Sharing the light series: Meet NINA STANGER!

Nina Stanger is a serious yogi who doesn’t take yoga seriously. (Have you seen her picture?)

Nina’s class was the first Vinyasa Flow class I had ever taken and truthfully it blew my mind. It was a beautiful experience – I was challenged and tired but it felt a lot like poetry in motion. The sequence of poses just made sense. It was where my body naturally wanted to go (aside from Savasana which is where my body ALWAYS wants to go). Her gentle way of teaching has an undercurrent of strength and support guiding you through the practice rather than leading you to it. There is a lightheartedness to her tone and style – you’ll still notice that your body is being taken to its edge – you just won’t mind. Nina is one of my favorite yoga teachers and I am really glad I can share a little bit of her with you.

You can find Nina’s classes at extendYoga on Tuesdays at 9:30 AM, Fridays at 5:30 PM and Sundays at 4:00 PM and at Allay Yoga on Tuesdays at Noon. If you’re lucky, you can catch her teaching at Lululemon in Bethesda Row. She is one of their ambassadors. Online you can get to know her on her blog on food addiction and recovery: Prana Rising. When you are ready to take the next step in yoga and you want to learn more about Nina’s teaching style, she is also a core faculty member at the Sky House Yoga – Yoga Teacher Training.

Okay, one last thing: She’s also hosting a yoga retreat in St. Croix in June. (Who could resist?)

Nina Stanger1.How did you find your way to yoga?

I think yoga found me, actually. I took my first class in high school as a way to get out of gym class. We had the option to do yoga for a semester, so I chose that since I hated gym. After that, I took random classes at different studios in the area. Then, in college, I again had the option to take it at school for a semester, and the teacher was absolutely wonderful. She was the first Vinyasa teacher I had, and her classes inspired me greatly. I continued to dabble with other classes on and off, but didn’t have a dedicated practice. Then, the summer before my last year of college, I decided I’d really like to be a yoga teacher, but I thought I wasn’t flexible enough, good enough, etc. One of my teacher friends heard me say this, and he said, “If you want to teach yoga, all you have to do is LOVE yoga.” That was all it took; I got over myself and became a diehard Vinyasa student, and a year later, a yoga teacher.

2. How would you describe your teaching style?

FLOW. I guide students through sequences linking breath and body, building flexibility and strength. In my classes the poses are important, but the breath comes first. I like to have fun and teach challenging asanas with gentle spirit.

3. What is your go-to stress fighting technique?

Closing my eyes, taking a deep breath, and remembering that I am alive. Laughing and getting outside helps, too.

4. Describe your perfect day.

SLEEP IN. Wake up when my body is ready to wake up, not because an alarm is buzzing! Eat a delicious breakfast (my favorite meal, especially when chocolate chip pancakes are involved), go to a yoga class, hang out with friends/my boyfriend, spend some time in the sun… I’m pretty content as long as yoga and the people I love are involved!

5. Your last meal would be?

Chocolate chip pancakes, complete with whipped cream. (It took me about half a second to come up with that answer.)

6. Best advice you can give someone would be?

In the form of a question: How can you love yourself right now, in this moment? Whatever we are struggling with, whatever is challenging or difficult or confusing, how can you trust your heart and follow your gut instinct? One of my favorite quotes says it best: “The heart needs no reason.”

Advertisements

Sharing the light series: Meet CAROLINE DOBUZINSKIS!

Headshot of Caroline D.I stumbled into Caroline’s Power Yoga class, completely freaked and embarrassed that I was late. I HATE being late. Caroline smiled warmly at me and kindly made space for me in her class. My relief was short-lived, however, when she gently but firmly reminded her students of the strength and attention needed in a POWER yoga class by guiding us through a flowing series of postures designed to generate a lot of heat. Instead of fretting over being late, I was now desperately wishing I had grabbed a towel on my way in. But I also noticed that despite all the work, Caroline never lost the feeling of effortlessness within the poses – reminding me that my job was to find ease amidst the difficult poses. She was encouraging without being pushy. It was no surprise that despite the sweating and fatigue all of her students walked out of her class with a smile on their faces. Savasana had never felt so good!

