What do you love about yoga?
I love the essence of yoga, which is the ongoing practice of learning to steady and quiet the mind. I love that this is a moment-to-moment practice that may begin on the mat, but ultimately translates into every realm of daily life.
What advice do you have for a beginner?
Go to beginner classes! This sounds simple, yet is so tremendously important. A good beginner class teaches foundational alignment and establishes breath and body awareness that is invaluable. Too many people (including me once upon a time, sigh) skip this crucial chapter in their Yoga journey and end up playing catch up for years afterwards.
What advice do you have for a more seasoned yogi?
Go to beginner classes! Seriously. The pace in these rooms is often slower, allowing an experienced practitioner to delve more deeply into Asana and breath in a way that can be truly transformative and surprisingly demanding. One of my first teachers, Chuck Miller, used to say that beginning students always want to do advanced postures, while the sign of an advanced student is the desire to do beginner postures. Simple poses practiced with one-pointed focus can be revelatory. At the end of the day, it’s all about Tadasana (Mountain Pose)…
How has yoga changed the way you eat?
It’s a truism that yoga makes us more mindful, but it does! I eat consciously in a way that I never did before I began practicing. I choose what I eat, rather than it choosing me.
What drew you in the world of yoga?
I was hooked from my first Savasana (corpse pose). Which is ironic given what a hard pose it was for me in the early years of my practice. That said, dropping into that place of utter peace, and the clarity that followed, gave me a completely different experience of myself and there was no turning back afterwards.
What’s the one misconception people have about yoga?
That the point of Yoga is to be flexible … Patanjali (Indian yoga sage) writes that the root of all suffering is Avidya, or misperception, and building an altar to flexibility is a perfect example of this idea. This mistaken belief can keep stiffer bodies from trying and/or enjoying the poses, and creates an unsafe environment for bendy people who can push themselves too far. The goal should instead be a balance between stability and mobility with each individual working to cultivate whichever of the two qualities does not come as easily or as naturally.
Who or what inspires your practice?
I have been blessed by studying with truly extraordinary teachers throughout my yoga journey, and in recent years my work with Patricia Walden has been an inspiration both on the mat and off. She is a true Yogini.
Aside from yoga, what activities do you enjoy?
Almost nothing gives me as much pure joy as walking in nature with my husband and our dog. I am also a fanatical sports fan and love ballet.
What’s the purpose of savasana or the corpse pose?
Mr Iyengar says that savasana is the most important but also the most challenging of all the postures. And it is! In a deep savasana you are conscious yet beautifully detached from your surroundings, floating in a state of alert relaxation that nourishes the nervous system while allowing you to absorb the effects of your practice. Savasana is a balm for the soul in our increasingly adrenalized, caffeinated, digital world, but like any difficult posture it takes sustained commitment to truly experience its profound benefits. Get an eye bag (the impact will be immediate and Pavlovian!) and insist on taking savasana after every practice, even if you don’t feel like it or your mind says there’s no point. As Pattabhi Jois used to say “Little by little, all is coming …”
Is there something that people tend to overlook in yoga that is really important?
I think the greatest disservice that students do themselves is to replicate their daily life habits in asana instead of using their time on the mat to cultivate new ways of being. At its best, practice is an opportunity for growth and self-discovery, so give yourself this time in a pure and unadulterated way. Turn off the phone and the music (or whatever the external distraction of choice is) and turn in. It’s difficult and scary at first, but in a hectic and noisy world, these moments of quiet are rare and precious and worth exploring.
What do you struggle with in your practice?
All of the above! The best way to learn something is to teach it.
What is the future of yoga?
There’s the future of asana (the poses) and there’s the future of yoga, and I’m not sure the two are always progressing along the same path … Asana has been adopted and adapted by mainstream culture, and while I am thrilled that more and more people are practicing postures, I sometimes worry that the essential goal of yoga ‘the restraint of the fluctuations of the mind’ is getting lost amidst all the popularity and branding of the moment. I understand why so many people love asana — it was certainly my gateway drug! I was captivated by the physical practice and this then opened the door to a philosophical world-view that was life changing in every good way. I don’t think my progression is in any way unique, and believe that the journey from an external experience of Yoga to a more internal one is a crucial part of both our lineage and our future.
For more details about Natasha’s London workshop from November 29th to December 1st at London’s Triyoga, visit their website.
Natasha also is the featured teacher on Yoga Journal’s 3-DVD series ‘Beginning Yoga Step By Step‘
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