• Yoga Teacher Interview with Cristi Christensen Part 2

    I want to wake people up. I want to shake people up. I want to bring these practices of yoga, and dance, and music to every single corner of the world. I want to help people feel grounded in their bodies, integrated with who they are, and help them stoke the belief in themselves, that they can do everything and anything that they put their energy and attention towards.

    What has been your biggest struggle and your biggest milestone in the practice?

    My whole life had been driven about competition.  I was competing at a very young age, training at an elite level from the time I was ten years old.  Training eight hours a day.  It was all about competition and what the body could do. I would say by the time I came to yoga that I didn’t know what movement was that wasn’t in the name of competition. Whether it was for dance and being picked to be in the performance, or to be picked to go to special school, or was it to train your body so you could jump higher, flip faster, get into the water with no splash.  All the movement had a very specific reason to achieve a goal.  I think the biggest struggle, maybe at first, would have been to like, A) this is not about competition B) it’s actually not even about what poses I can do.  And letting go of that, and just allowing the practice to be a practice, because that was very foreign to me, but also because I had done so much athletics in that way, it was almost a relief that it didn’t have to be that way.  Once I got that. This isn’t about me learning handstand, it’s not me being able to put my foot to my head, but I had never done anything that wasn’t goal oriented movement before. Once I got over that I felt such freedom in the practice and I enjoyed it so much more.  It was about the love of being in my body.  The love of being present with the sensations that were in my body.  Also being connected to the other people on their mats, or being connected to the teacher, and the energy we were creating together.  It was getting over the fact it was okay, that based on my injury, that I couldn’t do some of these “advanced poses” and that wasn’t going to limit me in the potential of how my yoga practice could serve me. I think getting over that was a pretty big milestone for me.

    What is yoga favorite yoga pose and why?

    One of my favorite poses is handstand, and it’s just because it’s fun. I’m not practicing handstands on ledges. I just do it for fun. It reminds me of being a kid. It opens up that exuberant energy in me more and more. I just like to be upside down. There’s that monkey in me from being gymnast and a diver from a young age that still really enjoys that. I also really like Shivasana [laughs] because I think we’re all really tired and having that deep rest, like having that permission for deep rest is really welcome a lot of the time.

    What has been the most inspirational moment you’ve experienced as a yoga teacher?

    One of the things I’m known for is this yoga dance collaboration.  It comes in two forms. One is called Sol Fire and the other one is called Deep Exhale.  It is a combination of meditation, movement meditation, yoga, dance, eccstatic dance, and going back into yoga, and sound healing.  It has been one of the practices that has brought me so much joy to share. It’s been so healing for my own life and seeing the response, like actually, the visceral response in people’s faces and people’s bodies from these experiences.  I feel bad sometimes because I’m getting so much from it, that I’m like, “I hope my students are getting half as much as I am.”  There was one in particular experience, it was in 2017 at the Lightning in a Bottle Festival.  It was the Deep Exhale with my partner Marques Wyatt, he is a world renowned DJ.  It was like a vortex in this tent. We had about 700 people, and there were as many people surrounding the tent as that were inside.  The whole tent was pulsing with energy.  Everyone was jumping and lifting.  Feeling that energy and connecting with the students in that way, and seeing the ripple effect of this positive alignment and connection when we connect to what’s inside, and how we can allow it to express out. Really witnessing the reason why we put this yoga dance together and witnessing it being revealed in front of us. This really does work, and this really does light people up.  And it’s really bringing people into their power, and they’re having a really amazing time in the process.  That is one that in that moment it was, like, wow, this is it. This is it.

    Why do you practice? 

    I practice because I have to [laughs].  And I don’t mean that in a negative way.  I practice because this is the tool that helps me stay on my path of life. If yoga is life, then everything is my practice.  Setting up my alter, is my practice. Rolling out my mat, is my practice.  Playing my drum, is my practice.  Writing, is my practice.  And all of those, to me, are yoga.  Those are the practices that I need to stay sane [laughs].  to feel connected to who I am, to feel connected to the Earth below me, and to feel connected to infinite above me. I need these practices and they continue to feed me on a very deep level, and light me up, and support me in those times where I need the extra support and I need to be held by something.  The energy of these practices I can lean into and can hold me.

    Why do you teach? 

    Because I can’t not.  I do not want anyone to not have access to these practices that have helped me. I assume if they have helped me, they’re going to help other people. I teach because I want to share, with people, the transformative power of yoga in all forms.  So that it can be of service to as many people on this planet as possible.  Honestly, I’ll also say, I’m my best self when I’m teaching.  I hope I can continue to become a better person through becoming a better teacher.

    What’s your favorite yoga quote or mantra?

    My favorite mantra is, ah-hum pray-mah, ah-hum pray-mah, ah-hum pray-mah.  I am divine love. I am divine love, and I am divine love.  If we can have every cell of our body vibrating at that remembrance of exactly who we are, being divine love, that our families, or communities, or world, are going to be a much better place.

    What is the single most defining issue facing the global yoga community today?

    Inclusivity.  That you do not have to be a certain size, sex, weight, sexual preference, religion, culture, socioeconomic status to be a part of this practice. That we can open up the doors to bring these practices to everyone, so no one is left out, and no one feels left out. That they have to be a certain thing to be able to do yoga and to have this healing modality of what yoga is. I really think making this practice not a practice that’s just for the privileged, and that is a practice that is for everyone.  There are other benefits of how social media is reaching more people to bring yoga together, but I think that, for me, is really wanting to open a) what yoga is, and b) to make it so inclusive that everyone can benefit from this practice in the way I have, or in their own unique way.

    All of us embracing our shadow.  That yoga is not just peace and love and everything is going to be rainbows and sunshine and unicorns just because I’m doing yoga.  There is this notion sometimes that yoga is only about this liberation toward the light.  And, of course, that is part of the practice, but we can’t truly liberate and find freedom until we go down into ourselves. Until we go down into our bodies, go down into the really the guts of it.  To go down even into the metaphor of the Earth, into the dark fertile soils, back into the womb and address what is the root of everything.  So that we’re not suppressing, we’re not denying, we are not further oppressing anything, and putting this spiritual, “oh but it’s all peace and light,” gaze over it all. I want to say that as a community at large as an individual for myself, so much of my work is about embracing the shadow versus turning my back to it, and doing the work necessary so that I can transform.  So I can liberate.  So I can truly find freedom, and I’m also not going to harm another in that process.

    Do you have any recommended yoga reading?

    My favorite book that travels around the world with me, everywhere I go, it’s very batted up, is called the Radiant Sutras.  It is by Dr. Lorin Roche, who is one of my teachers and mentors.  It’s poetry as far as I’m concerned. It’s different, it’s basically the awe and wonder, gateways into the awe and wonder of what it is to be alive.  It’s a conversation between the God and the Goddess, about life.  And it’s different gateways, we could say, into meditation.  Each of these sutras are just dripping with poetic beautiful words. I am in love with the language.  It’s a living breathing text.  That is, hands down, my favorite yogic text.  Check it out, for sure.

    What is your dharma, your life mission?

    There are still parts of it that are being defined, and I know that.  Right now, one of them is, I want to wake people up. I want to shake people up. I want to bring these practices of yoga, and dance, and music to every single corner of the world. I want to help people feel grounded in their bodies, integrated with who they are and help them stoke the belief in themselves, that they can do everything and anything that they put their energy and attention towards. I want to inspire, I want to empower.  I want to get people moving and breathing in a really conscious, but fun, way.  That’s my mission right now.

    What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on their yoga journey?

    Find a practice, and a teacher, that you deeply resonate with.

    By Cristi Christensen

    Practice Yoga with Cristi on Omstars

  • Yoga Teacher Interview with Cristi Christensen Part 1

    I want people to feel connected to who they are, and comfortable and strong in their bodies. I want their spirit to soar. I want to help them, inspire them, to feel that.

    Describe your personality in three words.

    Fun, Fiery, and Fierce.

