Yogi योगी Insight (part 7 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 7 in a series about aspiring and experienced yogis’ journeys. I hope that you enjoy it and follow along. Namaste!

I met Nat, a kind spirit, in the tea room of YYOGA after a Flow class while on travel in Vancouver, BC. We started chatting and I learned that Nat is from West Sussex, England. Also, she’s a huge dog lover, so I knew she was cool. Nat shared her personal story with me of why she got into yoga, and I asked her if I could interview and feature her in Yogi Insight. I am excited that she said yes!

Nat

Yogi: Nat Joos
Studio: In-home private practice

Q: Who or what influenced you to take up yoga?
A: I read articles about runners getting fewer injuries through stretching out in a yoga class. I was a big runner 15 years ago, doing 10Ks about five times a day. Yoga was important in assisting my body in the amount of running I was doing. Then, yoga became my constant companion after I lost my husband to skin cancer five years ago. I turned to yoga drenched in grief and yoga transcended me to a place where I felt nourished with a sense of acceptance and peace. It presented itself in a positive way, and I’ve never forgotten that.

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: I have been practicing for about 15 years.

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga do you like the most and why?
A: I love the way yoga makes me feel. I can unplug from the past and future and just be present on my mat. It feels wonderful!

Q: What aspect of yoga do you like the least and why?
A: This is hard to answer … I guess it’s certain postures I find the hardest. I have relatively tight hamstrings, so forward bends are not textbook for me. I believe that it’s not about how far you go into a posture, it’s about how you feel when you arrive!

Q: What is your favorite posture and why?
A: My favorite posture is side plank, just like the one in my photo. It makes me feel calm and very strong!

Q: How long have you owned a private yoga practice?
A: I’ve owned my own practice for just over a year and love it! My Yoganat classes are in the comfort of my own home shala, which creates a more personable practice experience. It’s important to me to keep the authenticity of yoga by sealing every class with an Om to deepen the practice.

Q: What is your favorite part about teaching yoga and why?
A: I like to offer a practice that’s for everyone and I open my doors with a big friendly welcome! If you’re lucky, you get to meet my furry kid “Minnie the choccy lab!” Unfortunately, she’s unable to attend the sessions because she’s a distraction.

Q: What advice would you give to a new yoga teacher?
A: Give it time and be patient. Also, be yourself.

To read more about Nat, check out her website YOGANAT!

Yogi योगी Insight (part 6 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 6 in a series about aspiring and experienced yogis’ journeys. I hope that you enjoy it and follow along. Namaste!

I met Elena two years ago when I walked into her HPF class. I instantly felt at peace by her soothing voice and her nurturing spirit! I never experienced an immediate calming reaction to a person like that before. I returned and took Elena’s class whenever possible. She is both a life coach and a yoga teacher, two roles that could not fit a person more perfectly!   

Elena Sonnino, life coach and yoga teacher

Elena Sonnino, life coach and yoga teacher

Yogi: Elena Sonnino
Studios: Beloved Yoga, Wheelhouse Yoga, and in-home private practice

Q: Who or what influenced you to take up yoga?
A: I never really liked yoga, other than when I was pregnant with my daughter. I had a difficult time being still in Savasana. Then one day, I started to feel and appreciate the benefits of it for the first time during a hiking and weight-loss retreat in British Columbia. I returned home with a DVD from the instructor. For a year or so I only used that DVD and sought out classes when I was on travel – until I found a local studio to regularly practice. The big shift for me came when I stopped focusing on yoga as a workout and embraced it as a daily practice.

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: I am a baby yogini. I practiced the physical asanas when I was pregnant in 2004 and then started to cultivate a practice in 2014. It wasn’t until 2016 that it became part of my everyday life. My first introduction to yoga was hatha style, then power vinyasa, and eventually I found my way to yin yoga and even Kundalini yoga.

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga are you most passionate about and why?
A: Yoga offers me a mirror whether I am studying, focusing on pranayama, or moving my body with asana – to unearth and attune to what is within me. Pema Chodron wrote, “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”

The idea that our body and our deepest self, come to us as benevolent messengers, inviting us to recognize and learn what we need to know is the essence of yoga for me, whether it is vinyasa, yin, or even kundalini. It is a practice that invites us to explore and reveal that which is hidden. It is an opportunity to notice that what is practiced is also reflected. It is a practice that focuses on and highlights self-compassion instead of self-improvement.

