In Nathalia’s words…
I’ve always been inspired by movement. As a kid, I was a dancer with visions of it guiding my life. But, at age eighteen I was sidelined by a bad knee injury. After surgery I did physical therapy with some success, but I kept thinking there had to be more to healing than just strategic isotonic movements. I thought there should be something more cohesive, something my whole body could do to support and heal my knee. That’s what started my search and how I found yoga.
During my first year of college at UNLV, I enrolled in a yoga class. It was my first real introduction to yoga and I remember being quite inspired by my teacher. When you’re young, you’re looking for a mentor, and she was a total beam of light. Beautiful inside and out, with an aura of freedom. The way she held herself told me she was happy, healthy, and content. And I really liked her style of teaching. She had us journal a lot, which was unique, at least for me. It helped me learn more about who I was and what it was that I was passionate it about.
I continued to take more yoga classes and decided to enroll in a yoga training. I had no idea exactly what I was looking for, but was drawn to a woman who ran a yoga teacher training out of a gym. I didn’t learn much about asana, but I did learn a lot about crystals, energy healing, chanting, music and the spiritual aspects of yoga. After that, I realized there was still so much more about the physical asana that I needed to know, and I wanted to be pushed more physically to deepen my personal practice.
I decided to study with Bryan Kest, who is credited with pioneering the practice of donation based power yoga. His style instilled in me not to be judgmental as a teacher. He taught me about the physical body, how it moves, and how there is no rulebook to yoga. Do what you want, and do what feels good. Poses can be done by an eighty year old or a fifteen year old, it’s just going to look different. It’s all yoga. There is no right or wrong way; yoga is the state of mind we have while doing anything.
This is how I think of meditation, too. I’m a rock climber, and cyclist and for me that is a form of meditation. I have never been more focused than when I am climbing up a route or on a long ride. Yoga, like meditation, can look different for everybody. I tell my students it’s like a buffet. You can choose what poses you want and need for your body on that particular day. Yoga is not a practice about perfection, but rather a practice about getting into the body and exploring. It’s about who you are and what you need. Listen carefully to the experiences you are having and work accordingly. If you have less range of movement, than do less, if something doesn’t feel right, then back off, if something is inappropriate, then skip it. We are constantly changing and so is our practice and the only way to tune into this is to quiet the mind and listen to the body, it is our best teacher.
Afterwards, I began teaching in more locations around Las Vegas, but I wanted more science. The science of how the body moves—the anatomy and biomechanics. This led me to Pilates, which studies how the body moves. I think my interest was driven in part because I pushed myself so hard in my own practice, that the wear and tear was consistently producing a lot of injuries. I wanted to know physically what were optimal movements for a joint that could create ease and strength instead of wearing it down? Was my yoga practice healthy for my body? I know I would not be the yoga instructor I am today without these injuries. These injuries gave me insight, patience, and humbled me to dig deeper into my creativity. They taught me to look at things from a different perspective, to try new things, and most importantly, to relate to a wider variety of people.
After finishing my first Pilates training, I met Sandy, an educator for Polestar Pilates, a rehabilitation Pilates program. Sandy was about to go on maternity leave and wanted someone to run her studio. At the time, I probably wasn’t really ready, but I’m such a challenge oriented person that I knew it would be perfect. So on top of running the studio, I did a year and a half mentorship with her, which led me to a Polestar Pilates Program.
Going through that training helped me to understand movement in the body on a much greater scale. It also changed my yoga for the better. Yoga and Pilates are very different, but in my eyes they go together beautifully. Pilates is about building strength in the intrinsic system of the body; which creates stability, and therefore better mobility. Pilates can create a stronger foundation for people’s yoga practice.
My goal as a yoga teacher is to teach people functional, optimal movements that create ease in the body. I’m so happy to be teaching at Dayaalu. It’s funny because my journey with movement has always been about things just happening or falling into place. Finding Dayaalu is one example. When my husband and I moved to Bainbridge Island, my bike was my only form of transportation. We live in Seattle now, but one day when I was exploring the island, I noticed Dayaalu. I walked in and immediately knew it was a really special spot. I started subbing for teachers, which eventually blossomed into teaching my own classes.
I’ve been teaching at Dayaalu for a year this June and I just love it. Dayaalu is so heart-centered. It focuses on all levels of mind/body/spirit. The thing I notice the most here is there is no judgment. No one is being sized up by yoga teachers, or by the administrative staff, or by other students. Everybody is so welcoming, and that vibe is because of Sue and Jeny. They provide an environment where each person is uplifted and supported; this allows each teacher to follow their specific style and passions.
My passion is deeply rooted in educating, so I tend to teach in a more structured way. I teach anatomy and the alignment of the asanas by breaking them down and giving tactile and imagery cueing to help my students find the pose that feels healthy in their body. All we have is this vessel, our body, that carries a life, and I feel passionate about teaching my students how to live with more comfort.
More than anything, I want people to listen and learn from their bodies. There is no right or wrong way, there is an optimal way, a way that feels healthy, and it may look very different than your fellow yogi and that is okay. I want to excite my students and get them interested in movement. I want to remind them why they are doing what they are doing and let them know they are doing is perfectly if their effort is there. I hope that whoever comes to my class can learn something new about their body. I want people to feel good in their bodies. Learning, practicing and teaching is what I whole-heartedly love. It’s who I am and I believe what I am supposed to be doing here on our earthly world.