Interview – Tatiana Urquiza
Eka pada rajakapotasana, natarajasana. They are almost the same.
The thought manifests as the word
The word manifests as the deed
The deed develops into habit
The habit hardens into character
So watch the thought, the word and its ways with care
And let it spring from love
Born out of the concern for all beings
As the shadow follows the body
As we think and speak so we become
From the Dhammapada, the sayings of Buddha
And also this from Mahatma Gandhi
Be the change you want to see in the world.
They are about the same.
The bliss of Consciousness is attained through expansion of the center.
Pratyabhijna Hrdayam, Tantric text on science of the soul
Style of yoga
I’ve been practicing yoga near over 40 years, before there were styles. My practice includes meditation, pranayama, study of almost all texts, and intense asana. I’ve studied many ‘styles’ and found it’s all yoga.
What brought you to yoga?
Karma and grace.
How was your first experience?
Fantastic. I loved the wooden floor, the scent of incense, the bhav in the room that my teacher set for us.
How did that influence your yoga journey?
It set very high standards for me. I could not afford to be dishonest.
When did you know you wanted to teach?
When the person whom I respected the most, my teacher, Dona Holleman, said I could.
How has your idea around aging been changed by yoga?
I used to think I was limited by my body changing to an older woman, joints, memory, etc. And my skin was getting wrinkly. Happily, through my practice, I ‘m experiencing that discrimination, acceptance, what’s called wisdom, has shown me that I’m full and fulfilled in a way that I was never as a young woman. I’d like to have my skin less wrinkly, but I’m happy in it.
How has your personal practice evolved?
It certainly started off about the postures. The more demanding the posture, the more I strived to possess it. So, I was very strong physically in general and could do almost all the asanas. But it wasn’t coming from a mind of softness and fullness all the time. I had to study texts and scriptures to remember not to be so hard, or my asana became rigid and brittle. As the grace descended over me during all those years, I grasped the understanding that it is about my heart. And the heart is the center of everything. And it was an understanding that I was the only one who could let go of things, thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, that did not foster growth. Again, it was discrimination and it came from meditation. So, funny enough, the postures are more available to me now. I still can’t do them like the youngsters. But I have a beautiful and full time practicing. And because of the evolution of this practice, I can say, I am a better person.
What events in your life have yoga helped you make it through? Can you explain why?
The events of life — being a companion, wife, mother and support to those in need. Life challenges you to live it well. So how do you handle the challenges in a way that is beneficial to you, and those around you? Especially those you love. Are your choices creating a compassionate and fertile place to be the best you can be, and set the ground to nurture the world around you?
Has your path to teach yoga always been clear?
No. I was lucky enough to be in the presence of such an extraordinary teacher and friend, Dona Holleman. Growing is not always easeful. She held a light for me in a time of dark. And she taught me how to practice. The rest was up to me. Later I just held the conviction that I could and should share this light with those in need.
Do you experience limitations? In asana? In your spiritual practice…Explain?
At my age, my body has changed. Inflexibility of body and mind has always been my challenge. Meditation and asana have sculpted me to be as present as possible, self-accepting as I am currently able with these resources. But it doesn’t mean I don’t lust after a pose like natarajasana, gandha bherundasana. I still practice those poses, whether I can do them perfectly or not. I experience the physical limitations of tighter hips, and hamstrings not as long as I might like…. In my spiritual practice I wrestle every day with what I know is a healthy, loving way to live, and my own vicissitudes, where I judge and criticize myself. On the positive side I try not to delude or defeat myself. If aware, those challenges are what lead us towards growth, and acceptance, of what is. I am 100% responsible for the choices I make and who I am. So the limitation is always what we perceive it to be, what we allow it to be.
What no longer inhibits you?
Fear. Ignorance. I mean I have a healthy understanding of fear. But it doesn’t originate from such a limited ego form.
I am finding that women after 40 today feel like life was over. They are lost and confused single or married or divorced they feel like their purpose is unknown and that they aren’t sure how to bring meaning to their life after so and so or blah blah. How would yoga help?
It centers you. Hatha Yoga is about the body, both subtle and gross. Hatha Yoga develops and recognizes the body, mind, emotions – all experience – as divine. We, humans, are a contracted, limited form of the Divine, which means even in our limitation, we hold the fullness of the Divine, and can therefore expand back into that original form. The practice of yoga creates expansion in all parts of us, which allows the mind (also limited), and body, to recognize its own divinity. The practice of yoga, meditation, awareness, brings you face to face with who and what you are, cultivating clear perception, love and light. It challenges you to step up and gives you the opportunity to choose to be the best you can be.
Its true, as women, we are expected to look and act a certain way, perhaps be sexual, have careers, marry, bear and raise children. In our limitation, as we get older, it seems things aren’t quite as exciting as when we were running around, being led by our hormones, egos, and ambitions. Yet, this is the time to cultivate wisdom and strength. And we do this when we move inward toward the spirit. Life is just beginning!!
What would you say to these women who are too intimidated to try?
What do you do in your class room to make them feel empowered and comfortable? Forget about the postures. Let’s expand the center, and the mind. Let’s become more sensitive and listen to what the body has to say. Who are you? Practice teaches self-acceptance. That’s comfortable. It teaches we create ourselves, our world. That’s empowering. You can accomplish, be, live, whatever you place in your heart. Shraddha. I try to set the example, to hold the light, hold the space, and invite them inward.
How does your style of teaching in your opinion draw that focus for women and all yogis?
I try to focus on self-awareness.
Are you who you want to be, and if you aren’t, what do you need to do to be that. How much do you want it?
I emphasize self-love and self-acceptance, because from here, all else flows.
What would you tell the many women studying to be teachers about a career path as a yoga teacher?
You must walk the walk. It’s hard to pay the rent on that salary. And it’s a noble path.
What does it mean to be a yogi to you?
It means I don’t make a lot of money. I can go to work barefoot and lie on the floor. It means there is no one but me responsible for my life.
How do you live your yoga? Morning rituals, diet, meditation?
I try to be fair, honest and kind from the moment I swing my legs over the side of the bed every morning. And when I’m not, I try not to beat myself up. I have a caffe latte while I do my simple yoga movements to open my hips. Then I get my house tidy and do what I have to do to keep my family and home safe and nurtured, and nurturing. Between my duties to home, family and teaching, I practice more intense asana. Then I sit in the garden and hope I got it right. Right looks like harmony in my body and my relationships.
What is sacred mean to you?
Sacred is what we hold to be true, clear and right. Life, and everything in it, is sacred.
What are three of the most important postures for women over 40?
Tough and interesting question. I will say three postures that can be modified to suit either a fit or not so fit person. Down dog – for lengthening and strengthening the spine as well as opening the shoulders and hips (modified done with hands on wall or table). Up dog – for same reasons, as well as opening the heart (modified can be done with hands on wall, table, or in chair); and pigeon pose – a hip opener, and depending on the position, strengthens back muscles (modified done standing with leg on table, or lying down, one leg bent, foot on floor, second leg bent and externally rotated with ankle on opposite leg (hard to explain this one!! Have to show it)),
What is your favorite restorative?
Sleeping 9 hours.
Who has influenced your journey…ie teachers?
To these teachers, I will ever be grateful: Eric Small, Dona Holleman, Mukunda Stiles, John Friend, and Sally Kempton.
What’s the best part about being a mature woman who does yoga?
Everybody says you look great! And I just feel fantastic and oh so very grateful.