• An Interview with Kateřina Hilerova

    enthusiastist, stubborn, loving

    Where are you from?

    Prague and I’ve lived here my whole life.

    How did yoga come into your life and what has that journey been like for you?

    I used to go through an old book from André Van Laysbeth, that my parents had at home. Then when I was into doing and teaching aerobics, spinning, zumba, and dance from the age of 18 yoga crossed my path several times, but it felt too slow and boring for my wild lifestyle at that time. A little after that experience, I met some teachers who were teaching Power yoga and something called “Hard yoga therapy” and it suddenly got more interesting. At the age of 24 I decided to sign up for a teacher training that would train me to teach every style of fitness except yoga and met my current teacher there. He was an Ashtangi. He was a very wise and strong person. Then I realized, that I can not teach what I do not know. I didn’t finish the teacher training, but I signed for his beginner class. One class a week very soon became two, three,…and then I was practicing two, three times a day. Just like that, I was hooked. I tried many styles and enjoyed them, but from the moment 5 years in my yoga journey when I went to my first yoga retreat with Kino and Tim I started to practice ashtanga 6 times a week, and all the development (physical, but also mental) accelerated so intensively, that I more or less stayed with that 🙂

    How has yoga affected your daily life?

    It creates a very healthy routine, it creates space in my body, and especially in my mind. It’s my anchor in uncertain times. It’s here for me when I feel happy, but also when I feel sad. It’s there to help me go through anything going on in my life. It’s a path to freedom and never-ending source of learning.

    Why did you decide to start teaching yoga and what are the qualities of a good teacher?

    I was already teaching all the fitness styles from the age of 18, and when I was practicing almost daily for four years I felt like I needed to give the gift of yoga to people around me. But I was not sure if I was ready. But I did the teacher’s training anyway (a second one :-D). Then we were supposed to try many styles and teachers all around the city, and I realized, that many teachers just do their practice and don’t even look at their students during the class. I decided, that I can do at least a little bit better than that and started to teach.
    I believe we should always stay humble as teachers – realize, that we will never know everything, but try to study as much as we can. We need to stay students and explore outside of the “yoga box”. We need to listen to our students – ask why they came to yoga practice, and what they need to feel welcomed and supported.

    What has been your biggest struggle and your biggest milestone in the practice, in teaching, and within the yoga community?

    I had several injuries, but at the end of the day, they always helped me get a deeper understanding of my body, and the practice itself. When I met Kino, that was definitely a milestone 😀 She lit a fire in me, that keeps burning. All the amazing retreats and teacher training I was lucky enough to be part of – with Deepika and Mark, David Swenson, David and Jelena, Gregor Maehle, and many many other amazing teachers – all that always made an impact on my practice and how I approach it.

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

    When I first met my Czech yoga teacher – I saw his blue eyes with deep wisdom in them and I knew something changed.

    Why do you practice?

    It helps me to go deeper into this human experience.

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

    People try to find out how to “do things right”. Maybe there is another “right” for different people, in different situations…

    Do you have any recommended yoga reading?

    Mirror of yoga, Mahabharata, Sadhana for mothers, One simple thing, Pranayama and Meditation books from Gregor Maehle, Autobiography of a yogi, Books about Krisnamacaria, Yoga sutras …

    Through your own personal journey, what do you feel is your path and offering to the community- local and global?

    The inspiration to practice every day – but with deep understanding, that every day we feel different, and it’s just fine.

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

    Find what makes you happy about it and stick with that 🙂

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

    New course for OmStars and the baby in my belly :))))

    What’s your Favorite Book?

    All books by David Mitchie and Laurant Gounelle

    What’s your favorite meal at a restaurant?

    That’s different every time…but I never say no to vegan sushi.

    What’s your favorite meal to make at home?

    Also depends on the mood – I like to make baked veggies and red lentils.

    What do you like to do for fun that’s non-yoga related?

    horse riding, swimming, traveling, spending time with open-minded people, do silly things with my husband, enjoy time with my dog, reading

    Who is your greatest inspiration?

