Meet Nay, one of our beloved instructors, as she shares a little about her journey to Yoga District and her experience since — both practicing and teaching in the Dharma Yoga tradition. Get to know Nay.
What is your name and how long have you been a part of the Yoga District community?
My name is Nay (pronounced like “eye” with an “N” before it). It’s an Arabic name and literally translates into “flute”. I started taking classes at YD in 2014.
How did you come to Yoga District?
Having been a gymnast for nearly a decade, I used to mainly practice yoga at home. In 2014, one of my good friends asked if I wanted to attend a yoga class with her at a studio less than a block away from her apartment. Little did I know that she would introduce me to such a welcoming community. A year later, I started thinking about ways to deepen my practice. That’s when i saw an announcement in the YD newsletter about the 2016 Winter Teacher Training. I embarked on this life changing experience in January of 2016 and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to now share my passion for yoga in my classes.
What do you try to convey to your students in your classes?
I try to get students to be compassionate towards themselves by being mindful about the signals that the body is sending, and making the practice their own — enjoying any modifications or amplifications their bodies feel like taking. It is only by learning to be compassionate with ourselves that we will be able to be compassionate with others.
What do you like about teaching the DC community?
DC is a busy city where people are hard at work all day. With the political and lobbying tension on the streets of DC, along with almost extreme weather patterns, i often times feel like the city gets to me. This is why I enjoy hosting a safe, non-judgmental space where people can relax, and perhaps even join in meditation to center themselves and connect with their life journey.
What would your advice be to someone who thinks yoga isn’t for them or that they aren’t “flexible enough” for it?
This is one of the most common excuses people give to justify why they don’t practice yoga. It is important for people to see beyond the deep poses that are advertised on social media. Yoga can be any position the body takes when the breath is easy and the muscles are relaxed. Straining and forcing oneself to make shapes with the body is not the purpose of yoga. Yoga is the union of the body with the mind; calming the breath and being mindful about the body’s needs.
In addition, I can’t stress how much consistency in practice helps improve the form of a body. Not everyone is built in the same way: some people may naturally be more flexible, while others may have stronger muscles, and others have even better balance. Wherever you are, practicing gradually and regularly will transform you physically and mentally.
Where do your sentiments lie on the “yoga as spiritual practice” versus “yoga as body shaper” spectrum?
I certainly was first attracted to yoga’s physical aspect. Even when I started the Teacher Training program I was so skeptical about the spiritual aspect. At first I used to get irritated by chanting in Sanskrit and sitting still in silence; however week after week, I slowly started understanding the purpose of breathing and meditative exercises and started feeling a sense of inner contentment. Not only that, but after discussing yoga’s philosophical roots, I noticed how closely they matched my own spiritual beliefs. So in short, I sure have a long way to go, but I’d say i’m currently leaning more towards “yoga as a spiritual practice” side of the spectrum.
What is your favorite style of class to teach and to practice, and why?
Dharma. I never thought I could resonate this much with the teachings of Sri Dharma Mittra. Whether spiritually or physically, it all makes perfect sense to me. The practice itself focuses on hip openers and backbends (my favorite parts to work on) and it is meditative. No matter what mood I’m in, after teaching or practicing a Dharma class, I can’t help but feel at peace. Also, I’m an environmentalist at heart, and feel that we have to save Mother Earth before human actions make her unrecognizable to us. Sri Dharma teaches compassion above all else, and I believe that it is only by being compassionate with all living beings that we will be able to leave our planet a better place.