    Where are you from and/or where do you live?

    I am from Brooklyn, New York, but I’m now “based” in Los Angeles.  I am more of a resident of the world, right now, as I am traveling about 70% of the time! So, I have a very expensive storage unit, a.k.a., a studio apartment in Los Angeles that is empty most of the time. But it is still where I return to again, and again, and again–and what feels like home in my heart.

    How long have you been practicing yoga and why did you start practicing yoga?

    I did my first yoga class around 2002.  I didn’t fall in love with yoga immediately.  What lead me to the practice was: I was an athlete, I was training for the 2004 Olympics in the sport of Platform Diving, and I broke my back.  That put a devastating end to my Olympic pursuit and throughout the healing process I was doing a lot of Pilates, a lot of physical therapy. And then, someone at that time was like, “I’ve been doing yoga, and I think you’ll really like it,” and I knew nothing, nothing, nothing about the practice, at the time.  The only thing I knew about it was that Madonna had been raving about it, and her body was amazing! So, I was like, “Sure, I’ll try yoga!” But I didn’t know it was anything more than exercise. I had no other context because it wasn’t in the mainstream like it is in any fashion, today.

    I went to the first class and the one thing I really noticed was that the teacher instructed every single breath.  I didn’t even know what style of yoga I was practicing. I do know, now, that it was the primary series of Ashtanga, but it was led.  I thought that was the only kind of yoga there was, and there were a lot of things I still couldn’t do because of my injury. I remember this idea of being just aware of my breath movement by movement and moment by moment that I’d never had that quality of attention to before.  It really sparked a sense of my own curiosity. And I was like, “hmm, what is this?” And it was more based on the curiosity that I continued versus this whole notion of immediately falling in love with the practice. And then, fast forward, a couple of years I moved to New York City and I was working for a company called Exhale, Mind Body Spa.

    Shiva Rea was coming to teach in New York for the first time in, I guess, a really long time. I had no idea who she was, I had no idea there were famous yoga teachers–still had very little context of this whole yoga thing.  People were talking about her like she was the Madonna of yoga. So, I was like, “Okay, I gotta find out what this is,” and at that point I had never even taken a yoga class that had music. It was after I actually took that class with her, something awoken in me.  I didn’t understand the energy-body before, what the energy-body was, or even what a spiritual-body was. I grew up religious, not spiritual, and didn’t even know there was a difference. And there was something that happened in that class that I was like, “Whoa, whatever this is…I want more of it.”  And then, I just kind of became ravenous in my exploration of this thing called yoga.

    What is yoga to you?

    Yoga is life.  Yoga is this unification, or maybe, the goal of life of how we bring absolute presence and consciousnesses and unification of all parts of who we are to any given moment, and in everything we do.  Whether it’s in a conversation we’re having, or showing up for our job. Or if it’s showing up for our partner, or our child. Or just showing up for ourselves. Yoga to me is really how I view life and the goal of bringing out whole self to participate and coming into unification of mind-body-heart-spirit-soul.

    How did you feel after your first yoga class?

    That feeling of curiosity and that feeling of attention with the breath.  I definitely was struggling a little bit at that time because my dream of what I’d been training for my whole life at that point had come down and I lost my identity. So, I was definitely having my own struggle in that capacity.

    How do you want students to feel after they practice with you?

    I want them to feel more connected to who they are. For me this is a practice of waking up to all the energy that you behold.  I want people to feel connected to who they are, and comfortable and strong in their bodies. I want their spirit to soar. I want to help them, inspire them to feel that.

    What impact has yoga had on your life? 

    I think yoga has affected every part of my life.  When I started practicing, even when I would say that switching point of falling in love and ravenously wanting to learn more about the practice, I never ever had the intention to teach.  It became something I was studying and became something I just wanted to know more about. Yoga has become my career. It’s more than my career. The definition of yoga is life, but really, yoga has become my life. Everything I do is related to this practice in some way.  Yoga has touched every aspect of my life. I would say the first thing is it has brought me back into my body.

    I didn’t realize I wasn’t fully in my body until I was very deep into my yoga journey.  It’s helped me become comfortable in my body, being comfortable and confident in my own skin.  So, on a very personal level, that is one of the huge benefits I’ve received. It’s helped me develop a relationship with spirit, and to connect me to what I’m calling, the infinite.  The infinite is many, many things.  My connection to nature, my connection to the cycles, and the rhythms of life.  The connection to the sun and the moon, and the connection to the God/Goddess. So, yoga has touched me very deeply and transformed my life in a huge way from that capacity alone because I had no former connection to those things.  I feel like the practice has also helped transform my body.

    I was told at 24 when I had the massive injury that I would be walking with a cane by the time I was 30.  And now, I’m in my early 40’s. I can’t do some of the most fancy poses of yoga, I don’t have a practice as deep as Kino’s, and being able to do all these amazing back bends, and what-not, because of the injury.  But I am not limited in my life, in any way, because of it. It has definitely transformed my body, as well. I really think the effects of yoga, for me, have been very tangible mind, body, and spirit.

    Why did you decide to start teaching yoga and what makes a good yoga teacher?

    I didn’t actually decide, it just happened. It got to a point where I could not, not share something that was transforming and awakening me in such a way that I could not, not share any longer. I was also in the yoga business, but I was in the business of managing other teachers. I was managing studios, I was managing retreat centers for this company, Exhale Mind Body Spa. I was also teaching other things. I was teaching Pilates and their proprietary class called Core Fusion, but yoga was still what I was keeping sacred to me.  There got to be a point where I could not, not share what became the guide post of my life.

    What style of yoga do you practice and what makes that style most effective? 

    I practice yoga under the, I’m going to call it, the very wide umbrella of Vinyasa. Vinyasa only means to move in a special way, to move with intelligence. To move with consciousness, to move with awareness. It gives me a tremendous amount of freedom to explore.  To explore the body and the breath in many different ways so I can be stagnant, I can be flowing, I can be dynamic, I can be settled. I can incorporate into my practices all of what I have been doing my entire life. I was a dancer, I was an athlete. I recovered from all of these injuries.

    The Vinyasa gives me freedom to bring together all the different modalities I’ve done up to now and infuse them into my yoga practice in a really beautiful way.  Sometimes it might look more like a dance. Sometimes it might have more of a core fiery focus, but it still goes back to why yoga is important to me. And that is to connect back to body, to connect back to the soul, and connect back to the heart. My practice looks very different all the time. It’s not the same everyday when I come to my mat.

    Do you have a teacher in your style of yoga?

    I don’t have a specific teacher in “my style” of yoga, but I have some amazing people that have influenced, of course, the way I teach. And of course taught me so much of the knowledge that I now have.  Ranging from Shiva Rea to Seane Corn, Sianna Sherman, Lorin Roche, Laura Amazzone, Saul David Raye. Annie Carpenter, to Maty Ezraty. I have had the really good fortune of being able to be blessed by a lot of really beautiful teachers when I ran a yoga studio Exhale Sacred Movement in Venice, California.  All of these teachers were resident teachers there. I really got to dive in deep with them in a really beautiful way, and they definitely have impacted, consciously and unconsciously, the way I teach now.

    Are there any current projects you’re working on that you can tell us about?

    I am pretty much working on the biggest project of my life, right now.  I’m in the process of writing a book called Chakra Rituals: Awakening the Wild Woman Within.  As the chakras and elements are my favorite thing to teach on and to share on because they’re so rich and so deep, and give us an incredible map and context in which we can look at our bodies and look at that connection to everything.  And all the different energies that we are. Coming Winter of 2021, I’ll have my first book coming out. I’m really excited. Something I thought I would do one day, and now I am doing it now.

