Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Interview with Black Dog Yoga

For the month of August, I have been Black Dog Yoga's "teacher of the month." If you aren't local, or haven't had a chance to come in and take a free class with me during this time, here is a short interview they did on me and some of my influences on teaching.

BDY: What first inspired you to start practicing yoga?
NS: For years after my first class, I used a visualization I'd learned to help keep my mind in check. This is really what drew me to classes in college. I began a dedicated practice and started to experience how that kind of focus works during movement - I fell in love with it.

BDY: What are the three most important things yoga contributes to your life?
NS: A community of curious and kind-hearted people; sustainable wellness management and resiliency.

BDY: What's the most valuable thing you hope to impart to your students?
NS: We are each incredibly powerful, and as such, can manifest big ideas. If we pair this with social responsibility and a flexible spirit, big dreams can be achieved - even within our lifetime.

BDY: What's your favorite pose?
NS: Recently I've been really enjoying trikonasa because it gets into the TFL and gives me a lot of information about how my body is recovering from two car accidents I was in earlier this year.

BDY:  Favorite musician/band?
NS: I have many...for now let's go with Tool, James Blake and Aesop Rock.

BDY: Tell us about your last vacation.
NS: I traveled around Israel for most of June and saw a lot of the country, including the major tourist sites. There were many highlights... I spent an afternoon dancing with a group of Holocaust survivors through a group called Cafe Europa - the people I met were the picture of resiliency, it was incredible. Also, hiking Mt. Masada at sunrise to a 2,000 year-old fortress that looked out over 360 degrees of sandy desert and then hiking 1,300 feet below sea level by mid-morning to float in the Dead Sea.

BDY: What would you like to say to Black Dog students to invite them to take your class?
NS: I'm amazed, pretty regularly, about being human and how we work. I do my best to instill this same kind of interest in my students as they experience new things and thoughts on the mat.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Process over Product

"Non-Goal Orientation" is a phrase a dear friend of mine began using around this time 3 years ago, and it speaks to the reality of "process."

In writing this, I begin to think of all the times I have heard others and myself say something out of comparison, or rejection of the current state of things. We reject our current mentality because we desire a different one. We reject our physical health because we desire something we have seen elsewhere. We reject our circumstances because we want what someone else has. We are constantly looking outside. It is a difficult balance, to remain intact with the environment, with others who inhabit it and also move from a place of solidity at the center of ourselves.

To be goal-oriented is effective and helpful under many circumstances, like meeting deadlines and creating new habits of behavior. However, in regard to something like spirituality [the experience of self-realization], the process is the goal.

Alert: yogic paradox!

To "be good" at yoga is not to eat "healthier," , it is not to be able to touch your toes. Yes, these are reliable effects of the practice, but they are not the goal. You can even have goals (or intentions) within your yoga practice, like, "Today I will notice my wrist alignment in every vinyasa I take." But, if your entire orientation is toward wrist alignment, many other effects of the practice will go unnoticed.

The word 'yoga' has been translated to mean"to yoke," as in, "to join together." It is a verb and thus an active process and it suggests that there are separations that come together as an effect of it.

Last week, I had the luxury of taking a class from a colleague and student of Bryan Kest, who is one of the most well-known yoga teachers in the USA. Kest was one of the first [known] American students of Pattabhi Jois, the father of Ashtanga Yoga, and studied with him in Mysore, India when he was just 21 years old. I am grateful to live in Los Angeles, this hub of the yogic mainstream. Kest says this about practicing yoga,

"...Not craving and clinging, but accepting who we are and where we are at, instead of rejecting where we are at in a constant pursuit to get somewhere. Most people bring their craving and clinging mentality into the yoga class, and then the practice is polluted. In yoga class and maybe in life, let the practice be, "I am not trying to get anywhere, I am trying to make it OK to be where I am at" because I love myself and value my process!!"

What will shift in your practice if you enter into it with a non-goal orientation? Can you replace this compulsion to "cling" with a curious mind, with an alert attention to process?

Cheers and happy practicing!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

aMUSEing: Poetry for Israel

This poem was a reaction I had to the Children's Memorial at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. If you ever get the opportunity to visit this incredible museum, please do.

There are stories from this conflict that need to be heard. Survivors of the Holocaust who were 9 and 10 years old are reaching their 80's, and soon enough our children will not have them to hear these stories firsthand. Whether you were directly affected by the profound affects that WWII had on humanity, or have only ever heard stories, whether you are Jewish or not, there are stories within the walls of these memorials that will offer you something to reflect on.

Below is a poem entitled, "1.5 Million" and is a tribute to the 1.5 million children who were murdered during the mass enslavement under the Nazi Regime during WWII.


1.5 million children
entire bodies
the universe
tiny lights that
cripple the largest ideas
visceral yet untouched
remembered yet unseen.
one moment to conceive,
a lifetime to reflect
on a tiny body of light,
resting among millions
freckling the universal landscape
reflecting a moment of life
bursting with energy among a blanket
of darkness

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Student Story Time

On the 11.5 hour flight from Los Angeles to Moscow, one of the people I was traveling to Israel with asked me how to stay relaxed during the flight. I gave him a breathing exercise to try that included extending his exhales a bit longer than his inhales. He gave it a few rounds and then let it go, finding it pretty difficult to keep his exhales out.

About a month later, we were both back in LA and I invited him to take one of my public classes. To my surprise, he came. He came to a few other classes after that, too. After his second class, I asked him what he thought about yoga, and joking goaded him, "you love it, don't you?" He responded with, "...I don't know if I like it yet. I can't tell." He explained that he used to run track and didn't get "the whole breathing thing." He agreed to try one more class, so I took him to one that was more advanced than he was ready for. This class, he said, was more challenging than the first two, but he "liked the challenge."

A week after that conversation, I received a text from him saying that he had a "breathing epiphany," that he needed to share with me: The night before he had been drinking and started to get the spins, so he laid down. When he realized his heart rate was beating rapidly, he held his exhales and in a few moments, he had, "cured the spins."

It is always fun to hear about how the techniques we use in the classroom are found to be useful outside of it.