Five years ago, if someone told me that I would have friendships with people online I would have told them they were crazy.
Olga Dossa is a wholefood mama and friend, who I have never met in real life but whose values and approach to mothering and life resonates with me so much I wish she was my neighbour.
As those of us who spend time online know, one of the gifts of blogs is that the life experience people share has the power to be very nurturing and uplifting.
Reading another mother's story can make the piles of washing and crying children so much easier to handle with a little more grace. Well, a lot of the time anyway.
Reading another mother's story can make the piles of washing and crying children so much easier to handle with a little more grace. Well, a lot of the time anyway.
Without further ado, if you don't know her already I'd like to introduce you to Olga Dossa.
Make yourself a pot of tea and settle in for a beautiful and honest interview about the lows and highs of motherhood and what it means to 'love yourself first'.
Olga is a yogini, mama and the founder of Peaceful Mothering with Olga Dossa. She is committed to supporting mothers to step into their radiance by loving themselves first and claiming their desires.
Through her journey with postnatal depression, she learned that she couldn’t give her best from an empty cup. She left her high paying corporate career to pursue a life that would bring her peace and inspire her daughter to live her own greatest life. Her great love for her daughter took her on the path of yoga, ayurveda and self-love.
Olga believes that when mothers love themselves first, their children will thrive.
You can find her on her website Peaceful Mothering with Olga DossaCan you share a bit about your story and journey from suffering postnatal depression to coming through that and the lessons you learned that you are now so passionate about sharing with other women? ie. to love themselves first and to live an authentic life.
My daughter was 4 months old when I went back to my corporate job.
Every fibre of my being wanted to be home with her, but at that stage, I had no choice but to go back to work.
I was contributing to 50% of the household income and we had just bought our first home. I would cry on the way to work and felt totally helpless to change my situation.
It was then that I ended up seeing a therapist for depression. Shortly after starting to see the therapist, my mum suddenly died.
I was feeling so fragile, being a new mum, being left to mother my daughter without the wisdom of my mother and suddenly being the awkward matriarch of my family.
I looked very carefully at my situation and saw the similarities between my mum and me. She had been depressed for a long time – the type of depression that goes undiagnosed.
She was a go-getter that never allowed herself to rest and never allowed herself to receive what she really wanted. She lived her life for her family and sacrificed her life for us in the end.
I realized that I had become my mum. I was working in a job that I did not want to be in because I thought it would be for the good of my family.
I realized that I had to change my ways, otherwise, my daughter was going to grow up and become like me.
I realized that if I wanted certain things for my daughter, I would have to model them. She was not going to learn anything from what I said to her, but instead would learn everything about what it means to be a woman, by what I did.
So, the journey to Peaceful Mothering began.
Please tell us how you came to yoga, why Dru yoga and what you love about this particular style?
My second child, my son, was a year old and we had been living in Australia for two years.
When we moved from South Africa, we had decided that I would stay home with the children, a first step in realizing the life I wanted to live.
Life was great, but I was tired and feeling isolated. My husband came home at 7 pm every night and with no family around, I felt like a single mum most of the time.
I craved yoga, even though I knew very little about it. Something within me was telling me that it was the next step for me.
I found a Saturday morning class and much to my family’s resistance (children crying by the door as I left and husband wondering how on earth he was going to care for two children for an hour and a half), I went along.
There was a lot of guilt for leaving my family for a Saturday morning, but the pull to my commitment to showing my daughter how to live, was stronger.
I had some tears in the car too, again for leaving my children!!
I was to find my home in that Saturday morning yoga class. Dru yoga is a very potent and graceful form of yoga – no headstands here! The classes were incredibly nurturing and are specifically designed to move energy that is blocked in the body.
All the trauma that we experience in our lives is held in the body. If it is not shifted, it moves into the joints, moving deeper into the tissues, muscles and then the organs, eventually manifesting as dis-ease.
Week by week I let go of the grief of my mum’s passing, my lack of confidence in myself as a stay at home mum and my lack of self love.
Week by week I gained confidence in myself, became increasingly grateful for my life and took my power back.
I experienced such a profound shift in my life - Dru really saved my life – that I decided that I was going to study to be a teacher.
Firstly, it was just to deepen my practice, but what naturally happens when we fill ourselves up is that we want to share it with anyone who wants to hear about it and I am now a qualified teacher.
You believe strongly in the power of Ayurveda, can you explain a bit about Ayurveda and how the principles of Ayurveda influence the food you eat and feed your family?
Ayurveda is the sister science of yoga. It is known as the science of life and has been around for 5,000 years.
I could talk about it forever, but it comes down to living in line with our true nature.
Ayurveda recognizes that there is no one size fits all approach to health.
Sure, there are principles that benefit everyone, but ultimately, we each have a unique body constitution and we are the most vibrant and alive when we live according to that constitution.
