The Yogi Next to You


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

Yoga came into my life at a very early age. I must have been about 7 or 8 when my grandparents started going to Kripalu and bringing yoga cassettes (!) back with them to use at home.  They taught me a few basic poses and I have fond memories of “practicing” with them at their home in the Berkshires.

I took a few classes here and there through college, but yoga didn’t really stick until I went to Architecture school. I went to a couple of classes a week that were not only beneficial to me physically, but the sheer act of just getting on my bike and heading downtown and out of the studio and into a different headspace for a couple of hours was profoundly refreshing and probably essential to maintaining my sanity.

I found Mala pretty much at the beginning. I had practiced with Steph, Angela, and Christina in the years prior to Mala, and then at different studios that were convenient to work or home at the time, but I’ve been mostly at Mala since moving to Amity Street about 3 years ago. I feel so at home practicing here, and I love every class I take here.  While each instructor has their own unique approach, there is always a balanced mind-body practice that I find so valuable.

I also have such a profound appreciation for the dedication Mala has to learning, especially when it comes to anatomy and physiology. I really trust every one of the instructors at Mala, which is important when I find myself all twisted up like a pretzel, pushing through a difficult pose.

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

There are so many poses I love for different reasons! I love the openness and grace of a Half-Moon, I have always loved hip-openers like Pigeon or anything that stretches the psoas. I love Triangle because of how it challenges me. I am always learning something new in triangle.  I also love a good assisted Downward Dog. Angela once tractioned me up onto a doorknob with straps and had me do a Downward Dog I could have stayed in for hours.

On the flip side, I absolutely loathe Crow. I have never been able to do it, and I’m not even intrigued by the challenge of it. I do still try it, but if it disappeared from yoga, I would toast its departure.

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

My yoga obstacles are two-fold. My physical obstacle would be my wonky spine. I have scoliosis, kyphosis, and rotated vertebrae that not only make some poses quite difficult, but they actually end up confusing me. Basically, sometimes what feels symmetrical and balanced to me is actually not, so I have to make a whole series of extra adjustments in each pose to make sure I’m not just strengthening the bad muscle memory I already have around my spine.

My spiritual obstacle would be my wandering mind. I find it profoundly difficult to pause everything else and commit to 90 minutes on the mat. It’s a constant struggle and it’s what I dedicate my practice to each time. I find that the simple act of making a deliberate, conscious effort to be present at the beginning of each class does help, but it’s mostly just catching myself in the act and forcing my focus back to my breathing and my body.

What was the last Dharma talk that resonated with you?

See above re: Being Present. It’s a big one, and I know I’m not the only New York yogi who struggles with this, so fortunately for me it tends to come up regularly with different instructors who have different spins on it. One that stuck with me was a story Anna (or was in Lindsay?) told about a bartender friend who made the same cocktail twice as an experiment. One he made very deliberately with focus and love, and the other he made in a more rote and detached way, while distracted by other things. Supposedly in a blind taste test, the first drink won every time, even though it was identical to the second one.

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

Home sweet home, just down the street!

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

Part of me wants to say India, even though the desire to do that is somewhat abstract for me. So I’m going to say anywhere outside with a magnificent view, perfect temperature and a light breeze.

How has practicing shifted other aspects of your life?

One of the first lessons I learned in yoga was that it’s not about winning or perfecting anything. It’s about practicing and evolving. Since learning that, I actually began to apply it to other aspects of life, and it has had a pretty profound effect on how I handle work, relationships, and other challenges.

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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