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A Moment with Christie Roe

Awakening: Your intention and as I suppose your understanding of yoga is to make yoga enjoyable and useful for everyone. What does it mean?
Christie: I borrowed these words from Desikachar, my teacher’s teacher, who passed away last year. These words ‘enjoyable’ and ‘useful’ are very open to individual interpretation, and they aren’t often found together. A lot of people don’t typically go to most of the yoga classes out there for enjoyment — it’s too much hard work, or they feel like they aren’t flexible enough to enjoy the process of it. But yoga is also something that you are, not what you do. It’s about enjoying your natural state, and practicing with breath in a way that is useful for the whole body, and that starts with enjoying the process.
Awakening: Useful for your body, your being?
Christie: It is very much about your whole being – physical, spiritual, emotional. And what is enjoyable to body, becomes useful to mind and what is enjoyable to mind is useful to body. You can play with these words back and forth together. And in doing so you can find self-guidance in your practice.
Awakening: To understand what we are talking about … yoga is a way of being.
Christie: Yes. There is yoga for everyone, whoever is practicing. Desikachar always said, “If you can breathe, you can do yoga.”
Awakening: The idea to become yoga practice than do it let’s say every Wednesday sounds exciting and enjoyable.
Christie: This enjoyable aspect is so important, because if you don’t enjoy it you won’t do it every day. The consistency gained from enjoyment then becomes very useful.
Awakening: And your teachers… you mentioned – Sri Krishnamacharya and Desikachar – was it your beginning with yoga?
Christie: Yes. All of my teachers go back to them. They are my roots, and began a quite radical tradition of teaching breath-centered yoga as it could be made appropriate to everyone, at a time when access to yoga was very limited in many ways. Krishnamacharya is an interesting character. His mission was to liberate yoga, make it a householder tradition. It became all about adapting practice to individuals, which most often meant teaching one to one. For example, Krishnamacharya offered a very rigorous vinyasa practice to the children of royalty because he saw it was very appropriate to their sedentary lifestyle. Both he and his son Desikachar never branded themselves, and never tried to create any prescribed yoga system, as two of Krishnamacharya’s famous students BKS Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois ended up doing. But thanks to those teachers, this lineage is everywhere, and everyone can share it – it’s very open because it is not a school. Desikachar taught with the prerogative of friendship with his students. He recognized that as a teacher he could only grow by knowing his students, and in that knowing he was able to empower students to be their own teachers.
Awakening: That we are contributing to each other and there is no separation like student and teacher.
Christie: It was not about being an authority in any way, but instead guiding everyone to their own appropriate practice.
Awakening: You also say that yoga is what you are, as you are, in any given breath. It sounds so true because really if you breathe you are, you are alive. You focus a lot on breathing. In June, you and Birdie Lawson will be doing a workshop Wind Ceremony + Restorative Breathwork. Tell us more about this.
Christie: Breath is everything. In this workshop, we will focus on working with breath, but also letting our breath work with us, and settle into the idea that there is nothing to control. Breath, prana, is a tool to access your own self-guidance, knowing, what is inside of you. Birdie will guide a ceremony and meditations focused on the element air, and I then will be teaching pranayama or yoga breathing techniques. And we will emphasize the enjoyable aspects of these useful rituals, and and open the space for everyone to do their own inner work.
Awakening: So, is it for anybody who is willing to breathe deeper and to feel more connected with yourself?
Christie: The great sage Ramana Maharshi said that the breath is the gross (physical, bodily) form of mind. In yoga there is no difference between the mind and the body. I’m always learning that I have much more power than I think in the so-called connection between the mind and body, because it’s in the breath, pure consciousness. By breathing, in an enjoyable way, we can all use the mind to help the mind, simply by becoming aware, the first step to learning how to clarify and calm ourselves. Air is also all about change and movement. Throughout, we will work with an intention to make inner change that we want to see out in the world.
Awakening: Can we also bring our individual intentions, issues, things what we would like to let go of with the breath?
Christie: Yes! Breath practice is especially liberating in terms of patterns and habits that we hold in both body and mind, which again are the same. And so by practicing in a way that is enjoyable and useful, to say it again, we start to feel better right away.
Awakening: We were never taught how to breathe, and there are so many people so limited in their awareness of the ways that they breath. It is so important to realize how much breathwork can help us in everyday life.