    Also, coming up, I have some really great retreats. I am going to Costa Rica this April 4th to the 11th, and I am teaming up with Toni Bergins, who is the creator of JourneyDance. It’s one of the most transformative dance experiences that I have ever witnessed.  We met and we completely fell in love with each other, and we’re like, we have to collaborate.  We are doing our first retreat together in Nosara at the Blue Spirit, an amazing retreat center in Nosara, Costa Rica this April.  I haven’t been this excited about a collaboration in a long time. This is going to be super cool.  And then in September of 2020 I’m doing a European retreat in Italy, right outside of Florence, right in between Florence and Tuscany with another dear sister from Vienna named, Alexia, and that is two of the big things I’m really looking forward to next year!

    I’m really excited to be sharing this [Elemental Sol Flow] program with you. To have had Sol Rising, the amazing music producer and DJ doing all the original score.  He is actually DJ-ing on the set of the classes, it’s super special as we are friends and co-creators.  To share that with him, and bring these elements to life through the practices. Through the asana, through the music, and through my voice.

    By Cristi Christensen

    Practice Yoga with Cristi on Omstars

  • Interview with Marie Belle

    Yoga is the understanding that there is no separation. As a practice, I use movement, asana, meditation, and breath to step into that current of just knowing, being, and allowing any transformation to take place as it needs.

    Describe your personality in three words.

    Chill. Driven. Receptive

    Where are you from and/or where do you live? 

    I am from Puerto Rico, currently living in DC

    How long have you been practicing yoga and why did you start practicing yoga?

    I started practicing yoga in 2007 right after the shootings at Virginia Tech. I started as a way to mindfully move into my body and begin to trust and come back to life.

    What is yoga to you?

    Yoga is the understanding that there is no separation. As a practice, I use movement, asana, meditation, and breath to step into that current of just knowing, being, and allowing any transformation to take place as it needs.

    How did you feel after your first yoga class and how do you want students to feel after they practice with you?

    I felt super tall and light and like I just achieved something within myself. I wanted to return as soon as possible. I would love my students to feel more centered, empowered, and alive.

    What impact has yoga had on your life? Who were you before you started practicing and how have you changed, evolved and transformed?

    Yoga has completely transformed my life, my movements, my profession, thought patterns, relationship dialogues, everything really. I was very much a scripted person before yoga; I wanted to always be seen a particular way and I followed cultural norms to the best of my abilities. I fulfilled all my expectations with school and profession (I received a Ph.D. in Psychology and Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies), and still felt empty. Once I found yoga, I slowly started integrating all aspects of myself: the athlete, the teacher, the artist, the hermit, the seeker. I feel more integrated and complete without any cultural scripts.

    Why did you decide to start teaching yoga and what makes a good yoga teacher?

    I started teaching donation only classes as a side gig to raise money for a non-profit. At the time I was training to Bike Across The US for MS, and wanted to support their mission. Gradually I got asked to teach more and more classes and I just kept saying yes.  A good yoga teacher is one who practices, spends time alone daily, checking in with her/him self, body, system, deepest wisdom. One who is receptive, kind, and clear.

    What style of yoga do you practice and what makes that style most effective? Do you have a teacher in your style of yoga?

    I practice Ashtanga mostly, Dharma every now and then, and my version of Yin and Restorative. I don’t think one is most effective for everyone, but for me, Ashtanga works. It demands more and more of me all while showing me all my potentials and all the ways I limit and sabotage myself. It’s a super powerful and transformative practice; very demanding, unforgiving, and inspiring all at once. It has helped calm and regulate my nervous system in ways no other practice has. I also love Dharma Yoga, I see it as a perfect complement to Ashtanga’s straight lines and structure. Dharma yoga invites me to be more devotional, less rigid, calmer, and receptive; more curvilinear. I love and practice Ashtanga Yoga with Tim Feldmann, Faith Scimecca, and David Robson. I practice Dharma Yoga with Dharma Mittra.

    What has been your biggest struggle and your biggest milestone in the practice?  

    Injury and dogma.

    What is yoga favorite yoga pose and why? And what’s your least favorite yoga pose and why?

    I like any hip opener and back bends. They’re just so crucial in helping me remain spacious and grounded and receptive.  My least favorite yoga pose: I can’t think of one. 

    What has been the most inspirational moment you’ve experienced as a yoga student?

    Healing from injury, healing from heartbreak, learning to accept myself, and love my body.

    And how about as a teacher?

    Seeing my students move beyond limitations just from a simple comment or them learning how to do something they never thought possible.

    Why do you practice? Why do you teach?

    I practice because it calls me. I love the practice. I don’t have particular goals, I just really love being in silence with my breath and body, observing how I calibrate and change; understanding the microcosm gives me some insight into the macrocosm.  I teach because I love it. I teach from where I practice. Practice has taught me self-referral, self reliance, self respect. All of these can be cultivated, refined, and practiced daily.

    What’s your favorite yoga quote or mantra?

    My favorite yoga quote is from the Yoga Sutras 1:14.  In order for your practice to be grounded and of the earth, it must be done consistently, for a long period of time, with devotion.

    Do you have any recommended yoga reading?

    I like anything by Dharma Mittra, Mooji, Jack Kornfield, Anodea Judith, Caroline Myss, Tara Brach.

    What is your dharma, your life mission?

    To live and share in the experience of realizing who we are in whatever form it takes- for me it’s in the form of practice and teaching. Living and sharing the process of realization via the practice through teaching.

    What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on their yoga journey?

    Enjoy it. Learn as much as you can. Trust yourself. Be receptive.

    Are there any current projects you’re working on that you can tell us about?

    I have developed my own school, Roots Love Yoga, as a way to share more deeply with students. I offer 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training, 300 Hour Yoga Teacher Training, Yoga Workshops, Retreats, Classes, Online Coaching and Mentorships.

    Aside from your fantastic course on Omstars, do you have a favorite class that you’d like to share?

    I like all of the Yin classes by Anamargret Sanchez.

    By Marie Belle Perez Rivera

    Practice with Marie Belle on Omstars

    I am grounded in a daily Mysore and Dharma yoga practice. I also love and train hand balancing, rock climbing, and dance; all of it is intuitive movement. It’s all love. I am happy to offer yoga classes, movement retreats, workshops, and intensives in the United States, Bali, Costa Rica, Mexico, India, Europe, and the Caribbean. My life calling and practice has led me to travel the world and immerse myself fully in yoga and meditation through villages in India, Indonesia, Portugal, the crisp blue Caribbean waters, and the heart of Miami Beach. With extensive training as a Psychologist in Social Emotional Development (Ph.D.), Women’s Studies (Graduate Certificate), Reiki, Magnified Healing, and Oneness Awakening, my classes utilize a keen awareness of the intellectual, emotional, and energetic body to empower those who practice consistently, for a long period of time, with devotion. I offer universal intimacy, full of love, honor, and a sweet mix of playfulness, integrity, and discipline. To connect with me, make sure to follow my ongoing journeys via Instagram and Facebook.

  • Interview with Adrian Molina

    I made my practice, piece-by-piece, learning here and there. The most effective practice is the one that is the most effective to the students that you have in front of you and makes them feel alive while safe and nurtured.

    Describe your personality in three words.

    Stubborn – Kind – Dedicated

    Where are you from and/or where do you live?

    I am from Buenos Aires, Argentina and I live in Miami Beach

    How long have you been practicing yoga and why did you start practicing yoga?

    I’ve been practicing since 2004 and I started practicing because the practice appeared at a time in life where I was ready.

    What is yoga to you?

    A way of connecting with the world, and through the world to myself.

    How did you feel after your first yoga class and how do you want students to feel after they practice with you?

    I want them to feel exactly the same way I felt. Like if I was sent into a rocket to the moon and came back and I had the trip of my life.

    What impact has yoga had on your life? Who were you before you started practicing and how have you changed, evolved and transformed?

    Before I was a collection of thoughts, there was no integration, no perspective. Now there are thoughts, perspective, but there is also an internal base. A more calming perspective.

    Why did you decide to start teaching yoga and what makes a good yoga teacher?

    I didn’t. The practice took me that path even when I resisted it. It was meant to be.

