• 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.

  • Demystifying the Mysore Method

    And even if you have some knowledge of what Mysore is, the idea of taking a class may be a bit intimidating.  I totally understand. It is hard to anticipate what you are in for when you think about taking your first Mysore class. However, it really is a very welcoming and inclusive form of yoga practice even for beginners. Maybe especially for beginners. Allow me to clear up some of the haze around the mysterious Mysore Method.

    I teach the Mysore method of Ashtanga Yoga.  Have you heard of it? If you practice any yoga technique you have probably heard of Ashtanga, but Mysore may be a mystery.  And even if you have some knowledge of what Mysore is, the idea of taking a class may be a bit intimidating.  I totally understand. It is hard to anticipate what you are in for when you think about taking your first Mysore class. However, it really is a very welcoming and inclusive form of yoga practice even for beginners. Maybe especially for beginners. Allow me to clear up some of the haze around the mysterious Mysore Method.

    First of all, let’s be clear on what Ashtanga is. Ashtanga Yoga is a vinyasa method. Vinyasa refers to the synchronizing of movement to breath. Breath is the first layer, a steady flowing of in and out, setting the pace and dynamic of your yoga practice. The body’s movement is layered over the constant rhythm of the breath. In a vinyasa method, such as Ashtanga, the postures, moments of stillness, are linked by transitional movement sequences. Every breath has an assignment, either to maintain and deepen the experience within the posture or to transition from one posture to the next. In this way, the mental connection to the practice can remain unbroken. From the first inhalation to the last exhalation, the practitioner is asked to stay focused, stay engaged, stay in their yoga.

    Practice with Angelique LIVE on Omstars

    Ashtanga is a vinyasa method that has a set sequence of postures. You do the same postures in the same order ever time. The sequence is progressive in that each posture is built on the information received from previous ones. There are six series of postures, each one more challenging than the last. The first is referred to as Primary Series, also Yoga Chikitsa, yoga therapy, and is intended to rehabilitate the body. The postures address the main areas of the body: spinal column, hips, knees, shoulders, as well as the internal organs. The intention is to assist in healing old injuries, correcting chronic patterns, and bringing the body to its most optimal neutral state. The second series, referred to as intermediate series, or Nadi Shodana, is a practice of nerve cleansing. This practice deals with purifying the energy channels of the body. The third series and beyond continue to challenge the physical body and the subtle bodies of energy, mind, emotion, and spirit in increasingly deep and intense ways. Each series can take many years to learn and fully integrate. Most practitioners find a lifetime of benefit within the primary series alone. A handful may venture into the intermediate series and only a few work their way into the advanced series of Ashtanga Yoga.

    Mysore then is the traditional self-practice approach to the Ashtanga technique. It derives its name from the city in India, Mysuru, where it developed and where the current head of the lineage continues to live and teach. In a Mysore class, each student moves independently, according to the timing of their own breath, through the sequence of postures as they have learned them from their teacher. The teacher moves through the room, giving assistance, instruction, and guidance as needed on a one on one basis. This method requires a commitment of time and effort. Frequent and consistent practice results in deeper understanding and greater connection to the work of the yoga. It is considered to be a daily practice that includes one day of rest per week, rest on the full and new moons, and rest for women during their monthly cycles.

    When a student new to the practice begins, the teacher provides a lot of attention and instruction, teaching them the beginning sequences of the practice, bit by bit. They do not need to know anything about Ashtanga to begin, they don’t even need to know anything about yoga! The instructor meets them where they are and teaches them the practice at the pace that best suits them. Every practitioner is different and this method honors that. The teacher determines the student’s readiness to progress deeper into the challenges of the practice. As the student mentally integrates the order of postures and physically integrates the information of each pose, the teacher gives them more information; more poses, building slowly and intentionally through the series.

    Practice the Primary Series with Angelique on Omstars

    The nature of the method allows for a significant amount of independence for the student. They are required to memorize the order of postures and to flow through them according to that memory. They are also given the space and time to give attention to areas they struggle with. A student may do one posture two or three times to work on obstacles before continuing through the sequence, or may stay a bit longer in order explore an experience. There is opportunity for each student to do the work they need to do in order to best receive benefit of the practice.

    This method also allows for a relationship to develop between student and teacher. A good teacher of Ashtanga Mysore is assessing your progress as it projects forward into the days, weeks, months, even years to come. They are aiming to develop a program that will help you navigate the practice according to your specific strengths and weakness. Trust grows in this relationship based on an understanding and empathy from the teacher and a knowledge that the teacher has themselves gone through the same process. The student is tasked with finding their teacher, the person they connect with, can trust, and allow the overall guidance of their practice.

    Ashtanga Mysore can be an incredibly transformative yoga practice. The set sequence allows for a daily checking in of progress and the fluctuations caused by…well, life. If the practice remains the same, day to day, what changes? We do. Our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual states are subject to fluctuations. This is natural. The consistency and structure of the Ashtanga method is the framework within which we can become aware of and assess these fluctuations. As we develop understanding of how our lives affect us, we can make choices. We can learn to respond intentionally rather than react impulsively or out of habit. The set sequence also allows for muscle memory to develop, freeing the focus of the mind to enter a more meditative state. When we no longer have to think about what pose comes next, we can fully immerse in the present, in the sensations of the posture and the thoughts and emotions that arise. We can find and cultivate the inner witness of the present moment, the self that observes and can remain steady within the swirl of distraction. When the self can be at peace, no matter the intensity of the posture, the self can also be at peace no matter what challenges are encountered off the mat.

    By Angelique Sandas

    Angelique Sandas is a life long student of movement and the interconnectedness of mind body and spirit. It began with gymnastics and dance, initiating her love of movement, the body’s natural way of expressing ideas, emotions, and experiences. Angelique received her B.A. in dance from the University of Minnesota, graduating in 1999. It was during these years that she was first introduced to yoga. In yoga, Angelique’s relationship with movement developed new depth and meaning. Movement became a path to profound inner transformation. She was inspired to share what she was learning and felt drawn to teach. In 2003, Angelique traveled to Thailand to study with Paul Dallaghan in the Ashtanga yoga system as taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and received her teaching certification. She has also studied pranayama and yogic philosophy with Sri O.P. Tiwari of the Kaivalyadhama Institute, India and received advanced anatomy and adjustment training from David Keil. Until 2007, Angelique taught and practiced in Chicago. She then moved to Miami Beach where she worked closely in the Ashtanga method with her teacher and mentor Kino MacGregor as well as Tim Feldmann and Greg Nardi at Miami Life Center. Angelique ran the Mysore program at Shanti Yoga Shala in Philadelphia, PA in 2012 – 2013 and Delray Yoga Shala in Delray Beach, FL. 2014 – 2016. Currently, Angelique runs a Mysore program Ashtanga Yoga Palm Beach at Yoga Path Palm Beach in West Palm Beach, FL. During her 2011 visit to study in Mysore, India, Angelique received Authorization to teach Ashtanga Yoga. She remains a dedicated instructor and a devoted student of yoga, growing into the potential of the spirit through it’s physical expression.

  • 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