[dropcap]The first Yogi of The Month Krisna Zawaduk is a lifelong yogi and world class yoga instructor here in Kelowna. Krisna is an inspiration as she truly lives her yoga, she is not interested in the name brands on your clothes or the crazy positions you can get your body into, but instead welcomes everyone to journey into themselves to see what they can discover and how they can grow.[/dropcap]
1.What does yoga mean to you?
This is a huge question. There are the definitions of Yoga given in the scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras etc, and I wholeheartedly agree with each one. Yoga is a process as well as a way of being. For me Yoga is discipline and surrender. It is opening oneself to grace through constant self-observation, devotion, and service. It demands that we face our fears and the unsavory aspects of personality and behavior. It is a process of “unconditioning” ourselves. Yoga is awareness and energy management. And, it is “just this”. Perhaps I am sounding a bit vague, but that is because of the enormity of the subject, Yoga is imbued with so much meaning. There are so many levels to it, so many practices have been given, there is so much to explore. There are so many doors you can take to open inwards, and once you have glimpsed that crystal clear vision of your true and divine essence, you can have a fearlessly intimate and unfettered relationship with life, not to mention a realistic view of death and beyond.
2. When did you start yoga and how did that come to be?
Sometimes I think I started yoga as a child. In my bed at night I would be doing asanas and contorting myself when Icouldn’t sleep. I began investigating spirituality in my early teen years and would spend hours quietly studying and experimenting with meditation and whatnot. I started a disciplined practice in 1996, the year after my daughter was born. I somehow intuited that I had to get myself to yoga classes, and an opportunity came through a friend. She invited me to come along to a class which was held at Margaret Lunam’s studio up on Clifton road. I took classes from Barbara Young who now lives in Ottawa. I was hooked from my very first class and it became the one thing that I looked forward to every week. As I could not afford to take more than one class a week I very quickly started to develop a home practice. I got a copy of Light on Yoga and Iyengar taught me at home.
3. Where and with whom did you study with?
I continue to study. Over the years I have studied with many national and international senior Iyengar teachers. I have been so blessed to be able to study directly with the Iyengars in Pune, India and will return for a third time this December. I have also studied with Geeta Iyengar here in Canada on a couple of occasions.
4. What kept you coming back to the mat and has that changed over time?
In the beginning, I felt great after class, so peaceful, it was a different state of mind than usual. I also felt physically invigorated—like being washed inside. I felt also that there was some kind of internal shift happening. I guess that initial “good feeling” is still part of the reason I come back to the mat. Yoga practices give clarity of mind and emotional stability and I know I need this. If I miss a day of asana and pranayama, I usually don’t miss it in my body, but my mental state suffers. When I started, I found the practices to be very physically challenging and very comprehensive, no part was left untouched. As my practice has deepened, I appreciate the development of my body’s intelligence and the synergy of body and mind.
5. What does yoga bring to your life?
Yoga has brought a fullness to my life.
6. How has your practice evolved?
My practice has become quieter, more inward. I am more sensitive and less reactive. I have a greater ability now to discriminate and so I can better read what the body and mind’s needs are. When I first started, I thought I knew what I needed, what I was capable of and what my limitations were. But through the years of practice, I see that I was really quite deluded then. We “think” we know; we practice from our ego. Anyway, I do feel that I have improved in those areas and that I have more access to the deeper, more subtle layers of my being. Lots of work to do yet though. And that actually excites me: that I still have a lot of work to do. I would say that the work I do on the mat/off the mat is seamless. It is not like I can turn on the yoga and turn off the yoga. All of my interactions with people are yoga, how I manage the household is yoga, driving my car is also yoga. I am applying yogic principles to everything I can. Like I said, I realise I have a lot of work to do, so I try to work on it all day long.
7. How might you and/or your life be different if you hadn’t found Yoga?
It is downright frightening to think of how my life would be without yoga. However, it is really an unanswerable question because I feel I have always been pulled in this direction. I might have been a caterer, production manager, doctor or an English teacher, who knows. I think I would be more scattered, deluded, fearful, cramped, contracted, and wasteful without Yoga.
