How Christiana Oderemi uses the spiritual benefits of Yoga to cope with the human condition

When the pandemic struck in 2020, Christiana Oderemi did not expect it to be a blessing in disguise, the hand of providence that was about to point her in the direction of what would later become her purpose. Christiana is one of the emerging Nigerian creatives using social media to make yoga cool. Having stumbled upon the practice while the entire world was on lockdown, she has since established herself as not just a social media personality with over 14,000 Tiktok followers, but also a wellness expert, who now teaches people how to harness the psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits of yoga for personal development. We engaged Christiana in a conversation about yoga as both a creative expression, as well as a spiritual tool for navigating the world.

Christiana Oderemi

How did your yoga journey start?

There was this 30 days yoga challenge they did on Twitter during the pandemic. I saw it and decided to try it. I got a yoga mat—which was gifted to me by one of my friends—and I started practicing. I found some YouTube videos that helped me to start from scratch, practicing every day. At first, I was getting injured by some very uncomfortable poses but with time I learned to do it better and my body started adapting to the stretches. That’s basically how my journey started.

So before then, what were you doing? Especially the creative aspects, were you doing anything that tends towards your creative side before then?

Not. I used to be quite shy, and I was anon on social media. Before I started Yoga, I wasn’t into creative stuff, except if we count cooking as creative. I enjoy cooking. I also had my 9-to-5 job at the time.

I’ve always been a fitness enthusiast as I’ve always loved to go to the gym for regular workouts. The creative/social media content creation part of the yoga journey started in late 2020 when a friend saw one of my fitness pictures on WhatsApp and suggested I open an Instagram page to create awareness. I was very reluctant as I was slightly scared. She eventually opened the Instagram page for me, and since then, I’ve been enjoying it.

I feel like 2020 was a blessing in disguise. 2020 did many things for everybody one way or the other because we had a lot of time. We were working from home, we had a clear head, and we could just slow down to figure out what we wanted to do. Pre-pandemic, I did not particularly have any purpose. I was just living my life, swinging it. Thank God for yoga. 

Christiana Oderemi

So In what ways would you say that yoga has helped you to express your creativity it has improved your creative life.

Yoga is a lot of things. Yoga is an art, its spirituality, its physical fitness. And some people just do yoga to stretch their body, nothing extra. The yoga breathing exercise whereby you take a deep breath and just try to unite with yourself helps my mind open up. Sometimes after my practice, new ideas just keep flowing in. Hence, yoga influences creativity because it helps your mind to relax. I relax more when my mind is not everywhere because I am a Nigerian living in Lagos, and a lot is going on around me. It helps to slow down.

Yoga is performative because you can form a contemporary dance by fusing different poses. If you notice some contemporary dancers, they mix poses, and there is a rhythmic flow with these poses. This flow also helps. 

Yoga is calming. There is no way someone won’t annoy you in this Lagos. I used to be very impulsive, but since I started doing yoga. I’ve seen great improvement: my impulse has been kept in check. I understand better now that most people are just projecting their issues on you, and there are no points in allowing them to get to you.

In what way have you been exploring spirituality in yoga?

When people hear about spirituality, they always think it is voodoo or jazz. Spirituality is actually beyond that. Spirituality is about you being in tune with yourself. It’s not about religion. You can practice any religion and still not be spiritual. Spiritually, Yoga has helped me get to know myself way better than before, and it has helped me better understand the laws of the world. Things may appear to be still, but everything is moving in vibration. Every second we vibrate life frequency, and we only attract what’s under a similar frequency as our vibrations. That’s why we always advise positive thinking.

I used to be so pessimistic, but I’ve been consciously having positive thoughts lately. And I’ve not been worried about a lot of things. So when you vibrate rights, the law of attraction takes over. If you want something, you can attract it. So most times, I ask God to grant me my heart’s desire because sometimes you may not even know what you want, but deep down, the universe is always listening to your heart. And when you are just thinking of negative thoughts and everything. Negative thoughts will come, but you intentionally turn them over to positive thoughts. 

We have different kinds of yoga. One style is the yin yoga, where you could stay in a pose for like, three minutes, five minutes. It’s not easy to be still. You have to endure. So one of the rules in yoga is just to be present. Don’t avoid pain, don’t avoid emotions. Emotions will rise, don’t avoid them; just focus on them and let them pass. You have to decide, “okay, is this a positive or a negative thought?”

Sometimes, when I’m in these poses and feel so much pain, I tell myself it’s only for a while, and I just breathe into it. It’s not like magic. When you stay in a pose for a long time, you find that this pain is, after all, not even a deep one; it is just a little discomfort. Sometimes I even say out loud to myself that it is just a little discomfort., I will be fine, I’ve gone through worse, and I’m still here. Yoga helps build a positive mind. That’s why it helps in the process of dealing with depression. That’s why it is usually recommended to people battling depression.

I love that because while doing yoga, you’ve learned not to let the pain stop you and not give in to the pain. So you could translate that into the pain that comes with depression and sadness, and you could think beyond that. As you said, it won’t last long, it is just a little discomfort, and it’s just for a moment. So it helps to deal with very interesting depression. You have talked about creativity, especially how yoga helps creativity. What are other aspects of your life in which yoga has been helpful?

Yoga has helped me in connecting with people. And not just people that do yoga. Generally, I used to have difficulties communicating with people and saying how I felt when something was bothering me. I will just keep it in as a strong woman. Yoga teaches us to release those emotions because they will weigh you down if you keep holding on to them, so yoga has taught me communication a lot. It has also helped me connect with people and try to understand people. Now I understand that the way somebody treats me is not because of me. It’s most likely because of how they feel about themselves. Like on social media, there are a lot of bullies. Someone would just appear unprovoked and say awful things. Most times, the reality is that these people are going through whatever, and they’re just trying to lash out. So I seldom take it. I either ignore it or try to talk to them.

