1) How did you start practicing Yoga? Tell us about your early yoga experiences.
I found my way into a yoga class at Chelsea Piers back in 2006 after a failed attempt at Pilates. I was having trouble getting it and the teacher sort of dismissed me so I went across the hallway to give yoga a try, thinking they were related in some way and that I needed to get some yoga experience and then go back to Pilates.
2) When was the moment you knew that Yoga was different or special – more than just another “exercise” or way to be physical?
I have to admit I wasn’t hooked right away. But after a few months attending classes pretty regularly, practicing sun salutations and vinyasa, I started to “get it”. While it was a great physical activity and my body started to tone and strengthen in a way it had never before, there was also the component of connecting my breath with movement that was really grounding and peaceful to me. Over time I found those feeling starting to spill off of my mat and into my life and overall I felt more grounded and at ease.
3) What is your favorite and least favorite pose, and why?
Ooh there are so many to choose from but if I had to choose just one, I’d say Ardha Chandrasana – half moon pose. I love it because there’s so much going on! From the balancing leg to the one that’s off the ground, where to rest your gaze, where to place your hand….there’s so much to explore. And depending on how you’re feeling on any given day, there are lots of ways to challenge yourself or not.
I don’t really have a least favorite pose. I have over the years – for example I used to hate balance poses because I couldn’t do them. For years in tree pose I’d put my toes on the ground as a “kick stand” and rest my heel on my ankle. I didn’t even try to balance. One day I decided to really explore my aversion to it, to understand where I was getting “stuck” and feeling challenged and turn it into a learning opportunity.
4) What practices do you use to feel more peaceful, present and content?
I still love a strong vinyasa flow but my home practice is all about slow flow, holding poses, lots of restoratives and meditation.
5) What Yama or Niyama do you find most helpful in your daily life, and why? (Yamas are “observances” that are recommended for relating to the outside world, and Niyamas are observances for dealing with internal struggles)
Another tough question…they all serve me every day but I’m always intrigued by Aparigraha. It is often translated as non-greed but I like the more literal translation of “hands off”. Instead of continually grasping for more, we can make a shift to practice gratitude instead, which turns what we have into enough.
6) We are focused on the Niyama of Svadhyaya (or self-study) for the month of September. How do you think of Svadhyaya in terms of your personal Yoga Practice and your teaching? How do you practice Svadhyaya day to day off the mat with yourself, or others?
Self-study is the ground where yoga happens when you are not on your mat. Every moment is an opportunity to be skillful not only in how we treat ourselves but others and the world around us. We don’t always get it right so it’s an ongoing practice of self-study – being patient, compassionate and non-judgemental with ourselves over and over again.
7) Tell us something about teaching at Harlem Yoga Studio
As much as we all practice yoga for the physical and spiritual aspects, COMMUNITY is an equally important part of our yoga practice. Communing with others, sharing a common practice and ideas goes a long way in contributing to our well-being. Harlem Yoga Studio is really a beacon in that way, bringing together the Harlem community, the young and old, families and individuals, beginning and advanced practitioners.