Dzamling Gar, Tenerife
Interview with Natalie Nitsche and Alina Kramina
June 16, 2023
Natalie Nitsche and Alina Kramina are the founders of Espacio Yoga Studio in Playa Paraiso, inside Dzamling Gar. The Mirror talks to them about this unique public venture of Espacio Yoga Studio in collaboration with the Dzamling Gar Dzogchen Community.
The Mirror: The first question we have is what was the impetus for the beginning of Espacio?
Alina: I think all of the Yantra Yoga instructors who were teaching here in Dzamling Gar for some longer period of time could see that there was no regular schedule that was maintained for the purpose of some progressive education of people interested in Yantra Yoga and everything related to Yantra Yoga like soft yantra yoga, Yoga on the chair, and Kumar Kumari (Yantra Yoga for children). So there were not really regular classes; sometimes an instructor would come and offer something once in a while and then leave, or maybe their plans would change. And there was no stability in that.
But moreover there was no clear communication with people from outside and no clear program for people from outside of Dzamling Gar, the people who live in Tenerife. and they might be interested in what we do here, but we never had a clear program which we could offer to them in the form of regular weekly classes. So this was one of the ideas.
Nataly: There were times where we had regular Yantra classes, also in jyagcip, the space under the cafeteria, as well as in the white tent or later in the Gönpa. And the Gönpa was the big white tent so when there were retreats, at some point, we had to break the continuity of the classes because of the space and all the big retreats. So that was a situation that also didn’t allow Yantra Yoga classes to be stable. And now the situation is changed a lot.
We have so many spaces here and Espacio was actually pretty much under-used for a long time. There were just a few rehearsals because of the mirrors for Khaita a few times a year and some regular Yantra sessions in different periods.
M: So it was primarily the two of you who created the idea of a yoga studio?
Alina: Yes, at first we were talking for some time with other Yantra Yoga instructors about this idea. It took a little time to organize it because I think we had the idea that we wanted to create a stable base first. So even if we started very small, we wanted to try things and have the time and make sure that we could commit and expand only to the capacity to manage things that we had at the moment. So this is one of the points.
We were ready to start and we saw jyagcip as a good place, because as Nataly said, it was an under-used space and the aspect of place is also important to maintain this regularity where people know that these classes happen in the same place and the same time and they get used to that. Also for the people from outside of the community, it’s important that they know how to find the activity and if there is one location they become familiar with, they can easily find it and rely on the fact that the activity they are interested in is happening in Espacio. So the place was not ready and it required a lot of renovation and at that moment we decided yes, we can we can do it, or at least we can start and then see how it will go.
M: So you said that one of the impetuses was that there weren’t enough regular yoga classes or activities and it wasn’t consistent. Did you also have an idea about promotion to the outside to bring people in, to open up our system of yoga to the local community?
Nataly: Yes, of course. And I think the concept of a yoga studio is much easier to understand for people not from the community. For example, a couple of times people enter the Gar and the garden and they are just like, wow, what is this place? And then you start to explain all the things that happen here. And it becomes like a big thing because it is actually a big thing that involves so many people, so much activity and so many different aspects and different levels.
So of course, I could feel Dzamling Gar could be overwhelming. Visitors were surprised; they didn’t really know how to relate to this place, like what can I do here. Of course, we invite people to courses and activities. But I noticed a very different response when you say, oh, there’s a yoga studio. And there’s a cafeteria and people are like, ah, I know what this is. Everyone knows what a yoga studio is. So as a concept it is really clear for people, and it’s inviting. There’s a yoga studio. People know what to expect when they arrive to a yoga studio. They know there are classes of yoga, maybe other things that also are connected with well-being, like other workshops and other classes, not only yoga, it can be dance, etc, but it’s a very clear concept for most of the people. So I think that’s a very good advantage of having this kind of door for people.
M: When you started the project, how did you approach the Community and the Gakyil and how did you present the project and interface in that way; and how did that go?
Alina: We had this idea and we proposed it to the Gakyil, just at the level of the idea and we received the green light in the form that, yes, we could prepare this project and the Gakyil gave us time during the meeting to communicate the concept better so the Gakyil could understand the project. So we did, we prepared a document, we calculated the budget, more or less, we made the introduction, the explanation phase, and basically we had our time to present it, and we received a lot of support. And basically everyone told us that, yes, this is a good idea, and also supported us, also financially, so that we could start doing something about this place physically because it was not ready to receive people. It had to be renovated before opening the doors to everyone, specifically to people who have never been to Dzamling Gar. So yes, we had a lot of support.
M: So you were the primary movers for the renovation work. You engaged other people, but you really worked very hard to prepare the space and to work on the physical aspect of the space.
