Plastic Free July continues. Yoga teacher Bilyana Prema runs Vida Haus Café in Suffolk, a zero waste store and plant-based café within Vida Haus yoga and dance studio. Here she explains how every day is a plastic free day
We are Vida Haus which in translation means the House of Life – we are a concept space that hosts a yoga and dance studio, a plant-based cafe, a wholefoods/ zero waste store and a workshop space called the Nook. I’m Bilyana (Billy) Prema – an Ashtanga and Shantiseva yoga teacher on the path of rediscovery.
If I had to describe my life so far I’d say it’s been unpredictable, spontaneous, full of teachings, incredible, challenging at times, full of magic.
I have been treading on the plant-based path for 14 years now. I came to it from a point of illness, then rediscovered it through yoga and the ethical principles of yogic life. I became vegan overnight after watching a very moving documentary – but the seed was planted years before that I just didn’t realise it at the time. From then on, every choice I made I had to re-evaluate. One thing led to another and several years down the path I was implementing the changes of a plastic free lifestyle at home. Zero waste is something I work towards one small step at a time. So, at first Vida was mainly the studio and a plant-based café. During the pandemic I was left with bags of wholefoods and it only made sense to turn the place into a shop – I got in contact with various small brands from around the country and put together our selection of goodies to include not only groceries but also various lifestyle products and alternatives for people who want to live in a more natural way.
At the start of the pandemic, it was difficult to not know what would happen and how we would make it through. Evolving the cafe into a takeaway and the plastic free shop has aided the situation immensely. It pushed me to work more on our online presence and find ways to reach out to people. The studio was more difficult to keep afloat, however we soon discovered Zoom and were able to teach online until restrictions were eased. Yes, we don’t have many people in the studio even now, but I think this is a positive – we are able to work more personally with people and really strengthen the sense of community.
We found ways not to get stuck by finding out things and bringing things in that I was inspired by: other people’s stories through their products, making our own nut butters, cordials, cakes and cookie batches for everyone to take home with them. Studio wise, it involved teaching more workshops, working individually with people, gathering a pool of teachers with similar ethos. It takes time to build something in synergy through these uncertain times and it has had its ups and downs but what has served me the most has been a true belief in what I do and that it gives me an ultimate joy so I’m not stopping anytime soon.
Plastic Free July is a good way to reach out to people. I often post on my personal account about our plastic free journey as a family but have been so busy in running the place that social media has fallen back. Every day is a plastic free day at Vida – to the best of our ability. We always like sharing our new finds and what works and what doesn’t and new ways to reduce, reuse, recycle.
It makes perfect sense to champion plant-based and plastic-free living in the current climate. Clearly what we have been doing so far doesn’t work – otherwise we would not see the mental health illness skyrocket, the prominence of cancer, and significant increase in auto-immune diseases. I’m not even going to go on about Covid – pandemics are reoccurring throughout the centuries. However, there is an obvious correlation between illnesses and viruses and our abuse of the natural world and mostly its inhabitants. Reverting to mindful choices is the way forward.
Post ‘Freedom Day’, I hope that people won’t just go back to their old way of living but take the teaching with them and mindfully go forward with a mutually beneficial connection to the earth. I look forward to sharing our space with more people and providing a safe and conducive environment for healing through different practices and gatherings. And I am looking forward to hopefully hosting some old school yoga teachers from around the world to share their wisdom and practices with us. And above all I look forward to elevating our intention together hand in hand.
At the moment, we are working to establish our fully recycled container space – the Nook – ready for workshops and small number gatherings. It is a space to get creative, be yourself and explore new and old. I have dreams about Vida expanding to incorporate a large kitchen open to cooking workshops, growing our own vegetables and creating a garden open to the public to relax and forage from full of herbs and edible native plants.
Main image: Billy (on the right) and Harriet, who has worked with Billy since day one