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Zoya Misha
June 10, 2020

People in beta on Lockdown #7: Cynthia Deslongchamps - The backpacker who became a Berlin-based yogi

What started off as a journey of selling all her belongings and throwing on a backpack to explore the world, has led Cynthia to explore the deepest part of herself and discover her true passion of sharing love through yoga. Five years later, she’s following her dream of getting everyone – from yogis to corporate execs – to take a deep breath in, relax… and arrive.

Like so many who find their way to Berlin, Cynthia realised the traditional life was not for her. But it wasn't until the 2015 Gorkha earthquake in Nepal that she was really able to take the leap, relocating her life to Europe and becoming a professional yoga teacher.

You may know Cynthia Deslongchamps as our betaFlow instructor, but that's not the only unconventional setting where she's bringing calm. We sat down to ask her about how she's combined her corporate background with her yoga practice, how she feels about combining passion and work, and what it's been like to take her classes online during COVID-19.

How did your passion for yoga start?

At a young age, I was influenced by my gymnastics teacher who was into yoga and combined stretching with breathing exercises. As I got older, I felt the need to find personal balance in my life and I started trying out different types of yoga.  

Certain things in my childhood triggered my needs to go inward, finding a safe space where I can see things more clearly and allow myself to heal. I know it sounds cliché, but when I went backpacking I felt yoga would become a huge journey of discovering myself. Starting the yoga teacher training course would help me to get grounded and find stability on a physical, spiritual and emotional level. Healing and self-discovery have been the biggest influences in yoga becoming my passion.

Baby Yogi Cynthia

When did you know you wanted to turn your passion into your job?

After an au pair job, I wanted to have my own place and some more financial stability. Since I did not do any special studies, I needed to connect my visa to a contract with a company in order to stay in Berlin. This is why I started a sales job in a corporate company, which caused me to be very stressed and feel disconnected from myself. 

During this period, I started to practise yoga a lot more to re-connect to my inner balance. This started to make me dream again about when I traveled the world and realised I wanted to spend every minute of my life doing something I love. I started to think about the things I’m passionate about… making people feel better, sharing my knowledge that has helped me to go on this journey and of course yoga.

Cynthia in Nepal during her Yoga Teacher Training

In the beginning, I felt afraid to take a leap and make this step. Therefore I negotiated with the company I worked for to reduce my hours to 20% so I could spend my free time on yoga. This ended up being more of a scare mechanism, causing me to not fully dive into becoming a teacher and going back to full time work. Because I really disliked my job, I transferred to a different corporation and eventually wound up working for a different company doing the exact same thing and being in the exact same, unhappy place. 

One day, on the morning of my birthday, I woke up and said to myself: “Today I am going to quit my job and become a full time yoga teacher because this is my passion!”. I went to work to give my notice, and lo and behold, they fire me! 

My boss told me he felt there was something greater out there for me, and I felt it too. My financial situation was arranged and gave me more time and stability to build – what will soon hopefully be –  my yoga empire. Right now, I’ve been teaching yoga for about a year and a half. 

It has been hard work, but when things are meant to be they just flow into place. I can feel that I’m on the right track of happiness.

Why did you choose Arrivé Yoga as a name?

When I was trying to come up with a name, I realised how freaking difficult it is because there are so many aspects to it. First of all, I wanted the name to start with the letter “A” so it would put me on top of the searching list. Secondly, I wanted the name to be something that connects with a part of myself which needed a lot of healing. Not to get too personal, but there’s a lot of healing needed regarding my father… and his last name is L’Arrivé, which means “the arrived” in French. 

Instead of hiding something that I need healing from, I wanted to bring it to the surface, own up to it and turn it into something beautiful, loving and successful. During my classes, I always emphasise on people to arrive and be present in the moment. This is when I decided the perfect combination for my business name is Arrivé Yoga. It exactly describes my style of yoga. 

It's cute. It's sexy. It's French.

Arriving in the forest

Why did you decide to do yoga as a freelancer rather than having a studio?

I decided against owning my own studio because I wanted to divert to different places. In the beginning, I rented cheap studio rooms in different areas for a while and even gave classes in a small cafe in Prenzlauer Berg. At first it’s hard to gain a following and for people to know about you. Though after a while I started to get my regulars in one spot, switched to a different area and got new regulars there. 

At the moment, I’m teaching at coworking spaces like betahaus, and also doing yoga classes at events. I’m at the point now where I want to spread wherever I can and have enough credibility to back me up when I walk into a random place and say “Hey, I want to teach yoga here! Are you guys looking for that?”. I like to bring yoga into places where it’s not necessarily common practise, such as corporate companies.

betahaus Coworkers and Cynthia enjoying the sun after the Mid-Day Flow

My favourite event was one I did in the beginning. It was a conference for the old company I used to work for. It was all high end executive level middle-aged men in suits, talking about E-Mobility for automotives. There were maybe 50 of them and I just stood there on stage and did three sessions of 15-minute yoga. Every single one of them, when I first got up there, looked at me like “Are you fucking kidding me? We’re gonna do yoga right now?”. And within two minutes they all had their eyes closed. They were all breathing and doing stretches and they were loving it. 

This is when I realised that with the years of corporate experience I had, I was learning to understand the corporate language. This is where I can bridge these two worlds. By speaking their language and combining it to train yoga in this way.

