Under a blazing sun in Portugal, MWN sat down for an interview with the Dutch-Moroccan Sanae Orchi.
By Najoua Bijjir
Ericeira – After a career in the Netherlands as a model, an anchor, a TV reporter, and an actress, Sanae Orchi (29) radically changed course. Trading off her glamorous career in order to dedicate her life to … yoga!
“I believe that every time you express your gratitude and act upon it, that gratitude will return to you in various ways.”
What caused you to dramatically change your life?
I grew up in a poor but very supportive family. As a young girl, I was driven to work hard and make the best of my life. I studied hard, went to university and obtained my degree in economics.
At the age of 25, I was modeling and I was also able to pursue a career in television. At the time I had it all: travel all over the world, nice clothes, and a fiancée. Everything I had fit in this perfect picture, and I was living a successful life. Yet somehow it all seemed wrong because I felt very imbalanced, empty and unsatisfied. I was unhappy and I determined that my career and my lifestyle were not working for me.
One day I was enjoying the company of my mother, who suddenly expressed her worries about society as if it was doomed. I literally heard my mother repeating the defeatist news she heard on TV. I realized that I was the anchor and reporter that was partly responsible for reproducing all those headlines, all those frightening stories that weren’t necessarily true.
You see, news is based on a very small percentage of what happens in the world and that does not reflect every-day life. From that point on I decided I didn’t want to be responsible anymore for influencing people’s reality. I changed my job and my circle of influence and changed my life completely. I changed myself.
What was the big change?
I felt like there was more to life than 9/5 jobs, media, and business. I wanted to understand the world better. I wanted to understand why I had these empty feelings, while others thought I had it going on.
I used to be a rebel and I was focused on making statements to try to change things. But I learned that if you desire a better world, you shouldn’t talk about war nor protest against it. You should put your effort into making peace.
I started reading a lot of books. All sorts of books! I studied my religion, Islam, but also about other cultures and religions. Understanding others made me better understand myself. Everybody struggles with their own inner battles at some point in their lives. I believe that personal crisis is a crisis of consciousness and inability to directly experience our true nature. Yoga really helped me to discover and unlock my potential. I tried different styles of yoga to explore my body.
I wanted to learn about the power of the mind so I tried very old meditation techniques as well as modern methods. I started to see things differently, do things differently. It opened my mind to change and allow myself to grow. Now I’m sharing my experiences and knowledge with others to support them in their growth and their journey.
What does yoga represent to you?
To me, yoga isn’t just a physical & mental workout. It’s a spiritual practice that helps you understand yourself on a deeper level. It’s also a way to detox your body by removing negativity. In this time of smartphones and screen-time, I see a lot of people unable to find balance between reality and virtual reality. Staring at a screen for hours a day, losing complete contact with your own body and the actual world that surrounds you leaves you lost and alone. It’s not surprising that the number of psychological disorders is increasing, and more and more often young people suffer from them;
You became an African Yoga instructor. What is African Yoga?
The African yoga I teach is actually called Smai-Tawi. During the time I was reading a lot, I also read about African history. There I discovered that yoga originated in ancient Egypt, a country that covered large regions of Africa. The geometric positions and postures that are found in the hieroglyphs and temple walls of Ancient Egypt are some of the earliest manifestations of yoga before it’s migration to India.
I was curious about Smai Tawi, so I decided to study it. I traveled all the way to Jamaica, where I followed an intensive course on the philosophy and practices of African yoga.
There are a number of differences in the positions, things you normally do not see in regular yoga. We also use controlled breathing techniques while doing physical exercises.
You travel around the world giving yoga-classes. How do you manage all that?
I teach yoga and give lectures on personal development. This week I’m teaching in Portugal, and I just came back from Ibiza and Edinburgh. In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be delivering a boot camp in England surrounded by nature. I’ve also been invited to speak about Smai Tawi at Breaking Convention and Noisily Festival. If you’re doing what you like it’s not hard to manage. I love practicing and teaching yoga. Sharing this with other people helps me to continue my own development.
Celebrities approach you often in order to coach them. Who are these celebrities?
I can’t mention their names but mostly artists, athletes, and entrepreneurs hire me to help them with their personal challenges. We use yoga and meditation to identify and alleviate their blockages. So far it has been proven to be very effective. The body movements and controlled breathing can bring one into an altered state of consciousness, helping us to connect with our true essence— who we are behind all the titles, roles and responsibilities.
How do you combine teaching yoga, traveling and fasting for Ramadan?
It’s actually the perfect combination. But it’s not easy, and I’ve had my challenges.
I love traveling to sunny places, but right now I’m on a mountain hiding in the shade. Ramadan, in essence, is a very spiritual month. It’s more than just fasting to me. It is a month where you detox both body and mind. It’s easy to stop eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset. It’s more challenging to control your own feelings, such as mood swings, aggression and sexual temptations throughout the day. During Ramadan people are challenged to deal with these emotions, instead of eating and drinking them away. This makes you spirituality stronger.
Yoga gives me energy, mental clarity, and discipline needed to direct my actions towards the goals I set for myself.
My biggest goal during Ramadan is to express my gratitude. For example, I’m grateful for being granted food, so I don’t want to waste it. I appreciate the company of family, so I put extra effort in getting together with them. I’m grateful for my health, so I fuel my body with healthy foods and exercise.
I believe that every time you express your gratitude and act upon it, that gratitude will return to you in various ways.