortunately (to most people’s delight) a very common habit of mine.
Spotify or vinyl?
Spotify. If I want a quality sound experience, I’d rather go to a concert.
Kindle or classic book?
Book! I love touching it, turning the pages, and I know it’s not pretty, but I also love writing in it and putting it on the shelf as a reminder.
Do you prefer to shop online or in a store?
Store! I like touching, feeling, smelling things.
Photos: Balázs Mohai
Place: Museum of Illusions