The Yogini with a Past

In 2010, the media branded her “Europe’s most perverted Dominatrix.” But Ira van Damm’s pro domme sessions don’t sound that extreme to me. And I would not call her or her work “perverted.” But that sort of salaciousness makes for attention getting headlines.

Ira van Damm worked under the professional name of Mistress Lucrezia in the United Kingdom for several years but one day her whole world came crashing down. One of her clients died during a session.

Death during sex is not a crime. Certainly when my aunt’s husband expired on top of her during sex, no one accused her of murder. But when BDSM is involved, authorities and public opinion can’t resist jumping to conclusions.

As is often the case, the arrest made headlines and the media rushed to judgment. But what actually happened has been a bit of a mystery, until now. The whole story will be revealed in a brand new documentary scheduled for release later this year.

Ex-Dominatrix, a True Story is a film by Darren Cavanagh, who has also worked on films like Kill Bill and The Hunger Games.

And while this aspect of Ira van Damm’s story holds great interest for me, it may not be for the reasons you might suspect. I am deeply interested in how her client’s death adversely impacted her health, and led to her moving to India, healing herself and beginning a new life as a yogini and yoga teacher.

Transformation is something many of us seek. We want to be better, be more, and feel expanded into our full potential. Yet life’s setbacks can sometimes make it difficult for us to continue to believe in ourselves and take the steps that will produce positive change.

This new film promises to inspire us toward that positive change. While Ex-Dominatrix will provide us with an intimate look into Ira’s former life as a dominatrix and her new role as a yoga teacher, the larger message is really about overcoming setbacks and finding the courage to reinvent yourself.

As Ira says in the film, “What I hope people will get from this documentary, is that it gives them the courage in their lives to move on when they hit a set back. Because a set back is sometimes necessary to open your eyes and see that you have other abilities. Because sometimes we get stuck into what we are used to and we forget that it’s something that doesn’t make us happy. If we are unhappy we keep dreaming about changing it and complaining about our life but we don’t do anything about it. And sometimes you need to bang your head against a rock to wake you up to see that it’s time for something else. You have to find the strength inside you to do something with your life. I can advise everybody, it’s much better than killing yourself”…she giggles.

I was afforded a rare opportunity to interview Ira van Damm via email exchange with the film’s producer, Darren Cavanagh.

How has Ira been received as a yogi? Have any of her students objected to her past as a dominatrix?

I don’t think she has had problems with her students but when it doesn’t have to be shared she doesn’t share it. The first years before we were filming in Goa she didn’t tell anyone about her past life. There was no need for her as a yoga teacher to share her past with her students as it wasn’t yoga related.  When she did tell some students it did shock some of them but they didn’t think less of her as a teacher. I think she keeps it silent to get appreciated for what she is doing now without the influence or opinion people might have from knowing what she had did in the past.

Does Ira have regrets about her past profession? Or does she perhaps feel shameless about it? Maybe even see it as a strength?

She doesn’t regret anything as regretting things is a waste of time. It certainly made her into the person she is now, strong and independent. But she doesn’t talk about it much as most people still don’t understand what BDSM is about. Ira says “I never regarded myself as a sex worker but rather as a spiritual, mind blowing therapist.”

Are there any skill sets from her past profession, which Ira currently uses in her new profession?  In other words, does she view her life as a natural progression where what came before helps to inform and shape what comes after?

She has always tried to open up the minds of all the people she worked with and she does the same now but on a different level. Her profession as a dominatrix made her into a very patient person and she gained lots of understanding of the mind and body which come in very handy in her new profession. From her past profession she also got very fit and flexible which made it easier to become a yogini.

Would Ira call her transformation from pro domme to yogini a “spiritual awakening?” What role does spirituality play in her profession as a yogini?  What role did spirituality play in her role as a dominatrix?

Ira has always been a very spiritual person, but her heart is the thing that has opened up more. She has immense love for the world and all the people in it, not just the small group of friends and family that surround her. I think in her current state of mind it will be almost impossible for her to turn back to the profession that she did before. Some of her most loyal clients have given up BDSM when she stopped and are also looking for other spiritual awakenings now. She said, “It’s always been my goal to open up the body and mind of my clients and to use levels of pain to reach a state of nirvana. It gave me a mental state of pleasure to lift people out of their comfort zone and bring them to an unknown high. It’s just a lot less dangerous and less painful the way I do it now, (smiles) but the intentions are still the same. I may have been a hard core dominatrix, but I was never a violent or abusive one”.

In fact, by definition consensual BDSM is not abusive for the very reason that it is explicitly defined by consent. Some forms of BDSM may appear violent to an outside observer, who may not realize fully that the activities have been mutually agreed upon, and are mutually desired, by all the participants. What may appear to an outside viewer as perpetration or abuse is actually a form of play.  This same standard of mutual consent defines many other activities that could appear to an outside observer as violent, such as football, martial arts, or boxing. Mutual consent creates a container for all play, most especially the more “violent” forms of play, whether recreational or professional.

What I find most evocative about this film is the telling of Ira’s story in a holistic way which neither denies nor apologizes for her past profession while embracing and celebrating her new professional and spiritual path.  I hope that others will feel inspired to see their own lives without the filters of shame. We are better able to learn from our past when we ditch the shame. And it does wonders for our ability to live fully and joyfully.

Watch the movie trailer and movie clips here!

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