Marika Leila Roux of Shibari Study: “Daydream, a lot”

Daydream, a lot: one of the most powerful things I’ve discovered in the last few years is the power of intentional daydreaming and how it can contribute to manifesting your vision(s). Energy flows where attention goes; it can be as simple as that. I’m not saying that anything and everything you wish for will instantly […]

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Daydream, a lot: one of the most powerful things I’ve discovered in the last few years is the power of intentional daydreaming and how it can contribute to manifesting your vision(s). Energy flows where attention goes; it can be as simple as that. I’m not saying that anything and everything you wish for will instantly come to reality, but in my experience, you can train your mind to sharpen its apprehension of reality to dream within its realm. With some practice, this skill can feel quite like magic. Lately, I have been doing this regularly, sitting or lying down with the specific intention to daydream about something freely and deeply I really want or need, and, in time, it just happens. At first, my flatmate thought I was joking when I said “you remember this thing/person I manifested a few weeks ago? It just came into my life” but when I explained to her I do it very often and consciously she started doing it too, and guess what… it works. Do not confuse this skill with luck. If I compare luck to raw intelligence, then daydreaming is like education.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Marika Leila Roux, Co-Founder of Shibari Study.

With more than a decade of Shibari experience behind her, both as a rigger and model, Marika (aka Gorgone) is one of the most authoritative voices in Western Shibari today. Co-founder of Shibari Study, she was the first instructor on the site. She also serves as a content manager and creative director of the company, as well as being the spokesperson and “face” of the brand.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was born in the South of France in a tiny hamlet called the “Solitary”. My parents were breeding horses and owned a Bed & Breakfast in a renovated 14th-century farm. Sounds like a fairy tale and I have very beautiful memories of my childhood there, but as an only child living literally on top of a hill in the middle of nowhere, I grew up extremely lonely. My career as a bondage performer, instructor and recently startup entrepreneur, living and working in Berlin is a total glitch in my family’s landscape. I have always been the black sheep, but I think even if they never really understood me they love me and are proud of the uniqueness of my trajectory.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

My career of choice was being a rope bondage performer and instructor, the entrepreneur part just kind of happened organically and to be honest I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about it. I’m a chaotic and passionate artist, not a businesswoman. I didn’t have a clear idea of how I would make it happen, I mostly just went with the flow, but from the moment I discovered Shibari and fell in love with the practice I’ve wanted to practice at a professional level and make it a career. Back when I started 10 years ago, the industry was still very underground and completely male-dominated. There were very few people making a living out of it and those who did were for the vast majority of older male riggers. I was a very young female rope model when I started, and my ambition and drive were clearly delusional but somehow a decade later I am CEO of the world’s leading platform in rope bondage education. I think what inspired me to pursue this career and actually succeed is a mix of intuition, passion and rage. There was, and still is, rebellion and radical self-love behind my drive. First of all, the intuitive understanding that if I want to live in my truth this was the path I had to take, regardless of the stigma around it. I think my feminist agenda and praxis also fueled my desire to gain power and affluence in the rope scene to change the status quo. I always wanted to be an active part of the movement for collective and individual liberation, my role in it is to make rope bondage and all the benefits that go with it accessible to everyone who is interested in it.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

I have been very lucky and received help from many people throughout my whole journey. There are however three people who have supported and contributed to my career in exceptional ways. The first one is my mother who supported me unwaveringly from the very beginning, both emotionally and financially at times, without understanding my interest in this practice and even disliking it herself. She trusted me and saw my determination and passion. I am forever grateful for her unconditional love and support. The second one is my ex-husband Asaf Avidan, who believed in me as an artist and gave me the opportunity to perform Shibari (as the opening act for his concert) in prestigious mainstream venues such as the Paris ‘Opera Garnier’ and ‘Salle Pleyel’, in 2017. Being recognized as an artist and given the chance to showcase Shibari as a poetic form of storytelling and not just a sexual practice was part of my professional goals, and I am beyond grateful for this opportunity. The last person whose support has changed the course of my career is Anton Martin, my ex-partner and co-founder of Shibari Study. We met just after I’d self-produced the first batch of videos to test the viability of online rope education, and he had a clear vision of how this project could be scaled and turned into a real business model. Without his entrepreneurial vision and skills, Shibari Study would have never grown into what it is today.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Honestly, working in this industry as a young woman, most of the mistakes I’ve made, and their consequences were definitely not funny. I think the silver lining in all these instances has always been both sides of the same coin; that you have to trust yourself before you can trust others and that trust has no value if it is based on hopeful assumptions. Developing more self-confidence and critical thinking has helped me have a better understanding of my strength and limitations as well as others, and to avoid confusing wishful thinking and informed decision-making.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