    Kino and Deepika 🙂

    Do you have a favorite podcast?

    Ashtanga dispatch

    If you were stranded on an island what 3 things would you bring with you?

    an I take my friends: 😀 Good book – a loooong one, knife, blanket

    When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up?

    an actress

    What’s your favorite movie?

    Forrest Gump

    What’s your favorite TV series?

    The Big Bang Theory

    Do you have a favorite band/singer?

    There are many of them

    Favorite song to dance to?

    Also many of them depend on my mood – maybe something from JLo, or Natacha Atlas

    What is your life’s biggest question?

    This too shall pass

    By Kateřina Hilerova

    My yoga journey started almost 10 years ago when I met my teacher at yoga teacher training. At that time I was teaching aerobics, Zumba, kickbox aerobics, and spinning so I thought I could also teach yoga. Fortunately, as soon as I started, I realized, that I can’t teach what I don’t know. So I signed up for a beginner’s yoga course and soon from yoga one day a week became yoga every day. Somewhere along my journey, I met Acro yoga and my husband. We found out, that we love to do it together and also share it. Yoga is definitely a discipline that changed my life and Acro yoga was there for us when we need some good glue for our relationship with my man. I hope to inspire as many people as possible to start to practice and return to it every single day ( even if it is for 5 minutes) – it’s so worth it!

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  • An Interview with Jesus Caballero

    Flexible, Funny, Quiet

    Where are you from?

    I was born in Spain but I have been living in Miami since 2000.

    How did yoga come into your life and what has that journey been like for you?

    I first got into yoga and then Ayurveda when I was looking for alternative ways to heal myself. Little did I know at that time that 20 years later I was still going be so attached to both practices.

    How has yoga changed and what do you feel it creates in your daily life?

    Yoga has given me clarity, balance, calmness, deepness, and a complete new view of life. On a daily basis, it continues to reaffirm all these wonderful feelings and connections to my essence.

    What is yoga to you?

    A way of living and understanding how to live.

    How did you feel after your first yoga class and how do you feel this influences or impacts the space you create for your students?

    To be honest, I felt terrible as my ego was badly hurt at seeing a bunch of old ladies being so flexible and balanced while I was unable to do anything properly 🙂 On the other hand, it also created a hard-to-explain, new feeling that made me come back the following day. Holding on to that feeling and having it present all the time helps me create a high vibrational space for my clients and students.

    Who were you before you started practicing and how have you changed, evolved, and transformed?

    I was clueless about what life was and therefore rather unhappy. After I started practicing Yoga and Ayurveda, I started to feel better, eat better, think better, but mostly I started to understand what this beautiful journey called life is.

    What has been your biggest struggle and your biggest milestone in the practice, in teaching, and within the yoga community?

    Recovering from several illnesses where I had to put my practice on hold for several months.

    Why do you practice?

    To be in balance.

    Why do you teach?

    To help others be in balance.

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

    Purpose

    Do you have any recommended yoga reading?

    Hands down, the Bhagavad Gita.

    Through your own personal journey, what do you feel is your path and offering to the community- local and global?

    Nowadays, I mostly practice Ayurveda so I basically try to help other people heal.

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

    Flow and have fun!

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

    Yes, I am offering personalized Ayurveda Home Detox Programs. They have become very popular as they are very effective and you don’t have to travel to a retreat.

    What’s your favorite book?

    Zorba the Greek

    What’s your favorite meal at a restaurant?

    Green Thai curry

    What’s your favorite meal to make at home?

    Curries

    What do you like to do for fun that’s non-yoga related?

    Spend time in nature

    If you were stranded on an island what 3 things would you bring with you?

    Fishing rod, music, and some sort of tool to open coconuts

    When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up?

    A rock & roll star 🙂

    What’s your favorite movie?

    Casablanca

    What’s your favorite TV series?

