Wilder Friends - Sjaan Van de langenberg

Wilder Friends - Sjaan Van de langenberg

Posted by Charlie Landon on

Introducing Sjaan who's part of our Wilder team! Sjaan's been with us for a few years now and we love having her calm energy and intuitive expertise within our store.  We wanted to share her journey so far.. its a beautiful one!  

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a movement artist, a yoga and breathwork facilitator and a bodyworker with a focus on community and creativity. I love practices that take time and presence, encouraging me to listen, observe and be in the moment. I love art, imagination and storytelling, and believe that through listening to each other’s stories we can cultivate understanding and compassion. Sharing these practices, I hope to create a space in which we can nourish our relationships, to ourselves, each other, and to nature. For me It’s also about reconnecting to the pleasure and joy that I find through these practices, that are transformative and healing. 

I grew up, under the warmth of the South African sun, half of my childhood spent on my grandma’s farm, with my feet on the cool earth, and the other navigating the bustling colourful culturally rich city of Johannesburg! I was lucky enough to spend most of my days immersed in nature, with many hours climbing trees, going on long walks, swimming, playing in mud and lying in the sun. I love adventures. On the farm we would follow my grandma around the garden, and up mountains, eating oranges, picking sweet potatoes, and topping and tailing big bowls of green beans. She would show us which herbs to pick and explain what their magic was. This all played a huge role in my sense of aliveness and the feeling that the land was alive too and nourished us. I look back on this time of feeling so much pleasure and connection to the land around me with joy, love and gratefulness, that is now deeply embedded in me.

Growing up in this way brought awareness to the impact that I have on the environment and not just the effect that it had on me. I felt a sense of belonging to the people around me but also to the soil that our food grew in, the water we drank, the trees, plants and animals that were part of the ecosystem of that place. It enlightened my understanding of the reciprocal relationship between myself and nature, situating me as part of the larger ecosystem that exists within a place. Fostering a deep sense of reverence and care for the natural world.

Growing up I was surrounded by dancing, music and singing, it is so much a part of South African culture, in celebrations, in sad times and to express emotions. I also grew up in a politically significant time and there was a lot of self-expression and activism through art and dance. I witnessed and felt from a young age what dancing and movement could mean for me as an individual, and its potency within a community.

For me It was a language to express things I couldn’t verbally, and a way to understand myself and navigate the world I lived in. It was a way of processing, and shifting emotions, feeling a part of a group and a way of relating to the place I lived in.  

I’ve always been struck by the idea that movement and dance as an art form or means of expression is transient and can’t be held onto. It is at the same time an authentic expression of soul or spirit that cannot be taken away, which I think can be very powerful and empowering on a personal level but also for a community. Dancing is a means of storytelling, a way of protesting, of peace, a richness that is always present beyond the realms of money and the material world.  Dance is a remembering of our connection to the divine and the mystical. 

 When did you start practicing yoga and what drew you to want to start studying ecosamatic contemporary dance? Please tell us about this movement & Trinity Laban?

 I started ballet when I was only 3, I think my love for movement started there. This later led me to yoga. I remember seeing dancers and movers and thinking wow, this makes sense, what language are these people speaking and how it can say so much. I was in awe of the strength and self-mastery of dancers that have trained for many years. It’s a beautiful and mesmerising thing when someone is listening deeply and is present within their movement. 

I saw dance as a language that could be understood and communicated authentically and individually, open to interpretation beyond the limits of words and ideas of right and wrong. Dance for me is a place to observe and hold space for whatever is being expressed, like a meditation. I feel dance allows people to tell a deeper, more personal story, transcending rules, and boundaries of language. 

Expressing myself through movement was my way of relating to and being in the world. When I danced, I felt heard and seen by myself and others, perhaps even more than when I spoke. It was a place of joy, safety, and growth. 

My dad always referenced eastern philosophy and concepts from Buddhism which probably planted a seed. I started practising Yoga asana when I had just left school. I was drawn to the movement practice but also really loved the chanting and learning aspects of the yogic philosophy and Ayurveda. When a childhood friend who has family roots in India suggested a trip, I didn’t think twice. We spent 5 weeks in an ashram in Kerala, waking up at 4.30 am with the sunrise, to meditate, chant, practice asana, learn philosophy, drink chai, eat Masala Dosas and pray. It was both a simple and profound experience. So, it felt natural that I wanted to share this place of non-judgemental witnessing, curiosity and appreciation that I found in my own movement practice with others. I went on to teach yoga and practice massage therapies in London and Greece for many years. 

 During the pandemic, I reconnected with my dance practice. It’s a big part of what has helped me cope with living in a city and there is such a cool dance community in London. The freedom, presence, and aliveness that I felt doing yoga and dance was the very same experience of joy and pleasure that I felt growing up close to nature. 

I wanted to find a way of sharing this healing experience with other people through these mindful practices. When I found the MA in Dance leadership and Community practice at Trinity Laban it felt exactly right, a way to channel my different interests and learn more about sharing them in an inclusive and creative way. My experience at Laban and the environment that my amazing tutors created, was open minded, caring, progressive and fun. During my research for the MA, I created the Ecosamoatic Dance, Art and Mindfulness workshops. These combine ecosomatic inspired contemporary dance, breath-work, meditation and imagination. We use poetic imagery to inspire movement making storytelling and art. Through the lens of ecology and ecosystems we explore cycles that occur within the natural world and how they are reflected within our own body. With this work I hope to start a dialogue, raise questions & conversations about our relationship to the natural world, our bodies, community, climate & environment.

