As one of the most senior and respected yoga practitioners and teachers in the world today Dona brings to her teaching fifty years of study and experience. These studies include not only yoga, but also many other subjects, which have helped her form a wider view of yoga, not one that is confined to Hinduism and past texts on yoga only.
Born in a Japanese concentration camp in Thailand during the Second World War, Dona was exposed to Buddhism and Roman Catholicism from a very early age. In the years after the war she lived at the Castle of Eerde in the Netherlands. This Castle had been the meeting place for the Krishnamurti Talks during the first half of the twentieth century, but since then had been handed over to the Quakers.
Living in the Quaker community for four years enabled her to experience Christianity in its most pure and simple form, and gave her a lasting interest and respect for the individual face-to-face meeting of the human being with the great Mystery. A typical Quaker meeting would be a silent sitting together in a group to receive the divine Life Force in body (making the body quake or shake), and heart, rather than filtering it through the mind.
When the family moved to Indonesia in the early fifties, Dona became interested in Oriental philosophies, with the main focus on Buddhism and Taoism. Living in Indonesia was in itself a rich experience, which made a deep impression on her. The various Indonesian races are consummate dancers and musicians, and their art has often mystical or ecstatic overtones, in which the energy of the body is touched and propelled by the Universal Energy. This gave her a keen interest in the body, the mystery of the body. Through dance and music the human body, the human mind, and above all the human heart, touches Life and resonates with It.
The mind, however, has to be as fluid and as flexible as the body in order not to stand in the way of the dance of the body. Thus she became interested in the teachings of Jiddu Krishnamurti, one of the greatest thinkers of the twentieth century, and at one time heralded by the Theosophical Society as the Messiah, who would at last bring freedom to humanity. Krishnamurti himself declined this role, and started to travel to bring his message of freedom, yes, but a freedom from everything, including all concepts of freedom.
At the same time that she became a student of Krishnamurti in the mid fifties, Dona encountered also yoga, which became immediately her main path for the practice and expression of the body. Even now, after more than fifty years, Dona is convinced that yoga is the most complete form of exercise to keep the body in prime condition for receiving and interacting with the forces of life.
Dona Holleman with B.K.S. Iyengar
It was through Jiddu Krishnamurti that she met B.K.S. Iyengar in the mid sixties. B.K.S. Iyengar was just then becoming known in the West through Yehudi Menuhin, whom he taught yoga, and Dona decided to travel to India to study with this dynamic teacher. Thus she spent two years in India, in 1964 and 1969, and learned all that she could absorb from B.K.S.Iyengar, until she felt it was time to move on. Between 1964 and 1969 Dona founded the B.K.S.Iyengar Yoga Work Group in the Netherlands, and taught her first Teachers Training Course. Some of the teachers that came out of that course became, in their turn, internationally known.
Another personality she encountered through Jiddu Krishnamurti was Vanda Scaravelli. When Dona decided to move to Italy in 1972, after spending a couple of years in London teaching and lecturing, she became an intimate friend of this remarkable woman. Vanda was trained as a concert pianist, but she was also an enthusiastic yoga practitioner and student of B.K.S.Iyengar. Dona spent many years studying the piano with her in Florence, discovering with Vanda the correlation between music, yoga, dance and religion. Religion means to tie again together, and thus religion became a re-connecting of the human energy-field with the Vastness, with the universal energy field.
Starting the B.K.S.Iyengar School in Florence, she taught for the next twenty-five years in Florence, where she trained many teachers. She resides and teaches currently at the Epona Studio in Soiano del Lago, Northern Italy.Dona brings to her teaching her own unique synthesis of yoga and philosophy, which has grown out of her practice and experiences
Dona is the author of several books, amongst other the best selling Dancing the Body of Light, Eyes of Innocence, Centering Down and The Centered Yoga Manual, currently all out of print. She also made a movie, called A fish in search of water. Recently she brought out the book Dancing the Flame of Life, available from Amazon and Yogamatters.