It’s hard to pick just one. Last year I discovered the work of Lidia Yuknavitch, her autobiography the “chronology of water” had a very deep impact on me. Her writing style is very direct, raw, and unique. She writes about grief, art, sex, trauma, love and the power and pain of being a woman without tiptoeing around any of it. She doesn’t try to spare the reader, on the contrary, it seems like she wants her words to cut right through you and make you feel her story in your flesh. It’s a book that happens to your whole body, not only your eyes and your head. I remember feeling exhausted and needing a moment to recover after each chapter. Her unapologetic and corporeal writing style made me feel allowed to feel and express fully my own pain and rage and joy of being a woman in this world. She made me understand that even rage can be tender, that there’s power in being broken, that pain can fuel creativity, that love, and sexuality will always be messy and that’s ok.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

Again, hard to pick just one! I will quote two sentences from ‘Letters to a young poet’ by Rainer Maria Rilke; 
“Try to love the questions themselves. Take pleasure in your growth, in which no one can accompany you.” 
“Perhaps everything terrifying is deep down a helpless thing that needs our help.”

These two sentences convey the idea that individual liberation is an active and compassionate process of radical self-love, self-trust, and self-expression while welcoming and holding space for emotions such as fear, doubt and anxiety as part of a messy and holistic process of self-actualization.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

Over the past few months, I have started weekly DEI coaching sessions, in order to better myself as a human and as the leader of an organization that claims diversity and inclusion as its core values. It’s a very intense and difficult process of dismantling my own bias, but I cannot imagine ever going back. It seems as essential to my mental hygiene and humanism as going to therapy. I’ve had a lot of talks with folks who are in positions of privilege, power or leadership within the Shibari & Kink community but don’t necessarily have a lot of financial resources. The common theme was that they’d love to also receive DEI coaching and actively contribute to a better and more just world, starting with their own communities, but that basically they couldn’t afford it. I am working now on putting together a “Kinky DEI Fund” to cover the costs of regular DEI coaching sessions for people who cannot afford to pay for it. Dismantling white supremacy, patriarchy, and all other internalized models of oppression benefits everyone, including those who also benefit from those systems of oppression. When QTBIPOC are safe and free, we are all safe and free. The global Shibari and Kink community doesn’t exist in a vacuum and is plagued by racism, sexism (and too many other isms) just like the rest of the world is. I have some power and influence in this community, and I want to use the monetary and networking resources of Shibari Study to help foster a community that is safer for QTBIPOC to learn, enjoy and profit from rope bondage.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives, Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

  • Daydream, a lot: one of the most powerful things I’ve discovered in the last few years is the power of intentional daydreaming and how it can contribute to manifesting your vision(s). Energy flows where attention goes; it can be as simple as that. I’m not saying that anything and everything you wish for will instantly come to reality, but in my experience, you can train your mind to sharpen its apprehension of reality to dream within its realm. With some practice, this skill can feel quite like magic. Lately, I have been doing this regularly, sitting or lying down with the specific intention to daydream about something freely and deeply I really want or need, and, in time, it just happens. At first, my flatmate thought I was joking when I said “you remember this thing/person I manifested a few weeks ago? It just came into my life” but when I explained to her I do it very often and consciously she started doing it too, and guess what… it works. Do not confuse this skill with luck. If I compare luck to raw intelligence, then daydreaming is like education.
  • Cultivate your consent culture: it is becoming more obvious to everyone that consent is the crux of safer Kink and BDSM play, but one important thing I’ve learned after a decade of practicing rope bondage is that consent should also be at the core of any interpersonal interaction, not just Kinky or sexual. Developing a strong and joy-centered consent culture requires skills such as self-advocacy, intentionality and empathy, all qualities that can only benefit your mental and emotional wellbeing.
  • Decolonize your mind: if you dig a little bit into it, you will realize that regardless of your own demographic and intersections you are oppressed at least on some level by colonialist thinking. One of the many disguises of colonialism is the dominant binary model of (self)perception (good/bad, desirable/undesirable, civilized/savage, valuable/disposable, useful/useless, beautiful/ugly). Not only does this binary mode of perception strips us from the complex nuances of our humanity, but it often also does immense damage to our self-image and self-worth by making us believe that fitting within binary societal norms and constructs is more valuable than living our truth authentically.

Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.

I practice yoga regularly and of course, I have my Shibari practice. I don’t always have the energy and time to add a workout to my day, between work and my animals but I ride my two horses almost every day. My animals are the crux of my physical and mental stability to be honest, especially since the pandemic started last year. I don’t have a meditation practice, because I am still unable to fully attend to it without my anxiety and ADHD kicking in hard. However, I do practice intentional daydreaming and have some rituals that help me connect to myself and set an intention for my day. For example, pulling a card of the “Marseille Tarot” and reflecting on its meaning for a few minutes before starting the day. I don’t believe in fortune-telling but I believe in the impact of metaphors on our psyche and that abstract concepts play a central role in human behavior.

Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know and integrating it into our lives?

I have a lot of particular thoughts around the notion of health in general. I guess intersectional feminism and liberatory thinking also apply to my reflections around any health praxis: when are we confusing “healthy” with oppressive and arbitrary beauty standards? Is the goal being healthier and the motivation self-love or is the goal external validation and the motivation guilt or shame? I am deeply troubled by the rampant fatphobia and ableism in most health advice and the wellness industry at large. We are constantly bombarded with direct or indirect messages that being healthy means being skinny and able-bodied. How often do we assume that a thin person is healthy, and a fat person is unhealthy? How about people who have visible or invisible illnesses and disabilities? Where do they fit in the mainstream health dogmas?

Of course, we all know that sleep, movement, and nutrition are key but what does that really mean? First of all, it is not always possible to sleep well, eat well and move daily, and that’s ok. We should also add that anything we do should feel good and joyful if we want it to be beneficial. If you have to force anything, it will cause stress and stress hormones are really bad for you. Especially extreme effort should feel pleasurable, otherwise, it is just harmful. It’s important to find habits that deeply respect your unique body, its natural rhythm and fluctuating needs and energy levels. I am definitely an advocate of flexible and intuitive self-care over forceful habits and rigid structures.

In my opinion, the main blockage that prevents us from taking the information we know and integrate it into our lives is that most of the information that goes around is not inclusive enough. If you try to force a single model on millions of bodies, the bodies who don’t fit that model will reject it. There is no one-fit-for-all recipe when it comes to health and wellness. Everybody has different predispositions and needs. The wellness industry needs to become more inclusive and diversify its tenets.

Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?

I grew up in the mountains and spent my childhood half-wild, running in the forest and playing with animals all day. Today I live in Berlin and still made it a priority to be surrounded by nature and animals on a daily basis because otherwise I simply cannot function properly. Spending time in nature can help us reconnect with our senses and feel more grounded. There are smells, sounds, colors, sensations, that break the monotony of our indoor sensory landscape. Being in nature is known to lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels and reduce anxiety. I noticed for myself that when I don’t have time to be outside for more than 3 days in a row, my anxiety levels will predictably rise, and the first symptoms of depression will show. I grew up with horses and always had a deep love for them, so for me the ultimate “being in nature” experience is spending time with my two wonderful horses in the fields. The love and gratitude I have for them is hard to explain with words. I wish everyone would experience falling in love with a horse at least once in their life. These animals have deeply transformative powers if we are willing to listen to them. Fun fact: I have left a horse to both important relationships in my life, my ex-husband, and my ex-boyfriend. None of them had horses before, but they saw my love for them and wanted to understand, so we got them each a horse and now they are hooked.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I wish every single human would wake up to the urgent call to actively do the work of dismantling white supremacy and patriarchy. These two systems of oppression, wielding ultra-liberal capitalism both as a weapon and a disguise, are the root of unspeakable injustices, suffering and deaths. I am trying to decolonize my sexuality and Kink practices, and I am encouraging anyone who wants to engage in liberatory praxis to investigate the ways they can do the same for themselves. Sex is political, Kink is political, love is political, bodies are political.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

I would love to have lunch with Karin Dreijer. I absolutely love their Album ‘Seven’ released under the alias Fever Ray in 2009 and they wrote what might be one of my all-time favorite short text ever, “the decision to fall is harder than the fall itself”. It’s a powerful, poetic, political and mind-shifting little word bomb and I would love to meet the person who wrote these thoughts so beautifully.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

They can follow my personal Instagram @marika.leila where they will find a mix of Shibari, animals (I have a dog, two cats and two horses), poetry and social activism. They can also find more of my artistic work on www.study-on-falling.com and of course www.shibaristudy.com for my most recent work curating and producing online rope bondage education.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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