    Sense8

    By Jesus Caballero

    Jesus Caballero is dedicated to the teachings of Yoga, Vedanta and Ayurveda, Jesus Caballero has been involved in the art of healing and inner development for over 15 years. He is a certified Ayurvedic Practitioner from the renowned Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico, certified yoga teacher, and Pancha Karma Practitioner, as well as a national certified massage therapist, mindfulness and meditation instructor, and reiki master. His seminars and workshops are a fun and thorough journey along the integral science of Ayurveda and its multiple benefits and applications for a healthy, happy, and conscious lifestyle.

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    Photo by ryan baker on Unsplash

  • An Interview with Allaine Stricklen

    HEART WIDE OPEN

    Where are you from?

    ORIGINALLY FROM LONDON ENGLAND LIVING IN MIAMI CURRENTLY.

    How did yoga come into your life and what has that journey been like for you?

    YOGA CAME INTO MY LIFE WHEN I WAS 7 YEARS YOUNG. I LEARNED FIRSTLY HOW TO MEDITATE AND RELAX THEN THE ASANA PRANAYAMA PRACTICE CAME NEXT. MY VERY FIRST MEDITATION EXPERIENCE I FLOATED AND TRAVELED IN SPACE (ASTRAL REALM).

    How has yoga changed and what do you feel it creates in your daily life?

    YOGA FOR ME IS CONSTANTLY EVOLVING AS I PRACTICE EVERY DAY I HAVE LEARNED TO LISTEN TO WHAT MY BODY MIND AND SPIRIT GUIDE ME TO EXPERIENCE.

    What is yoga to you?

    YOGA FOR ME HAS BEEN SUCH AN INCREDIBLE MAGICAL HEALING MYSTICAL AND HUMBLING PRACTICE. YOGA HAS TAUGHT ME FLEXIBILITY OPENNESS & PATIENCE WHICH I TAKE OFF MY YOGA MAT INTO MY LIFE. SO MUCH GRATITUDE, JOY, LOVE HAVE AND CONTINUE TO MANIFEST IN MY LIFE. THANKS TO THE YOGA PATH.

    How did you feel after your first yoga class and how do you feel this influences or impacts the space you create for your students?

    I ACTUALLY CRIED AND CRIED DURING MY VERY FIRST YOGA CLASS SAVASANA, AND CONTINUED TO SHED LAYERS AND LAYERS OF EMOTION FOR YEARS AFTERWARDS, AS YOGA HELPED ME TO LET GO OF HELD STUCK EMOTION.

    I LOVE TO CREATE A CALM WARM & WELCOMING SPACE FOR EVERYONE WHO JOINS ME TO PRACTICE WITH NO JUDGEMENT JUST ENCOURAGEMENT AND LOVE.

    Who were you before you started practicing and how have you changed, evolved, and transformed?

    I CERTAINLY WAS A VERY ACTIVE CHILD VERY INQUISITIVE INDEED. YOGA BREATHWORK & MEDITATION HAVE CERTAINLY TRANSFORMED ME TO MOVE INTO STILLNESS WITHOUT JUDGEMENT AND LOVE MYSELF MORE AND MORE EVERY DAY.

    What has been your biggest struggle and your biggest milestone in the practice, in teaching, and within the yoga community?

    BEING PATIENT ON EVERY LEVEL LEARNING TO PLANT A SEED AND WATER IT WATCH IT GROW AND HAVING FAITH THAT STUDENTS WILL SHOW UP READY TO GROW EVOLVE AND HEAL.

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

    THE MOST INSPIRATIONAL MOMENT AS A STUDENT MEETING BKS IYENGAR IN PUNE INDIA. WHAT AN AMAZING MOMENT. I AM TRULY GRATEFUL.

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

    THERE ARE SO MANY INSPIRATIONAL MOMENTS I HAVE EXPERIENCED ESPECIALLY WHEN I SEE STUDENTS HEALING THEMSELVES, PURE BLISS FOR MY HEART AND SOUL.

    Why do you practice?

    I FEEL SO MUCH MORE POWERFUL AND VIBRANT WHEN I PRACTICE YOGA.

    Why do you teach?