This includes the type of food we eat, how it is prepared, the type of activities we do, the jobs we have and the exercise we do. We are all unique, something I am a huge champion of.
What I love about Ayurveda is that it only works when you take full responsibility for your health and lifestyle. It is totally empowering, something I believe in as a mother too.
My children go to a Montessori school, an educational pedagogy that has as its basis the principle of following the child. Children choose their own learning within a structured environment.
Ayurveda is similar in that there are principles based on what is happening within nature that are applied on an individual basis to on each person, based on their constitution and particular needs at specific stages in their lives.
I write quite a bit about Ayurveda on my blog, it is a big topic that I keep learning about every day.
What food values were you taught as a child? Or not taught?
I love this question. I was raised by Polish parents and grew up in South Africa. Although we always had what we wanted, we were not very wealthy. Nevertheless, my mum always valued the quality of food, something I still live by every day.
I remember her lamenting about the poor quality of food in South Africa, telling me about the berries in Poland and the farmers markets there.
South Africa was still very isolated because of apartheid and the food available was catering to a South African market, which favoured fatty meat and sugar-laden treats – something my very classy mum was not impressed with.
My mum’s taste was much more refined and she did most of the cooking at home. We ate a typical Polish diet, which included a lot of schnitzel, potatoes, dill, sour cream and cabbage. Always very delicious, my mum was a great cook.
I did not taste any take away or fast food until I was a student at university.
Poland is very cold and people eat a diet that is quite heavy. It is a good diet for a Polish climate, but really heavy in a warm country like South Africa.
Australia also has a hot climate and I have found that my cooking has changed a lot, as it is difficult to eat a typical Polish diet in this climate.
As much as I love the food from my ancestry, I find that my digestion can only handle it occasionally and mostly during the colder months of the year.
We do still eat a traditional Polish Christmas dinner, which is very heavy, but we cannot let the Polish traditions go. We just fill up on digestive enzymes before the time; enjoy it and vow to make less food next year, which doesn’t seem to happen!
What are your favorite things to cook?
My favourite foods to cook are foods from my ancestry.
This is something I recommend to all women. Cooking food from our ancestry awakens ancestral memories and creates deep healing in the spirit.
I find that I don’t need recipes when I cook Polish food, I intuitively know what to do, I feel like I am being guided by my whole maternal lineage.
I teach this in my course for women – The School for the Radiant Woman. I believe that reclaiming our maternal legacy is a way to bring peace into our beings.
My husband is Mauritian and I see the same experience for him when he makes us Mauritian food. He becomes so alive, is so satisfied and revels in seeing us enjoy the food that he has made with his hands.
Explore the herbs, spices and remedies from your ancestry and start incorporating them into your diet. I use dill in most of my food - my favourite herb and one that I used to pick for my mum for dinner every night.
Do you have any tips for encouraging children to eat well/dealing with fussy eaters?
I take on the Montessori approach when it comes to fussy eaters and making sure that children eat well.
A Montessori classroom is very carefully designed – every piece of furniture, equipment and activity is placed in the room for a specific reason. It all has a purpose – it is called a prepared environment. This is the structured part of Montessori; it is the hard work, unseen by anyone, except the teacher, but the most crucial.
The children are then encouraged to look around the room and do whatever activity they feel called to.
The principle is that children will intuitively learn what they need and in the order that they need to. Sometimes, children will stay with one activity for a few weeks. Teachers do not worry about this, because that is what the child needs to internalize at that time.
When the time is right, the child moves on to the next activity - and so they craft their own learning. This method of learning requires a lot of trust, by the teachers and the parents.
I have seen parents take their children out of Montessori schools because they do not trust that the child is able to guide their own learning.
It can be quite stressful when we are used to living in an environment where everything is measurable and we feel that it is our job to step in and make sure that children do the right thing.
This is the approach I take with our diet at home.
My job is to create the prepared environment. I only keep food that I will be happy for my family to eat. I make sure that we set the table for every meal, light a candle and do a blessing as thanks for the food.
I model how to sit, how to eat and to have polite conversation at the dinner table.
Ayurveda does not advise any conversation that is distressing at the table, because it is too disturbing for the digestive system.
I ask the family what they would like to eat and I make sure to bring that into the weekly meals.
It is important that everyone in the family is included in the decisions about what we eat; I trust that if they are asking for something, their body needs something in that food.
At the same time, I do not cook separate meals. If someone wants something else at mealtime, they need to go to the kitchen and make it themselves. This rarely happens, but if it does, I try not to get offended.
Usually, there are a few dishes on the table like vegetables, salads, rice, and a form of protein. It is not a requirement for the children to have everything on the table; I trust that their body guides them to eat what it needs.
My son (who is 5) once went through what felt like months of eating smoked oysters and crackers. He would eat his dinner and then go into the kitchen and make himself his after dinner treat. I did not worry about it. Clearly his body was asking for something in there.