Nataly: Regarding the renovation, I think at the beginning we, for sure I, underestimated the amount of work we needed to do, especially because It was like as soon as you were cleaning one part, then you would take something out and then you see what is under and it’s like, okay, this also needs to be cleaned. So it took longer than we thought. Altogether it took around one month.
We were here almost everyday, coming and doing something. We received help, of course. Rabgyi and a lot of people came to help. We had a lot of karma yogis. we had also work exchange workers and we made a call a few times and people from all over came to help and some of them committed and stayed until it was done, it was finished. Also other Yantra Yoga instructors were helpful. I think it was really a collaboration because only two of us wouldn’t have managed it. It’s quite a challenging and big space and it’s become very beautiful and the energy is really nice.
M: The energy is very nice. So, how is it going now as far as programming and how do you work on the programming and how do you promote it? What is the most effective way for promotion?
Alina: We began with the Open Day in October of last year and it was really a great experience. I think it was important to let people know about this place, but also to bring our Community people inside to see what this project is all about. Around 55 people came. the place was pretty much full, and a lot of people helped, for example, some people prepared healthy snacks. We made the program to present what we were going to do in Espacio and from there some people decided that they would like to participate in the program.
Almost one year has passed and now we are more ready to take it to another level starting a new season. Up until now we were keeping it pretty slow because it’s only Nataly and me. We’re doing it mostly as karma yoga and we’re not really prepared for a big flow of people from outside because it became obvious that we need to prepare some other things, as well to improve communication with other branches within Dzamling Gar. We also want collaborate with people from from outside who might be interested in activities here. So we were going slowly just to make sure that we can manage the commitment and at least keep the stable program we already have.
Nataly: Until now it has mostly been word of mouth that brought people, but we also advertised with an Instagram channel and we have a WhatsApp group. We also charge a fee for the classes and we decided on these rates based on what is available around and we did some research on what other yoga studios and other yoga teachers are charging. I said other yoga teachers because sometimes there are classes here on the beaches and not really in studios or gyms. So we researched what the prices are and positioned ourselves accordingly.
And also we offer the first month as a package at a 50% discount. So that is a motivation for people to try because to really try it out, since you need more than one time. So at the beginning, the first month is really cheap. And then we have packages for different numbers of classes. And we have discounts for Community members as well.
M: o how do you feel, do you feel that things are moving in, that things are going well, that it’s been successful? Do you see where you need to, maybe, where you need to maybe improve certain aspects of the situation or how you perceive the future for a special.
Alina: When we began, we saw that there is demand for a place like this. Here specifically in our region of the island there are not so many yoga studios while there are many people who regularly come here like tourists or even residents who would like to do something like yoga, but when they come here to Dzamling Gar it’s much more than only yoga and it’s not just any yoga, it’s a very specific yoga. So normally when people come here, they are very interested and we see there is a demand. So this is one thing. From this side we can say it is successful, it was a very good idea because we see that people, local people, are interested and they need it.
We are also happy that finally when someone is entering, someone is looking for answers about what this place is and what they could do here, immediately we can offer them something. There is no need to think of some retreats or courses that will happen sometime later, but immediately from the first moment you can engage them. From this point of view, this is a success. We’re happy that we started.
From the point of view of how many people are coming, for sure this place has a lot of potential and until now we have been doing a lot of work but we didn’t invest so much in communicating everywhere that we’re here and this is the place where you can learn this special method of yoga, so from the point of view of communication there are many things to be done and once we do it, I’m sure that many more people start coming. We just have to be prepared for this, I mean, the inflow of people. It’s a big job.
M: It would be nice if you could have one person to focus just on the publicity, wouldn’t it?
? Nataly or Alina: Yes at some point in the future that would be very helpful. Also some renovation has to be done here once in a while, because jyagcip is basically a cave built inside of earth. And we have the problem with the walls once in a while or other things. If we don’t treat them, they come back. So this type of work requires a lot of time. But slowly we put different processes in place.
Now we have regular cleaning. We have a regular schedule. We know how to work with people who come. And it seems like this project will continue, and the Gakyil supports us in this regard. And it seems like now we are more ready to take it to the next level, specifically, to speak more about it, to communicate and to publicize the programs.
We also would like to grow our schedule, because even if we kept it as it is now we would have five students a week. We could have much more, but even if we have instructors here in Dzamling Gar living around, not everyone can commit to be here every week regularly. And this is one of the things that we wanted to keep to make the program stable because it’s very important if we want to invite people regularly. So this was, I would say, a challenge at some point, but something that we managed to maintain. And that’s the reason why we kept that number of classes. In order to do that, there was a lot of effort, because some people have to travel, and then some people have to cover, for them and we also had to manage that. The classes are always running and we had almost no cancellations of classes all these time.
M: That is really great. Can we ask you a little bit about the reaction of people from outside to this particular system of yoga?
