At a time when we’re still reeling from the aftermath of 2020, FACT Bahrain chats with a local figure synonymous with self-love and holistic wellness. Listen in.

Welcome to a January like no other. Our New Year’s resolutions have evolved beyond exercising more and eating less, courtesy of 2020, a complicated year that took a toll on the mental health of millions worldwide. One Boston-based clinical psychologist even referred to escalating mental health issues as a “fourth wave” of the pandemic. And with the likes of uncertainty, anxiety, and depression (rightfully) dominating conversations lately, it only felt apt to kickstart 2021 with a conversation with Fatema Majdi – a.k.a. Bohemian Fatema.

“Like everyone else, I fell into an abyss,” says the founder of yoga studio Bohemian Being, revealing the struggles she faced last year. “Teaching yoga was a form of therapy for me, and when the lockdown happened, so did my therapy. It was a hard phase for me emotionally – more than financially – as I launched my studio a week before the lockdown. My body got used to the energy boosts that my classes provided and, slowly, that energy decreased as the days passed by. Fortunately, I am blessed with very supportive students who pushed and helped me to start my online classes – that’s when I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I feel 2020 drastically challenged me to be more creative. It also taught me to not relay my therapy onto others, so I upped my practice of yoga and meditation.” We’re instantly curious about her yoga journey. After all, every yogi has a unique story about what led to their lifelong love affair with yoga, so we ask about hers. Fate, as it turns out, had something to do with it.

“Discovering yoga came to me as a gift for going with the flow. I always used to have a five-year plan, but my first backpacking experience was entirely spontaneous, and I have never had that much fun in my whole life. That was the start of unlocking that go-with-the flow phase,” she explains. “With the support of Tamkeen, I was given the opportunity to enter a portal of jobs all around the world in 2015. People find it very shocking that despite being given the opportunity to take a six-month job in any country, even the UK or USA, I chose India.” Or did India choose her? “I applied for a job in the city of Vadodara, interviewed the day after, and arranged my visa the day after that. Five days later, I was in India. I worked there for six months before spending the following six months backpacking.” Fatema recalls her first ever yoga class, which she attended during her fourth month in India. “One of my 13 flatmates in the twobedroom apartment noticed a yoga studio near our building, and she booked a private class at 6am for us all. It was very hard for me,” she confesses.

“I was out of breath, I was inflexible, and my mind was constantly wandering mid-meditation. However, I felt a sensation I couldn’t describe, and I ended up being the only one who went every day at 6am until I left the city.” Visa issues meant she had to stay put. “If I left the country, I wouldn’t be able to go back to India, so I had to settle in. I was very down during that time. The only thing I was doing was going to my morning yoga sessions until two of my flatmates wanted to cheer me up and get me off the bed, so they made me teach them yoga every day. That was the start of my love story. Teaching yoga was the blessing I wanted to share with the world. It felt like this is it – this is my purpose. Now, years later, I have had my 200-hour Vinyasa and Meditation Yoga Teacher Training from Indonesia and 300-hour Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Pranayama Yoga Teacher Training from Spain. I’ve taught and been approached by royals, universities, and even athletes.”

Body positive is not about being plus-size and proud. It is being at any size and loving every inch of it with its perfect imperfections

Clearly, Fatema is a woman moulded by her travels. And at a time when most future travel plans are put on hold, we discuss her past travel experiences – especially those that have played a role in who she is today. “Apart from India and the gift of yoga that it gave me, my first proper solo backpacking trip was to Boracay, Philippines, in 2015.” Candid about her innermost thoughts, Fatema explains how this trip abroad gave her a new lease of life. “Not many know this, but I grew up with a feeling, like I’m going to pass away on my last day in university. I know it may seem like a very dark thing to think about, but I’d always looked at it positively – like I truly have to live life.” That prompted her to purchase a 7am flight ticket to Boracay after submitting her final thesis online at midnight. “It all happened really quickly, too. I flew out without doing any research into what I could do there nor arranging any accommodation. When I arrived, I felt like I had been given a second chance in life, so I faced all my fears.” She jumped off cliffs into the ocean, she ziplined between mountains. “That trip made me the fierce person I am today.” It’s no wonder that ‘self-love activist’ is one of Fatema’s many roles today. But does she ever encounter quiet moments of shaky confidence or self-doubt like the rest of us?

“Of course,” she asserts, much to our relief. “Personally, I find it unrealistic to be on a high of self-love. I would break down several times and make sure I document it on social media, so people don’t have this false image that I am constantly happy. I don’t want them to idolise that naive state. I have bad days like anyone else. Some days, I’m not feeling my body. Other days, I’m not happy with my yoga progress. I live in that moment, I notice how I’m feeling, and I let that thought take the time it requires to leave my mind in order to love myself even more. It takes strength to deal with those emotions, and it’s important to acknowledge that.” As the conversation turns to social media, we’d be remiss not to mention her Instagram account. One glance at hers, and it’s easy to see that she’s creating a safe space in an often-unhealthy environment for her over 7,000 followers. And Fatema has some very practical tips for those who fall victim to the ‘comparison culture’ bred by social media. “Definitely start by unfollowing toxic accounts, people, and environments – both on and off screen,” she advises.

“Choose not only how you spend your time, but also your thoughts wisely. Another thing that has really helped me is journalling. I can’t express enough how much writing your emotions down can help. I also encourage my students to notice three things they love about themselves – physically, emotionally, mentally – on a daily basis without any judgement.” Unfortunately, Fatema is no stranger to facing social stereotypes around her body type. “I encourage normalising bodies because I can tell you this from firsthand experience: hearing that someone didn’t expect me to be this flexible or strong because of my plussize body or being told that I seem fit in comparison to my weight is not a compliment. I want all body shapes to be viewed as one. At the same time, I also want people to fall in love with their bodies as it carries the whole universe,” she says. Addressing all that confusion around the term ‘body positivity’, she explains, “Body positive is not about being plus-size and proud. It is being at any size and loving every inch of it with its perfect imperfections – whether it’s weight, scars, rolls, moles, and everything in between.” Scars, rolls, and moles – we couldn’t agree more. ✤