yoga

ME. In an interview by DagnyDay

ballet stintino.jpg

me.

In an interview by DagnyDay

Name: Francesca Golfetto

    > Age: 29

    > Live: Oslo

    > Do: Retired Ballerina / Yoga teacher

    >

    > 1. How do you prefer to spend a Sunday:

In an active way. I am not very good at relaxing, I am afraid… I wake up super early, have a yoga practice and then I am ready to do anything that involves experiencing something in the sweet company of my Love.

    > 2. What does beauty mean to you:

I would lie if I said that external beauty doesn’t matter. It does…quite a lot.

As a ballet dancer, it is a part of the package. We are exposed to many people, who expect to be entertained by traditional beauty, in all aspects of the job. It is also one of many criteria for being “picked”, which I believe is not unique for ballet dancers.

Having said that, I believe that the focus on external beauty alone creates unhealthy pressure and behaviour. Without falling into a number of clichés, beauty needs to be defined through a combination of a person’s strongest preferences. That combination for me, is when I feel happy…

    > 3. What does success mean to you:

There are so many ways to succeed in life.

My ambitions have always been to win. To be the best at what I was doing. No matter what.

Already now, having a little one in my tummy makes me have the feeling that THIS will probably be the biggest success of my life.  

I mean, what is greater than actually creating a life??

 

    > 4. What does balance mean to you:

I wish we were only speaking about the “physical” kind of balance…

I find it much easier to stay up on my toes or upside down on my hands than to keep it in real life…

So yes, to be honest, I tend to be totally out of balance… When I get into something, I throw myself in, forgetting the whole world around me (very goal oriented!).

Thankfully I always had a family behind that kept my feet on the ground and “forced” me to actually have a LIFE outside of my bubble…Balance to me is to generate enough challenges to create continuous improvement, but not too many (or the wrong ones) to drive me into my bubble for too long.

    > 5. How would you describe your style?

Random!! And for sure Animal inspired…😉 Haha. I can go from dressing up like the most classy girly girl (and loving it!) to a hippy, rocky, boyish, casual style. I must say that after becoming a yoga teacher, living in my beloved yoga pants made my “style” suffer quite a lot… I need to step up my game 😉

    > 6. Motto:

Good is the enemy of great

    > 7. The first thing you do when waking up in the morning and before going to bed:

The first I think about when I wake up is..FOOD!!!! I am a  morning/breakfast person, which doesn’t really suit my new Yoga practice routine… #hardestsacrificeever!!!!

Even though I always wait to eat until after practice, no one can take away my coffee 😉

Knowing that the struggle is real in the morning… before going to bed, I always make sure I have a little snack.

Once in bed I always like to think about how the day has been and what my plans will be for the day after.

I used to do journaling, but that was more when I was struggling mentally with many different things.

If I did it now, I think it would automatically bring me back to those memories… so I would rather focus my thoughts in the mind.

Maybe I will go back to it…just not right now!

 

     > 8. Inspired by:

People that I admire and respect. People who dare, have drive and want to make a difference, keeping a humble and easy attitude.

 

    > Tell us a little about your history:

    > What was it like being a ballet dancer?

It was everything from being the most wonderful fairy-tale to the worst nightmare…

Have you watched the movie “The black Swan?” Well, take away the “Hollywood” part of it, that comes very close to reality… at least for me.

My life was my job.

I felt like I lived in the theatre, and anything that didn’t have to do with it, came as a distraction.

In my free time (which already wasn’t much) I went to the gym to lose weight, sewed point shoes, watched videos of myself dancing and, many times, I ended up in the studio alone rehearsing something that, in my eyes, wasn’t just good enough.

Fun life hey?

I am not saying that it is like this for everybody… like I mentioned before, I am not very good at keeping a balanced life… and obviously back then, I totally lost it.

I guess that’s what happens when you want/love something so much that you are willing to do anything to reach it…. Because dancing and owning my stage was, at that time, all that mattered.