Photo by Vignesh Ramkumar @vic_ramkumar

Office yoga is something you also bring into the workspace at betahaus, the “betaFlow”, which is a great way to break up the day. This definitely benefits the community. Do you think there’s opportunity for other teachers or instructors to bring their classes to “out of the ordinary” places?

If it’s something you understand and you are passionate about, absolutely. The key point here is to understand the language, especially in corporate or working spaces. If you go into a corporate office, and start talking about spiritually connecting and moving your energy around, they will immediately create a barrier with their mind. No matter how amazing what you say is, they’re not going to listen.

What I often do is make little jokes, especially during a beginner class, because it takes the seriousness out of it and breaks down the wall a bit. This makes people more open and receptive to what I have to teach. With this in mind, I think anybody can do it!

A lot of people ask me “You’re living in Berlin and teaching yoga. Isn’t there a lot of competition?”. In my opinion there is no competition because there are enough people who want to try yoga and every teacher has their own particular style or energy. It’s about finding the right teacher for yourself and honestly, I hope more people start to become teachers!

The betaflow-room at betahaus Neukölln

Since you have a very in-person job of teaching groups of people, how is the current COVID-19 situation influencing the way you work? Are you shifting to online classes?

To be honest, this has been the most beautiful test of manifestation of what I can create, no matter what the situation is. I think because I took this approach to it, I became way more successful than I thought I would.

About two weeks before the lockdown happened, I started to think that I wanted to explore more online class opportunities. So the timing is really ironic. It put me into a position where I was forced to seek new options, and there is definitely the clientele right now. I don’t want to sound like I’m too excited about it during these hard times, but it’s better to make the best out of it!

I realised it’s not about the money for me, but about being able to help people who really crave and need this connection and balance during these times. This is why I decided to turn my personal daily yoga practises into classes open for anyone to join. I found that doing this is also very beneficial for my own mental health, because it keeps me on schedule and connected with people. Also, I’ve definitely lost some weight during quarantine. 

You might be the only one.

Join my classes!

What helped me a lot to reach my personal goals of going about my business, is Urban Sports Club. Through them, I get a lot of new people who normally wouldn’t join my in-person classes, which has made things much more efficient for me. This is how I gained most of my clients in the beginning and by this more connections and referrals flowed into my classes. 

I definitely want to move into the direction of keeping some classes online in the future. I realised that by going online, you’re reaching out to a whole other spectrum of people. I really enjoy the format of seeing my students through the big screen during my class because it feels like taking being a personal trainer to the online. This way I can also adjust them verbally and keep the community alive. 

Tell us one memory that sums up your move to Berlin?

The minute I stepped off the train, I saw a guy wearing a leather cape, a crop top and high heels. Coming from California, I felt a bit shocked looking at him, but then I looked around and realised nobody was staring weirdly at him. This is when I realised that Berlin is a magical city where you can truly be yourself. It’s so calming to the soul to take away this specific tension to the outer layer of yourself, feel like you can start breaking down the walls and just be “you” and know that no matter what, people will be accepting you for what and who you are. I find that beautiful.

What’s the biggest source of inspiration for you at the moment?

For me, inspiration comes from the least expected places. I wouldn’t say it comes from specific sources, but more from your ability to be open, present and fearless. This is when the inspiration comes from random places and conversations. I always keep my eyes open to the little signs in life which guide me in  a certain direction and I allow myself to dream big. So far, everything in my life that I’ve done and people have called me crazy and too much of a dreamer for, have been my best and most successful decisions. 

The focus shouldn’t be about showing the world how great and successful you are, but the motivation should come from feelings and experiences deep within yourself that you want to move towards. For me, everything is about feelings. When someone who is more analytical asks me where I want to take my business and how I practically will achieve this, I just say “Through yoga and I’m going to trust in that!”

It’s not that I’m unplanned, it’s more of a feeling I keep on following which creates a path that takes me to places I could not even think of. A lot of the times you plan your whole life and then none of it turns out the way you plan because things always change. Your perspective changes, your ideas change, your surroundings change… my feeling doesn’t change.

In the end of the day you live your life for yourself, so it’s important to feel happy and not bother about what others think (as long as you’re not hurting anyone, of course). It’s not selfish. In a way, this is actually selfless because you can create a much nicer space for people around you.

I have a very appropriate final bonus question for you, how would you describe the colour of your aura?

Before I ever did any tests, I always felt my aura would be yellow and violet… but I could not explain why. Recently I actually went online and did a test to see what aura colours I have, and voila! My primary colour is yellow and secondary violet!

These colours are very energetic, passionate, nourishing, caring and I associate this so much with Love. I know the word "love" is thrown around so much and so often it could sound very cliché, but to me, Love is such an important part of everything that exists. Everything starts from love, true genuine love, which is pure. There's no fear, no hatred. No matter how “good or bad” anything is, it's accepted. It's loved. It's cared for. It's respected. And this is how I want to try to approach everything in life, no matter how good or how bad it is. 

Give it some love.

Thanks to Cynthia for virtually sitting down with us! You can join her Youtube classes and find her online at ArriveYogaBerlin.com , Instagram and Facebook.

''People in beta’’ is a series of blog posts started by Vihra Shopova to interviews teams and members to understand who they are, what they’re most passionate about, and what brought them to coworking. Read more here and become a part of the coworking tribe.