The Yogi Next to You


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

Vanity. That’s what brought me to yoga. I really wanted a yoga body – let’s be honest – and I hated the gym. I’m from a small Caribbean island and I’d never even heard the word ‘yoga’ before coming to the US. So, when I decided to go to yoga (with the nudging of an ex-boyfriend) it was quite the task finding a place to practice.

I met Stephanie about eight years ago at a little studio on Atlantic Avenue. I was so nervous my first class. Am I going to make a fool of myself? What if I don’t know what to do? What if I don’t understand the “language” they speak?

Well, Stephanie spoke English, was funny, smart, and made me feel like I knew exactly what I was doing.

I proceeded to follow her around Brooklyn from studio to studio and subsequently met Angela and Christina. I knew once they opened Mala, I was there! I love the family/community of Mala. I’ve made lifelong friends and I got my yoga body.

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

That continues to change. Before the baby. After the baby. Before Lily, I loved backbends.  I sprung into wheel at a moments notice. If the teacher said ‘if you feel you must have a backbend before we end…” Boy, I was in wheel. After the baby – backbends mean bathroom break. The pose I currently love is triangle.

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

My biggest yoga obstacle is me and the chatter in my head. I tend not to listen to my body and want to push it to its limit. I tend to wish injuries away. When I injured my shoulder a couple of years ago I kept thinking, ‘if I ignore this shoulder pain and just keep practicing, it will go away.” I always think of myself as really strong and never leave room in my head for injuries. I recently injured my back and was able to talk myself out of practicing for an entire week, rather than pushing through.  Some would say that I was practicing…ah, progress!

At the moment I hurt my back, I was extremely disappointed in my body. I was so mad. How could such a simple act of throwing my daughter in the air and catching her hurt my back? I’ve practiced yoga for so many years and this is how I get hurt? Then I remembered it’s the same body that held my daughter for 10 months. Strong, changing, growing, and perfect. I started for the yoga butt, but, this is why I continue.

What was the last Dharma talk that resonated with you?

The Dharma talk that always sticks with me was one Angela gave a long time ago. Ange, it’s the one with the snake that didn’t hiss.  It was about ahimsa (non-violence) and how a snake that tortured a small village met a teacher who taught him about non-violence (ahimsa).

A few years after that lesson, the teacher stumbled upon the snake again.  Only this time he looked feeble and ill. When asked what happen, the snake replied, “I’ve been practicing ahimsa while the people abuse me.” The teacher looked at the snake and said, “I told you to practice ahimsa. I never told you to stop hissing”

Love that one. Even as we practice non-violence towards ourselves and others, we still need a discerning mind.

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

Here’s the routine: Get out of Mala, walk to Nectar (where I would run into several other Mala yogis), order an egg wrap. While that is getting made, head to Café Pedlar for a latte. Heaven. It’s an expensive habit…

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

Doug and I honeymooned in Europe two years ago and we visited friends in Alsace. They took us to a farm on a mountain top, overlooking vineyards, and we had THE most delicious meal.  I’d love to practice on that mountain top. Mala retreat anyone?

How has practicing shifted other aspects of your life?

I tell my husband everyday, “the more I get to practice yoga, the nicer I am to you.” I literally feel ready to take on the outside world after a yoga class.

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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One Response to The Yogi Next to You

  1. jim takacs says:

    beautiful story and wonderful to see that Nerissa is still at Mala…i had wondered where she had gone to. Sounds as though life is bringing her much joy, may it continue!

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