 How do you work this practice into your yoga teachings?

I would say that dance and the ecosomatic movement has given me the permission to let my Yoga practice become more intuitive and fluid. Learning to listen to and move from my body rather than just my mind.

I like to weave some of the poetic language and prompts that I use in the eco somatic movement workshops into my yoga classes. In the book A widening Field (2015), Tufnell and Crickmay say “The heart is as the sun within the body. As every living thing on the earth depends on the light and heat of the sun, so every cell of our bodies depends on the immense living energy of the heart.” This is a reminder of the role our heart plays and the incredible innate intelligence and wisdom already present within our bodies systems. Through the practice I encourage mindfulness and listening so we can begin to tap into this intelligence and to trust our bodies. 

The cycles that we observe in nature can inspire us to understand and honour our body's own natural cycles. Just as the earth has seasons and times when it needs to rest and rejuvenate, so too do we. I like to draw on this when teaching restorative practices such as yin yoga.

The elements we find in nature are inspiration to find different qualities of movement. Moving like water can be softer and more fluid or channelling a sense of earthy grounded-ness through stability. Both Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine, in different ways, talk about how we are made up of these elements and it can be interesting to explore this through movement and somatic experience and find practices which bring them more into balance. We need different elements at different times and perhaps bringing some consciousness awareness and mindfulness to these can feel empowering. We can do this through breath work, specific Asana, and movement, but I believe also through mantra and sound.

 What do you miss most about South Africa? I know once we talked about a preference for mountains or sea and you told me your land had both.

 It’s true we have both, majestic, beautiful mountains and the powerful ocean, these landscapes feel so humbling! I miss the closeness to nature and the vast open space. I have a real sense of being exposed to the elements, the wildness and power of nature when I’m back home in South Africa. I miss the joy and aliveness that comes with this.

I miss the food, the wine and the people. South Africa has been, through so much as a nation and there is a sense of tenacity, resourcefulness, insight, and love that emanates from people.

We also have Fynbos!


Where do you see your practice and self in 5 years time?

Oh gosh, that’s a difficult question. I’d love to continue researching and growing my Art, dance and mindfulness workshop offerings, there’s so many different things to draw inspiration from and different focusses I want to take. It would be a dream to collaborate with other artists, writers, and movement practitioners. I’d like to create a workshop that is inspired by each season.

 My personal practice is ever changing and I want to let it adapt as I grow. I’m currently doing a Yin yoga teacher training and can’t wait to begin teaching this and integrating more restorative practices into my other teachings and self-practice. I am learning about Cha Dao and how to hold a tea ceremony. This is such a peaceful, meditative practice, it honours all the elements and is very sensory. 

I’d really love to create an online studio with movement and Yoga practices. 

 I would love to live somewhere I feel more connected to nature and enjoy being a part of it. I miss Greece so much and could see myself back there. In the long term I dream of creating a space like an artist residency where people can spend time in nature and explore their own creative expression. A space that is dedicated to mindfulness, mediation, movement, and artistic practices. A place where people can also come to share these with each other.


 Do you have a night time ritual?

 I love making both my morning and evening habits feel nourishing and sacred, when I can. I don’t always stick to the same routine. My rituals change and go through phases, but I tend to have the same intention, finding a space to listen to and nourish my body, checking in with myself mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Sometimes I love just lying flat on the floor before getting into bed. I try to let everything drop back into the earth. Be that muscular tension I’ve been holding or collected throughout the day, thoughts, and emotion. Long, slow exhales and sighs help me drop into my rest and restore state. The breathwork training I did in Bali really opened my eyes to how conscious breathing can help to process and shift my physical and mental state. Sometimes I practise this in the morning and at night when I’m lying in bed. Water also helps soften me after a long day and I love baths during winter. I often listen to a short meditation so that I can journey into the land of sleep with good vibes. This is especially helpful if I’ve been scrolling Instagram, or my head is full of stories.


What are your favourite herbs and why?

Rosemary, I think because it reminds me of South Africa and Greece. I also love that it’s so delicious in so many dishes. Lavender because it reminds me of my mom. I seem to be really drawn to dandelion as well, which I discovered in one of The Wilder tinctures, Radiance. I love the Radiance drops and Beauty tea as a combo, it feels very cleansing and nourishing. I also discovered vetiver in the Wilder bath oil, which is sooo good.


 Please share a piece of music and book that you feel everyone should hear and read?

This is a tricky question as I am often reading a few different books at a time and love so many different types and styles of music.

The last piece of music that I listened to and loved was, Woven song by Ólafur Arnalds. I love music that transports me into another world. I love female vocalists like Tracey Chapman, Joan Armatrading, Joni Mitchel, Lauryn Hill and Miriam Makeba. I could go on.

When it comes to books I love to read slowly, and enjoy magical realism, because I think imagination is a wonderful part of being human. I love most of Haruki Murakami's books, the last one I read was Killing Commendatore. One of my favourite books is “The Life of Pi” by Yann Martel, because it has adventure, hope and connection.

The book 140 Artists' Ideas for the Planet Earth. Edited by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Kostas Stansinopoulos.

I referenced a lot from the book The Body keeps the score by Bessel van der Kolk when writing my thesis and love what he says about imagination, “Imagination is…. an essential launchpad for making our hopes come true. It fires our creativity, relieves our boredom, alleviates our pain, enhances our pleasure, and enriches our most intimate relationships.”

Contact Sjaan via www.sjaanyoga.com or via instagram sjaan_movingarts

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