My first interview question to Krissa should have been “Why didn’t these Dharma Straps exist sooner?”
Krissa Ludvigsen, a global citizen at heart, is the founder of The Dharma Approach, and the yoga straps that carry its namesake: Dharma Straps. I sat down (or perhaps more accurately, moved) with Krissa this past week. We talked on natural beauty, Dharma yoga, gratitude, her company The Dharma Approach and the straps. Find below some fantastic insights into how to use these new straps, a behind the scenes look at this devoted yogi’s lifestyle and how to balance being an entrepreneur when you’re also a new mom.
On Daily Practice
What is your morning routine like – has it changed since you became a mother?
Haha, what routine? These days I’m usually woken up around 6.15 AM with my 7-month-old crawling around the bed in between me and my husband. The truth is that I’m not actually a morning person. So even before having a baby, it was usually just wake up, brush teeth, do make-up, get dressed, have coffee and breakfast, check emails and get cracking on my to-do list. I’m one of those people that has a lot of things going on at the same time, so early in the day I love to just get as many things done as possible and make the most of my “coffee high”. Then later in the afternoon, that’s usually when I would switch off, relax, and have some me-time – that’s when I get to my practice. But like I said: baby.
What keeps you balanced day-to-day?
Patience, Forgiveness, Presence and my Gratitude practice. As a yoga teacher and yogi, one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn since becoming a mother is that you just don’t have enough time in the day to do everything you want. You are 99% mama and 1% yourself, the wife, the housekeeper, the friend, the entrepreneur, the yogi… Or at least it feels that way sometimes. And so I practice patience with myself, knowing that I will come back to my practice eventually, whether it is later in the day or sometime in the week. I practice forgiveness when I graciously allow myself to enjoy being a new momma without the pressure of having the same personal practice as I used to. I practice presence when I do take those few precious moments to pause, breathe, reflect and… give thanks, practice gratitude, which is my last saving grace every day. Come to think about it – it’s all a form of yoga. To practice compassion, selflessness and love.
What daily and/or weekly practice can’t you live without?
I’m glad you asked this because if you haven’t already gathered from my first two responses, finding a daily routine is rather hard these days. BUT I can definitely say I am able to maintain a weekly routine. So my weekly self-love routine consists of teaching at least 1-2 yoga classes a week – that is my time to give back and maintain my “practice” of being a yoga teacher. And then usually Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are my time for personal practice, either at home or at a studio in town.
My default and heart practice is Dharma Yoga. And whenever I have some more extra time, I definitely try and do a 20-30 minute pranayama session as well. That’s where the real magic happens. And of course, I do my daily gratitude practice. It doesn’t need to be big. It can be as simple as the feeling of the sun on my skin… being able to bike to work… a spontaneous coffee date with a friend… The point is to be creative and keep saying thank you, because the more you do this, the more you start to notice how many more little things there are to be grateful.
On Dharma + Dharma Straps
You’re a Dharma Yoga Teacher, tell us what that means?
Well, first and foremost it means that I am a student of Sri Dharma Mittra, one of the oldest (he’s currently 79 years old) still living gurus that exist today. When I teach, it is based on his lineage and I think it’s important to remember and honour that as Dharma yoga is a classical (traditional) form of yoga. The generation of teachers makes Dharma Yoga teachings like the great grandchild of an original source of knowledge, so the teachings are well preserved. We follow Patanjali’s 8-limbed approach to yoga, demonstrated in different ways whether it’s through the physical practices of hatha yoga, giving back through karma yoga, mantra repetition, knowledge-seeking… Dharma Yogis are more often than not, vegetarian if not fully vegan. This is because living a life of compassion (for all living beings, including animals) is one of our most important values. In Sanskrit, Dharma means “to uphold or sustain the natural/cosmic order of the universe”, which we believe has everybody’s interest at heart. And so to live according to your dharma means to live life by doing what is right – for yourself, your family, society, and the universe at large – to raise each other higher. Everything you do that leads you closer to your true nature, is dharma.
Why are props important to your practice?
Well, another thing I learned from Dharma is to “use every tool available”, i.e. embrace new methods, new technologies that will help further your practice. For a long time, I resisted using props because I found them a distraction and almost like cheating. I still prefer to have nothing but my breath and my mat when I practice, because for me it is the most natural way to practice yoga. In the olden days, it’s not like we had the fanciest clothes, blocks, wheels, straps, bolsters and eye pillows… and we were still able to practice “yoga”.
