When I first envisioned the Berlin Yoga Conference, I had a choice in terms of what kind of structure the project would receive in order to come into existence. Since my German skills and knowledge of the German legal system was lacking, I opted out for a business model. Also, to found a company is much easier than to run a nonprofit organization, hence my choice. However, I knew that Giving Back was an important aspect of me as a person that I wanted to incorporate into the project. So while recruiting yoga teachers to become my 2019 Presenters, I was also searching for yoga-related non-profit organizations that I could support, to the best of my abilities as a small, vulnerable start-up in the first year of existence.

Today I have an enormous pleasure to introduce an interview with Kate Berlin, a yogi of 10 years, a teacher for the past 6, a fellow mother, and the founder of the Purple Dot Yoga, a nonprofit organization that works together with women who experienced domestic violence to break the negative patterns associated with such a trauma, through yoga and community work. Kate will be joining us for the first edition of the Berlin Yoga Conference all the way from the US, and it is my absolute honour to be able to work with people like her.

Photo curtesy of: Kate Berlin

Q: How did your own yoga journey begin? What made you start practicing yoga and how long have you been teaching yoga to others?

A: My yoga journey began about 10 years ago after reading “Eat Pray Love” and desperately looking for a way to feel less lost. Liz Gilbert mentioned that she practiced yoga, so I figured, why not? I started with 15 min yoga classes on Hulu. In 2013 I started my yoga teacher training and have been teaching since.

Q: A few years ago, you founded a nonprofit organization Purple Dot Yoga. What is the spectrum of your work in the frames of the project?

A: We’re still a super grassroots organization, so I am still very involved in 98% of the work. From creating community connections, working with our network of certified one-on-one yoga teachers, facilitating the one-on-one yoga program in my area, co-leading our trauma-informed yoga teacher training alongside Liz Arch, to interacting with volunteers and ambassadors. If you see anything put out into the community there’s a good chance I’ve had my hand in it, but none of it is possible without the ownership from our amazing volunteers, and supporters. The biggest thing for me is that everyone knows this project DOES NOT belong to me.

Photo curtesy of: Kate Berlin

Q: What are some of the most inspiring lessons you learned through your work with the project?

A: I definitely have to say: to stay open and humble. There comes a point in time where sometimes the harshness of the world, and the repetitiveness of “problems” can make a person resentful, bitter, and jaded, but you are never exempt from pain, and the heartbreak and work you put out in the world does make a difference. So keep going. Whether you go slow, or need a break entirely, it’s all okay as long as you keep going. People heal through connection, and that’s the most important thing to remember when doing this work. Stay open.

Q: What do you find challenging about having a nonprofit organization of this kind?

A: There’s definitely a hierarchy of things most people care about (although no one really wants to say it). It goes like this: animals, kids, environment, homeless and underprivileged, and very last on the list adult women. There’s still a big stigma around the type of a woman who experiences intimate partner violence. So although people say they care, unless they have been PERSONALLY affected by domestic violence, that’s about the extend of the help they’re willing to provide. Then you take that and add yoga… it becomes a little bit harder to translate. Not everyone understands the big and important impact yoga has on an individual’s overall wellbeing, but we’re getting there! The research is showing it, and women are also receiving a bigger platform. People are starting to listen.

Photo curtesy of: Kate Berlin

Q: Why do you think yoga is such a powerful tool to help people turn their lives around?

A: My goodness… where do I start… for me it’s all personal experience. I wanted to share yoga with the world, because I’ve seen the difference it made for me breaking out of the trauma vortex, and the abuse cycle, it also continues everyday to bring so much depth and meaning into my life. Ultimately, I think, what yoga does, is create space. For me, it allowed me the ability to plant a tiny, little seed of hope. At the time (10 years ago) I didn’t think my life could be meaningful, and rewarding, and gorgeous, but every time I stepped onto my yoga mat, it was like watering that tiny seed. Most of the time in doubt, but I still showed up, and I practiced. And then eventually something shifted. Through utilizing all the tools yoga encompasses (breath, meditation, philosophy) I was able to go deeper each time. Layer, after layer, until you look around and it’s all different. You’re breathing more fully, and suffering less.