    Practice with Adrian LIVE on Omstars

    What style of yoga do you practice and what makes that style most effective? Do you have a teacher in your style of yoga?

    I don’t believe in styles. I don’t believe in gurus. I never had a yoga guru. I made my practice, piece-by-piece, learning here and there. The most effective practice is the one that is the most effective to the students that you have in front of you and makes them feel alive while safe and nurtured.

    What has been your biggest struggle and your biggest milestone in the practice? 

    Achieve a level of recognition that continuously pulls my ego into believing that this is all about and continuing the process of humbling myself for the small things.

    What is yoga favorite yoga pose and why? And what’s your least favorite yoga pose and why?

    I don’t have favorite poses. I enjoy movement. Life is movement. Postures can be ecstatic. I enjoyed transitions more than postures.

    What has been the most inspirational moment you’ve experienced as a yoga student?

    Crying on the mat. And understanding that I was on the mat for solace and not for fitness.

    And how about as a teacher?

    The continuous love that inspires me to keep learning, giving, and living.

    Why do you practice? Why do you teach?

    I practice for health. I teach for love.

    What’s your favorite yoga quote or mantra?

    “Relax, nothing is under control.” –Pema Chodron.

    Get started with Adrian’s Warrior Flow classes on Omstars

    What is the single most defining issue facing the global yoga community today?

    Condensing everything into an Instagram post with a quote that have no connection to each other.

    What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you as a student and as a teacher?

    You don’t want to know!

    Do you have any recommended yoga reading?

    Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda

    What is your dharma, your life mission?

    Discovering my dharma and my life mission

    What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on their yoga journey?

    Listen to yourself, lots of people talk, very few of them do.

    Are there any current projects you’re working on that you can tell us about?

    So many: teaching at prisons, hospitals, schools, community events.

    Aside from your fantastic course on Omstars, do you have a favorite class that you’d like to share?

    My husband, Dennis Hunter’s, courses and classes.

    By Adrian Molina

    Read more articles by Adrian Molina

    Adrian Molina is the founder of Warrior Flow. With over 15,000 hours of classroom teaching experience, Adrian is renowned for the sophistication and depth of his teaching style and the degree of mindfulness, compassion and precision he brings to asana practice. He is also a writer, massage therapist, Thai Yoga Bodywork practitioner, Reiki master, and a Kriya Yoga meditation practitioner in the lineage of Paramahansa Yogananda.

  • Interview with Erica Mather

    Yoga changed EVERYTHING. I was looking for answers through thinking my way through every challenge. Yoga connected me to my body, spirit, and beyond, and has supplied frameworks for understanding life that don’t involve just the intellect. I think I’m much more aware now, and more integrated with all aspects of myself.

    Describe your personality in three words.

    Intense, Warm, Grounding

    Where are you from and/or where do you live?

    I’m “from” Madison, Wisconsin, but New York City really raised me. This is where I live.

    How long have you been practicing yoga and why did you start practicing yoga?

    I’ve been practicing yoga for 16 years. I began because I was looking for solutions for my adult-onset migraine headaches.

    What is yoga to you?

    Yoga is an opportunity and a way to get to know ourselves. Once we know ourselves better, then we begin to have a different relationship with the people and the world around us.

    How did you feel after your first yoga class and how do you want students to feel after they practice with you?

    I felt connected to my Self–her pain, and hopefulness–in ways I didn’t know were possible. I want my students to feel safe in themselves, and at home in their bodies. When people feel safe in their bodies, they have a high chance of showing up fully and authentically as themselves.

    What impact has yoga had on your life? Who were you before you started practicing and how have you changed, evolved and transformed?

    Yoga changed EVERYTHING. I was looking for answers through thinking my way through every challenge. Yoga connected me to my body, spirit, and beyond, and has supplied frameworks for understanding life that don’t involve just the intellect. I think I’m much more aware now, and more integrated with all aspects of myself.

    Why did you decide to start teaching yoga and what makes a good yoga teacher?

    I decided to teach because, honestly, I didn’t have a better plan! What makes me a good teacher is my capacity to quickly assess people’s physical abilities and to work with them where they are at. Whether in a class, or 1-2-1, I’m swift in this regard, and as a result my students feel seen and are able to grow in ways that might not otherwise be available to them.

    What style of yoga do you practice and what makes that style most effective? Do you have a teacher in your style of yoga?

    I’m a Forrest Yoga Guardian (lineage-holder), and I teach this practice as well as a hybrid Forrest/Vinyasa blend. I find Forrest Yoga to be a very effective style for beginners, injured people, as well as advanced practitioners. It’s effective because it teaches people to feel the truth of their bodies, as they are now, and the postures are emergent from that reality. Ana Forrest is my teacher.

    What has been your biggest struggle and your biggest milestone in the practice? 

    Like any relationship, my relationship with yoga has its ebbs and flows. After so many years, sometimes we think it’s “over.” The biggest struggle has been to “stay in it.” Meaning, stay in the relationship. To keep the faith. To look for new depths. To ride out the periods of dissatisfaction and communicate in good faith. To return again and again. My biggest milestone has been healing my back from an injury I sustained in high school: spondylosis and spondylolisthesis. Without my yoga practice, I’m certain this injury would have gone from bad to worse. With my yoga practice, and over more than a decade of work, it’s gone from bad to stable.

    What is yoga favorite yoga pose and why? And what’s your least favorite yoga pose and why?

    My favorite pose is the pose I’m in at the moment. My least favorite pose is the pose I’m in at the moment that offers me great resistance.

    What has been the most inspirational moment you’ve experienced as a yoga student?

    Honestly, almost every moment with my teacher, Ana Forrest, is an inspirational one!

    And how about as a teacher?

    I think seeing my students become great teachers in their own right is an inspirational moment that happens again, and again.

    Practice with Erica Mather on Omstars

    Why do you practice? Why do you teach?

    I practice to keep my finger on the pulse of the evolving being that is me. Yoga encompasses the WHOLE human, including the body, and for me is an effective discipline for staying in touch with myself. I teach because I LOVE to teach. It is my original skill, the one I was set on this planet to use.

    What’s your favorite yoga quote or mantra?

    The success of yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships. ~T.V.K.Desikachar

    What is the single most defining issue facing the global yoga community today?

    I don’t know! I’m not sure what’s happening in Africa, or South Asia! I feel like I can only speak to what’s occurring in North America…

    What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you as a student and as a teacher?

    Clothing malfunctions always rank high…

    Do you have any recommended yoga reading?

    I think everyone ought to read The Heart of Yoga by T.K.V.Desikachar. I also recommend my teacher’s book, Fierce Medicine, by Ana Forrest.

    What is your dharma, your life mission?

    To help people feel good in, and about their bodies. When people have compassion for their own tender, animal selves, it has a ripple effect into the world, increasing compassion exponentially. It touches the people around us, the four-legged ones, the winged ones, the finned ones, the trees and EVERYTHING. I think it is very hard to find compassion in our lives when we are cruel or violent to our own physical manifestations. I have written a book on this subject, specifically to help women improve their relationships with their bodies. It will be published April 2020!

    What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on their yoga journey?

    Cultivate curiosity. It is the single most powerful tool you can take with you into any interaction, with yourself, and with other people.

    Are there any current projects you’re working on that you can tell us about?

    YES! My book! Coming soon! It’s the culmination of so much of what I’m talking about here. The title is F*ck Your Beauty Standards: Stop Wasting Time Hating Your Body and Start Living Your Life. It will be published in April 2020 (New Harbinger).

    Aside from your fantastic course on Omstars, do you have a favorite class that you’d like to share?

    I recommend also checking out Dianne Bondy’s work. She is forging ahead tirelessly, working to make yoga accessible to all people.

    By Erica Mather

  • Interview with Ahmed Soliman

     

    I practice because yoga has become part of who I am – physically, spiritually, emotionally. I could no more easily stop being a yogi than I could stop having curly hair. I teach because it is a privilege to share this practice to others.

    Describe your personality in three words.