 

How was your life different then? Do you miss it?

I miss dancing a lot and there is still not one day that passes when I don’t think about it.

Until not too long ago I could not even walk by the Opera without starting crying, and any ballet talk, classical music, photos or “ballet” friends would be way too much to handle.

It has been extremely hard, but looking at my life now…. I will never change it or go back there!!

Before my life was in the theatre and eventually home to sleep. Even then, you have no idea how many times I wished I could just sleep in the changing room couch instead…

I did not have time to enjoy anything else really…

Now I love my life. I love meeting new people. Have time to spend around the city, go for walks, enjoy the nature, take care of the house and most of all have time and energy to spend with my Love. Now I know that this is what makes me really happy.

> What happened when you hurt your ankle? How did you feel when you had to quit ballet? How did you move on?

It was like a terrible death. I felt like my life had been taken away from me. I did not have energy or will power to react… I was in a very dark place for a while.

I tried all kind of rehab, injections, physiotherapy, surgeon consultations, long resting periods… nothing worked.

It took a year before I decided that I had enough of hospitals, doctors and ankle speeches…

The Injury was not caused by a traumatic fall or accident.

I was just in a lot of pain for a long time… but we (ballet dancers) all are really.

Considering that I had danced on broken toes and bones before.. I should have known that the situation was similar if not worse.

But, like always, I felt that the schedule was too busy, so with the daily help of a lot of “drugs”, I just kept going… until I couldn’t anymore.

It was during a classical performance in November that I felt that something really happened. The pain became completely unbearable. I finished the show with tears running down my face and after being told off from my director that I had not been up to my standards…I decided it was time for a break. Oh yeah, and I was not believed that I was in pain or injured…

I knew something was bad, but I obviously did not realize how bad it was.

My ankle was a like a cocktail of all kind of ingredients that went from fractures, to chronic inflammations to a nerve damage.

It didn’t take too long before I understood that getting up again, on my beloved point shoes, became thin medical theory (squeezing out the few positive statements from all the kind professionals who helped me), rather than a realistic target.

    > How come you started practicing yoga?

I have always been attracted to yoga in one way or another.

I started practicing when I lived in Zurich over 10 years ago, as a supplement to my ballet training and to benefit from a change of environment.

I practiced when I could after moving to Oslo, but It was not until my injury that I decided to really dive into it.

   

> Did yoga change your life in any way and in that case, how?

Yoga saved my life!!

I went from not being able to move from bed and constantly crying, to the happy person I used to be, and that I am now.

Every day, no matter how I felt, I knew that after practice I would feel better.

I was very lucky to meet my teacher Basia, who never asked me what happened or why I was crying. She didn’t show pity for me in any way. She just told me to move on, she guided me through the Ashtanga practice and she expected me to be there every day.

In no time, I was hooked with a passion I didn’t think I could feel anymore.

I spent every morning on my mat and afternoons studying Yoga philosophy, Sanskrit and Pranayama.

Not too long after that I was asked to teach and just like that, my new life started.

    > What does yoga mean to you?

Understanding. Support. Freedom. Love and happiness.

I see my yoga practice as a mirror of how I am doing mentally and physically every day.

It supports me through the ups and downs, challenges me daily and teaches me how to deal with those challenges in “real” life.

It brought back the too loud, daring, fearful person I always used to be, because on the mat, I became stronger and freer.

I practice and I get happier, and by teaching a lot of people now, I can see that everyone gets happier…

So why not doing it??

 

    > Imagine talking to someone who never tried yoga before; What would you tell them yoga is and why should they try a yoga class?

I think the idea of yoga as something too spiritual and deep scares people off at the beginning.

I am not afraid to share what yoga did for me, but whatever the motivation is that get people on the mat, I believe is right. Because from my personal experience, I know that the “package” will follow.

If I have to challenge someone that is “against” yoga I usually ask: “when was the last time you were breathing properly?”. Then I make them try… the rest comes 😉

    > Stress is a huge problem for many people today, why do you think that is? What is your relationship to stress? How can people overcome stress?