Whether you’re a seasoned yogi or a beginner, I highly recommend a class with Caroline. She teaches several different classes from Yoga 1/2 to Power Yoga – whatever your body may be needing at the time.

Online, you can find Caroline on Twitter (@CarolineDinDC) and learn more about her on her blog. But if you would like to take one of her wonderful classes, you can find her at Yoga District!

1. How did you find your way to yoga?

I actually love thinking about my first introduction to practicing yoga because it was before yoga studios were as common as they are today (Gosh, I must be old). When I was in high school, I had a friend who was curious about trying yoga. I figured it would be good for me too because I was doing a lot of dance training at the time. We took classes at the local recreation center in my hometown of North Vancouver. The teacher must have been in her late 70s and taught hatha yoga. The kicker is that her name was Om.

It was a lot of legs up the wall and basic poses, and was really enjoyable and relaxing (we were definitely the youngest ones in there). The biggest challenge that I found was to not to have my feet and knees turned out because I was so used to doing that in ballet. I enjoyed working those different muscles and just being still. The atmosphere was also very different from what I had experienced in dance classes which I found refreshing.

2. How would you describe your teaching style?

I am a very welcoming and open teacher. If you have a question, ask and I will Picture of Caroline D.take the time to answer. I like to be tuned into my students to see if they are getting what they like out of the class. But I also like to provide an experience that goes beyond what a student might expect. I teach flow and power style classes with a short meditation at the end. Usually, there is a theme that I have been thinking about in my own practice and meditation (such as self-acceptance, compassion, mindfulness) that will run through the class.

Also, sometimes I try to be funny. It’s hit or miss on that one.

3. What is your go-to stress fighting technique?

A hot bath, some tea, and Saturday Night Live on Hulu. Love me some SNL!

4. Describe your perfect day.

It would have to happen back home in Vancouver: a morning hike up a mountain, a bit of yoga, then hanging with friends and family (maybe even a glass of wine at the beach).

5. Your last meal would be?

Thai food. Lots and lots of Thai food–rolls, curries, and Thai iced coffee. Then sticky mango rice at the end. Mmmmmmm….

6. Best advice you can give someone would be?

Love yourself. Plain and simple.

Why do you yoga? by Crystal Ellis

I know why I practice yoga. But I wanted to know why others do. Are they the same as mine? What is their story? What can I learn from other people’s experience with yoga?

So I asked the Twitter-verse WHY DO YOU YOGA?

Crystal Ellis (aka YogiCrystal) shared her answer with me. You can check her out on her blog and on Twitter. She’s also on Facebook.

A picture of Yogi Crystal

A couple weeks ago Samantha posted a tweet asking “why do you yoga?” and because I am so passionate about how yoga has helped me, I jumped at the chance to share my story and tell you why I yoga.

I started yoga in January 2008 after much deliberation and critical self talk. I had been in a car accident in 2006 and suffered whiplash/soft tissue damage to my neck and had myself thoroughly convinced that I did not belong in a yoga class.

You see, back in that time I didn’t know anything about yoga and I believed that it was only for the flexible and strong. I had been weakened from the accident and couldn’t touch my toes, so in my mind, I would look like a fool in class. Good thing that a friend of mine had just graduated from teacher training and listened to my story. First thing she told me was that there’s no ego in yoga and most people are doing their own thing, so they don’t really see you. Well, that was enough to get me to my first class and I have been hooked ever since.

I am glad that I had a great teacher from the start that supported me and offered adjustments according to my injury. This helped me gain strength and confidence in my practice and pushed me to never give up. I quickly grew quite interested in yoga philosophy and anatomy and I completed my teacher training in 2009. I believe this helped me gain understanding and awareness on a whole other level that I am extremely grateful for.