Nataly: Actually it seems like from the people who have been coming, we really don’t have a lot of people who came and and then never came back. I think that is a good point. Personally, I think that sometimes we have higher expectations than the people who come because we also have training in a very specific, very precise way, which is really good, but probably it’s not the same expectation that a person who comes to a yoga studio and they just want to move a little.
They feel that they open their mind and feel more relaxed and they are really grateful to have this base and to be able to do something good for their health. And to feel better. And it’s interesting, because, some people come who know other yoga. But also quite a lot of people come who have no experience with yoga before. And that’s what is more surprising for me; it’s wonderful. They don’t have any concept or something to relate to, so they take it as it is.
But it’s also true that for us, especially with the regular classes of Yantra, it is a little challenging because we also know that we have learned in a different way. We learn and we are trained to teach also in different formats like in a course, in an intensive course, in something that has a beginning, it has an end and people come into all of it. And we understand that when people come to a yoga studio, things are different, like even if someone’s committed, maybe they miss one week because something happens, you know, life happens and they don’t come all the time. And then we need to find the way to navigate this.
Our idea is to start with mostly introductory classes so that people can have a class where they can come at least once a month and really listen from the beginning, to have an idea about the whole method and how it works.
Alina: I think people take it as it is. Maybe I am worried they will be confused or they will not be able to do it, but every time I discover that they’re able to do it, to follow. They don’t have this experience as a practitioner who has been doing it for a while, but they don’t have resistance normally. I can’t even remember when I had someone who had this resistance, but it’s a big challenge because sometimes you find yourself giving this introduction over and over, again and again, but people seem to be all right because sometimes they need to hear it a few times actually.
And you as a teacher think that you already said it a few times, and it’s been enough, but for them it’s still interesting. So we want to introduce short courses or workshops, monthly workshops, where everyone who feels that he or she is missing this introduction and wants to start from the beginning, they could join and have this opportunity.
And then we have division in all the classes. We now have beginners and intermediate level because also some people learned during this time and are ready to move to intermediate and also there are some community people who already know Yantra. Also we have division of classes into English and Spanish, which is important to say. We had some comments that it’s very important that we have Spanish classes because we are in Spain, but the big majority of people who come here are foreigners, tourists, because we are in the south and most speak English.
M: Do you want to talk a little bit about the other programming that you offer here, like some other workshops you’ve had and you also have weekly meditation?
Nataly: The weekly meditation is a very important part of our program and is taught by Rabgyi. He has been doing this for a long time regularly and then it was incorporated in the yoga studio program. It’s a session that is offered by donation and anyone can come. It is a very consistent activity and these sessions are really nice. People enjoy it a lot.
And also after the classes, we talk a little bit about the space, if people need information, so we try to be here. There’s usually a moment where there are a lot of questions. Once someone asked me once about the big crystal house up there, meaning the Gönpa. That beautiful crystal house. And then you say, yes, we can go to the crystal house, because it’s an amazing place. We tell them they can come and dance Khaita or just come and enter. And so people slowly come and start to understand this amazing place and become more at ease.
Alina: So we don’t have only Yantra Yoga. As I said, we have Yantra Yoga in Spanish and in English, intermediate and beginners. We also have Respira, which is the method of breathing inspired by Yantra Yoga created by Fabio Andrico. And this is a great opportunity for people who are not very familiar with breathing in general and the concept of why breathing is so important in Yantra Yoga. I always take a Respira class as something like an introduction to the Yantra Yoga. There are quite a lot of people who come for a Respira class compared to other classes because it’s much easier and much more approachable., I always use this opportunity to introduce and speak more about Yantra Yoga and explain to them why it is important. And then they have experience and they know why it is important by the end of the class. So this is a very, very useful class in this program.
Then besides that, we have some other programs and workshops offered by our community members. We have had a voice training with Alexandra Anton and one with Katya Farrington; they were able to teach people some of the techniques that they are practicing and the workshops were popular. We had also painting workshop with Simona Marziani, who is a Community member. We had chi gung classes with John ?, who is also a member of the Community. We had a number of other workshops and for this reason this place is not called a Yantra Yoga Studio, but Espacio Yoga Studio, because we don’t want to limit ourselves to Yantre Yoga in the sense that we want this place to be like a platform that brings together different public activities that Dzamling Gar can offer as a community to the public, and also where our own experts from the community can share their knowledge.
Nataly: We are also interested to rent it to some other people who could teach other styles of yoga here. So Espacio becomes more like an exchange space, and as well, we would definitely use it as a possibility to speak more about Yantra Yoga and bring more awareness. Also inside Yantra Yoga we have some other related forms like Soft Yantra, or Yantra Yoga in the chair. We have Prenatal Yoga that now is in the regular schedule and it’s a class that is just starting. And of course we will have a class of Kumar Kumari for the next season as well.