I spent some energy on thinking about stress. My thoughts are obviously not the truth, but it helped me personally to write a blog about it. Here are a few of the thoughts I put down on paper:

“Today’s society requests a lot. It’s always about “Constructed Perfection” and rarely about what’s good for you or me.

We live a life through social media, where everything looks shining and perfect.

We compare ourselves too much.”

Personally, I have a huge amount of unprocessed stress in my body and mind. When you have hit the bottom, I believe it is hard to avoid slipping again… and it is also totally normal!

In fact, no matter how happy and grounded I feel now, I can be completely thrown off from the smaller happening without reason.

The difference is that now, I am aware of it, and through Yoga and breathing I know I have the best tools to overcome it.

And you know what? The day I decided “Now I am just gonna be me” everything changed.

 

 

 

When I met my worst enemy...

When I met my worst enemy...

When I was young, I was the typical “performance animal”.

I loved the challenge, I loved the adrenalin and if I had a competition, a test or an audition, you’d be sure I’d deliver, no matter what…

I still remember “that feeling” of becoming one with my body. That feeling of the excitement and nerves kicking in, making my tummy squeeze; but not in a bad way, actually more in an unbeatable and addictive kind of way.

My mind got stuck on one thought. I had to do as best as I could. I had to impress. I had to win. And, as a matter of facts, I believed I could and I did…

When, at a later point in my life, performance nerves became my worst enemy, I remember looking back at these days thinking; “beata giovinezza” or “blessed youth”.

I believed that my outrageous courage during challenges when I was younger, was purely due to not being mature enough to understand the “pressure of things… I now believe I was very wrong…

A few years from my worst days, I am determined to find out what actually happened to me…to be better prepared for the future and in order to maybe help some others.

So, what is actually stress?

Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When you sense danger—whether it’s real or imagined—the body's defences kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction or the "stress response".

The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress and adrenaline can save your life—giving you extra strength to, for example defend yourself or make you slam on the brakes to avoid an accident.

Stress can also help you rise to meet challenges. It’s what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, sharpens your concentration or drives you to study for an exam when you'd rather be watching TV or scrolling on Instagram…

When you look at it from “this side” we understand that stress is something that we actually can’t/shouldn’t live without.

But what happens when stress becomes a chronic state in life?

Beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships, and your quality of life.

To me? It made me become the worst version of myself… both the inside and the outside.

I can promise you that my closest did not have the time of their life when they were with me back than…

I was angry. Annoying. Boring. Moodie. Constantly aggressive and pissed off! The funny thing is that I knew they had nothing to do with my troubled mind, but I couldn’t help it. I was feeling miserable and they had to deal with it…

I still have no idea how they coped with me, to be honest…. The only thing that I can think of is that it must have been deep love!! (Sorry Baby, sorry Mamy)

On the outside my body was rebelling.

My hair thinned. My skin cracked. My nails broke. My body filled up with water. My period stopped and my thyroid totally gave up on me…

In other words… I got sick!!

And all of this for what??

Because I wasn’t getting what I thought I deserved at work? Because of my insecurities? Because I had to deal with people that I didn’t like? Because I had to do things that I didn’t want to do? Because I lived in a country that I didn’t quite get?

 

Seriously??????? What the hell was I thinking? Weak, spoiled, stupid me!

 

But then again… I might have considered myself stupid, but I am sure there is a “little” more to it, when so many other people are affected by the same “stress syndrome”??

Today’s society requests a lot. It’s always about “Constructed Perfection” and rarely about what’s good for you or me.

We live a life through social media, where everything looks shining and perfect.

Where women can look like the best mums, on top of their career, still with time to walk the dogs, look like models, make dinner and love to their husband, and of course, be cool and social at the same time!

We compare ourselves too much.

We set goals, we reach them and we are already into the next one without taking time to appreciate and be proud.