I started yoga for injury rehabilitation, but now it has grown into so much more. Pain relief, strength, energy, flexibility, and most of all, peace. Yoga takes me away from the world for just a little bit. Away from the rush, stress, noise and occasional craziness of life. It’s an escape for me, like a mini-getaway. Like most people, my life can be busy and it always feels like I am on the go. I get to stop in yoga. Get to breathe. Get to relax. And these days, it’s so important to have yoga in my life for these reasons and more.

Yoga brings me such a sense of serenity that I can’t imagine my life without it now.

I sometimes laugh at my old self and all those nerves I had about taking a class, because now I am the one helping unsure people get to their first class. I feel great doing yoga, but it also feels amazing sharing this practice with others and seeing how they change and grow.

These are the reasons I yoga, have you thought about yours?

Sharing the light series: Meet LAUREN UBERMAN!

Lauren is a nice person… I don’t mean that in a prosaic “I don’t have anything better to say about her and she’s dull as dishwater” way. I mean that she’s good to people. Really good to people (her students especially).

When I see her I always feel like she’s got a laugh lurking around her smile just dying to get out. And this excited energy permeates her classes and leaves you tired and yet somehow refreshed. Maybe it helps that she doesn’t seem to take herself so seriously.

She was teaching a Yogilates (a yoga and Pilates combination) class at Gold’s Gym when I first met her. Despite the fact that laughing hurt for days after her class because of my abs, I really enjoyed it. She is a great teacher – clear, concise, approachable and obviously loved by her students. Sometimes yoga teachers with all their knowledge can become inaccessible and a little out of touch… But not Lauren. She knows her stuff and more importantly she is willing and able to help you.

Luckily for us all, you can find Lauren’s wonderful classes at Blue Pit Workouts. She has also been known to participate in a few plays in our area. When you see her, tell her I said HI.

1.  How did you find your way to yoga?

I grew up doing ballet and gymnastics but struggled with lower back pain due to mild spinabifita. I always stayed active but was in a lot of pain. I tried yoga and pilates (somewhat out of desperation) and have NEVER looked back!! My back NEVER bothers me anymore and I’ve found that due to my own struggles, I’m better able to help my clients and students with theirs – I can relate. We have to know our limitations before we can expand them. Yoga has definitely expanded mine.

2. How would you describe your teaching style?

Varying. I stay true to Iyengar (of course, from ballet, I’m focused on alignment!) but I go with the energy of the group I’m practicing with each time. I like to ask people what they feel like working on (it’s their class after all!) and incorporate that into our practice, whether it be adding extra hip openers to some Vinyasa or extra planks to Ashtunga. I like to mix it up so that the class doesn’t get bored and it keeps their muscles guessing as to what will come next from week-to-week. No same positions each class here!

3. What is your go-to stress fighting technique?

Deep Breaths. And music. Both can do wonders for your mind, body and mood. Sometimes it’s fun to relax and breathe to “yoga music” then dive into a full practice to Led Zeppelin or Bob Dylan. Whatever helps to keep us, as a class, in the moment, in the room, in the posture and out of our heads! Outside of class, going for long walks (while listening to my iPod), and playing guitar, piano, or ukulele takes my stress away – same principle – being in the moment and not wasting energy with worry.

4. Describe your perfect day.

Perfect Day? California-weather. Blue Skies, sunshine, and some kind of outdoor activity. Follow it up by either jamming with friends or going to watch some great live music. Yeah…nice. 🙂

5. Your last meal would be?

Something spicy. Either mexican or sushi – mmmmmm…… :-p

6. Best advice you can give someone would be?

Embrace your flaws, embrace your strengths. Usually one can help the other. No one has it all together and everyone is trying to figure it out. Cherish what makes you different, but don’t lose your desire to connect to your fellow man (or woman :-p). Take life in, ALL of it – the good and the bad – there is something to be learned in every situation, no matter how small. Other than that, it’s not a competition, encourage each other and be loving and kind, you never know who you may positively effect. It’s worth it. Count your blessings and just keep on keepin’ on. 🙂

Sharing the light series: Meet ANNIE CARLIN

I am always on the look out for good yoga teachers to connect with. On Twitter I have been fortunate to talk with a whole slew of yogis, teachers and like-minded folks. Annie Carlin is one of them. When she invited me to attend one of her classes, I jumped at the chance.