Christie: Yes, and energetically your whole body loves the breath. To me, breath is a very personal expression. I teach in very loosely guided way — we never count breaths or anything like that. There are so many kinds of breathing techniques out there that can get very mechanical. Sri Krishnamacharya was always insisting, “yoga is not mechanical.” When you are really paying attention to your breath, you can see and explore and become aware of your habits, needs, and preferences. It’s the perfect way to start from learning from yourself. And it can be challenging! I focus on breath throughout my all classes. And in finding a full breath, whatever a full breath feels like in the moment, breath anchors us in the present. I encourage everyone to let the breath be their first teacher. I always ask, can you enjoy that you have nothing else to focus on beyond your breath? Meanwhile the breath takes us everywhere …
Awakening: It is enjoyable that we will be having this workshop at Awakening and hopefully it will be useful for all participants. Back to yoga … on our schedule, we have two classes with you: Hatha Vinyasa on Mondays and Reiki Restorative Yoga on Fridays. What is the difference and to whom would you recommend these classes?
Christie: Monday morning is all about mindful movement and it starts with breathing. We do standing postures, more strengthening, stretching. It’s a great way to start a week. Then on Friday, the restorative class is more about energy, and letting go of whatever we need to, with the same focus on breathing and finding ease and support through held postures and some gentle movement. For me as a teacher, it’s a wonderful way to open and to end the week at Awakening.
Awakening: To end on any share or guidance…?
Christie: I would share again and again all of the things I’ve said about breathing so far, and one more note: when we really tune in to our breath, after a while the breath starts to guide our practice rather than the other way around. It’s about active participation, making choices based on the guidance we receive from within. When we can let breath guide our practice, and soon enough that same force, that prana, guides us through life. It’s so useful, and such a joy!
Awakening: So, breathing deeply… thank you very much for your time and sharing beautiful guidance. And see you at your classes and workshop.

Christie’s classes – sign up here
Christie’s workshop – sign up here

A Moment with Yael Krichely

Awakening: Your passion for yoga, spirituality, and dance. When did it all start?
Yael: My passion for dance started when I was in 6th grade. We had jazz class after school and I fell in love with the class and the teacher. My passion for spirituality started when I was younger. Perhaps in fourth grade. I remember my uncle and my mom talking in the kitchen. My uncle asked me, “who are you?” I said, “I am Yael.” Then he said, “no, but who are you?” I again said, “I am Yael.” He then said, “but who is Yael?” I asked him, “what does you mean?”
Awakening: That was a conscious question… Do you remember your answer?
Yael: I remember being puzzled. Wasn’t it enough that I gave him my name? So, it was a moment that stuck with me from childhood. My mother was also very spiritual. Books, lectures and workshops, were things that she did. At some point, she also started teaching yoga. So, I made a connection with my mother. We used to go to yoga and dance classes together. From a very young age I would go with my mother to see the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, who had come to Israel to perform, as well as the Iso Dance Company with Daniel Ezralow. My mom was also an Aquarius so she was always looking at things from all different aspects of life, in unusual and imaginative way.
Awakening: So, she somehow opened your heart to different aspects of life?
Yael: I think so by connecting to the heart. Yoga really started in New York. I came here to go to the Alvin Ailey school for their two year certificate program. When I finished the program, one of my friends told me about a yoga place in the West Village. We went there to take a class and it was so different from dance. Dance had lots of pushing. It felt like you should do more. You should be stronger, faster, more flexible, jump higher. With yoga, I felt like I could allow myself to relax, and lay down between movements. I loved it. After two weeks of taking classes, I started my first training in 1998, at the Integral Yoga Institute in New York. From then on, yoga became a part of my life. There were times when I practiced more and times when I didn’t practice as much.
Awakening: And spirituality. What does mean to you? We talk a lot about this nowadays…
Yael: Going back to my uncle’s question of who I am. Spirituality for me, means to find the essence of who you are as a person. As children and adults we care so much about what other people think. We sometimes change ourselves according to what they expect and we lose ourselves in the process. Spiritualty is finding the way back to the person who probably originally arrived as a baby but had been let go because of all different qualities you learned from what you though people were looking for in you. You may have tried to become them instead of being yourself. This prevented you from evolving into who you were meant to be. It’s like the lotus flower when it opens. It’s not just about the flower blooming and opening. Sometimes, you need to go more to the left or more to the right. Let yourself be.
Awakening: The answer to the question “who I am” is on one handsimple one, but on the other it is difficult to put it into words. What would you tell people to just get the sense of “who I am”?
Yael: I like to say, “I am a spiritual being experiencing life in a physical body.” The physical gives you limitations. However, with limitations there is an opportunity to grow in different ways. I also connect this idea to dance. When you create a choreography, you do not just dance whatever. Sometimes, you create certain movements which can be limiting for the body. Then you have to invent a movement in a new perspective. Through, a limitation, a completely different movement can be created. I feel that with all of the limitations of the physical, the mind, and even ideals and emotions, we can feel like waves in the ocean. We should find the next movement by connecting these or tap the spirit that is inside. We can grow with this physical body to come back to who we were.
Awakening: And does the body and the mind help us in this process or not? It is said that mind is controlling us and the body is limiting us – infinite beings that we are. So how do you perceive it because we are kind of complete: mind, body and spirit, soul, energy.