8. What is your “can’t do without” favorite pose?
I will have to say inversions. Yes, that’s more than one pose, but that’s my answer.
9.Tell us about an asana you struggle with!!
I try not to struggle with any asana. That brings to mind a kind of conqueror mentality. Certainly there are asanas that are more challenging for me. I have short, thick legs so the asanas that require extreme foldability of the legs are difficult. Mulabandhasana, for example, not sure of I will get there in this lifetime. However, I can work on the elements of this pose, so that is a way I can embrace it rather than struggle with it.
10. You inspire so many, who inspires you?
Lalitha, Pema Chodron, Ajahn Sona, Swami Radha, Ram Dass, Swami Vivekanada, the Buddha, Tenzin Palmo are inspiring people; they are examples of living up to your full human potential. Guruji BKS Iyengar is also awe-inspiring. He has touched millions of lives through his teaching and his teacher’s teaching. He has made yoga accessible to everyone. When I read his work, hear him speak or watch him practice, I am just blown away by his depth of understanding. He has penetrated all the layers of his being. All of these people are inspiring because they have become of service to others, they have come to understand the nature of their minds, and have elucidated the teachings in order to elevate others. I must say also, that my students are tremendously inspiring. They come to class with such sincerity, courage and willingness to learn and that constantly delights me.
11. What tips can you offer beginning students for a safe practice?
Don’t be in a hurry to “achieve” something. Use common sense. First, find a good teacher. I should say a good “live” teacher. So many people use apps or DVDs which you cannot get any feedback from. Investigate, ask questions. The guidance you get in class is invaluable for developing your own practice at home. You need to have your practice audited by a teacher regularly to ensure that you are practicing safely and addressing the areas that need to be addressed.
12. How about guidance for beginning teachers?
Be a student. I think a lot of people enter teacher training too early. You need a certain level of maturity in your practice before you start teaching, otherwise you have very little to offer. Once you have taken some kind of teacher training, don’t think that you are done. You can never rest on your laurels. You have to continue learning or your teaching will stagnate.
13. What few steps do you think a yogi can take today to tremendously improve their practice?
You have to make a regular, consistent, focused and devoted effort. You have to take steps not just today but every day to improve your practice. You have to do some work on yourself, not just your body. Open yourself to all that yoga has to
offer. I feel this word “yogi” is often used inappropriately. If you take yoga classes and drink green smoothies, suddenly you are a yogi or a yogini. People are taking the classes as a fitness regime and yet not applying the yogic principles or ethical disciplines to their lives. Asana is taken in isolation, out of its original context. That’s all fine, if that’s all you want from it, but don’t call yourself a yogi. I remember being called a “yoga enthusiast” in India. In their culture, a yogi is someone who is wholly committed to God-realization, liberation- nothing casual about their lifestyle or direction.
14. Where are you teaching now and how can we find out more about you?
I teach 8-9 classes a week, and occasional workshops at the Kelowna Yoga House which is at 1272 St. Paul Street, Kelowna. My contact details can be found at www.kelownayogahouse.org. You can also find me on Facebook, although I don’t post regularly.
Krisna always knew that she had to try this “thing called yoga”. She feels that the name given to her by her parents was a signpost pointing to her path; since she first stepped onto the mat in 1996, door after door opened, leading her into the field of teaching. Ever a student herself, she regularly attends workshops and training sessions with Canadian and International Iyengar teachers. Krisna has been to India twice to study with the Iyengars at the RIMYI in Pune (2006 and 2009) and will be returning for a third time in December 2012. She feels blessed to be doing what she loves, and enjoys sharing her insights and enthusiasm with others. Her classes are strong and empowering as she encourages each student to investigate the path in their own genuine and authentic way. Krisna is an Iyengar certified teacher at the Junior Intermediate 2 level.