    Passionate, inquisitive, and loyal.

    Where are you from and/or where do you live?

    I am from Egypt and came to live in Brooklyn after sixteen years in California. All three places have been deeply influential.

    How long have you been practicing yoga and why did you start practicing yoga?

    I have been practicing yoga for almost 10 years and came to the practice after a serious car accident and multiple resulting knee surgeries sidelined me from my lifelong passion for contact sports and, particularly, soccer. I was drawn to the safe, sustainable practice of yoga as a means to repair my body, nourish my soul, and develop a practice that I could continue over the course of my lifetime. This experience has deeply informed my teaching style — I teach with a goal that each student practice with the precise, proper alignment that will prevent injury and ensure longevity of practice.

    What is yoga to you?

    As a practicing Muslim, I have been taught to always seek balance. Yoga is a practice and lifestyle that allows me to deepen my connection to my faith and find balance through challenging times.

    How did you feel after your first yoga class and how do you want students to feel after they practice with you?

    After my first class, I remember walking up to the teacher and asking, “Can I do this everyday?” I hope my students feel that too.

    What impact has yoga had on your life? Who were you before you started practicing and how have you changed, evolved and transformed?

    Yoga has given me the gift of integrating a deeply personal practice with a tremendously satisfying profession. While on the outside, my prior career as a wildlife biologist (I worked in the recovery of endangered species) may seem entirely different, in fact the drive to serve a greater good underlies my entire career trajectory. My own yoga practice gave me grounding, balance, and sustainability. The fact that I am able to have a career of bringing yoga and helping others in my community to find balance brings me more professional satisfaction than I ever dared to imagine I’d find.

    Why did you decide to start teaching yoga and what makes a good yoga teacher?

    I started teaching yoga because I wanted to teach in a way that encourages inclusivity. With proper alignment and technique, absolutely anyone can practice yoga. Delivering that message is what makes a good yoga teacher.

    What style of yoga do you practice and what makes that style most effective? Do you have a teacher in your style of yoga?

    I practice Vinyasa and Iyengar yoga styles. Iyengar allows yoga to be available for all, through mindful and proper alignment.  Incorporating that knowledge into Vinyasa helps me shape an accessible flow.

    What is yoga favorite yoga pose and why? And what’s your least favorite yoga pose and why?

    My favorite yoga pose is downward facing dog. It is strengthening but calming and foundational to the practice. My least favorite is Kurmasana, tortoise pose

    What has been the most inspirational moment you’ve experienced as a yoga student?

    Learning that, with patience, awareness and practice, challenging asanas that I thought were impossible for me become possible and how I can apply that to other challenges in my life

    And how about as a teacher?

    After a few years practicing together, one of my private clients called me from his doctor’s office to tell me he had grown almost half an inch! I was so happy that our stretching, lengthening, and upright- shape enhancing movements gave him a tangible benefit.

    Join Ahmed’s LIVE classes on Omstars

    Why do you practice? Why do you teach?

    I practice because yoga has become part of who I am – physically, spiritually, emotionally. I could no more easily stop being a yogi than I could stop having curly hair. I teach because it is a privilege to share this practice to others.

    What’s your favorite yoga quote or mantra?

    When I teach, I often say “as you are.” I typically say it when I ask my students to maintain the shape they have made, but to add on to it. A student who practices with me regularly told me that every time I said this, she almost cries. And I realized that “as you are” is really representative of the practice of yoga and even life, more generally. “As you are,” whatever you bring to this day, on or off the mat, that is just fine. Exactly who you are right now is exactly who you are supposed to be. When it comes to yoga, we are working with who we are at that moment. Not what we once were or what we will be.

    What is the single most defining issue facing the global yoga community today?

    I am a big believer in yoga as an inclusive practice and community. I hope that we continue to find ways to show people that you don’t have to look a certain way or believe in a certain thing to be a yogi. Yoga is for everybody.

    What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you as a student and as a teacher?

    I am either so fortunate or so forgetful that I cannot think of an embarrassing yoga experience!

    Do you have any recommended yoga reading?

    Light on Life and Light on Yoga, both by B.K.S. Iyengar, are exceptional. Thoughtful, thought- provoking, and informative.

    What is your dharma, your life mission?

    I am constantly seeking balance and sustainability. Be it through my pre-yoga career as a wildlife biologist, my political activism, or my community outreach.

    What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on their yoga journey?

    I teach yoga with exacting precision for alignment. I encourage a beginner to seek to practice with precision, but to be forgiving throughout the journey. Like an archer who directs the arrow and lets it go must accept the path the arrow takes, so too must a yogi seek precision, but accept the unexpected directions. So start on your path, direct, redirect, and let go.

    Are there any current projects you’re working on that you can tell us about?

    I am most excited about my upcoming retreat in Costa Rica! As a former wildlife biologist, I am excited to lead my students through yoga in a bio-diverse paradise where we will explore nature, hike, identify rare species, bird watch and, of course, practice yoga.

    Aside from your fantastic course on Omstars, do you have a favorite class that you’d like to share?

    I have lots of exciting things going on! It’s all on my website, yogisoli.com. And my weekly, online live class on Plankk Studio App and Omstars.com is Mondays 8:00-9:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

    Get started with Ahmed’s Mindful Alignment course on Omstars

     

    By Ahmed Soliman

  • Interview with Angelique Sandas

     I practice to learn about who I am, why I am that way, and to become the best version of myself that I possibly can. I teach because this practice has been so significant for me and I believe it can also be beneficial for others, I have to share what I know! I feel obligated to help make the practice available to all who seek it, it is my duty and honor.

    Describe your personality in three words. 

    Task-master. Nurturer. Seeker.

    Where are you from and/or where do you live? 

    I grew up in the MidWest but have lived in South Florida for a while, now specifically West Palm Beach

    How long have you been practicing yoga and why did you start practicing yoga?

    My first experiences with yoga were whiles studying dance in college. I became a committed practitioner around 2002 when dealing with a deeply broken heart.

    What is yoga to you?

    Yoga is a method of developing self- awareness so that you can choose self-transformation.

    How did you feel after your first yoga class and how do you want students to feel after they practice with you?

    I took several yoga classes in different techniques with different teachers until I found the one that fit.  I truly believe there is a method, an environment, a teacher that is right for each of us and we only need to keep seeking until we find that match.  I want people who come to my class to feel inspired to find their practice, or if they find it with me, to feel supported, to feel like they found something special that works for them.

    What impact has yoga had on your life? Who were you before you started practicing and how have you changed, evolved and transformed?

    For me, the results we at first obvious – I saw myself becoming for thoughtful, more conscious of those around me and my actions. Then, as time moved and I continued to practice, the effect fas more subtle but no less profound. It’s one of those things you don’t realize is happening until you get some perspective to look back, or are tested in some way and see that you are behaving differently,  or are thinking differently about a thing. You ove through your world with more consideration, with more empathy and connection, with more strength and acceptance, with more awareness and intuition.

    Join Angelique’s LIVE classes on Omstars

    Why did you decide to start teaching yoga and what makes a good yoga teacher?

    I really do feel like this has been a sort of calling for me. My experience in dance, teaching dance and choreography, my natural interests in the body, psychology, etc – it all led to yoga. within a year of committing to my practice, I knew I would teach. I honestly can’t imagine any other path. What makes a good teacher? That is so hard to answer. I could dig in and it would take days to get all of my thoughts down on paper – and in the end it might not mean much to anyone but me. Generally a good teacher is also a student. Through our own practice we learn so much. We learn also from each student we interact with. A good teacher has to always be willing to adjust as they receive new data. We can’t know everything and we can’t possibly know what we don’t know. As soon as a teacher thinks they have nothing else to learn, they have lost something.

    What style of yoga do you practice and what makes that style most effective? Do you have a teacher in your style of yoga?

