Fitness is a big deal in Berlin with fitness centres popping up everywhere like mushrooms. However, you don’t have to become a member of one of these joints to stay fit as Yolanda the Yoga Queen can show us.

Yolanda is a moving example of the ancient art of wooden Yoga. Yolanda’s wooden Yoga skills are so advanced that she has mastered the technically very demanding eyebrow twitch, even accomplishing the plait swing with simultaneous neck stretch first recorded aeons ago in the darkest depths of the forests surrounding Berlin.

As a master of her craft, she is entitled to wear the Navy blue initiate’s frock, with its matching conical headpiece.


A friend gave me an A4 card with a figure to be cut out called “Gymnastics with Sister Adelheid”. You can see it halfway down the page  I had a lot of fun making this and when you lift Adelheid’s substantial body up and down, her arms wave down and up in a most fetching manner!

Adelheid was created by Martin Graf who is a brilliant artist with a great sense of humour. His web site is in German, but the images and animated GIFs speak for themselves, so it’s a great source of inspiration.

So what’s the brief?

The nurse who looked after me as a 10 year old was called Yolanda and I loved her dearly. She also rhymes nicely with Yoga, so that was that. I also decided to change the movement so that when Yolanda’s body is pressed down, her arms go up. Trendy girls in Berlin favour long hair at the moment, so I thought that long plaits would be nice for her and maybe they could move up and down too. While considering how to do this I thought well let’s move her eyebrows as well.

The body, arms & legs

I used three sheets of 6 mm plywood sandwiched together for the body in an almost triangular shape. For the arms I used 2 mm plywood with carved limewood hands and shoes. The legs are 6 mm beech dowel with 1.6 mm metal rod to move the arms. In the middle piece of the 3-layer sandwich there are slots in the plywood to accommodate the legs and the springs which push them down. This middle piece has an angled top on which the arms rest. Three small polyamide washers help the arms to move freely and I cut grooves in the outer pieces of the sandwich to provide space for the bent metal rods to move up and down.

To move the arms

This arrangement means that when you push down on the body, the leg springs compress and the metal rods move up into the body thus lifting the arms. As each leg has its own spring, you can choose to place one foot onto a raised platform leaving the other foot floating free in the air. If you then push down on the body only one arm will be lifted. As the ruff is fixed to the body, you can also push down on the ruff.

The head

I cut a beechwood egg into two halves as the basis for Yolanda’s head, I chose a smaller egg for her nose, two hemispheres for her eyes and a cone for her hat. I used 2 mm plywood for her plaits and carved a limewood ruff to hold her 6 mm dowel neck.

From left to right. Front of head with holes for eye axes. back of head, 2 pieces of padding and 2 plaits. 2 eyes at bottom on different length rods.

To understand how things move, here is a partial assembly, showing just one plait which is pivoted on the metal rod on which Yolanda’s right eye (and eyebrow) is fixed on the outside.

As the metal rod from the neck moves up and down it moves the plait up and down. The plait is fixed with epoxy resin adhesive to its axis rod, so this rod turns as the plait is moved. The eye on the outside is also fixed to the axis rod, so it also turns as the plait is moved. Here’s a short video showing the movements

The plaits overlap so I added padding on each half of the egg to keep the plaits properly offset and to fill what would otherwise be an ugly gap. This padding means that one eye needs a metal axis rod which is longer by the thickness of the padding. A plastic washer beneath each plait keeps it moving freely.

To move the plaits & eyebrows

The ruff is glued to the top of the body and the neck is glued to the ruff. The neck can move within the head thus moving the brass rod up and down. I chose not to use a spring here so that friction can hold the head on the neck in any position that you choose. To lift Yolanda’s plaits you have to pull her head upwards, “stretching” her neck. To lower the plaits you press her head down. Her hat is a good place to hold because your fingers are then clear of her eyebrows. As each plait lift its metal rod turns, rotating Yolanda’s eyes.

Her eyebrows are glued to the tops of her eyes and move with them. As her plaits lift her eyebrows tilt and Yolanda seems to frown. As her plaits go down, her eyebrows relax and Yolanda appears calmer. You don’t really notice that her eyes are rotating, her eyebrows grab your attention and give her this variable expression. Once you have set her expression you can then use the ruff to press the body down and lift her arms, without changing her expression. If you choose, you can press down using her hat, in which case her expression will first relax and then she will lift her arms.

If that’s all a bit complicated to understand, there is a video of Yolanda in action here which should help.

As a well brought up young lady Yolanda takes care to use white cotton ribbons to keep her plaits tidy, which of course match her snow white ruff and socks.

Sometimes Yolanda gets a bit cross. Well it’s only human isn’t it?