How did you start practicing Yoga? Tell us about your early yoga experiences. I started practicing yoga in college. I was inspired by my yoga teacher and knew deep down inside, I would one day be a yoga teacher too. Aside from helping me feel less stressed, yoga has helped me feel more connected to my culture and Indian roots.
When was the moment you knew that Yoga was different or special – more than just another “exercise” or way to be physical? I knew yoga was different than any other exercise because of the calm and steadiness I felt after taking a yoga class. I think yoga is special because of the way it helps us connect with ourselves and our community. As a registered dietitian, I often incorporate yoga and mindfulness practices to help my clients improve their lifestyle and nutrition habits. Yoga is special because we can use it in many therapeutic ways such as managing daily stress, improving health, and strengthening our body during life changes like pregnancy.
What is your favorite and least favorite pose, and why? My favorite pose – Parsvottanasana or intense side stretch pose. I love it because this pose feels so good in my body. I’m able to open up the back and sides of my legs, and forward folds help me feel calm. I use my office chair at work to do this pose during the work day, it feels good if you sit a lot! My least favorite pose – Warrior 1. I’m still working towards feeling comfortable and connected in this pose. Although this pose has tremendous benefits, my hips and shoulders haven’t quite gotten there to fully appreciate it!
What practices do you use to feel more peaceful, present and content? I’m a big believer in mindfulness. It’s one of the easiest ways to access your inner tools to shift your mood and bring awareness to the present moment. I often take mindful walks in the park, practice breath awareness to feel centered, and try to meditate as often as I can…even if it is for 5 minutes a day.
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)? The yama I practice the most is satya or truthfulness. Practicing truthfulness and honesty helps me stay connected with my inner voice and intuition. I feel that people understand and relate well to the truth, even when it may be unpleasant. The niyama I practice the most is svadhyaya or self-study. We humans are constantly evolving, svadhyaya helps me stay connected with myself and my truth. Taking the time to get to know yourself can be extremely rewarding.
We are focused on the Yama of Brahmacharya (or self-restraint) for the month of June. How do you think of Brahmacharya in terms of your personal Yoga Practice and your teaching? How do you practice Brahmacharya day to day off the mat with yourself, or others? I practice and teach mindful, alignment-based yoga and invite my students to hold poses for a longer time. Holding poses and going slow can be hard for us New Yorkers, who are used to moving fast. Stillness often allows the mind and body to settle. I think practicing and teaching yoga this way allows us to focus on brahmacharya or self-restraint. I practice brahmacharya by being still, not being reactive, and letting go and forgiving.
Tell us something about teaching at Harlem Yoga Studio I love the community of students and teachers at Harlem Yoga. This studio has been there for me during challenging life moments and transitions. I’m grateful that I get to teach and practice at Harlem Yoga and now consider it to be a part of my home.