I was uncertain when I walked into the room but Annie’s infectious smile made me feel at ease. Her smile also had an element of mischievousness right at the very tips and I knew I was in for a fun class. I was not disappointed. From her I learned a nifty trick to help me strengthen my full boat pose… And it’s so great that I still get bubbly excited just thinking about it. These are the things you look forward to when teachers take classes from other teachers. The sharing of knowledge and feeling yourself expand right into that new information.

I look forward to many more experiences with beautiful Annie.

You can find out more about Annie here. She was also recently featured in Curvy Yoga.

1. How did you find your way to yoga?

Before I moved to DC five years ago, I lived in New York City my entire life. New York has a zillion yoga studios, but during college, one of my roommates told me I had to try a free class at a yoga studio a couple of blocks from where we lived. Though that first class kicked my butt and I felt like I would faint at any minute, something obviously spoke to me. When I moved back to Brooklyn after college, I found a studio I loved and was soon practicing almost everyday. To say that changed my life would be an understatement. Moving to DC was rough – but since then, I’ve become a yoga teacher myself and can pay forward the experiences I’ve had.

2. How would you describe your yoga teaching style?

So I’m a Prajna Inspired teacher – i.e. certified at 200 hours by Prajna Yoga out in New Mexico. The style incorporates asana principles from ashtanga and iyengar yoga with detailed anatomy instruction and wisdom from the buddhist traditions.

I teach a hybrid of flow and longer holds, and specialize in modifications for every body including working around injuries and other physical issues. I sometimes call what I teach what I call supportive yoga – yoga that incorporates props and modifications for folks who might not feel comfortable in a typical yoga class. I’ve done both a very physical and necessarily therapeutic practice at various times in the past ten years so I can adapt for students of all levels and needs. My current regular class is specifically for those who live in larger bodies, but I teach general classes quite often as well (as you saw this weekend)!

3. What is your go-to stress fighting technique?

Yoga certainly is up there, but I read somewhere once that singing was a great way to relieve the symptoms of stress because it forces you to regulate your breathing naturally. Since I love to sing anyway, it works especially well for me. My neighbors might feel otherwise. 😉

4. Describe your perfect day.

65 degrees, sunny, no humidity…

I tend to wake up early naturally so I’d start the day by walking to the local coffee shop, then I’d hit a farmers market and buy way too many delicious fruits and veggies. I’d spend a couple of hours at a yoga class with a teacher I adore or at a rocking zumba class, and then I would come home and make something amazing with my farmers market purchases. Finally, I’d spend the rest of the day snuggling with my boyfriend and/or chilling with friends.

5. Your last meal would be?

This one is hard! I’m going to say french fries from Cafe Luluc in Brooklyn, a Ray’s Hell Burger and a perfectly ripe plum or three. 🙂

6. Best advice you can give someone else would be?

Don’t miss the process for the outcome and don’t avoid experiences because you don’t know if you will succeed. I wish I always followed this advice myself – I think many mistakes I have made would have been avoided.

Sharing the light series: Meet ALLY SHUTTY

Ally Shutty and I were introduced via email by a mutual friend. Her first few words to me were, “Hiya Sam ~ I don’t know if people call you that but I will.” As I laughed to myself, I immediately knew that I’d be dealing with a firecracker.

There is a yoga teacher perception and though it’s not all bad it’s still not always true. Ally was generous, upbeat and straightforward in our email exchange and I wanted to see how that would translate into her teaching. When I finally had the chance to take a class with her, I enjoyed the combination of her vibrant personality with a direct and concise teaching style. No frilly, out of this realm, intangible words… She was clear, down-to-earth and completely relatable. I look forward to taking more classes with her.