From when we were young, teachers, bosses and coaches always pointed out what we could have done better or what wasn’t good enough. But then you’d hear comments like “What happened now? Last time you were soo much better!!” or “look at her/him… they know how to do it!!”.

There’s no interest of knowing people’s stories or understand their characters. All you need to do is to be best and deliver, ALWAYS!!

And if you ask me.. that’s how it ALL begins.

 

The worst thing is when you have been under chronic stress for a long time, it isn’t something that just disappears easily. You can learn to control it, breathe through it and avoid it from taking you over, but the truth is that it won’t leave you easily.

I am not saying this to scare you, but more to share my (and others’) experiences.. in simple words, if this happened to you too…you’re not alone!!

In fact, even after years of daily yoga practice, meditation and pranayama (special breathing technique), stress/anxiety attacks still turn my world upside down when less expected.

Even now, when I feel confident and happy in what I do and who I am, I still carry a huge weight on my shoulders, or better a bad shadow that comes, scares me and takes my smile away.

 

As a Mummy to be now, I see myself stressing already for little things, taking away the enjoyment and magic of this moment.

When my Husby sees me thoughtful, he likes to “bully” me a little by asking if I am finding something else to stress about…

And you know what? He is so right.

I make my life so much more complicated than it is.

I say that I avoid dramas but what actually happens is that I run after them like candybars.

I also believe that if I’ll be stressed as a mother, my baby girl will not grow up any different.

We then create a circle of life which is so OFF.

I practice yoga to find balance and peace within myself.

But if the yoga stops when you leave the mat, that isn’t yoga anymore. It’s just another way to sweat out and workout the body.

 

For now, the practice helped me gain awareness, it brought my happiness back and helps me balance the ups and downs.

But there’s a long way to go.

So…next time the cliché “keep (…) close, but your enemies closer” appears, I’ll remember how close the worst enemy is…

My Diet jungle

Low carb diet, Mediterranean diet, Paleolithic diet, Atkins diet, Dukan diet, Raw food diet, Vegetarianism, Veganism, Pescetarianism, Juice fasting, Intermitting fasting….and these are just the first ones that popped up in my mind…

And then honoured books and documentaries, articles by respected news providers, social media feeds…which, of course, all prove each other wrong.

They all promise to make us lose weight and keep us skinny forever, make the world a better place and drive happiness…in addition, and first of all, they will improve life expectancy and decrease the risk for serious illness, such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases. All in completely different ways.

How on earth can we manoeuvre in this jungle and trust what a good diet is? Or even, simply, what we can eat or not…

Being a ballet dancer with a slower metabolism and an obsessive mind…I can tell you that I have explored the jungle…

I was not at all concerned with what was healthy or not, at the time… I had one focus, which was to be skinny.

When I was 13 years old, in the hottest time of my puberty, my Russian ballet teacher liked to tell me that I was FAT, every day.

I just moved away from home, I lived alone, danced all day and attended highschool at night. There were no Mum and Dad to help and protect, not any warm good foot waiting for me when I came home and no one holding my hand when I needed it…

What happened then? I went nuts. I realized I had 2 options; quit or really do something about it and…yes, I basically stopped eating.

My diet was fruit in the morning, most of the time no lunch (a large portion of caffeine was involved) and a vegetable soup in the evening.

Did I lose weight? Yes, a lot.

Was that good for me? For sure not.

On top of slowing down my metabolism for the rest of my days… I later suffered from stress fracture, amenorrhea (loss of menstruations), hair loss, and at the age of 18, I was diagnosed with having the same level of osteoporosis as an 80 years old Grandma.

Something had to change!!

Forced by my Mum, I started integrating more proteins into my diet…to then fall into the exact opposite.

The Dukan Diet, created by Dr. Pierre Dukan, consisted of pure lean / fat free animal proteins without any carbs, vegetables or fruits. The different components had to be slowly reintegrated during the following weeks.

