1   What is the purpose of yoga practice for you?

     I think of yoga a yoga practice as finding a balance between all the realms we inhabit, whether physical, mental, emotional, energetic or Spiritual.  We are practicing to remove the impurities in each realm and harmonizing with what remains…

2   Why you devote your life for this practice, and how has it changed you?

       It is interesting for me to think that yoga has become more the realization of that which is unchanging in me.  And it is through the physical and mental changes that I have discovered that which cannot be “tainted” by human experience.  I have always been a spiritual seeker and yoga just felt right for me on many levels… I have never felt naturally religious but was expected to go to church as a child, which was actually perfect in terms of the underlying spirituality…  I joke that I am a “Recovering Catholic”, but I enjoyed the practice of having a focus, and the story of Christ has some universal truths as do most religions… But the intolerant rhetoric, and self righteous tone that justifies war in the name of God seemed so out of step with my understanding of Christ Consciousness.  I studied buddhist philosophy in college and read a lot of text influenced by eastern thought and found some deep insights that changed my overall view of what religion represents and kept discovering similarities between most of the dominant religious and spiritual traditions… I started (attempting) meditating at age 13 with limited guidance but found it good for better focus and lessening the depression that comes with such change in adolescence… In college I found Tai Chi and the physical nature of that was quite a powerful discovery of sensing deeper energies within myself.  Life tragedy brought me deeper into self discovery. Through journaling and therapeutic models I found healing and balance… yoga was absolutely an accident… I had no idea of what I was getting into. And certainly had no idea that it would become the central focus of my life. The Asanas were impossible for me initially and my first teachers never really talked much about the work being grounded in a philosophy called yoga. So I had an ignorance for many years about what I was practicing in my earlier years… It was not until I read the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali for the first time and then started learning to chant the first book that the deeper meaning of the practice of yoga.  And then finding a teacher that not only educated me but loved me on such a deep level that I felt closer to that “untainted self”… Even though I had been meditating for 20 years at that point I didn’t think about my meditation as a condensing my consciousness to a singularity of love… But once I felt that deeper meaning and saw an utter acceptance of me from this unique teacher I found it easier to hone in on my loving nature… and if I could learn to act from that purity one moment at a time it would all be a focus… So an experimental loving universe gives rise to a consciousness that can choose to merge into that pure state… maybe not always at will, but certainly more frequently and with less of a conflict with other parts of myself…

3   What is your relationship to your own body?

     I have had many bodies in this lifetime already… I try to make peace with them.  I have a great teacher in chronic pain… and that journey has taught me compassion for myself, to go easier and more lovingly…

4   How has this changed over time?

     When I first found Asana There were some deep physical imbalances in my body…  Some parts were completely hypermobile, other parts immobile… I would not say I started as a person who was in their body… I pushed my connective tissue beyond the limits of reason.  I was very frustrated with my “bad back” and my “useless knees” and my ‘weakness” and my “tightness”. I would push and show off and literally beat myself up and call it yoga. But as I matured and accepted the real problem which was ultimately a weak mind the body and I had some nicer conversations.  And we have grown to respect one another… I still struggle with pain but I don’t push through that or ignore that any more… I sit with it and make it tea… I try to develop a friendly relationship with those broken bits to see how they can be utilized or maybe even come into more openness and healing.

5   Did you have any injuries related to yoga practice?

     I don’t think there is such a thing as a yoga related practice… If a teacher hurts a student, the teacher was not sensitive to the the students physical limitations and therefore was not practicing yoga when they laid down on that stiff students spine… If someone pushes beyond their limitations then they are no longer in that mindful playground…  I was once paralyzed for 18 hours after doing an extreme twist. I had to wear a back brace for 6 months… I couldn’t walk the first month and ended up on painkillers… yoga was not in the room that moment… if I had been more mindful then I certainly would have just kept more of an eye on the breath and not pushed so hard… But now for 20 years there is not a day that goes by where I don’t feel that old injury which has become and old friend and reminder that at any moment we can be unmindful…

