Denim is a blank canvas of creativity, innovation, tradition, ideas, ideologies, tribal expressions, layers of real stories – an iconic symbol that has helped me to build connections with the outside world as well as within myself and in my quest to make meaning for the world we live in, I want to share a perspective which I have kept close to my heart.
The reason why I started practicing yoga is very much reliant on my love for denim. Back in 2001, I did not roll out my mat in enlightenment, but more with a desire to get back into my jeans after giving birth. One of my teachers comforted saying that everyone has a relevant reason to start their yoga practice and it rarely is holistic but that is what gets us on the journey.
The effort of laying our my mat paid off in a broader sense than getting back into shape (which I did).The physical benefits of the practice overlapped the deeper changes for quite some years and I enjoyed discovering a variety of different styles, making new yogini friends, travelling on retreats, signing up for trainings and bootcamps far and away before landing with a dedicated ashtanga practice for almost 10 years. Currently, I still hold a daily asana practice as well as a sitting meditation which are still in evolution to suit and serve me in the best way possible. My daily practice has kept me company on business trips, tough times, joyous moments, break-ups and as time passed I became interested in the yoga theory, human anatomy, community that the yogic perspective offered. The yoga understanding pertains to a systems approach where the interwoven functions operate in solidarity within the boundaries (the yoga sutras) that support the progress of all the participants. To me this is sustainability in its simplest form. The yoga asana practice had offered me to experience my personal vulnerabilities on a cellular level and this enabled a profound connection and to and understanding of the theory. Yoga teachers preach that it is 99%practice and %1 theory. The practice is where the work happens, where we roll up the sleeves and get to work.
When I started to get interested in sustainability in the denim industry in 2008, the yogic understanding came to my rescue to help define the system and detect potential areas of growth and the change we needed to initiate. It is also as important to invite and evoke practice alongside the theory in the business world and share the learnings from the experiences to spread best practices. I did not see the partial problems or the solutions but the mere fact that we needed to give back. I guess this was defining the minus zero waste approach and regenerative systems to sustain a business, a supply chain, communities as well as our humanity at large.
Around 2008-2009 yoga was introduced into the denim and jeans industry. The denim fabric innovation enabled softer hand-feel, lighter constructions with the use of environmentally friendly fibers such as Tencel and the possibility to have core-spun elastane yarns that provided the ease of moment it was possible to market jeans with yogic aspiration. This marketing drive spurred the functional fabric developments and a fabric base which used to be mostly 100% cotton or comfort stretch became moisture wicking, odor controlled as comfortable as second skin. The athleisure and the sportswear brands expanded their collections with denim and although not many people actually wore their jeans to a yoga class, the movement declared that denim expanded its use into the more active, conscious life-style consumption. Fast fashion market also invested in this growing segment where leggings and jeans merged and hence variety of the skinny jeans in the market sold at prices which cannot be supporting a circular, balanced, justified system started to fill the racks. As consumers were drawn to the idea of being “yogic” there remained a missing link with the practice –in design, manufacturing, marketing as well as consumption.
It is time that we start not only wearing jeans complimentary to yoga asanas but also taking the mind-full manufacturing, consumption, design, social equality and environmental appreciation the yogic system may offer.
The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali
Seven Years in Tibet, Jean-Jacques Annaud
Meet the person: İrem Ortaç
A joyous, shining yogini who shares her story and experiences openly.
IF: Hi Irem, I have come to know you with your super high energy, ever smiling face, your passion to outgrow yourself and your amazing digital reach out to the communities during the pandemic. Who is Irem?
Irem: 42 years old, ex-sales at a creative agency, now yoga teacher, ayurvedic consultant, who loves to share life, nature lover, animal adorer and someone who wants to live in harmony with nature based on yogic and ayurvedic teaching, joyous, loves to dance, very outspoken, book and film worm, traveler and photographer.
IF: How did you decide to become a yoga instructor? What changed in your life when you left your corporate life and started to live in the yoga world?