    I LOVE TO SHARE WISDOM KNOWLEDGE TO HELP SUPPORT NURTURE AND HEAL EVERYONE I MEET WITH A SMILE LOVE AND JOY…. IT FEEDS MY SOUL AND NOURISHES MY HEART.

    Do you have any recommended yoga reading?

    LIGHT ON YOGA BKS IYENGAR
    BREAKING THE HABIT OF BEING YOURSELF DR JOE DISPENZA

    Through your own personal journey, what do you feel is your path and offering to the community- local and global?

    GENTLE THERAPEUTICS YOGA IS A GENTLE HEALING APPROACH TO YOGA USING PROPS SUCH AS CHAIRS, BLOCKS BLANKETS AND BOLSTERS TO FACILITATE THE POSTURES AND SUPPORT THE BODY… I LOVE PROPS AND INVITE MY STUDENTS TO EMBRACE THEM…

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

    FIND A TEACHER YOU LOVE…. TRY DIFFERENT STYLES OF YOGA …

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

    I AM CURRENTLY WORKING ON LEARNING ABOUT THE BRAIN AND STUDYING POLY VAGAL THERAPY AND HAVE BECOME A HEALTH COACH AS WELL.

    What’s your favorite book?

    LIGHT ON YOGA BKS IYENGAR

    What’s your favorite meal at a restaurant?

    I LOVE SOUPS VEGGIE CURRY, SO ASIAN FOOD INDIAN FOOD WITH SPICES I LOVE ALSO.

    What’s your favorite meal to make at home?

    ANYTHING GREEN VEGGIES ESPECIALLY FRESH JUICES SALADS

    What do you like to do for fun that’s non-yoga related?

    ANYTHING THAT IS FOOD-RELATED I LOVE TO COOK AND EAT OF COURSE…

    Who is your greatest inspiration?

    BKS IYENGAR GURY MAYI SIDDHA YOGA MEDITATION DR JOE DISPENZA

    Do you have a favorite podcast?

    I LOVE ANYTHING ON TED TALKS AND ALSO I LOVE HOMEBOUND AND NO TOILET PAPER PODCAST.

    If you were stranded on an island what 3 things would you bring with you?

    WATER, FOOD, YOGA MAT

    When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up?

    A STOCK BROKER

    What’s your favorite movie?

    DEATH IN VENICE DIRK BOGART

    What’s your favorite TV series?

    DO NOT HAVE A TV.

    Do you have a favorite band/singer?

    EARTH WIND AND FIRE

    Favorite song to dance to?

    HIGHER LOVE BY WHITNEY HOUSTON

    What’s your favorite quote/affirmation/mantra?

    TODAY I WELCOME INFINITE POSSIBILITIES WITH OPEN ARMS, I ACCEPT SUPPORT OF THE UNIVERSE, I KNOW THAT ABUNDANCE OF HEALTH WEALTH AND LOVE ARE AVAILABLE TO ME NOW.

    What is your life’s biggest question?

    HOW DO YOU BECOME A GENIUS????

    By Allaine Stricklen

    By Allaine Stricklen is an accredited Master Yoga Instructor with the Yoga Alliance and IAYT -International Association of Yoga Therapists. Allaine teaches and offers meditation sessions, workshops, and Teacher Training programs all over the world including Miami. Her unique style of teaching derives from her extensive studies in many different styles of Yoga, including Iyengar Yoga. Allaine is the creator of Gentle Therapeutics Yoga, a method utilizing props to restore the body’s balance and vitality. She currently teaches at many studios in the Miami area About Gentle Therapeutics Yoga is the Yoga of non-doing and the core practice underlying the essence of all Yoga. Even those with an active dynamic practice will benefit greatly from the inner peace and deep release of this Restorative class. Gentle Therapeutics Yoga is the practice of entering into Yoga postures using an assortment of props: blankets, bolsters, blocks, straps, walls, chairs, eye pillows etc. Supported and stabilized by various props, one experiences the Yoga postures as profoundly relaxing and deeply rejuvenating, invoking a natural state of healing rest, renewal, and equanimity. Supported and passive yoga postures allow the body to naturally release, letting go of held tension and stress. The results are a balanced state of being from the inside out. Gentle Therapeutics Yoga is a life-enhancing practice and is appropriate for anyone at any age or stage of life and in any physical condition.

