Since i was a child i knew i in a way wanted ‘to help’ people. I grew up in the Netherlands, Breda, in a Western culture and had never heard about Yoga, mediation or anything ‘spiritual. My parents are catholic and i grew up with visiting the church every Sunday, until i was about 14 years old and decided not to go no more.
During my years in high school i decided i wanted to become a Medical doctor. As a child i suffered a lot from bronchitis and head aches – which after many visits to different doctors were finally resolved by switching to a dairy-free diet. I realised that physical health is an important (pre)condition in order to enjoy life and i became very determined to become a Medical doctor. I studied hard and made it in Medical School. Many of my friends went travelling or took a gap year but i was convinced about my choce and eager so went straight into university. During my years in university i made very long days and besides my hours studying i worked a couple of nights in a restaurant to pay for my studies, room, and my living.
Soon after starting my studies i felt dissatisfaction with both the Science of Allopathic/Western Medicine and the way of living as a medical doctor. The initial three years of my studies i spent mostly studying from books, attending lectures but already those years we would spent short periods in both out- and in-patient clinics. Also i traveled abroad during my holidays which i used to volunteer working in hospitals and health clinics in developing countries (Guatemala & Ecuador). In my 4th and 5th year i worked as an intern at several departments (Gynaecology, Surgery, Ophthalmology). Those years working in several hospitals and settings i realised that i did not want to be a medical doctor. I felt that Western Medicine could not help people to get better at a deeper level. On a physical level usually only the symptoms were being taken care of by prescribing medicines that would actually do harm to other parts of the body/organs and had multiple side effects. And most important of all the mental/emotional contributor of the disease is being ignored, as well as the lifestyle and diet. I can recall only few lectures mentioning the effect the psychological well being on a persons physical well being and i cannot recall any lecture on the influence of lifestyle like diet at all.
Most important of all i did not feel good myself. I felt depressed and all energy was flowing out of me. Medical doctors work very very long hours and are almost forced into working like a ‘machine’ on the automatic pilot mode. I did not have time to reflect on myself and nourish myself in any way. Luckily i did stumble upon a yoga class sometime in Berlin. That very first class had very profound effect on my, i felt deeply energised and realised that Yoga was more then just a physical exercise. I couldn’t explain it nor did understand what happened, but since then yoga has been a part of my life. Firstly i engaged myself in asana practice only. I never had thought that what i was doing on the mat was part of such a vast philosophy.
In Holland one has to complete 6 years of study to be a Medical Doctor, MD. I completed 5 years. After those 5 years the feeling that i did not want to be a doctor was so strong that i decided to change: i specialised in International Public Health and after completing that Masters i worked for an international research organisation in the field of Health Promotion, Health Financing and Maternal Health. After being employed i thought i had found my dream job: helping people in developing countries getting access to health services. I could help people, i could travel! I was based in Amsterdam but would travel frequently to West Africa (Ghana, Sierra Leone, Cameroon) or India to help Ministeries of Health and (inter)national health organisations formulate and or improve health policies. Initially i thought that through this job i could really help people. However the opposite seemed to be true. As the word says: health policies are a highly political business and they could change overnight depending on the upcoming running president. Moreover by working on a policy level i felt like i wasn’t contributing to the actual lives of the people: i was just writing reports, reports that would end up in a drawer of a minister or administrator. I spend most my days behind the computer. Even while travelling i would be mostly be writing reports; reports that would end up in drawers.I felt i was not really contributing to relieving their suffering. It was all imposed on them, no change was happening from within.
Again for myself i wasn’t feeling happy either. And that was the most important for me: how can i possibly ‘help’ someone else if i don’t feel good myself? During that period i felt more drawn towards Yoga and started attending classes very regularly – about 4 times per week. Those hours ended up being the most important of the week/the day. Those classes were the time that i almost the only time in the week that i would truly feel good. I felt that Yoga helped me confronting with myself and empowering me from within. I was very eager to learn more about myself, learn more about Yoga so that i could free myself from disturbing emotions. ALso i gave me a very clear insight: i cannot ever help someone truly being happy: every one holds the key to their own peace and happiness. What i did experience by myself is that a yoga teacher or any teacher can help others by showing a way how to learn about yourself. A teacher can show directions, but still we all have the walk the path ourselves.
Inspired by learning more about myself. Determinded to understand my mind, experiencing the profound positive effect of Yoga on my body, my mind (very much recognised also by my friends and family) as i would much more confident, happy, light hearted, i participated in a one year yoga teacher training. I learned much about myself, my own conditioning, ideas about myself, others, how things should be and i studied the practice of yoga and yoga philosophy in depth.
After completing that training in May 2011, in September i left my job. Since then i have been teaching Yoga and travelling to INdia to study Yoga and Yoga philosophy in depth and with different teachers. From 2011 till 2013 i was travelling up and down, since 2013 i reside in India. Now i continue studying Yoga and Buddhism
Music has always been a very important aspect in my life. Since i was 10 i played the silver flute. During years in university i did not play the flute and picked up the guitar. When i moved to india i got inspired by eastern and especially INdian classic music. Now i integrate music, mantra chanting, and the healing effect of sounds in my yoga classes
2003 – 2008: Study Medicine at University of Maastricht, Netherlands -> B.Sc in Medicine/Doctorate in Medicine
2008 – 2009: Studied International Public Health at Maastricht University –> M.Sc International Public Health
2009 – 2011: worked as Public Health Consultant at ‘Royal Tropical Institute’ in Amsterdam
2007: first yoga class
May 2011: complete my first Yoga Teacher Training in Amsterdam
August 2012: complete another yoga teacher training (RYS 200) in INdia
October 2013: complete RYS500 in India
Since now; studying Vedic mantra chanting in Chennai, yoga with different teachers in India, Buddhism in Dharamshala
Teaching since 2011 at different locations and studios:
- Amsterdam – here i taught ‘regular’ yoga classes at several studios and for different audiences. Payed classes as well as classes for free in the park if people cannot afford going to a yoga studio
- Morocco – here i organised surf & yoga retreats
- India – drop in classes and yoga teacher training (since 2012) in Goa and Dharamshala
On Karma Yoga:
Doing something for the community has always been important in my life. During university time i travelled to developing countries and would involve myself in voluntary projects. At university i graduated in a research on how to make health care services accessible and open to illegal (undocumented) migrants living in the Nehterlands. In Amsterdam i was teaching Yoga classes for free so that anyone who did not have enough money to join a studio could still enjoy the class.
You can quickly contact Merel through this form[contact-form subject=’enquiry form trial’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Subject’ type=’text’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’New Field’ type=’select’ options=’Call Me,Email Me’/][/contact-form]