The Yogi Next to You


The Yogi Next to You - Alejandro ZaballeroWhat’s your yoga story? How did you find Mala?

I took my first yoga class at (lord, such a cliche) the urging of an ex-girlfriend. She was practicing yoga and wanted me to “do yoga” because I was very stressed from an insane (though fulfilling) work life. I resisted the idea for months. Fought it tooth and nail. I was a total gym rat at the time. I thought yoga was utter complete hippy-dippy-crunchy-granola-froo-fra, but of course the women in a man’s life have super special persuasive powers. So I walked into my first class at Jivamukti Yoga ten years ago and well that was that. Much else has changed. The practice has remained.

I found Mala two and a half years ago when my wife and I moved to Boerum Hill from Manhattan. My wife was pregnant with our son and we needed a kid friendly neighborhood. I really wanted to find a yoga studio close to our new home so after some online research I went studio shopping, trying out each studio in the neighborhood in turn. Mala had almost no web presence at the time so I had very little sense of what the style of teaching was or what the studio was like.

The very first class I ever took at Mala was Angela’s Saturday morning class. I remember thinking that it was quite different from what I considered my home style of yoga but that there was much to learn from these teachers. Clearly that was the case and here I am still learning.

What pose do you want to do all day? What pose could you never do again?

I could do candlestick pose all day long.  This is the variation of shoulder stand where you’re balanced only on your shoulders and back of the head with your arms in the air, parallel to your body. When the spine is aligned just so and everything is moving upwards it becomes almost effortless, completely devotional. Blissy.

The pose that I could never do again because it’s just tough for me anatomically is (no surprise for a guy) hanumanasana. But this is the pose I also love most precisely because I get to work on my aversions and attachments in it. And, man, do those aversions come up. Because this pose can be so effortful for me it is by the same token also completely devotional.

What are your biggest yoga obstacles and how do you overcome them?

My biggest obstacle is ego. I’m continually wrestling with my ego on the mat in the form of pride, self-absorption, and competitiveness. I try to overcome these afflictions by constantly reminding myself that the practice is a constant blessing that only comes through my teachers and I try to cultivate humility in each pose. Sometimes I’ll take a child’s pose during the class simply to get regrounded in that sense of gratitude and humility.

What was the last Dharma talk that resonated with you?

This is not from a dharma talk per se but from a meditation, or rather from a preparatory sequence in Tibetan Buddhism called the preliminaries to meditation. As a part of the meditation you bring your teacher to mind and ask them to stay and to continue teaching you because it is so possible to lose your teacher, for your teacher to leave. I think it’s a beautiful thing to do. It’s important to remember that our teachers are precious, that we have to work to keep them in our lives and giving us their time, energy and hard earned teachings.

Where is your favorite place to get coffee or a drink post-yoga?

On our stoop with my little son, sharing a bottle of juice. He tends to hog the juice.

If you could practice yoga anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I’ve practiced yoga in warm, beautiful, exotic places; in super slick, high end yoga studios; and in the classes of celebrated/celebrity teachers. Nothing compares with practicing at the feet of my own teacher. If I could practice anywhere in the world it would be with my teacher. Cornball but true.

How has practicing shifted other aspects of your life?

Whoof, what a question. So tough to answer. I know that the practice has been instrumental in my life over the past decade, guiding my actions and changing how I move through the world. At some point practicing became inextricable/indistinguishable from living. That probably qualifies as a pretty big shift right there.

We’re thrilled to bring you the stories of Mala yogis in their own words.  Maybe you know them, maybe you’ve never seen them before, maybe they look familiar, maybe you once knew their name, but forgot.  Whatever the case may be, here is the chance to learn a little more about the person practicing on the mat next to you.  Click here to read about other yogis.


About The Mala Yoga Blog

We are a Brooklyn-based studio that focuses on alignment, balance and community. Have a read, try one of our Practice Podcasts, or come in and say "hi" in person!
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