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  • An Interview with Anamargret Sanchez

    Funny, Irreverent, Loyal

    Where are you from?

    I’m a Jamaican living in Miami.

    How did yoga come into your life and what has that journey been like for you?

    The profound practices of Yoga helped me get through the grief of losing my elders one year apart. The journey has been deep, magical, and life-changing. Yoga has connected me to so many different people, supported me in joy and sorrow, and brought me to a revolution of consciousness. I’d say it’s been an amazing journey so far with more surprises to come.

    How has yoga changed and what do you feel it creates in your daily life?

    Yoga has taught me to go inward. To uncover the voice of intuition and trust it. To have courage to look at my shadows. To understand that compassion and radical self-love are necessary to be able to offer the same to others. It creates a space for authentic joy.

    What is yoga to you?

    Yoga is my north star. It helps redirect me when I fall off the mindfulness wagon. There is no longer a difference between my Yoga on the mat and off the mat.

    How did you feel after your first yoga class and how do you feel this influences or impacts the space you create for your students?

    I felt so embodied after my first yoga class. Like I had finally arrived home in my body and the space around me. I had never felt so whole before. That feeling is what I try to provide for students. Everyone is welcome. Everyone is seen. Everyone is safe. You are home.

    Why did you decide to start teaching yoga and what qualities do you feel are important to build and work on as a yoga teacher?

    When I experienced the profound healing qualities of Yoga I felt the need to share that with others. It’s important as a teacher to SEE the student in front of you and not the idea of what a pose should look like. It’s the most important to have your own practice so you have something rich and authentic to transmit. You have to do the work before you can teach the work. Remember you are a student before you are a teacher- always.

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

    When my intuition very strongly led me to my Himalayan Tantric lineage. I had never heard that inner voice speak so loudly or clearly.

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

    I’ve had many. But the most recent one was when a student told me that her yoga practice brought her back to her spirituality. That made my heart soar.

    Why do you practice?

    To stay awake to Life.

    Why do you teach?

    Because I love to share the rich beauty of Yoga. And I feel blessed every time I teach that I can be a conduit for the teachings. I can get out of the way knowing that any transformation that takes place is the grace that happens between the student and their practice.

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

    Holding the space between Namaste and activism.

    Do you have any recommended yoga reading?

    Loving the simple, yet thought-provoking, message of the Yamas & Niyamas by Deborah Adele.

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

    Student first. Teacher second. Consistent practice is key. Fill your toolbox. Be the light.

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

    Bringing the linear and the spiritual together.

    What’s your favorite book?

    Siddhartha

    What’s your favorite meal to make at home?

    Vegetarian Picadillo & Parmesan crisps

    What do you like to do for fun that’s non-yoga related?

    Dance, swim, draw, write poetry, go boating, host dinner parties, read, laugh with friends, go on road trips, be out in nature with Fonzie.

    Who is your greatest inspiration?

    My Grandmothers

    Do you have a favorite podcast?

    Right now I’m listening to Lama Rod.

    If you were stranded on an island what 3 things would you bring with you?

    Books, my dog Fonzie, my favorite knife

    When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up?

    A teacher- lol

    What’s your favorite movie?

    The Man That Fell to Earth

    What’s your favorite TV series?

    Sense8

    Do you have a favorite band/singer?

    David Bowie

    Favorite song to dance to?

    Salsa music in general

    What’s your favorite quote/affirmation/mantra?

    “Look for the rainbow after the rain.” my personal quote

    What is your life’s biggest question?

    Who is the I?

