Meet RACHEL SCHNOLL!
I dabbled in yoga classes occasionally in my 20’s and early 30’s, but didn’t start a regular practice until about five years ago. For a period of time I was working only four days a week, so I decided to take a yoga class on my day off. Yoga Lab on Atlantic Avenue was around the corner from my house and so I went there. A few months later, Yoga Lab closed and I started taking classes at Yoga People in Brooklyn Heights.
At Yoga People I found a teacher who taught Vinyasa classes using an Ashtanga discipline. I responded to the physical aspect of the practice and the repetitive nature of the poses. My practice blossomed and I became hooked on yoga—whenever I had some free time that wasn’t filled with work or family obligations I was looking for a yoga class. My practice continued to grow and eventually I worked up to a Mysore Ashtanga practice.
At the end of 2009/beginning of 2010 I heard about Mala. It was closer to my house than Yoga People so I decided to give it a try. Angela and Steph’s classes were very different than the more traditional practice I was used to but I loved the community feeling at Mala. I knew a lot of the people in class and I began to make more yoga friends. I started to feel that the more alignment based practice taught at Mala was a nice compliment to what I did in the other classes that I took. Not long after I started at Mala, I got injured. At that time I decided all the vinyasas Ashtanga yoga required were not doing my body any favors and Mala became my yoga home.
What pose do you want to do all day? What pose could you never do again?
I’m blessed with a lot of hamstring flexibility and upper body strength so I love all forward bends and most arm balances. I also really like rotated triangle because it incorporates a forward bend and a twist.
For all of my lower body flexibility, I have virtually no flexibility in my back. Camel is a huge challenge for me; it really crunches my lower back and is quite painful. I’ve worked very, very hard at full wheel and getting it out of my lower back. While I still don’t love it, I do like how my body feels when I’m done.
What are your biggest yoga obstacles and how do you overcome them?
At this stage in my practice I’m less focused on getting into poses and more focused on subtle parts of my practice such as breathing, alignment, and bandhas. I’ve found that poses I used to think were easy and that I “loved” such as Warrior 2 or Shoulder Stand have become incredibly challenging to me.
I also used to have an amazing headstand practice. I was one of those people who couldn’t wait for the teacher to say, “Headstand in the center of the room.” About six months ago I lost my headstand. Every time I go up, I fall forward. Lindsay helped me focus on tucking in my tail bone. That helps sometimes, but most of the time I just can’t do it. It’s a practice in itself to be brave enough to try and accept that I will most likely fail at something I used to enjoy. I hope that with continued effort I will find my headstand again, but even if I don’t it’s has been good to embrace my limitations and try other poses such as shoulder stand, forward bends or something restorative at the end of a practice.
What was the last Dharma talk that resonated with you?
A teaching that really resonated with me came from not from a yoga studio but from another spiritual teacher, my rabbi. He was talking about Jewish ritual and was discussing the Hebrew words, Keva and Kevanah. Keva means fixed, the things that we are supposed to do. Kevanah means to do something with feeling.
My first few years of yoga practice were about getting my body into poses. Now with the help of my teachers at Mala I feel like I am finding the Kevanah the feeling and emotion that is unleashed with a regular study of yoga. I also try to approach other aspects of my life with more presence and feeling than I used to before I had a yoga practice. Of course I am not always successful, but I do try to be mindful of these learnings.
Where is your favorite place to get coffee, or a drink post yoga?
I wish I had time to get a coffee post yoga, but I’m usually running home to my husband and kids.
If you could practice yoga anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I really like practicing right here at Mala. My wish is that I could practice MORE. With three kids and a demanding full time job I am pretty much limited to practicing on the weekends. I’ve tried to start a home practice on the weekdays before everyone else in my family wakes up, but I’ve found it is hard to wake up at 5:45am to do that. I’m hoping that as it starts to get light earlier again I will find it easier to wake up. It was a really great way to start my day.
How has practicing shifted other aspects of your life?
I started doing yoga for the physical benefits. What has surprised me is how it has affected me in so many other ways. It’s awakened my compassionate side. I try to think more about how my actions influence others. Whether I am playing with my kids or working on a spreadsheet, I am mindful about being present and focusing on that activity, rather than getting distracted. I also find that if I can practice three or more times a week, I eat healthier!
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.