Now I realise that using props is all about having the correct mindset. The point is not to rely on the prop, and become overly dependent on it, like a crutch. A good prop is something that can help you go deeper in some part of your practice, until you feel you no longer need it. In the case of the Dharma Straps that I invented, they were a way for me to show my students how to help themselves, when I cannot physically be there all the time. A good prop can help you experience a pose for the first time… or in a different way… or in a deeper way… in a safer way… or in a more relaxing way.
What inspired the creation of Dharma Straps?
It all began when I was teaching a backbend workshop for the Atman Yoga School teacher training last year. While working on the sequence at home, I kept wishing that I had something better to teach people how to “flip the grip” and go deeper in poses such as full danurasana (bow pose) and raja kapotasana (king pigeon). I’m not a fan of traditional yoga belts found in most studios and shops because I find them super clunky, fussy, annoyingly long and distracting when trying to integrate into a flow sequence during class. I remembered during my 200hr teacher training at the Dharma Yoga Center in New York, there was this one afternoon where Dharma just started passing around this basket full of fabric rings. We were practicing our backbends, and that was the first time I got my feet all the way to my head. I ended up cutting up both legs of an old pair of pants and using those during class. They worked! But they were not very pretty. I was really inspired by the progress people made and the excitement they had and so, an idea of Dharma Straps was born.
Can you explain some of your favourite ways for using the straps?
The best thing to do is watch the demo video. I also have a Tutorials page where I have photographed some of my students demonstrating my favourite poses to use with these straps. Personally, I love using the Dharma Straps to help people bind, balance and bend better. My favourite binding poses with the Dharma Straps are compass pose, parivrtta upavistha konasana (revolved seated angle pose) and full baddha padmasana (bound lotus). My favourite balancing pose is ardha baddha padma vrksasana (half bound lotus tree pose). My fave backbends are definitely the kapyasana (crescent moon) that is a staple in so many dharma yoga classes, raja kapotasana (king pigeon) and of course the full danurasana (bow pose). I also really love using the large strap in supported shoulderstand and it’s a great shoulder opener to warm up for a practice. Useful tip: wrap the large strap as many times over as you need to adjust the length, and you end up with two comfortable handles as well!
What is your morning skincare routine?
Eek should I have one!? I normally just splash my face with cold water to wake myself up and tighten any pores in my skin. Then I apply jojoba oil to moisturize and keep my skin hydrated before putting on any makeup.
And evening skincare routine?
At night, after a long day, I use coconut oil to remove any makeup if I have to (I think that’s a tip I actually learned from you). Then I wash my face with warm water and an apricot face scrub. Aloe vera is my night moisturizer, followed by a slightly thicker cream I massage around my eyes, eyebrows, forehead, temples, jaw and cheekbones – always massaging in an upward direction from the jaw and cheekbones.
What is your hero product?
Definitely the aloe and jojoba oil. The jojoba oil in particular is so much more lubricating than the old moisturizers I used to use. And it’s also great (and natural) as a lip balm!
What is your favourite Asana?
A really good savasana! It’s the most important of all poses!
Do you read? If so, what are your top 3 favourite books?
I do, but not enough. That said, my all-time favourite books I always recommend are: Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
What is your must have travel essential?
Spare contact lenses!
What are your favourite rituals?
Is breakfast a ritual?
On Trends and What’s Next
What are the trends that you’re seeing in the yoga space right now?
Positively speaking, it’s nice to see that the yoga scene here in the Nordics is continuing to grow and more and more people seem to be seeking the deeper parts of the practice – asking for more pranayama, more meditation, more teacher trainings, curious about a more plant-based diet. I’ve heard a lot lately that more and more people are seeking authentic forms of yoga at actual yoga studios as opposed to more aerobic-style classes offered at gyms. That’s a good sign that the community is evolving beyond just the physical practice.
That said, we are getting stronger, faster, thanks to the continuing popularity of yoga around the world and the global health and wellness fad that’s kicked in over the last decade or so. There are new studios, new brands, new props popping up all the time, our Dharma Straps included. But remember, they are a tool, not a crutch.
Finally, there is a lot of noise on social media and I feel sometimes that in an effort to stay relevant, a lot of yogis feel pressured to keep broadcasting every aspect of their practice. I get it as I also come from a marketing and communications background. I guess for me, my hope is that we all (myself included) remember to stay humble and go back to our roots. For all the stuff we put out there, my wish is that we always remember to keep a little bit of our practice holy and for ourselves. After all, the real yoga is off camera and offline.
These buckle-free yoga straps are easy to use, using a combination of both cotton handles for easier grip and durable elastic for more stretch. They come in several sizes, making them perfect for stretching, backbends, reaching and binds. No buckles. No fuss. They are genius. Find them here.