Josefine Bengtsson has made a drastic shift coming from a background at Stockholm School of Economics and worked as a strategy consultant to now hosting retreats all over the world through her business The Soul Space. She found yoga on a trip to Thailand 12 years ago, where she started to become very curious about yoga. A couple of years later, she decided to go to India to become a yoga teacher and quit her job as a consultant. Today she works with the Soul space hosting retreats in Sweden and around the world.
We had a wonderful conversation with Josefine about the previous year, how to set intentions for a new year, and everything 2021 holds.
What is your purpose behind this journey?
Many years back when I first started to teach yoga I had a lot of classes in the city of Stockholm. In a way I loved in an it felt so meaningful to share this practice in a pretty stressful city. However, at the same time I was pretty annoyed that I couldn’t share the full depth of this practice in an hour lunch class since people after class had to go back to their normal stressful environments. I wanted to give people the full experience of yoga and meditation and realized it was impossible in that setting. In order to go deep inside ourselves I realized that we needed to turn off our phones and leave our everyday life. This is why I started my retreat company. To give people the opportunity to fully focus on themselves for a few days.
Of course, retreats are not a new thing. Today most yoga teachers have been hosting a retreat but very few focusing on it fulltime like I have been doing for the last seven years. I think I have had over 200 retreats now!
Overall, it has been so interesting and exciting to see the change and shift that has happened within the yoga industry. Back when I started teaching - yoga was still a bit strange and seen as something weird. I was most often the youngest teacher at the studios and the others vwere often 10-20 years older than me. I came into it right before the big trend started. Now, most people know about yoga and have even tried it. Its amazing!!!
Due to the current situation, Josefine has been spending her winter in Sweden, unlike other years where she is hosting retreats in India during this season. Instead she has been hosing all herretreats in Sweden.
What does your daily practice look like, especially in these times when you are stuck in Sweden during the dark winter for the first time in many years
The good thing is that a yoga practice doesn’t depend on the weather so my daily practice looks the same as it does when I live in India. I like wake up early (since it’s easier to connect with myself when no one else is awake) and write in my journal while drinking a cup of ginger tea. After that I usually do my yoga practice. In the morning my body is usually asking for a pretty physical and moving practice rather than yin or seated meditation. The calmer practices I usually save for the afternoon, when I love to sit for an hour meditation or melt into some yin poses.
What are your best tools in the winter to not feel so off-balanced and tired?
I would differently say physical activity is an important thing. Lately, I have even started to follow my partner to the gym many times a week. I feel that my body loves to sweat and it gets so much extra energy, which I need to handle this darkness.
I also like to go outside during the “light” hours in the day!
How has 2020 affected you?
The crazy thing is that all the retreats have been fully booked with long waiting lists even this year. I guess its because many people have more time for retreats as they are not in the office as much as before, but also that people have felt the need to ground themselves more when the world is shaking so much.
So the retreats have really been continuing to flow even this year. Except that we have moved all of them to Sweden. And of course, we have made some changes so make them corona-safe by having the right distance between the mats, and so on.
I know that many other teachers have started to share a lot of classes online via Zoom, I have a resistance to go there since I feel that it’s difficult to build the same space while being online but we will see maybe I give it a try soon!
What has been your biggest challenge with 2020?
That must be all the fear and uncertainty, not knowing the new types of restrictions that are coming with time and if it is good to have retreats or not.
What do you look forward to in 2021?
2021 will be a very special year in my life as I will become a mother for the first time, so that is definitely the biggest thing that will happen for me this year, in March. It will be interesting to see how everything will change and as I am planning on continuing with the retreats and the same lifestyle and everything. Also, I am of course hoping that the entire covid situation dissolves.
What would be your advice to people to get more new energy into their lives this year even if the restrictions would continue?
Something that I will prioritize this year is being OFFLINE more. I realize how my phone and especially the social media apps are affecting me negatively. As soon as I turn it off for a longer period of time, I feel so free. Now I am having a three-week Social Media Detox, which is awesome.
What are your best tips on setting the intentions for this new year?
One thing is that I found it important to be very specific when setting my intentions. If I am too general or vague, they lose meaning and I don’t fulfil them.
Another thing is to also think about what will happen if I don’t live my intentions, stop following what I want. For example, if my intention is to stay away from social media every weekend this year and then it comes a weekend when it’s not possible (because I need to work or post something), it helps me to have a little “punishment” if I skip that weekend. For example, that I need to stay away from Social media five days the week after. If I don’t have this little “punishment”, my wise new year’s intentions can easily drift away as the year is passing. But don’t see it as a punishment for yourself – the truth is - you are trying to help yourself out on the way.