He does not ask for it anymore. It seems that they oysters have done their job!
Dealing with picky eaters is the same as the Montessori method – we need to trust our children. I would rather my children are taught to listen to the messages within their bodies than be forced to eat something that they don’t want and start switching off the connections in the brain that are telling them what their body needs.
That is how we are trained away from our gut instinct by well meaning adults.
I know that the food in my home is healthy – my job is to create the prepared environment and my children’s jobs are to make the right choices for themselves within that environment.
Who inspires you in the kitchen - family, friends, any favorite cookbooks or websites?
I love Ayurvedic cookbooks. The main criterion in Ayurveda is that the food we eat is easy to digest.
The state of our radiance results from perfect digestion.
Signs of troubled digestion manifest as stomach problems, skin problems, fatigue, anxiety, PMS, feminine reproductive disorders and even depression.
Ayurveda states that everything begins with the digestive system.
We can eat the healthiest, most organic food in the world, but it is of no use if our body can’t digest it.
Food has different qualities. As an example: fresh fruit is light in quality. Organic, unhomogonised milk is heavy in quality. Both are healthy, but we put our digestive system under a huge amount of stress when we eat them together. The stomach tries to digest the fruit, but it gets stuck in the stomach because the dairy is taking longer to digest. So, the fruit starts fermenting in the stomach and none of the food can digest effectively.
This is something I did before I understood the energy of food. I used to give my children fruit and yoghurt all the time, because I thought I was doing what was right for them. My daughter used to complain of a sore tummy, to such an extent that she ended up in the doctor’s office. They couldn’t find anything wrong and prescribed her constipation medication.
She started feeling better within a day of us starting an ayurvedic diet and has not had tummy issues again – seriously!
A basic rule of thumb is that less is more. There is no need to overload the system with lots of complex super foods because we are so anxious to get our micronutrients in.
This is especially true if we are sensitive in nature, because our digestive system will mirror that.
Be gentle with your body and she will thank you.
If I use a Polish cookbook, I try to adjust the recipe to be easier to digest, or I eat it as my main meal at lunchtime, because that is when the digestive fire is strongest.
What is your go to meal when you are short on time?
If you read my blog, or follow me on Instagram , you will know that Mondays are Moong Dhal Mondays.This Ayurvedic recipe is simple, easy to digest, ready within 30 minutes and the most requested meal in our home.
What are you loving about your life right now?
I am loving all the work that I am doing in supporting mothers to step into their radiance.
I committed to doing this work on my 36th birthday this year, which was in August.
Since that time, I have launched my first School for the Radiant Woman (http://olgadossa.com/the-school-for-the-radiant-woman/) and have deepened my teachings to be more focused on supporting women.
I am so excited to be holding my first New Year New You workshop on 2 January (http://olgadossa.com/new-year-new-you/); this will be a full day of letting go of the old and creating a life that is totally in alignment with our highest purpose. I believe that mothers hold the key to the future. Our desires are so important and it is our responsibility to bring them forward.
I am also writing a book and the mini version of it will be available on my website soon, it is called “The Real Purpose of Motherhood” and it is the most beautiful thing I have created to date!!
The other thing I am super excited about at the moment is that I have taken up ballet and my daughter and I recently performed in our first concert together. She wanted to do ballet because she saw me doing it - our children want to be like us and I am so proud to be modeling this for her.
This is my daughter’s favourite recipe. Adzuki beans are high in protein and as long as they are soaked well before cooking, are easy to digest for all constitutions.
· 1 cup of dry adzuki beans, soaked for a couple of hours.
· One red onion, sliced.
· One large sweet potato, diced.
· A thumb sized piece of ginger, grated, or cut into thin slices.
· One tablespoon of ghee.
· One teaspoon of ground coriander.
· One teaspoon of ground cumin.
· One teaspoon of ground turmeric.
· One teaspoon of fennel seeds.
· Half a teaspoon of ground cardamom.
· Half a teaspoon of Maldon salt, or to taste - more if you feel like you need grounding.
· One tablespoon of basil, chopped. Replace with chopped mint if it is Summer.
· Half to one cup of coconut cream.
· Fresh coriander and lemon halves to serve.
· Bring adzuki beans to a boil in 4 cups of water. Let it simmer for about 40 minutes or until soft. Add more water if necessary, the beans soak up a lot. Add sweet potato in the last 20 minutes of cooking, or 10, if you prefer for them to stay quite firm.
· In a frying pan, melt your ghee (or you can use coconut oil on really hot days).
· Add your onion and ginger and sauté on a medium heat until onions are translucent.
· Add spices and stir for a few minutes until fragrant.
· Add onion and spice mixture to stew in the last 5 minutes.
· Just before serving, add coconut cream to warm through.
· Serve with fresh coriander and lemon slices.