MIRZ YOGA, a studio located in the north of Paris with a cult following, just moved into a larger space, allowing founder Marine Parmentier to continue her holistic experiment and transmitting the message to a larger audience. A therapeutic and mystical journey towards increased awareness.
Fascinated by self-care practices and the occult, Marine Parmentier shares with us her epiphanies and her transpersonal experiences with humor and humility. She also explains how she came to build a program specifically focused on consciousness for Tomás Saraceno's On Air exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo.
INSIDE/OUT: Tell us about your journey.
MARINE PARMENTIER: I started the Mirz Yoga project in 2014 after eight years in media. I had a great job at the digital channel Nowness but I never really felt like I was a part of it. Everything was going well but deep down I was not happy. I forced myself to adhere to values that were not mine while I was in need of something with more meaning.
How did your breakthrough come about?
I had good grades in school and I went through my studies without asking myself too many questions. Never really paused. I dreamed of working for a magazine, not really knowing why, and so at one point I accepted a position at Condé Nast. At the same time, I was always attracted to and fascinated by well-being and more esoteric practices.
As for sports, I was rather fickle. Every year I practiced a new activity. Gym, capoeira, roller hockey, break, ballet... but I didn’t fall for anything in particular. When I discovered yoga, I fell for the physical discipline combined with a mystical dimension. Both elements that I had always been into.
Also, I had bad stomach problems and they got worse when I arrived in Paris and started working. In 2008, my health completely degenerated and I was hospitalized. I had a lot of tests, I was convinced that I something really serious, but my doctor at the time told me: “The good news is that you have nothing, the bad news is that I can not do anything for you.” He advised me to learn how to calm down. I started to become more interested in nutrition, ran a lot and started practicing yoga. The first class I ever took was far from my favorite. Everything was in Sanskrit and super old-school. The second was more fitness-oriented and the teacher screamed on me for an hour. I was terrified. But the third, was a charm. It was a relaxing evening hatha class. Very slow, only in lying and sitting postures. And that's how I reconnected with my body. I felt like my belly was relaxing.
In addition, I started to do some research about meditation. From there, I wanted to regain control of my mind and started therapy with tools like hypnosis. The combo of these tools brought me back into balance. And then I left my day job.
That's when you started your yoga training?
Yes, I went to Goa, India, with no real project to teach but I was interested in the teachings and spent two hundred hours learning philosophy, practice and anatomy. On site, I had lots of epiphanies. Really obvious things that I had lost sight of. For example, I understood that I did not want to eat meat anymore. I realized I was doing a lot of things without ever wondering why. Many doors opened... When I returned to Paris I felt loaded with something substantial. Friends asked me for yoga classes. So things started there, in their homes at 7am. Classes were filling up, so I moved into a space, then subleased another spot until I finally decided to open a studio. At the same time, I had created a brand of yoga bags and they were doing very well. My bags were developed in a workshop in Ménilmontant by mentally handicapped employees. I worked a lot but it was fulfilling - I was especially proud that we could produce nice and cool products. For the first time in my life I felt in harmony with myself. However, I eventually decided to devote myself totally to my studio, telling myself that people needed this place more than my products. I preferred to bring them a direct benefit rather than encouraging consumption. I had in mind a place with very different approaches to yoga embodied by a team of teachers.
How did you raise the capital to set up the studio?
I did not have funding. I built everything with my boyfriend and an architect friend, with very small savings. In a totally organic way. By the time I started looking for a room, a space opened up in the very building where I lived. With a month and a half of deposit I managed to launch my first studio. I believe that the planets align when you formulate clearly what you have in mind... It happened the same way for the second studio as well.
How would you define the philosophy of your studio?
I do not want to lock the project into a narrow concept. We offre r'n'b yoga with Drake on the playlist, a very traditional iyengar class, hypnosis and sound baths. The concept is embodied by the week's schedule and the workshops are organized as a laboratory for experimentation with consciousness. I provide different entry points in order to ensure that coming to practice remains accessible. I always try to use a very simple vocabulary and explain the style of each class so that people can test things out and see what clicks, the same way I did. People’s desires change as well depending on trends, and we want to evolve, too. So I spend a lot of time meeting new teachers and new practitioners.
We are our own guru here! Everyone should make their own opinion and this is precisely how I envision the philosophy of yoga. One must constantly question one's practice and one's master. It makes the practice more interesting. Everything is love but this must not prevent you from asking questions!
Three words to define Mirz?
Accessible, cosmic and protean.