Q: What keeps you coming back to your mat?
A: My mat is one of my best teachers for acceptance. My mat reminds me that each day is a new day, and what happened the day before or what may happen the next day doesn’t really matter. Each practice allows me to notice the shifts in my balance — the subtle ways my body reacts, and the deeper qualities of my breath from one day to another.

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga do you find most challenging and why?
A: Challenge looks different on different days. In the early days of my vinyasa practice, approaching inversions and arm balances felt like my biggest challenge. I was insecure about my own strength and it was hard to detach from the outcomes when it felt like everyone around me made it look so easy. Aparigraha, non-attachment, in general, is an aspect of yoga that is both my favorite and perhaps most challenging. Even when I believe that I’ve approached a moment with curiosity and willingness, one of my daily practices is to notice and observe sensations, emotions, and thoughts so that I can catch myself when subtle attachments to expectations creep up.

Another aspect that has been challenging, is creating an at home practice for myself as a daily tool. Even though I know that yoga is more than the physical shapes we take on a mat, it took me a long time to allow myself to explore diverse styles and practices at home and tune in to what I needed rather than following the herd.

Q: What is most fulfilling for you in your yoga practice?
A: Connection to my inner source is what is most fulfilling for me in my practice. Sometimes that comes through breath work, sometimes it finds me in a shape on the mat, and sometimes it finds me in meditation. It is during those moments that I feel connected to something deeper and I can feel the energy in my body that makes my heart smile. I smiled a lot the first time I flew in crow pose or went upside down, supported by a wall.

Q: How long have you been teaching yoga? Who or what influenced you to become a teacher?
A: I completed my teacher training and started guiding practices in 2016. The thing that drew me to want to teach was my life coaching practice. In my own self-work, I’d integrated so much of what I knew as a life coach with my personal yoga practice and I wanted a way to bring the two together. I had been an elementary school teacher for 12 years, and there is something about being a guide and facilitator that energizes me, so the symbiotic relationship felt like a perfect way for me to blend my strengths and passions.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of teaching yoga and why?
A: Creating and holding space for practitioners to have their own experience with their body, their breath, and their mat. I consider myself a guide more than a teacher and like to invite individuals in my yin and vinyasa classes to attune to the inner strength and wisdom that is always within them.

Q: What is your least favorite aspect of teaching yoga and why?
A: When I first started teaching, my own practice changed. At first, it was hard for me to find time for my own practices, and then even when I did make it to my mat it felt like a part of me was always considering how the practice could inform my role as a teacher. It took a while, and to some degree, a change in the style of physical asana to help me ground into a practice that felt sustainable and nourishing just for me.

Q: What piece of advice would you give to a new yoga teacher?
A: Find the time and commit to your own practice. Be willing to explore and to study, to ask questions and look for answers within the sacred texts and in yourself.

Q: Who or what influenced you to become a life coach?
A: I’d always been a guide, asking questions and holding space for others. It was insights over time ranging from my experience surviving Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, my work as a classroom teacher, divorce, marathon running, learning to surf, and eventually, a chance encounter and experience with a massage therapist in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and a paragliding experience that same weekend that brought everything together. Soaring through the air with the birds, attached to my co-pilot, I noticed how it only took subtle movements to change direction – and knew! It wasn’t about a destination as we flew. It was about noticing. It was about letting the wind move us and fully experiencing each shift with gratitude and wonder. By the time I reached the landing zone, I had decided to embrace the nudges and set off to find a training program to study with, and claim my role as a life coach!

Q: How long have you been a life coach? What is your favorite aspect of being a life coach?
A: I trained with the Martha Beck Institute in 2016 and I have worked with clients one-on-one and groups since that same year. I have spoken with a variety of groups and led workshops and retreats, which always energizes me. My favorite aspect is when a client tunes in to an inner realization based on a question that I asked or an invitation that I offered. Being a witness to my clients as they show up for themselves with vulnerability and willingness is like a gift.

Q: How does being a life coach tie into your yoga practice and being a yoga teacher?
A: The two are very symbiotic to me. I try to create experiences whether they are yoga or coaching related that invite individuals to connect with themselves. The ideas or themes that I find myself exploring with my clients are the same ones that I offer as intentions in my classes and for myself in my own practice.

BONUS ROUND 😃:  Do you have any exciting projects in the works?
A: I am launching a new podcast called Sunrise in Your Pocket on October 8. Everyone needs a nudge now and then to help them get back on track to feeling joyful, vibrant, and alive in the now. Sunrise in Your Pocket is your weekly podcast for playful, easy to implement guidance for reconnecting to the inner strength and wisdom within you. You can sign up here to the be the first to know when it goes live!

