The Yogi Next to You


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

I started yoga in college. I was an undergrad at UCLA in the World Arts and Cultures Department, which had recently combined with the Dance Department. Anyway, Shiva Rae was getting her masters at the same time. She started offering yoga classes to the students. Our first class was in January 1996. I took two semesters and then left for a year of study abroad in India (where I didn’t practice any yoga!). I’ve been practicing off and on since then.

I came to Mala in March of 2009. I was looking for a local studio close to where I live. I took my first class with Angela on a Friday afternoon, a basics class. Been here ever since.

What pose do you want to do all day?

I love Ardha Chandrasana, Ajanasana, Ustrasana- all the heart openers (well, Full Wheel and I do a constant dance of pleasure and pain). There’s something about opening your heart to the universe, to spirit and saying, “here I am, I’m yours.”

What pose could you never do again?

Ha, this is easy (unlike the pose), Adho Mukha Vrakasana or handstand! For years, I’ve had what I call, “an aversion to inversions”! I was finally able to do headstand about a year and a half ago with Steph’s support, and I even like forearm stand, but handstand just scares the s—t out of me. I think it may have to do with not thinking that my hands can support the rest of me. I know it’s deeper than that, but let’s just stop there. I am coming to terms with the fact that I may never do handstand on my own and I’m fine with that (in this moment at least.)

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

I’m going to say my health, but even that I’m not sure about. I had two major illnesses in 2008 and continue to deal with the side effects of them daily. As a result, I’ve had joint and strength issues. I’m on a new treatment now, but it’s hard to know whether it’s my body or me not practicing enough when I can’t do a certain pose. Such an overachiever! Some days, it’s just easier to accept where I’m at, and others, not so much.

What was the last Dharma talk that resonated with you?

This sounds bad, but I’m often finishing up a sign-in when class starts and my mind isn’t settled when the dharma talk starts, so I only take part of it in. But the other day, Angela read a quote that I think I remember, “Great love and great achievement requires great risk.” I think that’s it. Guess I remember more than I think 😉 And of course, the pink washcloths and Elmo story from Steph – that was a good one.

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

One Girl Cookies. It’s like “Cheers” for me, where everyone knows your name. I don’t suggest eating a cupcake right after a yoga class though. You think you’ve earned it, but the body knows better!

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

That would be India of course. I can’t believe I didn’t when I was there in 1996/1997, but I did take a Vipassana meditation retreat and that was enough. Besides, just living in India was “yoga” enough; you’re surrounded by life, death, spirituality, prayer, compassion, and the edge – it was like being in a very long handstand!

How has practicing shifted other aspects of your life?

I remember when I started practicing again in 2007.  It had been three or four years since I’d been on a mat. I was taking a long break in the afternoon and going around the corner to take hour-long classes at Laughing Lotus.

After the first two classes or so, I recall telling a friend that “I can’t not practice anymore.” The effects of returning to the mat were that profound. I still feel that way. It’s like meditating, at the time, the mind can be all over the place and it feels fruitless, but at some point later in the day, you’ll take a long exhale; or remember a quote Angela said; or how you were able to do forearm stand with directions Christina gave that morning that allowed you to invert with ease; or how Steph made a funny joke that created an ease in your practice and for that moment, even just that moment, all is right in your little world. Just as it should be.

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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