How did you build your team?
I started my yoga certfification with Hatha Yoga trainings at Oceanic Yoga School in Mandrem, Goa and Indea Yoga School in Mysore. Then, I did an initiation to Katonah Yoga in Los Angeles with Abbie Galvin, founder of The Studio in NYC. I regularly take Iyengar classes in Paris with Alex Onfroy. Created by B.K.S. Iyengar, this style of yoga focuses on a very precise alignment of the different parts of the body in the space through the use of supports (straps, bricks, blankets...) to help your body stay in the right posture. It’s rigorous and therapeutic. I also regularly follow other types of trainings like this workshop I attended at the FSS (Foundation for Shamanic Studies): "The Way of the Shaman," or “Yoga & Anatomy” with Leslie Kaminoff (US). I’m curious by nature and like experiencing new things all the time… And I created my team in the same organic process. I tested a lot of classes to see all that was happening in Paris and determine what style of yoga I wanted to push forward and with whom. We are about ten teachers in total, people with very different styles and personalities but with the same intention and a desire for authenticity and kindness. Teachers who share the desire to evolve, to train and to think about their practice.
Thoughts on yoga and social media?
What I see of yoga on social media is quite painful. Instagram is a tool that can be as toxic as it can be magic. Of course, it can be a useful and inspiring tool - a full-fledged media - but at the same time it carries a lot of lies about the practice of yoga, as well as a lot of unproductive pressure in regard to performance. From practice, we mostly see postures - its physical dimension only - often very advanced ones, without knowing the background of the person who executes them. It seems important to me to add that these people are often gymnasts, dancers, athletes or former athletes in short, whose bodies have been regularly trained for many years. Building a solid practice, that is also good for your body or even therapeutic, takes time and the immediacy of social networks tends to make people forget about it. Headstands have become the Holy Grail and then people are breaking their necks in three sessions. After two or three years they have screwed up their joints. For me, yoga is a way to age well, with the least possible pain and in the greatest happiness possible. It's anti-performance. Instagram is a story of ego and in essence yoga is anti-ego. The meaning of the word "yoga" is the union of body and mind. So by definition, it is the dissolution of the ego. In that sense, for me, yoga is intrinsically the polar opposite of social networks.
What do you think of the widespread enthusiasm around being a yoga instructor?
It's an illusion. People do not realize, especially because of Instagram, the difficulty of this profession. They are under the impression that we are in leggings all day long and that everything is only love, that everything is simple. While in fact, it is an extremely difficult job. Like all professions related to care and support. The day you're not at the top of your game, you still have to find energy for the students. You use your body a lot, you usually don’t make a lot of money and the hours are long. And your personal practice suffers from it. Of course, by transmitting the teachings of yoga, you feel nourished and it brings you gratitude, love and meaning to your job but you have to be conscious that it is also a huge personal investment, on a daily basis.
What practice would you like to import to Paris?
Katonah yoga inspires me a lot. I discovered it in the United States, thanks to Sky Ting and The Studio in New York and Love Yoga Space in Los Angeles. They all have this training to some extent and what they were doing really resonated with me. Katonah is a mixture of Taoism and sacred geometry. It can have a bit of an intellectual side but it is also very playful. They speak a lot about the Magic Square and articulate many things around this concept: meditation, the way we position ourselves in life, the postures and suddenly it makes the thing very concrete.
Tell us about the program you designed for the Palais de Tokyo, as part of the On Air exhibition?
I had wanted to propose something outside of the studio for a while. I wrote a project around the experimentation of consciousness, starting from the idea that it was not easy to enter an exhibition coming from the hectic outside world. I wanted to question our relationship with works of art, at a time when visiting an exhibition is taking a picture of this or that piece. So, I wanted to offer a program of physical and psychic preparation for visitors so they could be more aware when entering an exhibition. Tomas Saraceno's On Air exhibition was great for this project. It questions our place as humans in the future and our interaction with other species;:. I love the work of this artist, he starts from the micro to arrive at the macro, proposing an approach that is at the same time poetic, spiritual and scientific. I was introduced to the pieces and from there I put together a program of six experiments. A conscious mise en abyme in an exhibition that questions conscience! And we called it Sixième Sens (Sixth Sense) for this reason. The idea was to reconnect with our intuition through experimentation. The link was really obvious. To achieve this, I asked people whose work I know well and some teachers from the studio to be part of the programming: Yann Lemeux, a therapist in hypnosis ericksonniene with whom I’ve worked with for three years; Agathe Feys a sophrologist and MBSR instructor; Martin Krutzki for a mantra and nidra class, Vanina Grisoni, a yoga teacher who has worked here since we opened; Sara Auster, sound therapist and meditation teacher (editor’s note: read her interview in our expert section). I also proposed a yoga class in the dark in order to facilitate the interior practice.
