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Getting started with yoga: An Interview with Nathalie Croix of LIFE Yoga

Posted by Megan Hargroder

My decision to live a healthier lifestyle very naturally led to me reading more about yoga. What sets yoga apart from some other forms of fitness is that it is not only a physical but also a mental and spiritual health practice.

The beginning of my yoga journey was a consultation with LIFE Yoga Director, Nathalie Croix. This is something that anyone who is considering doing yoga can schedule. We talked about what my personal goals were, different types of yoga and class series that I could start with.

The main thing that I am understanding is that everyone’s yoga journey is different and that it is a constant learning experience.

I was really excited to get the chance to interview Nathalie, who is now my instructor, about her experiences as well as some general questions that I had; and I’m really excited to share this with all of you:

M:How long have you been practicing yoga and what made you decide to start?

Nathalie Croix: I have been practicing yoga regularly for the past eleven years and before that I had tried yoga a few times, but I was only experimenting. I had been a dancer since I was a child, on my late teens I was already performing professionally and one of our dance teachers was really into yoga practice so he introduced me to asana practice which is the physical practice of yoga. However I began studying meditation and yoga philosophy when I was very young. My aunt was a devotee of Gurumayi and my first visit to an ashram I was nine years old. I grew up frequently visiting the Hare Krishna Temples to learn more about Indian culture and philosophy. So I guess the whole process was very organic for me.

Although I continuously study and have a profound respect for ancient yoga traditions, culture and philosophy, my teachings are very non-dogmatic.

M:What are some physical, mental and spiritual benefits of yoga that many people may not be aware of?

Nathalie Croix:Yoga works on you on a very subtle and deep level. It changes you to your deep core. It is not something however that will happen over night. It is an organic process. You have to stick to the practice for a while, so in the beginning the practitioner need lot’s of effort and patience, but if you do that than it transforms your life, your way of thinking and therefore it certainly changes you physically and mentally. After the change happens than it becomes easy to be a yoga practitioner, at this point it’s actually hard not to practice yoga because it’s a life style, a part of who you are. Honestly it’s hard for me to talk about yoga because it’s one of those phenomenons you need to experience in order to fully understand. On a most obvious plane yoga releases stress, improves health, fastens your metabolism, helps you stay focused, increases flexibility, strength and balance. These are only a few of the many benefits. On a deeper level I believe it improves your relationships with people around you because you become more aware. It helps you calm the mind and move into the inner essence of being. This is a very powerful practice and you can take it as light or as deep as you want, that’s the beauty of it.

Yoga is about peace. Peace with others, peace in the world and peace within yourself.

M:I know that there are many different types of yoga – can you tell us about three in particular that Life Yoga offers?

Nathalie Croix: There are so many different types of yoga out there. Even though they are all taught in different methods they all lead to the same ends results because it’s all just yoga but there are different ways to get there and a person should practice whatever style resonates with you better. At Life Yoga we have many different styles, some are Ashtanga Yoga, Vinyasa Flow, Jivamukti Yoga, Kundalini Yoga and Anusara Yoga. Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a traditional yoga practice which began in a city called Mysore in South India. Ashtanga is a dynamic vinyasa practice it links movement to breath in a constant flow creating body heat. The postures and sequence are always the same. You use your breath and your gaze (dristi) to steady the mind and the practice eventually becomes a moving meditation. Vinyasa Flow has it’s roots in Ashtanga Yoga, but does not use the six series of postures specific to the Mysore Ashtanga Yoga as taught by Sri K Pattabhi Jois. A difference from Vinyasa Flow to Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is, that the “asanas” (yoga postures) can be arranged into different sequences that can meet the practitioner’s need or mood.

There is also Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali, Yoga Sutras, this is the core teachings of all yogas, the essence of yoga philosophy and there are eight limbs; Yamas(your attitude towards others and the world around you), Niyamas(how you treat yourself or your attitude towards yourself), Asana (physical poses), Pranayama (breathing exercises), Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), Dharana (concentration/focus), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (enlightenment).

I do not teach the other styles of yoga so my knowledge is limited. Is best if I don’t attempt to explain.

M:How do I know which yoga is right for me; is there any particular discovery process that you suggest?

Nathalie Croix: This is a very good question. The best thing to do is to first research, read about the many different styles out there. Second, find local studios in your area. Try many different styles, experiment and see what feels right for you. Once you find classes, try and read teachers bios it is always very interesting to find out the yoga journey each teacher has taken. But don’t fool yourself with fancy bios either. Ultimately you will know if you like the style/teacher once you attend the yoga class. Listen to yourself, are you enjoying the experience? how does it feel? Be patient. It is important to find a good teacher so he or she can guide you in this process. After you’ve tried different classes and you know what works for you than stick to it. Stay on that path for a while and you will see beautiful transformation, relax and have fun in the process.

M:How has yoga changed your life?

Nathalie Croix: It has changed my life in so many ways and it continues to do so every day because we are always growing, it never stops, and yoga makes this really clear. Through yoga I found contentment. It’s a wonderful thing to accept who you are on any given day and be okay with it whether things are going extremely well or very bad. Yoga helps you remain steady. I guess I could say I don’t react to things as much as I did years ago. It helps me practice the laws of equanimity. It helps me stay centered and present in the moment.

It helps me accept things the way they are and make the best out of it.

Each person has their own path of self discovery so I believe it can be different for everyone, but remember you don’t always get what you want, but you might just get what you need.