    I practice and teach Ashtanga Yoga. The Mysore method in particular is a very independent way of practice, while at the same time allows for a deeper teacher student relationship to develop. This relationship provides the basis of trust for a student to be willing to challenge themselves, to venture into new territory, to face unknowns. That is where the growth lies. I mostly self-practice these days but I do consider my teachers to be Kino MacGregor who I worked closely with for many years, and Paramaguru R Sharath Jois, the current head of the lineage, who I try to practice with as regularly as I can!

    What has been your biggest struggle and your biggest milestone in the practice? 

    My biggest struggle is also my biggest milestone. Becoming a mother. Motherhood was ego-annihilating. And that really what we are trying to do in yoga right? Become aware of the trappings of our ego-self, the limiting labels, the attachments and aversions, the boxes. Motherhood shatters all of it. All of the ways you identified to be “self” become distorted or cease to exist all-together. I navigated those early days of motherhood as I tried to regain some sense of self on the yoga matt and it all failed, over and over again, until I realized that I was trying to be something I no longer was. I had to surrender to a new way of being and this opened up so much by way of my yoga practice. While my physical capabilities seemed atrophied, my yoga became stronger.

    What is yoga favorite yoga pose and why? And what’s your least favorite yoga pose and why?

    Generally I enjoy deep back bends – they are intensely liberating. Strength postures are always challenging and I don’t enjoy them much – especially if they are new.

    What has been the most inspirational moment you’ve experienced as a yoga student?

    I am inspired by my teachers and fellow practitioners. This community of people is incredible.

    And how about as a teacher?

    I am constantly inspired by what I observe in my students, their experiences with this practice. I see people discovering themselves everyday – that’s amazing!

    Practice with Angelique on Omstars

    Why do you practice? Why do you teach?

    I practice to learn about who I am, why I am that way, and to become the best version of myself that I possibly can. I teach because this practice has been so significant for me and I believe it can also be beneficial for others, I have to share what I know! I feel obligated to help make the practice available to all who seek it, it is my duty and honor.

    What’s your favorite yoga quote or mantra?

    My favorite changes depending in what I am going though, where I am in my practice, or in life. One that has stayed with me for a long time and comes from a former teacher is “If it is challenging, growth is inevitable” Another comes from Nisargadatta Maharaj “I am that” So simple and so vast.

    What is the single most defining issue facing the global yoga community today?

    The desire/effort to define what yoga is. Can it be defined in a way that suits everyone’s understanding? I don’t know, can it?

    What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you as a student and as a teacher?

    I’ve had so many falls and crashes and “fails” as a student that those events all blend together in my memory and no longer have the power to embarrass me. Same as a teacher – I have made many missteps, numerous. At this point I try to only learn from them and move on. There is no one major embarrassing thing that comes to mind.

    Do you have any recommended yoga reading?

    Specific suggestions would depend on the type of interest the reader has. First identify yourself as someone who is interested in philosophy, history, biographical stories, yoga as healing, anatomy and kinesiology, etc. There are so many branches of learning available within this practice and nowadays, there is so much material out there.

    What is your dharma, your life mission?

    Healing. I consider yoga to be a practice of healing, and as a teacher it is my purpose to facilitate that process and effort for my students.

    What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on their yoga journey?

    There is a practice for everyone. If you are not sure where you fit, keep trying classes, teachers, studios, until you feel supported and inspired. There is a yoga for you, a practice that will feel right and there you will begin to receive the benefits.

    Are there any current projects you’re working on that you can tell us about?

    I’m currently excited about my new Live class on Plankk Studio App with Omstars! It is a beginner’s journey into Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series and I am having a lot of fun with it! I love breaking things down and looking deeply into the intelligence of the practice. I am also working with some fellow Mama yoga teachers in my community to establish supportive workshops and classes for new moms. Getting back into a yoga practice after having a children can be daunting – not to mention the challenges of simply adjusting to a life of motherhood! We are reaching out to support women – it takes a village! I am also going to be beginning a series of clinics with teachers working on asana adjustment training. I love working with other teachers so I’m really looking forward to it.

    Watch Seek Up interview with Kino and Angelique

    Aside from your fantastic course on Omstars, do you have a favorite class that you’d like to share?

    I actually really love some of the non-practice features of Omstars. The travel, food, fashion, and especially, the interviews. We all come to a yoga practice and yogic lifestyles with our own stories. Sharing these stories is a wonderful way to feel connected.

    By Angelique Sandas

  • Redefining the Role of a Yoga Teacher

    Looking back in time, I realized that I’ve been a yoga teacher for part of my twenties, my entire thirties, and now into my forties. Most of my teaching career developed in New York City and Miami. From learning yoga in a studio that didn’t have yoga mats or blocks, to taking my first group classes in a gym that looked like a dance studio from the 80’s, to teaching yoga classes during the early 2000’s carrying my hundreds of CDs all over town.  It has been a journey.

    But I always come back to that day when after finishing a yoga class in the old Crunch Fitness in South Beach, while crossing Washington Avenue, I realized I was experiencing a heightened sense of awareness, colors were brighter, breaths were deeper. At a somatic level, I began to understand a deeper layer of the work that yoga does on bodies and minds. Recently my job as a full time yoga teacher has shifted, as I’ve become more interested in aspects of yoga that are less explored.

    How many more articles about the proper Chaturanga or the right stance in Warrior 1 or 2 can one read in a lifetime? How many more tutorials about how to do a handstand do I want to watch? To what extent is spending so much of my time trying to learn the latest alignment tip actually taking me away from making a real difference in my life and in my community? How many more scrolls through Facebook or Instagram do I have to take to understand that there’s work that needs to be done now?

    My own life experiences took me to different roads when the yoga offered in the studios, books, and social media was not enough to help me reconnect to myself during life’s difficult times. I experienced unbearable loss, grief, and depression of the greatest kind — and during those stages the yoga I had known wasn’t enough. My mat was buried in my closet. And I simply didn’t have the strength to get up and practice. I shifted my focus and began to learn about what I was experiencing. I learned about mental health, depression, trauma, PTSD, anxiety. And naturally I began to teach in a way that is more inclusive, accessible, and sustainable.

    I understood from the inside out what I was experiencing and by learning more about my own struggles I was able to put a practice together that supported the stage of my life that I was living. And gradually I got back on my feet. The beautiful thing about hitting rock bottom is that you come up stronger, but also you know that you are not the only one suffering. There’s a solace in knowing that you’re not alone, that everyone goes through difficult times. And it brings a sense of responsibility, and urgency towards making yoga available for those who aren’t as privileged.

    Practice with Adrian on Omstars

    I learned about the challenges that my community was facing, and I made my yoga available to those who were marginalized. I became curious about why there are only certain segments of the population in my classes. I began to ask why yoga is not reaching everyone, although we see it everywhere online. I began to learn about trauma, the trauma that we all go through in our lives, and the trauma of entire communities. I began to understand that I am in a very privileged place as a yoga teacher who can afford to take yoga classes , but there are many who can’t and in their minds they associate yoga with the privilege of an elite few.

    I realized that all the wonderful yoga philosophy I learned over the years didn’t mean anything unless the practice makes a real difference in myself and my community. I began to leave behind, one at a time, many postures that no longer served me in the path of using yoga as a bridge to unite the community. I began to move away from an extremely physical approach to the practice, or promoting the practice through postures, and instead using my experience, and the experiences of those who practice with me, as the message of the practice.

    A message of conscious movement, a message of community, and understanding that there is power in the practice, especially when we practice together, and the yoga that we do, can always and must always help others. I began to understand my place in the future of yoga.

    Why it is important to have a voice on Instagram and Facebook to educate people about a different way of approaching the practice. Why it is important to share our experiences, and advocate for those who have no voice. Why it is important to be a disruptor when all the yoga you see looks very vanilla.
    I currently teach yoga at schools, hospitals and I work full time at Lotus House, the largest shelter in Florida for homeless women and their children. I empower my students — whether they are members at a luxury fitness center or homeless people — with the tools of yoga, meditation, relaxation, and knowledge about science and research.