6   As a yoga teacher, what is your perception of adjusting students?

     That is a big question for me.  I have been a body worker for 20 years and I always felt comfortable giving adjustments and I have studied the human body from a somatic healing perspective.  That being said I have had a lot of wonderful and some weird adjustments in yoga classes. Some of those adjustments injured me, some left me confused. I get we want to give our students the best possible experience but many adjustments in yoga are based on an old school mentality to “get them into the pose at all cost”.  Times and sensitivities change with each person, each day… I think touch can heal or harm, but if the student feels your touch is a sexual threat then it does not matter what your intentions are as a teacher. We have to develop a sense of each individual that comes to us and meet them where they are at… you cannot teach anyone really if you just have one way of doing things… We as teachers are helping that student from where they are at in this moment to a deeper awareness.  We may need to build a lot of trust before we ever, if ever touch a student. We need to really understand how people learn… Most teacher trainings never actually address how the brain learns and yet we have adopted these teaching modalities that don’t actually consider how teaching actually works let alone how that is so different for each individual. For some student that is more verbal, for others it is visual and some prefer tactile, through the touch. We learn in a variety of ways… But touch is a significant and powerful way to get a student deeper into a pose… and I don’t mean deeper into a back bend or forward fold… I mean getting them deeper to their spirit.  I have seen too many bad adjustment by seasoned and beginning teachers and a general lack of anatomical knowledge. With touch one needs permission and a clear intention of what that touch should accomplish… And understand that touch is our first sense… And the skin in a way is the surface of the brain… So when we touch someone we are touching the psyche and the soul, the skin and the memory, the moment and the past experience of this individual… So we need be very careful the impression we leave when given that impression…

7  What is your mission as a yoga instructor?

     To give my fellow human beings faith in themselves… To empower them to heal themselves… To show then they can literally raise their vibration… 

8  If a person come to you and said: “I have only 15 minutes for practice every day”. What could they do? what is the most important?

Work on mobilizing the joints to comfortable and gently increasing  the Range of Motion, 5 to 10 minutes. Then do some Quick Kriyas(cleansing the lungs of stagnation).  Make sure to do them mindfully, with a lifted heart . Do one minute of Bhastrika Breath(mindful but fast inhalations, fast exhalations with arm movements to help the ribs lift on inhalation and depress on exhalations).  Do two rounds kapalabhati(forceful smooth exhalation, passive inhalation with NO JERKING) one minute each round. Make sure after each of these that you do some belly breathing between each of these. Then sit up tall, on height so the knee is lower than the hip… you can even sit in a chair.  Meditate on the breath expanding the light of your heart, 5 to 10 minutes. And love yourself despite the difficulty of doing any of this.

9 What advice would you give someone who feels they can’t practice yoga because they do not have the right kind of body?

     There’s a lot of kinds of yoga… not just the physical yoga that we westerners are addicted to… Chanting, studying texts, walking your dog mindfully is Yoga as far as I am concerned.  But ultimately there is a physical practice for every body. And then just finding out who that person is and where they feel stuck, because every kind of body might not be reflective of their mind… and each body/mind needs ultimately to find its practice…  

10 What is the goal of yoga as you see it?

     To get out of goals!  Quit believing everything you think?  Stop living in and creating the world of opposites…  You’re a miracle and you play games on cell phones… You’re wisdom incarnate and yet you complain unceasingly about the weather…  Instead just… Love… Love… Love

11 What is your greatest weakness? What are you doing to improve it?

     I take people at their word…  I do trust that people do what they say they are going to do… Which is not really a weakness.  Some people do take advantage of that but I think we have to be trusting and take risks… oh and I just love Chocolate… and I am doing nothing to improve that!  But I think each moment is an opportunity to change… I try to ask the universe to guide me in the right direction everyday, and to make it obvious… “Give me the challenge that will help me to grow”, “Show me the doorway I need to walk through next in my life”.  And the answer is practicing in a way that addresses the needs of this moment…

12 If you have to describe your life in one word, what it would be?

     Gift

13 What are your most profound wishes?

     To be guided easily… to be useful and helpful… to be an instrument of change and a facilitator of healing.

14 Can you tell us a bit about your day?

     I taught a class this that featured finding the balance between the ease and effort…  Searching for that place where change is happening. And then had a simple meal with some of the students… So lovely to connect with people after the class and get to feel the connection of interaction… then I went into downtown Chicago and taught yoga in a corporate office setting…  You would expect it to be a stiff environment but it’s quite lovely overlooking the Chicago River… A new student who had never practiced before and some really old students of mine showed up and it all became about how to keep each student safe in their practice, that balance in myself between effort and ease… and just sitting here now writing this…

15 What is the most memorable experience from  your yoga practice?

     It’s what you don’t remember that is most special. The pose that just teaches itself, the breath that seems to stop moving… a whole practice where the mind just stopped… no impression, just the pure essence of being… But there is a place I practice yoga in India and just watch the sun go down while I do a headstand…  Just attempting to merge, and all the memories and sunsets and moments come together for me, merge into one never ending sunset…

16 What do you remember most about past visits to Ukraine? 

The FOOD, The truly lovely people and yoga community. I have felt very welcomed here by the students…

17 What is the peculiarity of Ukrainian yoga and yogis?

     Lol… Sometimes I think y’all practice the Asana too hard!  Actually I have been pleasantly surprised by the openness and loving nature of the Ukrainian Yogis.