Ally teaches in the DC/MD metro area. If you have any questions for her, leave a message here or send me a message and I’ll get you in touch with her.

1. How did you find your way to yoga?

I used drugs for many years to escape depression…. however, this just sent me into a deeper depression.  My mom bought me a gift certificate to a yoga class and I think the teacher took particular interest in me… perhaps she could sense my darkness. She asked me to show up for class everyday and from there on out I was hooked. Yoga became my drug of choice and allowed me to escape the dark and head towards the light.

2. How would you describe your yoga teaching style?

I teach from the heart. Whatever life lessons I am currently learning I incorporate into my practice. I use poses that might resemble that theme. I don’t box myself with a certain style a.k.a. vinyasa, yin, hatha… I mix it up. At the end of the day I get students to move and breathe to create healing in the body. After all yoga is used to end suffering and remind us who we are.

3. What is your go-to stress fighting technique?

Anytime I move my body whether its yoga or running… this is my go-to stress fighter. When I can match my body rhythms and my mind rhythms to the same tempo, it creates a steadiness and ease in my life.

4. Describe your perfect day.

My perfect day would begin sitting on my front porch with a cup of warm tea watching and listening to nature. Then some form of yoga or exercise. In the evenings I like to gather with friends or practice my ukulele.

5. Your last meal would be?

I love Pho… it would have to be a bowl of Pho!

 6. Best advice you can give someone else would be?

The body is our wisest tool and it can heal itself from heartburn to heartache.  Stop and listen… the signs and signals it sends us are all we need to heal ourselves. Are you eating the right foods, are you hydrated, are you sleeping enough, are you having fun?  Ask yourself these questions, do your practice, and all will come.

Sharing the light series: Meet INGRID MARTIN

Ingrid Martin and I met in a Gold’s Gym Body Flow class in 2008. Shortly after, she insisted that I get certified to teach Body Flow. She hasn’t stopped talking me into things since. Ingrid has been instrumental on my fitness journey – providing guidance, pushing when I needed to be pushed and providing plenty of opportunities for me to teach. I could not have asked for a better person to be on my team.

Ingrid is the Group Exercise Director for Bethesda Sport and Health. She is certified to teach yoga, weightlifting and spinning – just to name a few. When she is not terrorizing – I mean “motivating” people to be at their best and work a little harder, she is busy taking care of family and friends. I am only one of many people she has encouraged to get into group exercise. Take any one of her classes and you will see why her infectious energy and authenticity can help push you to the next level.

How did you find your way to yoga?

I found my way to yoga thru Body Flow. I began teaching Body Flow at Gold’s Gym and fell in love with it. I wanted to deepen my knowledge base and my own personal practice so I began down the road to complete my 200RYT. I am thrilled to have taken this path, and while I find myself done with the required trainings, I feel that I am just beginning the true journey.

How would you describe your teaching style?

My teaching style is evolving. When I first began teaching I put a lot of emphasis on the strength benefits of yoga. The longer I teach the more the meditation speaks to me so my classes are beginning to move into a more meditative style. I am looking forward to teaching a Restorative class in the near future.

What is your go-to stress fighting technique?

Breathing. I can completely change my mood by focusing on my breath and the rhythm of my breathing. It sounds so silly, but it truly works. The problem is you have to remember to do it when you are stressed.

Describe your perfect day.

Sleeping in late (I love sleep) and then eating a great breakfast. I would spend the rest of the day lounging by the pool reading magazines. I find the noise of the kids in the pool to be comforting and I just love the feeling of being around lots of people but still off to myself. A late afternoon yoga class followed by a wonderful dinner and a bottle of wine with someone that I love and that loves me would be my perfect day.

Your last meal would be?

What a sad thought. I guess I would say a delicious thick steak covered in crispy thin onion rings, with a fresh green salad, and strawberry shortcake with loads of cool-whip for dessert.

Best advice you can give someone else would be?

Listen to your gut.