Irem: After some health problems, yoga became to be the core of my life and I believed that I could share the changes in by mind and body with people close to me and I wanted to get the training to share this this understanding. Well it turned out that I could not really share my findings with the people who are close to me as they were not ready to change or did not want to change. This was when I decided to share this knowledge with everyone and started teaching. To be a yogi you have to have to follow a certain teaching. When I realized that my life was in contradiction, I decided to leave the corporate work life in 2012 and I could do this 6 years later than taking the decision; early January on 2018. It was not tough for me in the beginning as I travelled to India for 2 months for a training and I enjoyed a certain time period after my return as well. Then it hit me; what was it that I needed to do, there was a period when I felt I was not worthy, and my days were almost all free expect for the classes I was teaching early in the morning or later in the evenings. All my friends were at the office, I could not socialize with them. Looks like I was getting ready for the pandemic. I learned to spend time alone, do housework, enjoy life during the weekdays, go anywhere you like anytime you want, live without a plan and it all proved to be useful. I was pretty happy during the pandemic as I was already living “it” the last 2 years.
IF: I know that you build communities and with the way you communicate you can hold people together. How do you manage this and why is it essential to have a community?
Irem: Yoga means to be one. The mind and the body become one. We are all one. Realizing and experiencing that we are not different within a community is a great example of this oneness. People draw like-minded people together and this is why it is important to be a community; without alienation as we are all one. I developed the ability to hold a community together later in my life. I was a single child and I did not belong to a group neither as a child not as a teenager. I would stay out or think I was singled out. I was always lonely. With this void when I started working in an agency and in communications, somethings changed. I become people`s meeting point, I love get togethers, yoga camps, meetings, getting people together and introducing them, growing together and then sometimes taking my own journey and coming back again. I usually travel alone or only with a friend and I have also formed communities with people who I might not ever see again. It is great to hare as we share the oneness.
IF: How has yoga helped you during the pandemic?
Irem: Kudos to yoga. I returned home to Turkey on March 15th from India and started teaching online every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday live on social media. Knowing that I was growing as I shared and could be a spark for others, was fulfilling. I was looking for light myself. I was anxious about the uncertainty of the future and yoga kept me in harmony. Yoga was my light. If it were not for yoga, I would be out of sync. My own practice as a little out of routine and I am very happy that I could go back to my routines.
IF: What are your near future plans? You keep taking various trainings; will you please tell us about them as well?
Irem: When I start teaching different modules, the knowledge I have gained will spread. I will take a step forward about teaching. Enough about taking trainings, it is time to give back. I have seen this during the pandemic in my social media shared on yoga and Ayurveda. I will hopefully start in October 2020 or January 2021. Besides yoga, I am also attending a higher-level training on Ayurveda. I have completed a training called the universal energy and I will start some studies based on that. I think this is the part that excites me the most. None of us really know the potential we have inside.
IF : What does living sustainably mean to you? Can you live sustainably in the city?
Irem: It is a challenge however I have created sustainable zones for myself in the city. I support sustainable living by cutting down on my waste, minimizing consumption, not using plastics as best as I can as well as buying organic and recycled products. I am somewhat worried about, all the hand sanitizers, the masks, plastic containers, disinfectants that have entered our lives during the pandemic. I could not yet resolve this. I am hoping that we will all become more conscious consumers during this crisis.
IF: What would you like to say to the fashion industry and consumers using the yoga philosophy?
Irem: In the yoga sutras, the 5th Yama’s, aparigraha, asks to avoid possessiveness and greed. It calls to not to claim ownership and not to desire more than one needs. A yogi`s relation to all is transient and with this understanding the yogi purchases and consumes as much as he/she needs. Especially as a woman, in the past I was shopaholic. Now I buy less and make sure that I buy ecological products that do not harm the environment nor my budget. I really do not buy a product just for fun, if I do not need it.
IF: Ok the last question – what is your favorite pair of jeans?
Irem: Wow – I have so many ( from mt shopaholic days) I travelled back in time with this question and remembered how happy I was when I received my first 501 which