I first met Bosiljka a few months back at one of our very first Women of Vienna events and I knew I wanted to include her in my interviews. She has such a quiet strength about her, she does not need to loudly present who she is or her accomplishments. It was lovely to hear more of her story and learn about her love for yoga and sharing it with others. I hope you will be able to draw on her strength and enjoy this story of how she came to Vienna!
I come from both Croatia and Serbia because I have this connection to both places. For many years, since my parents moved from a small town in Croatia to Belgrade before the war started in 1991, for maybe 14-15 years, I still didn’t have a feeling of connection with the place I had been living in. It created this feeling in me that I don’t have strong connections to a place. I felt that I should leave again. I can easily be wherever I want or where ever is needed. I just have to be at a place for one day and I feel at home.
I came to Vienna for my doctoral studies, but it was, in fact, a good excuse to finally decide to take this journey. I was working a lot in Belgrade on great ideas regarding yoga in the Yoga Federation of Serbia and it was not easy for me to leave that, in a way. I had something, work, that was really important for me. But I finally decided that my PhD thesis was also important and sometimes if you want to support organizations, you also have to develop yourself.
I was looking for a mentor for my PhD in many countries, all over in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, but I finally found one here. So that was a reason for moving to Vienna. Vienna is close enough that I could travel back to visit my family and give lectures. For the first year I would go back every weekend. But I thought a lot about a message that a friend from the University in Bangalore told me, “You have to sit at one place in order to have your job done”. You have to keep your attention in one place as long as it takes to accomplish something. We are at the place where our attention is and if we move it a lot, the job will not be done. It happens in everyday situations, while studying, having a relationship, communicating with family, friends and colleagues, our attention very often is not there, we are just physically present. Yoga teaches us to be present and to feel ourselves at the place and moment where we really are, so we develop harmony with ourselves and with our surroundings.
I am doing a doctoral studying in psychology. My first idea was to make a connection between psychotherapy and yoga. My mentor accepted my general idea, but then she had some nice suggestions and finally we came to how yoga is connected to self-regulation in personality psychology. I cannot say that there is an influence. In science, you cannot say that something influences something, but you can say that there is some connection and which parts of something have a connection to other things. But when you practice yoga for many years you can feel that there is some influence. And you can see that in people who practice, especially people who have practiced for many years.
I remember we had a group of people who had jobs in human resources. There was a test that took four hours and then at the end, the last half hour was a test of how fast their reaction is in conditions where they are really tired. It appeared that the people who practiced yoga had a result that was something around two minutes and a half. The person explaining the results said that it was really amazing, that it was a really good result. So we were asking, “What is a good result, the usual result?” My thought was that it could be four to five minutes or something. Fifty percent faster would be really great. But then she said the average result was ten to twelve minutes. So it was five times better.
Yoga practice is often just seen as some physical activity which you do just for fun or some kind of recreation. It can be done like that, it’s true. But if we practice the techniques as it offers, with such an approach, it means that it should be done with your present attention. You have to be here and now when you do it. Then the change happens. There was research done at the University of Bangalore that shows that in aging people, people who practiced yoga, the aging process was slower. We are not completely aware how it changes us genetically, but it does. And since I am a psychologist, I realized it would be good to have research on this topic. People often say that it is enough that we have experience and we can then prove that the change happens, but if you want to show that to the scientific community you have to have some research and proof.
I can’t really decide if my first love is psychotherapy or yoga. Somehow it happened at the same time, though I was not completely aware of it. When I was in high school, I decided I was going to study psychology. At first, I was thinking that the science was my field. But it changed a lot over the years. Science then psychotherapy, science then psychotherapy. During those years I liked to go to the library, I spent many years in the library. One day I found one big book about yoga which contained all the details that were possible to find at that time in Belgrade. I borrowed the book and I extended the time you could keep it for two years. Eventually they stopped asking me about the book. So I started to practice yoga by myself. Then I went to university to study psychology and I still did some yoga by myself. Some postures and mediation. Finally I found a teacher who really taught me what I wanted to know and in the way I wanted to learn it. So my idea was to make a connection between the things I love and that is what I would like to continue doing in the future.
There are some psychotherapy schools of thought Wilhelm Reich- he uses a lot from yoga practice. He and Alexander Lowen and some others. There are always some resources in ourselves we don’t use, but as soon as we are able to become calm and peaceful and quiet, these resources come to the surface. That’s why yoga can be useful to anybody. Very often people say, “ I’m not flexible enough”. But yoga doesn’t require anything of you other than you and your will to do it. All other skills can be developed with practice. And stretching is, in fact, not the most important thing. Some of these people they say, “When I am able to put my legs over my head like this then I will stop practicing, but it will take me an age.” But you don’t have to do that at all. That’s not really the goal. People can also feel that maybe they’re not good at something and they don’t want to show that, they’re shy. The only goal is to give our maximum at the moment, at our yoga mat and in our life, and to achieve the level where we will be able to use the maximum of our inner potentials in our life.
We did yoga a lot in parks, it was advertised everywhere, people could practice many places. People who came to practice were teachers, people from businesses, housewives, doctors, architects, really different professions. They were coming to yoga to relax, to improve concentration, to improve their physical health. When I started to do it, it was open to everyone. You just had to have interest and be dedicated.
Somehow I knew that I would probably stay. I have been in Vienna already for one year and a half and I’m thinking about staying. It is a pleasant place to live. I like it. My new impression I have about Vienna is that it is really big- in the sense that it is a really big and important place in the world. It is very self-confident and self-content. That’s the impression I get of Vienna, it doesn’t need anything from the outside. However, it still gives a lot of opportunities for new initiatives. That’s wonderful to me. Also everything is in order. I like that about Vienna.