    Join Adrian’s LIVE classes on Omstars

    All my classes have shifted to an all-inclusive way of teaching. Teaching postures for their own sake is no longer exciting for me. But empowering people to reconnect to their bodies and create a positive connection — that is what is important. Offering tools to my students to be able to manage their level of stress, to learn when they are not feeling great and how to use the practice in a therapeutic way. This is what excites me these days. As I continue to explore yoga I can only think, what a wonderful thing it is, that yoga keeps growing and sharing its gifts.

    But this doesn’t happen alone, it doesn’t happen through posts, likes or followers or fancy inversions or arm balances. It happens when each of us yoga teachers and students learn about the practice, embody it, distill the teachings, peel away the outer layers, and use this core of wisdom as fuel to help those who need it the most.

    By Adrian Molina

    Adrian Molina has been teaching yoga continuously since 2004. He is a well-known and respected instructor in Miami and New York, with an extensive worldwide following through his platform and school of yoga, Warrior Flow. Adrian teaches online for Omstars and works for the non-profit Lotus House. Adrian is also a writer, massage therapist, Reiki healer, meditation teacher, sound therapist, and a Kriya yoga practitioner in the lineage of Paramahansa Yogananda. Adrian is recognized for the community-building work he does in Miami and beyond.

  • An Interview with Erica Tenggara

    Who is Erica Tenggara? You may have seen her course on OMstars, or maybe you follow her on instagram, but we wanted to know more – about who she is as a teacher, about her relationship with yoga, and why yoga is so important to her. So we reached out to Erica with a few interview style questions, and now we’re sharing her answers with you! Check out Erica’s Interview below and find out if she’s someone you can relate to, someone you might like to practice with or someone who inspires you, then check out her course, A Week Of Practice, on OMstars.com!

    1. How long have you been practicing yoga and why did you start practicing yoga?

    I’ve been practicing for 5 years.

    I started practicing for a few reasons, the instigator was that I was bored. My boyfriend at the time spent most nights socializing & I was bored of that, so I decided to fill my nights with yoga.

    Why yoga? Because I couldn’t really do anything else. I tore my ACL in high school & couldn’t do anything high impact so yoga it was & yoga has been my main squeeze ever since.

    1. What is yoga to you?

    Yoga is my happy medium.

    I’m a very extreme, emotional, erratic/irrational person. I’m very up & down but in yoga, I’m at a medium, I am just okay & I’m okay with that. I can’t escape, it’s not an escape. Practicing is a time for me to find a way to be okay with the practice and myself & that has a ripple effect into my life off the mat. So in a way, yoga is my mediator.

    1. How did you feel after your first yoga class and how do you want students to feel after they practice with you?

    Like I was on a high. I started out with Bikram yoga, the teacher was Irish & spoke with this incredible motivating Irish accent. I loved it! It was so hard, so much sweat, so much holding of what seems easy but isn’t & left me feeling like “woah – I don’t know what it is but I friggin love this”

    For my students though, I’d love for them to walk a way from my practice with a better sense of understanding. I’m not so into needing to create a high. But if someone can understand either themselves, a pose, a process, a feeling a little more than they did before. I feel like I have done my job. Awareness & perspective I realize more & more each day is what makes living a little more manageable & that’s what I’d like to give to my students, a way for them feel like what yoga is for me – a happy medium. A mediator.

    1. What impact has yoga had on your life? Who were you before you started practicing and how have you changed, evolved and transformed?

    Such a huge question. Where do I begin!

    Long story short: I’m a third culture kid who has gone through 2 parent divorces. Both of those divorces made me feel abandoned. Even today they still do although I realize them leaving me has actually nothing to do with me (that’s the yoga there – the realization/awareness)

    For whatever connecting reasons, in school I was depressed, bulimic & attempted suicide I think in 2009.

    Today though – I love my life & I believe I have a future in this lifetime.

    I feel I am naturally, highly emotional. I’m very erratic and irrational which can be a great thing but not always. I take everything to heart & it’s hard for me to take a joke and criticism. So of course I am also hard on myself & I am hard on others. This has affected the relationships I’ve had with everyone I have known from family, friends, colleagues, boyfriends and even students etc.

    I cannot say it is the yoga practice itself but it’s the elements of yoga & the yoga community that has helped me become a more understanding, empathic person with both myself & others.

    I can’t say I’m made of sugar but I can say that if someone is in child pose, I no longer just think they’re lazy. When it comes to my family, especially to my Mum, maybe it’s just cause I’m finally growing up a little bit, but I am making an effort to be nicer to her. Even when she’s so annoying, I try to make peace with her & try not to control the decisions she wants to make for herself.

    When it comes to relationships and yes I mean romantic relationships, I try to make better decisions. I think someone like me who is so erratic, who has gone through parent divorces, bulimia, depression etc. You crave love. You crave love, attention, affection. You want to feel wanted & desired & that feeling when you have it is addicting. It’s a high.

    I’ve learned though, to have a little more self control, to be aware of those feelings of need & desire, try to step back and look at the bigger picture “is this what I want?”

    And so the relationship I am in now, is the most grown up relationship I have ever been in. It’s one where although there is still a lot (like loads) of love, there is an effort to not just rely on affection. But to be two responsible adults for not just ourselves, but each other. Basically, I don’t always win all the fights & I get called out for my s**t. Which rarely happens. Even with my friends & family.

    I’m kinda rambling but in summary I’m a better person to myself, I’m a better colleague, better friend, better lover & daughter than I was before yoga.

    1. Why did you decide to start teaching yoga and what makes a good yoga teacher?

    I didn’t really decide I want to teach yoga, it was more a “wow, this is what I am meant to do” kind of situation.

    It was when I was doing my mock teaching during YTT – which I took for just curiosity sake really, and that’s when I had the “aha” moment.

    What makes a good yoga teacher? This is based on personal preference.

    I have a few teachers that I consider mentors & I love them for different reasons so I’ll just describe them and I think then it’ll make sense.

    Patrick Creelman

    Patrick is a child in an adult body. But when he teaches he is all business. Mostly influenced by Iyengar & Anusara yoga so as expected he is also strict. The only time I have ever done a child pose outside of his sequencing was when I had altitude sickness.

    His instructions can get annoying, if you have been to an Iyengar class, they talk – non-stop. But I kinda love it, the instructions make me work hard, Patrick makes me work hard. He’s one of the few teachers I know who doesn’t give a crap that I am a teacher, that I’ve got Instagram, that I’m… whatever. But if I’m in class, he works me hard & works me to my fullest potential without forgetting the other 50 students in the room.

    Arun Rana

    Arun is more your guru type yoga teacher. He has that presence. When he walks into the classroom everyone stops talking & sits in preparation. He specializes in flexibility & is the inspiration behind many of my tutorials that I have shared both on OMstars & instagram.

    Arun is also a very empathetic & understanding teacher, his is the total opposite of Patrick but still he has the ability to make you work hard without telling you to work hard. He just has that presence where you want to work hard for him.

    His sequencing I would 100% say can make the stiffest person more flexible.

    Noelle Connolly

    Is an American teacher based in Sydney & she is a 40 year old beast. She is just bad ass. She is a no fuss take no bull kind of teacher yet her teachings come through with love & intention. She totally summaries the definition of tough love.

    Her sequencing is what inspires my flows. She somehow is able to combine methods of iyengar & ashtanga into a modern day flow to amazing music.

    So Patrick is I would say my alignment & technique teacher, Arun is my flexibility (both physically & emotionally) teacher & Noelle is my transition & movement teacher. Each all so different from the other but each great at teaching.

    Not everyone likes these teachers, no one can please everyone. But more often than not, it’s the teachers who make you realise your potential or who believe in your potential, whether through asana or just life in general, who make you come back for more.

    1. What style of yoga do you practice and what makes that style most effective? Do you have a teacher in your style of yoga?

    I practice mostly Hatha yoga that is iyengar inspired.

    I love alignment, I love simple effective sequencing that isn’t about being pretty, but about creating accessibility & thus freedom in the body & mind.

