Melt into your mat in Dara’s Relax and Restore class Wednesday at 7:30. She also teaches yoga philosophy tomorrow (Tuesdays) at 7:30!
Here’s a little more about our darling Dara. And if you’re looking for ways to procrastinate a little more, feel free to peruse her website freeselfyoga.com.
What did you think of yoga after taking your first class?
To be honest, I really can’t remember back that far, as I was in college, and I had snuck into a PE yoga class at University. But I can tell you how I felt after my “rebirth” from panic disorder and how I felt after that first class. I decided I needed more than what I was doing at home, which was watching yoga podcasts from ITunes, and listening to Deepak Chopra mediations, so I went to the local yoga studio, and I signed up for a 3 month pass. I was so afraid to go to a yoga class and have a panic attack. The first class I went to was called restorative yoga. I thought that it had a good name! I walked in and smelled the aroma of chai brewing and incense burning. It immediately gave me a sense of calm. I went into the classroom and had no idea what to expect. The teacher was a nice older lady and she said we would be using props to help us relax into the yoga postures. We stayed in the first pose lying on our backs over a bolster, with some blankets for support under our knees and ankles. It was such an amazing feeling of opening! My chest was open, my breath was flowing and my mind was racing! Even though my body was in a state of physical bliss, I was still so scared to have a panic attack that I prayed I would make it through one posture, and if I did, I would try to make it through the next, until the class was over. I walked out of that classroom that day and could not believe that I had been in a confined space for an hour and 15 minutes, swaddled in blankets, and I DIDN’T HAVE A PANIC ATTACK!!!
What attracted you to Krishnamacharya’s teachings and ultimately lead you to attend the first international teacher training program at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai, India (KHYF.org)?
When I first began to explore the deeper aspects of yoga, i.e. the mind/body/breath connection, I discovered a book at the yoga studio called: The Heart of Yoga by T.K.V. Desikachar. I read the book and began to learn about the subtler aspects of a yoga practice. The 8 limbs, yogic philosophy (The Yoga Sutras), and even some history about his father, Krishnamacharya. I was completely fascinated by the story of Krishnamacharya and how he taught yoga as a healing art and science. Taking the concepts presented in the Yoga Sutras and then using the tools of yoga to create a practice that for each person was completely unique. I felt that it was literally speaking to me. Krishnamacharya’s teachings will never fade as long as there are students who want to sit and learn from this great master. It lives on in all those who he taught and so on and so on, from teacher to student, we keep the tradition alive.
How has your view on yoga changed (if so) from the time you completed your training to now?
Well, I am still learning. Some days I feel like I have no clue what I am doing, but I think all teachers must feel that way at times. My view on yoga has changed over the years, and now I feel more open than I ever have about the study and practice of yoga. I feel that I have learned this openness not only from my teachers, but also from the teachers around me. When I first started practicing, I thought it was all just another form of exercise. I had no concept whatsoever about self-awareness. I had no idea about the breath as an integral part of not only practice but also life itself. I only discovered all of these things after I got sick with panic disorder, and began to seek out methods to try to heal myself. I learned from so many teachers around me that the “guru” is within our own selves, and we do not need to go externally to seek a teacher. The word guru means “that which takes us from darkness to light.” I needed to find the light after being in darkness for so long. The practice of asana gave me the insight to create awareness around my body. I had to modify classical poses to fit my body type, and to allow my breath to be smooth. I could tell in certain postures that when my breathing became shallow, I would begin to feel anxiety. This was because there wasn’t enough room for my breath to be gentle and long and smooth. I didn’t need to “bind” or touch my hands to the ground in asana to feel the benefits of the postures, I could still feel them and breathe easily when I adapted the postures even slightly. This discovery led to body/breath awareness. From that point, my practice changed completely. I realized that even when taking a class from an experienced yoga teacher, I had to find the voice from within to tell the that I modify. Some understood and some didn’t, but either way, the experience only deepened my self-awareness. The ability to listen to the breath is key. You must hear the internal breath in order to practice. This only can come when you listen to the messages of the body. When you feel pain after taking a yoga class, ask yourself why. Pain is the loudest message the body can send. It tells you that you needed to change something in the practice. This openness then leads you to find the teachers that hold this safe space for you to practice in. Sthiram Sukham Asanam, Yoga Sutras, II.46 means that asana should be 100% stable and 100% comfortable. The only way to know if this balance exists is by listening to the breath. This is now how I am aware of whether my students need any modifications. I listen to their breath. I watch their bodies breathing. My view on yoga has changed as my view on my Self has changed.
I love the incorporation of Yoga Nidra in some of your classes. Could you explain what Yoga Nidra is?
I love yoga nidra too! Yoga Nidra literally means “yogic sleep”. Yogic sleep is different than regular sleep. In yogic sleep, we are in the state of mind or consciousness where all the systems go offline, but we still retain awareness.
How has your many trips to India shaped the way in which you teach today?
I can honestly say that the work that is being done at the Mandiram is truly inspiring. It gives me so much hope that the power of yoga can really help people heal. Traveling to India is more than just the study of yoga. For me it is immersing myself in a culture that is ancient and modern, beautiful and harsh all at the same time.
The best part is you can feel the healing happening within every part of yourself, not just the relief in the body and the mind, but even deeper. This is the message that I hope to bring back from India. I want to be able to prescribe to my students a specific practice that will allow them to understand their whole selves and heal from within. I hope to change the paradigm of the “practice” of yoga. Steven says that yoga practice is like a doctor’s practice. I truly believe that we can create a space like the mandiram here in Austin; a place where people can learn the tools for a happier healthier life. Trust in the tools, and then let them become your limbs, extensions of you.
As an Austin native, describe your perfect Austin day.
The perfect Austin day starts with a nice yoga practice in my room by my window. Followed by a trip to Daily Juice for a smoothie and a shot called a “mister resistor”. Then I’m off to the greenbelt where I like to explore private places to swim and chill. Then afterwards going to dinner at Thai Passion, maybe some gelato at Dolce Vita, and then coming home to unwind with my hubby and make some music in our little home recording studio. For me this is a day of meditation everywhere I go.
What do you like most about East Side Yoga
That’s ESY! Steven and Elsa of course! You could take the studio and put it in a trailer and drive around town, and as long as Steven and Elsa are in it, I’m along for the ride. I can honestly say that I have taken many yoga classes around the world, and in no place does it truly feel like home than in that space. The people are what create the place, and I have learned that over time. I realized that no matter how much you try to create a happy yoga space with lamps, crystals, incense and candles, it doesn’t matter if the people who are in the space are not happy people who want to share their happiness with you. This is what makes the difference between other studios and ESY. Happy owners, happy teachers, happy students; it is the perfect mixture. They have created a space where we can feel like no matter what we look like we can practice yoga. No matter what level of experience we have, there is yoga for us. No matter what tradition of yoga we come from, we can practice yoga. It is the openness and non-judgment that make it so special. They welcome all to come to these teachings. There is a class that will have something for each person. They do healing work there. It really is a place that I will always feel is my yoga home.