Tell us a little bit about yourself :)
Hi, I'm Katya - a woman passionate about watching sunsets. I'm lucky to have seen them in many different parts of our planet. Currently I get to watch them in Brooklyn, New York. But just a couple weeks ago I was still watching them on a tropical island in Thailand, where I studied and taught yoga, made dark raw vegan organic chocolate for my brand @pyramidchocolate, and explored the exciting world of exotic fruit.
Rewind roughly 15 years and I'm watching sunsets in a city in Siberia - the cold part of the planet, which brings the warmest memories of my childhood and my beloved family.
How did you get introduced to yoga and when did yoga get serious?
Having started practicing yoga in California some years ago, I have looked at it mainly as a physical excercise for strength and flexibility, with elements of relaxation. This is definitely appealing at first, and addicting after some initial success with poses.
When I finally decided to take my practice to the next level and become a yoga instructor, I was met with a transformative experience, which is when it gets more serious. Learning... or rather (UN)learning things about yoga, meditation, breathing, The Self and Us has been a humbling and continuous process ever since.
I am constantly reminded of the fact that being a student, being truly open to accepting what we don't know, is essential to learning, growing and being truly alive.
Can you share your biggest challenges ?
Biggest challenges are often to do with pain. Only through pain we come to pleasure. And ironically vice versa. Some of my biggest challenges in yoga practice were closely connected with the fear of physical and emotional pain. I clearly remember sitting in a half lotus pose for an hour, feeling excruciating numbing needles in my legs, fearing that my legs will be forever numb, the tissues will die off without blood and oxygen flowing to them, or something else crazy will happen to my legs.
I laugh at myself looking back to that week of pain, but it was a serious concern in my mind. The mind, that tried to play tricks on me. I feared, I cried, I asked silly questions, I looked for answers and day in and day out I meditated on my pain. And then one day, when I gave up trying, the pain was gone. I sat through the whole hour without even thinking about my legs, blissed out in a peaceful and quiet meditation.
There was no trick to it, I didn't DO anything to overcome my pain, I just let it happen because I had to at that point of my life, and because I was ready. So you won't find a recipe for overcoming challenges here - it just happens, or it doesn't. You can't control it. You don't need to control it.
How do you handle pressure and where do you find your motivation?
Pressure might be helpful at times, when I'm preparing to teach a class, I'm under pressure to create one practice for different levels, bodies with different abilities and minds with different backgrounds. I could let this pressure stress me out, or I could turn it into excitement.
It's my choice. When I practice as a student, I can put myself under pressure of comparing myself to my peers and performing on their level or above. Or I can chose to turn it into motivation. It is again my choice. Pressure is fine when you can control its intensity.
What was your most embarrassing moment (in regards to yoga, of course) ?
There were plenty of embarrassing moments in the sense of opening up my feelings to a lot of people I barely knew, due to the demanding nature of intense training. Emotionally it's even harder to balance than physically sometimes, so I cried during practice on my mat numerous times, feeling like I was stripped of all my dignity and not being able to balance my emotions.
But through these embarrassing moments, you actually open up and bond with people, because you show them your heart and they have the chance to show you that they can hold it up and support you. Wait... Would you rather hear about that one time I showed up to class in really short yoga shorts because everything else was in the laundry and the teacher picked me to be the model in front of the whole class for explaining the alignments on Downward Dog? Umm...
How did yoga influence your life in other ways?
Every day of practice is a continuous learning that keeps on transforming my life by bringing insights and realizations about my self and relationships with others. I have experienced lots of benefits of yoga from improved health and flexibility of body to calmer and more flexible mind.
What does your typical day look like?
I try to practice 5 days a week and give myself time to rest in between. It's essential for me to rest at least a day or two in a week, and I always feel like my practice improves after a day of rest. I refill my batteries and go into practice fresh and motivated.
What are your future plans/goals/dreams?
I like to keep my goals and plans in a special diary, where I tick the fulfilled ones off and write some new ones once in a while. It's important to dream, and then look back and see what dreams actually became your reality. I'll be working hard on my plans and dreams in the next years, so hopefully you will hear more from me in the near future.
Any tips for passionate people who are starting to practice yoga now?
Everyone has their own journey and I wouldn't change anything in mine, because all parts of it are essential. However, I will say this: look for reasons to be grateful. It will help you make your choices out of love and not out of fear.
Anything you’d like to share?
I share some insights from my life and travels along with some recipes and beautiful sunsets on my instagram @katyaguseva