The starting point for introducing Kumar Kumari is a Kids Yoga Camp in July. That is presented for the public and is a collaboration between Dzamling Gar and Espacio Yoga Studio. So it is our first child focused activity and then we plan to continue with the Kumar Kumari classes regularly as well.
Also, what Alina mentioned is that we have rented the space for other activities. We had sound healing sessions like Tibetan Bells with Miriam ?, who is also a member of our community. We really think it’s important to open, to really open the space. It’s not just for the classes that we offer, but also people come here and they can use the space. They can collaborate with local people who are working here and not necessarily from community, and we would like to start that when we have a more complete and solid program of Yantra Yoga so that It’s very clear that this is our main focus. Then eventually we want to have like a Hatha Yoga classes by local teachers. This will bring more life and more connections and interactions and make Espacio a really open and transparent space. That is very important. Hence the name Espacio. I think the inspiration was that the Espacio as the space, as the elements, that can eventually offer everything you need. It really has a great potential.
M: To conclude, maybe we can ask how do you envision things for the future?
Nataly: At the same time it is an easy concept, but in the practice it is a big responsibility for us, because we know that whatever happens here is representing us (Dzogchen Community). And so we want to be very careful, when we decide what activities to offer, what is our intention? Of course, we understand that we need to find a balance, not to be too rigid and or too open and flexible. So even if you want to be very open, and share with other people, you still have to care for what this space is and that is a challenge.
M: So do you feel like you have enough help or would you like to engage more of the Community and local instructors to help manifest the activities here?
Alina: In general, there is a lot of work to be done to, not only one type of work is required to run this place in a stable way. We need the type of work that enables us to make extra steps to bring it to the next level every time, to develop more. And in general, there are a few roles. So there is the role of the manager, the person who also thinks about the vision, about the program, plans for the future, et etc. There is the role of the maintenance person, someone who is cleaning, someone who is preparing the space for every class, who’s taking care of the plants, et cetera. There is the role of the accountant manager because there are many things to keep another in terms of how much people come, how much money you receive, and we also give donations to instructors to keep somehow this exchange, so to say, to keep it all sustainable with instructors. And we need an administrator that would be fantastic to have a person who will take this job. And also once we start to receive more people, we will need a receptionist.
As for the plans for the future, I think Espacio also is a project that is not a separate from Dzamling Gar. It is a part of Dzamling Gar, and now things are changing in Dzamling Gar.. Some years have passed since our Master passed away. So now, naturally, we are opening again. It has been like a private period for some years. And also, there was the COVID-19, and we were a little bit closed in our circle. But now it’s time to open again. And to do that, we really need to collaborate a lot. And it seems like many parts are coming together now.
For example, we have a new Infopoint house. which is bigger and is now located next to the entrance, where new people can come and receive information, find out what this place is, also see the shop, and they can receive communications, like information about our classes, etc. The cafeteria has been renovated and is open now, and it’s an important meeting point. It’s a very good combination to have yoga studio and cafeteria.
Then Gisela Martinez has become the official communications manager. She’s doing a lot of work in order to improve communication, to set the processes. Also we would like to collaborate more with the local authorities to have joint events and the Gakyil is also working in this direction. And we have many, many more things here besides opening the Yantra Yoga classes. Espacio could be just like the welcome point where people could come and start doing something but eventually learn about well-being project run by Urara, also the Tibetan medicine courses, language, and therapies, Khaita, and open retreats. Even over this time of eight months people that people have had contact with Espacio, they have already became members of the Community. So I see it as this collective passage and we all go together in the direction of offering something to the local community. We have so many things to offer, and the job now is to communicate properly and to align ourselves. I think it will be great. It’s becoming great.
M: Do you have anything else you want to add?
There is a kind of plan in the works but probably not for the very near future. It’s a good project and was something that was mentioned by Rinpoche, and it is the fact of working with the local hotels to offer things in the hotels. So why I say it’s not maybe the near future because as you see there are many more things to establish here, but it could, once everything is running more in a stable way. I think it’s the perfect like to come to to to the hotel, especially the nearby hotels as an established yoga, serious yoga center and we can offer some services. It can be it’s really a good fit like week. It’s a it’s a good – Check with. – Platform to offer this. And we already did some research in these hotels and they don’t have your maclasas. (laughs) – Yes, so but again, like this is kind of, if we finish step one now, we talked about until now, maybe step two and then what you think about STEM number? establishing the base. It’s really great. Yes. Yeah. Okay. I think we can end it here. Yes? Okay. Thank you very much.
M: Thank you so much Alina and Nataly for all you are doing with Espacio for the Dzogchen Community, for Dzamling Gar, for Yantra Yoga and also for the time you took to do this interview with The Mirror.