    By Anamargret Sanchez

    Among Miami’s most experienced and sought-after yoga teachers, Anamargret Sanchez is a global citizen of Jamaican, Cuban, and German heritage. She is a dedicated teacher and student of the yoga tradition, and has been blessed to study with many respected teachers, including Rod Stryker, creator of Para Yoga, Manorama, founder of Sanskrit Studies, T.K.V. Desikachar, Leslie Kaminoff, Marlysa Sullivan, and Judith Lasater. She is Cofounder of the Enhanced Healing Yoga Studio, located in Miami’s Upper East Side, and Cohosts YOGAMI, a podcast originating in Miami and focusing on “yoga and stuff.” As part of her commitment to giving and service through yoga, Anamargret also founded the Legion Park Community Yoga class, East Miami’s most successful and long-running yoga outreach effort. Anamargret’s classes are challenging, fun, compassionate, and create space for students to shine in their own light.

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  • An Interview with Angelica Wilson

    Unicorn, Ambivert, Different

    Where are you from?

    I’m a born and raised New Yorker that’s still in NYC.

    What is yoga to you?

    Practice for how to handle life’s wild situations.

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

    Honestly, there are too many to count. But all of them have a common theme of making me feel seen in the yoga space. So many times (pre-covid) I’d walk into a class and automatically be asked if I’ve ever done yoga before or if I know that I signed up for a non-beginner class. While other students who were actually new weren’t asked the same questions. Anytime a teacher let me practice or motivated me to go farther gave me an inspiring moment to remember.

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

    I don’t know if this is inspirational but one time when I was teaching at a donation-based studio a student came in who didn’t look as “neat” as the other students and the manager on duty looked a bit nervous about them being in the room. They came in, paid for the mat rental, and set up in the back. The manager looked kind of confused as to whether she should ask the student to leave. I wasn’t bothered nor were the other students. She asked if I was okay with having them in class and I said “yes”. It felt great to sort of be a deciding voice at that moment to not turn away someone for wanting to practice. Needless to say, the class went well and everyone was fine. But it was kind of funny to me that after the class the manager called me brave for letting them practice. I wasn’t brave I was just doing my job.

    Why do you practice?

    To keep myself sane-ish.

    Through your own personal journey, what do you feel is your path and offering to the community- local and global?

    My offering to the community is to provide as many options as possible so people can realize yoga is for them. Whether it be physical variations or offering options during a meditation no matter what I’m guiding I want to always offer options.

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

    Yoga is not easy but it gets easier. Unless you stop for a while then it gets hard for a little bit but then it gets easier again. Also, there’s more than one way to do most poses. (Speaking from a vinyasa point of view.)

    What’s your favorite book?

    the life changing magic of not giving a fuck by Sarah Knight

    What’s your favorite meal at a restaurant?

    Grilled Pork Belly

    What’s your favorite meal to make at home?

    Seaweed Soup

    What do you like to do for fun that’s non-yoga related?

    Learn K-pop Dances

    Do you have a favorite podcast?

    K-pop Daebak with Eric Nam

    If you were stranded on an island what 3 things would you bring with you?

    Phone, Phone Cable, Portable Charger

    When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up?

    Singer, Fashion Designer, Forensic Scientist

    What’s your favorite TV series?

    Great British Baking Show

    Do you have a favorite band/singer?

    SHINee

    Favorite song to dance to?

    Anything that isn’t country haha

    What’s your favorite quote/affirmation/mantra?

    “Stop trying to impress everybody. You don’t even like everybody.” – Anonymous

    What is your life’s biggest question?

    Why?

    By Angelica Wilson

    Angelica Wilson has been guiding bodies through space for over a decade. At 15 years old she became a dance instructor for her local studio. At age 18 she was convinced by a friend to take a yoga class and fell in love with savasana. The feeling of rest after so much movement was euphoric. Over the years she’s found movement to be her escape, second home, and source of comfort. As she began teaching yoga, she found that there weren’t many teachers that looked like her but there were plenty of students that did. That realization led her to become a full time yoga instructor. Through teaching, Angelica is the representation that she wishes to see on and off the mat, to show that everyBODY can do yoga.

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  • 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