I must say that the results were very impressive at the beginning, thanks to the obvious immediate water loss in the body, but I remember my stomach got stuck for days due to the lack of any kind of fibres.

Was that sustainable?? NO WAY!!!

In later years, before I studied any yoga philosophy or knew any “yogis”, I read a book: The China Study. (a book where Dr. Colin Campbell presents "a new framework for understanding nutrition and health, a framework that eliminates confusion, prevents and treats disease and allows you to live a more fulfilling life." This broad purpose is partially achieved by summarizing the evidence that favours eating only plant-based whole foods.)

Through this book, my interest towards food and diet changed drastically.

I was now concerned with finding a Healthy diet, rather than a skinny diet. I did enough searches and gathered enough information to believe it was worth a try.

I became Vegan.

At the time I was dancing between 8 and 12 hours a day, living in cold Norway and without enough time or energy to prepare good and balanced meals that could support my nutrition needs.  Especially at that time, there were not many vegan options, other than a green salad if you wanted to eat out and about… and that’s what I ended up having most of the times.

In a few months I became so anaemic, I barely escaped the risk of being recovered in hospital…and instead of feeling good, light and full of energy, I was extremely tired, swollen and miserable.

For these reasons, I obviously had to give up my veganism and introduced a few animal proteins again.

It felt like another disappointment and added more confusion.

 

In the yoga world nowadays there is a big “pressure” on diet. It almost feels that being a vegan is a MUST. If you eat meat / fish, drink normal milk or love eggs… you’ll get “the eyes”!!

Many ancient texts of yoga stress the necessity of a meatless diet, and one that is free from alcohol or stimulants.  From the Hatha Yoga Pradipika which clearly directs the practitioner toward a sattvic (balanced) diet of nuts, grains, milk, and ghee, to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali that emphasize the importance of non-harming through the practice of ahimsa (non-violence), the bulk of the yogic compendium advocate vegetarianism and purity. 

The book “Yoga Mala” from Sr. Pattabi Jois actually says that vegetables should not be consumed much as they’re unpleasant for practitioners, as well as sour, salty and spicy food.

So, where does all this “yoga veganism” come from when, in none of those Ancient texts, is it even mentioned or suggested to be one?

Having said that, I believe that a vegan diet followed and supported with enough nutrition and supplements (vitamin B12 and iron) is a very healthy lifestyle to follow.

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a good friend who has been struggling for years with his health due to inappropriate dieting.

Despite Doctors telling him that he was totally healthy, he knew that there was something wrong…and he kept trying and experimenting.

Finally, after years of hard work and disappointments, he found his way and he finally feels (and looks) like a million dollars…;)

He introduced me to this book “The plant Paradox” where another Doctor (Dr. Gundry) believes that what makes us sick is “lectin”.

Lectins is a type of protein abundant in raw legumes and grains, and most commonly found in the part of the seed that becomes the leaves when the plant sprouts but also on the seed coat. They’re also found in dairy products and certain vegetables.

What the real important thing is; apparently Lectins are resistant to human digestion. They are a in fact a toxic nutrient, making our immune system work to create antibodies to protect against them.

Once again, everything makes perfect sense, but how about all the vegetarian and vegan people that feel GREAT and overeat all kind of legumes at all time?

Once again, another contradiction.

I obviously didn’t come up with what is good or not to eat and I definitely don’t consider myself an expert in the area, but I do have a lot of interest in it…

What I believe, is that we are all different individuals, with different needs and different habits.

Living in India is very different from living in Norway, working in an office is different than running marathons, living a happy and relaxed life is different from being anxious and stressed all day.

There are so many extra factors that we don’t consider, which I believe take a huge roll on both our health and how we react to food.

Stressing on following a strict diet itself can be counterproductive to finding stability and real happiness.

My conclusion is to find balance, learn to listen to the body and its different needs, try out different things and most of all accept changes and don’t expect immediate results.

Move and be happy.

Let’s create our own “healthy and happy life” recipe.