The ‘Sixième Sens’ program at the Palais de Tokyo, pictures: © Aurélie Cenno,
Illustrations by Anna Wanda Gogusey
Tell us more about holotropic breathing.
I have put a lot of time and effort into healing, but I still had the feeling that some things in me were still "bugging" somehow. That I had blockages in my body. So I decided to take a more primitive approach. I was very interested in shamanism and in trance states. I got my first taste of intense breath work in New York with Erin Telford and Sara Auster. It gave me the sensation of experiencing a new frequency, despite my rather Cartesian mind. Something very intense, very strong. I did almost a year of research to find a practitioner in France. I finally got there and it was probably the strongest experience of my life. Something very therapeutic. I’m planning on doing a training myself soon, actually.
So, there is a current in psychology called transpersonal psycholog. It takes into account the experiences, the family, the transgenerational but also the liabilities of the society and the mystical experiences that one has lived. I particularly liked the idea that the spiritual is integrated into psychology. It is a form of western shamanism that is conducted in groups.
This is a style of breath work with hyperventilation, more carbon dioxide is expelled and the pH of the blood changes. This causes a physiological reaction in the brain and induces a modified state of consciousness. The psyche opens to give access to new things that can vary a lot from one person to another. It looks a lot like a form of secular exorcism. We can have visions, hear voices, relive events. I decided to follow a workshop run by psychiatrist Gérald Leroy-Terquem and psycho-analyst Djohar Si Ahmed. Personally, I received liberating injunctions. Simple things that have appeared like epiphanies here again. We draw and tell what we live, accompanied by a therapist. In my experience, this work brings a lot of humanity and humility because we realize that others suffer, that everyone suffer. This work can provide us a lot of material. To me, it was a kind of reset. Sometimes we realize that we are going around dark crossroads, which come back in a recurring way and this experience allowed me to shed light on these things. To finally free myself.
Finally, could you recommend some resources to our community?
I love the France Inter (French national radio) podcasts and especially ‘La Tête au Carré’ (in French only) by Mathieu Vidard. I find his topics relevant, varied and super accessible; "Our connection to nature", "Understanding animal intelligence" with an ethologist, "Our social interactions seen by neuroscience". It deals with sciences in the broadest sense of the term,something that often intersects yogic philosophy! In general I like it when spiritual subjects and/or wellness are treated with a scientific angle.
There is also a 4-part podcast on witches that is great: ‘La Chasse aux sorcières’ (in French only). It portrays the "witch" over time and how women who were knowledgable about the virtues of plants, natural healing techniques, and who were also free willed, disturbed the society that suddenly banished them.
Praise of the shadow by Tanizaki Junichirô discusses how to learn to see beauty where it is not necessarily perceived. A nice dose of Japanese subtlety and contemplation.
The Healing Process by Djohar Si Ahmed and Gérald Leroy-Terquem who taught the holotropic breathing seminar I attended.
Cave and Cosmos about the ‘Core Shamanism’ by the anthropologist Michael Harner, founder of the FSS (Foundation for Shamanic Studies), an organization that hosted a workshop I attended recently.
The Time Bench that passes, cosmic meditations by the astrophysicist Hubert Reeves. He shares reflections in the form of small notes on the great mystery of reality from his point of view as a scientist. The best of both worlds.
Three Friends in search of Wisdom by Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard, psychiatrist Christophe André and philosopher Alexandre Jollien. A conversation about wisdom, spirituality, happiness and more. So heartwarming!
I loved the docu-series 'Wild Wild Country': the story of guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and the installation of his community in Oregon in the 80s.
I really like the documentary ‘In Consciousness’ (French only) featuring psychiatrists and psychologists in hospitals that adresses the experiences of death and expansion of consciousness.
The Arte documentaries ‘The hidden allies of our organization - the fascias’ (in French only) is very rich. A quote I like: "This exciting survey summarizes what science today knows about our fascial tissue, this underrated and vital organ that is attracting increasing interest and hope among medical researchers." Fascias are given a lot of importance in Yoga and the discoveries made in the recent years are amazing. And ‘The Belly, our second brain’ (French only).