EVENT: Join Elena for an in-person workshop at Beloved Yoga on Saturday, November 3 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. to stop fixing and start living! Click here for more info. 

Yogi योगी Insight (part 5 in a series)

If you are coming here for the first time, you have entered part 5 in a series about aspiring and experienced yogis’ journeys. I hope that you enjoy it and follow along. Namaste!

I met Danielle about a year ago in a C2 class at CorePower Yoga. She was deep in her relax zone before class, but we spoke afterward and we have been buds ever since. She is an amazing woman who used her private practice experience on her mat to launch and pave a path of inspiration off her mat. Danielle’s credentials include TEDx speaker, author, host of The Danielle Daily Show, just to name a few! I am grateful that she made time to participate in this series.

Danielle Watson

Yogi: Danielle Watson, E-RYT 200
Studio: Private Practice

Q: Who or what influenced you to take up yoga?
A: Massive anxiety. I took up yoga in graduate school as an attempt to save myself from spontaneously combusting from the stress of it. I remember lying on my bed crying at night because it felt like I could not find the off button for my brain. Even in my sleep I was thinking and worrying, which led me to feel tired and anxious all the time. I was already physically flexible but heard that yoga was good for calming the mind, so I decided to give it a try to relieve some of the pressure I was feeling.

Q: How long have you been practicing yoga?
A: I started in 2002, so 16 years now!

Q: What aspect of practicing yoga are you most passionate about?
A: Svadhyaya (self-study) and tapas (discipline). For me, these are the two keys to developing into the person we want to become. Asana practice is something I do most days of the week, but practicing these two niyamas is something that I am committed to working on every moment of the day.

Q: What keeps you coming back to your mat?
A: My asana practice is like a great big cosmic dumpster where I go to dispose of my mental garbage. Often times, when I walk into the studio I feel spectacularly human … vulnerable, anxious, or just plain not in a good mood. My mat is a space where I can safely unload the emotional burden of my humanity whether it happens to be sadness, loneliness, grief, anxiety, or shame. I walk out of the studio feeling lighter, freer and ready to keep marching toward becoming the woman I was meant to be! I like to practice daily when possible because, for me, yoga is the mental health equivalent of brushing my teeth. I love the clean feeling!

Q: What is most challenging for you in your personal yoga practice?
A: Letting go of judgment. I often find myself critiquing how others teach, especially when it comes to what is safe and unsafe for new students. I have to remind myself that it’s none of my business anymore!

Q: What is most fulfilling for you in your personal yoga practice?
A: Seeing my practice grow and change. My practice is a lot like bamboo … so much happens beneath the surface before you can see what has been developing, and then suddenly new abilities come bursting out!

Q: Who or what influenced you to start a private yoga teaching business?
A: I started out teaching classes at a studio, but quickly realized that the pay was not very good. I knew that I could work fewer hours and make more money if I started offering private sessions. Also, I  really liked having a close relationship with my students and offering an in-home practice often led to me becoming a part of a family.

Q: Why did you decide to stop your private yoga business?
A: I decided to stop teaching yoga when I realized I was meant to do something more with my gifts and talents than what I was currently doing. It was a difficult decision for me because my clients loved me and I felt guilty about giving up something that helped so many people so much. I finally decided to stop and give away all of my yoga books and gear when I answered an important question for myself. That question was, “If I can do this much good with something I know I am no longer meant to be doing, how much good could I do with something I am meant to be doing?” I knew the good that I was meant to do was a lot more and that sealed the decision for me.

Q: How long did you teach yoga?
A: About eight or nine years.

Q: What insight do you have for someone thinking about starting a private yoga business?
A: All you really need to get started is an extra mat, a strap, and some blocks. It’s tempting to buy a bunch of nifty yoga props, but work with your clients first and then buy more equipment later as you determine the specific need(s) of your clients. Often, students have/want their own equipment so they can use it at home so you may not need to buy fancy props because they will buy on their own what you recommend.

Q: What piece of advice do you have for a new yoga teacher?
A: I don’t think new teachers often realize how much anxiety new students have about being in a yoga class. People are worried that they won’t fit in because they are not flexible, don’t know the poses, etc. I think it’s important to give a voice to that fear at the beginning of an intro class by saying something like, “If you’re here for the first time today, congratulate yourself for being brave! You’re not going to know how to do all the postures today, but you’re not expected to. After you’ve been here a few times you’ll get the hang of it and see yourself starting to improve. I’m proud of you for giving this a try!”