Yoga has also helped me to be more patient. A lot has changed since I started doing yoga Because I used to be a very impatient person. If I want something, I want it immediately. But now if I want something and don’t get it, I simply wait because I know it will come. And most time, it does eventually come.

In yoga, sometimes, you fall. You might have even done a pose before, and then you fall out of it. Yoga teaches how to fall right and also that even when you fall, you don’t let it stop you. Yoga teaches taking a break. 

I am all that is, was, and is yet to come. There’s nothing outside of me that isn’t within. So what shows outside is a reflection of what’s inside you. I said the way people treat others is most likely because of how they feel inside them. If somebody is happy, you wouldn’t see them trying to bring other people down. It all starts from the inside, and that’s why yoga poses are not just about moving. When I speak to my students, I tell them that whatever pose I’m showing them, they don’t have to do exactly the way I’m doing it because I can only feel my own body, I cant feel yours, and the way I feel will be different from the way you feel. So if you notice that the way I am doing mine is too much for you to handle, and it doesn’t feel right for your body, you should do something different.

You mentioned earlier that social media has helped you and that you were not very open to social media earlier until your friend introduced it to you. Could you express more about the influence of social media so far?

Social media has been influential for me. People are always talking about how social media is used for good and bad. I think that what matters is what you expose yourself to. I do most of what I do on social media, and I met most of my colleagues through social media. When I create these things, I post them online. I am in Nigeria, but social media has made it possible to reach people from South Africa, Canada, Europe, Asia, and worldwide. I can’t imagine having to print my work or burning them into CDs for distribution across the world.

I avoid letting social media attention get to my head. One thing about social media is that people are unstable. Today they will love you, and tomorrow they will not. You can post content today that everybody will like and give you a lot of engagement. Another day you’ll post, and nothing. If you allow these things to get to you, you will not do anything. I enjoy doing what I do. I just have fun with it and as much as I love to show it to the world, what matters the most is how I feel doing it. It’s not about the validation on social media. Validation is different from recognition. 

Luckily, my Instagram followers are respectful; I don’t get nasty comments, and I’ve not had to block anybody. It appears that they understand what I do, and they respect that. In rare cases, when I see negative comments, I simply delete them.

Christiana Oderemi

So what are some of the major challenges you face while exploring this creative and spiritual career?

First off, location. Sometimes when you repeatedly create content in a single location, it can become boring to the audience. Yes, people want to see what you’re doing, but I don’t think it will be bland. So whenever I go out with my friends, they must take pictures, and we must take videos. The first time I did yoga in public, I felt so anxious. But now, I am more comfortable going anywhere to stretch and record. So I have been able to navigate the location challenge by always creating content in every nice space I visit. 

Then another issue is lighting and equipment. If I shoot in a dark space, the audience might not be able to see the beauty of what I’m doing. Video quality matters, too. There are some videos that I have done in which I performed very complex and interesting poses. Still, they did not get as much engagement as the videos in which, even though I did not perform many complex poses, the lighting and video quality were great.

These are some of the challenges, but I don’t like to see all these challenges as a big deal. I make do with what I have because I am the art. I am the most important piece of the equation. It’s just how I put myself out there and the confidence with which I do so. Trying to move beyond whatever challenges you have. Nobody wants to hear your excuse; just try to make it work, keep swinging it, and a time will come when you will get better at navigating those challenges, you will get better, and they won’t be challenges anymore.

I love the way you not only mention the challenges but the way you navigate through them and the mindset towards challenges, which is lovely. It speaks so much about you; you think about how you react to things, which you mentioned earlier. So I think it all boils down to learning to be optimistic and create solutions for different challenges. What are some of the new things you’re currently trying out?

I’m trying out contemporary dancing. Doing yoga poses in a rhythmic flow. Dancing. Yoga and dance go quite well together. Dance is movement, and yoga is movement. So I’m doing a lot of that. And I’m also teaching because people will see your work and say please, I want to learn how to do it. As a teacher, you feel a sense of fulfilment when you see that your students are learning from whatever you’re teaching them. 

I’ve been doing photoshoots. I realise that being a model is not just about fashion. You can be a fashion model and a yoga model. What matters is how you move your body; you just have to pick the right poses. When I posted a picture of me doing yoga in a dress and heels, there was a backlash from people saying it’s wrong and you shouldn’t do that. People should learn not to always police creativity; there’s always room for innovation. I don’t always have to do yoga only on leggings and a sports bra. Yoga is an art, and you can express art in any way.

What are you doing when you are not doing anything related to yoga?

I research and learn how to get into difficult poses. I also have a medium page where I write about yoga. I enjoy writing, and I enjoy reading.

What important financial lessons have you learned since you started practicing?

There’s a saying that you have to spend money to make money. You can’t just sit down in a place and expect money to fall; you have to spend money to create content sometimes., I have had to pay to get good locations, and I have had to pay for equipment. I buy outfits with my money. So I spent a lot of my income on bettering my creativity. I believe that everything will come back, so I don’t worry about it. And sometimes, when I don’t have enough money to get something that I need, I make do with what I have. You can’t just allow money, or the lack of it, to stop you.

So to wrap up, what would you say to someone looking to try out this creative path?

Patience and consistency. You have to be patient with yourself. We have different kinds of bodies. It might take one person three months to get into a pose and another one year. Just be patient with yourself. Consistency is very important too. As 2baba said, “If I tell you say e easy, na setup.” Nothing is easy. Be patient with yourself, be consistent, and forget about the outside noise if you’re in the right spots. Eventually, it all works out.

Christiana Oderemi
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