    Patrick Creelman is right now is my main influence in my teachings.

    1. What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on their yoga journey?

    Dont worry, dont rush. Trust.

    1. What has been your biggest struggle and your biggest milestone in the practice?  

    The handstand.

    I have such a love & hate relationship with handstand. I don’t feel that anyone is better when they can hand balance but it seems to be what is most admired on Instagram these days. Maybe that’s why I don’t love it? And to be honest, I was very happy when I couldn’t handstand but now just because I know it’s so hard to get & I see it all the time on IG. It makes me want to do it more & I question – why. Like is this so necessary?

    So although it was such a high when I could finally handstand, it’s also caused me injuries & makes me question my ego more than I would like.

    1. What is the single most defining issue facing the global yoga community today?

    Instagram.

    It is so love and hate. Instagram for me in the beginning was a place where I could discover other local yogis & just kind of rejoice in our little community. But now? It’s about personalities, popularity etc. What you see on Instagram, with an exception to a few select accounts is not what yoga really is in a class setting.

    It’s so conflicting & I am conflicted as well. 95% of my photos on IG, I’m wearing make up & my hair is down.

    But in real life? I only really wear make up for date night & hair is mostly tied up.

    But everyone does that. So does it make it okay? Or am I just thinking too much? Let IG be IG, let real life be real life. Does this even matter?

    1. What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you as a student and as a teacher?

    Queefing & sweaty back farts. In both teaching & student situations. But such is life.

    1. What is your dharma, your life mission? 

    I don’t really have a life mission to be honest and many may not know but as much as I love teaching yoga, I actually just really want to be a mother and eventually have being a mother as my main job & teaching on the side. Can that be considered a dharma? A life mission? 😅

    Erica Tenggara

  • Interview With Erica Mather

    One of the great things about OMstars is that we have a wonderful community of students and teachers from all around the world, with various styles of practice. Want to know more about our amazing teachers? This week, we asked, Forrest Yoga Guardian, Erica Mather several interview style questions about herself, her practice, and her teaching. Get to know a little more about Erica here on the blog, then log in or join OMstars – The Yoga Network to start practicing with her today!

    1. How long have you been practicing yoga and why did you start practicing yoga?

    I’ve been practicing since 2001. I began because I experienced adult-onset migraine headaches, and I was told that yoga could help with that.

    1. What is yoga to you?

    Yoga is a system for getting to know yourself—your body, mind, heart, and spirit—and for learning to live in honor and integrity with that human being you’re getting to know.

    1. How did you feel after your first yoga class and how do you want students to feel after they practice with you?

    I don’t exactly recall how I felt physically after my first practice…sore? Tired? I DO remember being excited and relieved that I found a place where I could rehabilitate my own relationship with my body, independent of a value assumption based on what it looks like, or what it can do.

    I want my students to feel free—in their bodies, in their relationships, in their work lives, and in their spiritual lives. It’s a tall order, but I DO get reports back from my students that they feel expanded through the breath work, and stronger in their bodies and their minds from the ways that I ask them to engage deeply. These are good places to begin.

    1. What impact has yoga had on your life? Who were you before you started practicing and how have you changed, evolved and transformed?

    I’m not sure I could even recognize the person I was before yoga. What I do remember is feeling more anxious about all the things I thought I should be, and as a result experiencing far more doubt, social anxiety, self-recrimination, and self-loathing.

    In terms of transformation and evolution, above all, the practices of connecting with the body as a source of wisdom, exercising compassion for all the ways I mess up, and studying myself—the things I admire AND those I dislike—have brought me into closer relationship with myself. As a result, I’m more aware of the things that I need and long for out of life, and can be brave enough to go after them, or to ask for them from others.

    I’m very proud of so much that I accomplished as a young person, before I began practicing yoga. But, I’m also aware that the person I am becoming is more in alignment with the kind of person I can admire, and THIS is the result of my yoga practice. When we confront our own deaths, THIS is the ultimate judgment, the only one that really matters: are YOU proud of yourself and the life that you lived?

    1. Why did you decide to start teaching yoga and what makes a good yoga teacher?

    I decided to start teaching yoga because it was a natural next progression for my life as a teacher. I’ve been teaching in some capacity since I was 17, and I consider teaching to be my key skill.

    A good yoga teacher knows how to teach. Yoga is the topic. Teaching is the skill. To teach well, you must have an understanding of HOW people learn, and you yourself be curious about learning more and more about people, because each and every student will learn slightly differently than every other student. So, you must be curious about people, even more than you are curious about yoga. This is the foundation of a good teacher.

    1. What style of yoga do you practice and what makes that style most effective? Do you have a teacher in your style of yoga?

    I teach Forrest Yoga. What I think makes Forrest Yoga effective is that it teaches the body is central to the project of self-realization. Instead of the body as a mere stepping-stone ON the path, the body itself IS the path.

    Ana Forrest is my teacher. I am a lineage-holder in her tradition. I am very honored to be of service to the world in this capacity.

    1. What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on their yoga journey?

    It’s a lifelong journey. Think of it as the beginning of a new kind of relationship with yourself and with the world. Throw out all expectations, and enjoy the view.

    1. What has been your biggest struggle and your biggest milestone in the practice?  

    Biggest struggle…letting go of the need to feel accomplished.

    Biggest milestone…my goodness. I feel like every day is a milestone!

    1. What is your favorite yoga pose and why? And what’s your least favorite yoga pose and why?

    I really enjoy Bridge Pose—Setu Bhanda. I like the way it frees up my lungs and helps traction my back, which is often quite painful.

    I can’t think of a least favorite. They all are in the running to become a new, unexpected favorite.

    1. What has been the most inspirational moment you’ve experienced as a yoga student? And how about as a teacher?

    As a yoga student…the most inspiration comes when I have an epiphany on the mat, or make some connection off the mat that improves my relationship with other people or with the world. As a teacher, it’s really as a teacher-trainer. Those are the moments when I really get to engage with a person, knowing that they are all-in and hunting personal transformation and I’m able to say something that touches them in a way that heals their heart.

    1. Why do you practice? Why do you teach?

    I practice because it is a never-ending connection to myself and a forum for getting to know myself. I teach because I love connecting with other humans through the act of teaching, and also because the act of teaching is incredibly creative for me, and through it I learn things that otherwise would not have been available to me.

    1. What’s your favorite yoga quote or mantra?

    “A true contemplative is one who lives with a broken heart. A heart that is open to the world must be willing to be broken at any time. This brokenness produces the kind of grief that expands the heart so that it can love more and more.” ~Stephen Cope Yoga and the Quest for the True Self.

    1. What is the single most defining issue facing the global yoga community today?

    Listening to people with whom we disagree. As “open minded” people we have become very close minded to people who do not view the world in ways that conform to our own. It is exactly the responsibility and the challenge of the modern yogi to remain open-minded and open-hearted to other view-points and other voices. When we stay centered, open, and compassionate to those with whom we disagree, we open a channel for them to relax, feel heard, and therefore, perhaps to be willing to listen to us in exchange. It is our DUTY as modern mystics to tend to the world, and the way forward will call upon us to be the highest versions of ourselves.

    1. What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you as a student and as a teacher?

    Clothing malfunctions. I’ll leave it at that.

    1. Do you have any recommended yoga reading?

    I think that The Heart of Yoga by TKV Desikachar is essential reading for all yoga practitioners and teachers or all lineages. It provides context and history for all that we do now.

    1. What is your dharma, your life mission? 

    My dharma is to heal the broken love lines in my family and all around me. I believe that it is my calling to become a bodhisattva, and to be available to love the world. This is my life mission.

    Interview With Erica Mather

    ERica Mather, Forest Yoga teacher, interview about yoga

    Erica is a Forrest Yoga Guardian, hand-picked by Ana Forrest to become one of a handful of senior teacher in the Forrest Yoga tribe.

    Start Practicing With Erica On OMstars – The Yoga Network