Yael: Yes, we are complete, but we are in a process. Some people say that you master yoga, if you can sit for three hours without moving and without blinking. Of course, because you are a body, you still breathe and you still have a pain but if you master not moving for three hours, then you got it. The idea behind this is that the mind wants things. When you sit for three hours, the mind still want things like to move a leg because it hurts or to get up and eat because the stomach feels hungry. These wants of the mind are called fluctuations of the mind. They are like little waves. Once the mind starts, the body wants to respond physically, and a first reaction is usually automatic. When you allow yourself just to sit, sit, sit for three hours, you will be able to constrict yourself from doing those impulsive actions. Instead succumbing to the mind’s wants, you begin to train your mind to quiet down, even if it is for a couple of minutes. Ideally, you start to train the mind to quiet down. As the mind becomes quieter, you come closer to who you are without wanting, just being there. It’s a process of coming back to yourself. I think we are in this process all of our lives.
Awakening: We are usually running, running away from life instead of being present.
Yael: We do this because of the wants as well as the things we don’t want. We push them away. Because of these actions, we are not fully present. So it’s important to allow yourself to be and feel. If there is a pain, then to feel the pain, if there happiness, feel that happiness without pushing it away or bringing more of it.
Awakening: If we are constantly in the state of being we don’t need anything. There is no wanting and maybe it is the state of I am. So, on daily basis what is your practice to stay connected to the body, mind, the spirit and the being?
Yael: in yoga, I sometimes talk about taking the yoga out of the yoga mat. During the yoga class, you are in your Zen, in your peace, in your life movement, quiet and relaxation. However, when you go outside and you should try to keep this state there, no matter what are condition there. It’s a daily practice. For example, I have three kids who go to the school. I am in contact with other parents and teachers regularly. On some days, there are annoying situations and on some days, I have a clear mind. During the day, I try to read books like spiritual books. I sometimes randomly open a book I love and read a message to enlighten my being. I intuitively feel that I pick the right book and open on the right page. Other times, I find that a good conversation with a friend can be contributing. The interaction of sitting with  another woman and just sharing is a heart opening and can be uplifting. I also like practicing yoga and dance. I like yoga movement which is more Hatha Yoga or Asanas. When I go to sleep, I put my hands one on the heart, the other on the belly to connect within at the end of the day. Sometimes in the morning I try to find things I am thankful for. I also try to do some breathing exercises in the morning – just a little bit to connect and remind. When it comes times to come out of my shell or when I don’t like my behavior or actions, I try to forgive myself. I step aside to see again a situation where I was emotional and how I can perceive it without emotions.
Awakening: We are happy that you will have the New Moon Woman’s Circle workshop, on March 31st at Awakening. The theme is Surrender with Trust and Truth. Tell us about it.
Yael: Surrender the ideals of what should be, could be in our life, how we want people to see us. Surrender to the fact that we can just go of all thoughts and see where we were first and how we are now. Knowing that it’s a path that from now on, we can move on. We have first to acknowledge and accept that and then we can trust the Universe so that whatever we wanted can come back to us. Maybe a little bit different from what we have thought. If we let go of holding to the dream of how it should be, we are open to allowing things to happen in ways we have never imagined. It is then that we will find our own truth, our heart truth, our heart question, what is it we want.
Awakening: So, someone who wants to join us for this workshop… do we need to prepare in any certain way?
Yael: It’s nice to bring a journal to write some things down. Maybe think about things like ideals to let go of, but is not needed. We will do it during the workshop. Women can also bring a favorite item for the center altar to be charged with good intentions. It could be a stone, a piece of jewelry, a crystal or anything that comes to mind. We will have also a guided meditation using some imagination to move to a place which is more calm and serene so that it’s easier to find things within. After that, we will find where we can surrender and where we find the trust and truth. We will continue in search of finding where we want to start. As it’s a new moon, we want to put in an intention for the month to come and working with something we are stuck in. Before April comes, which is the spring, we all going to clean our shells from the inside and put new seeds so they can blossom like the flowers in the spring. We will probably work with the ideals of the labyrinth on this workshop and what that would be a part as an art that I will guide us through. This will give us tools to move forward from where we were stuck to the things we want to get to.
Awakening: Sounds interesting. So… is it something you would like to share with? Any thoughts, any message?
Yeal: Yes. Women ask sometimes what is a women’s circle. So, I want to say when women come together, they have an amazing power as a support group, even if they didn’t know each other before. Magic happens in those circles just by coming, being open to other people and listening. It is so incredible how one woman in the circle with her story or her insight can touch someone else. You can hear in these circles, “oh my god, what you just said was so much about my life.” We are all interconnected. We all are here to support each other.
Awakening: We are such an inspiration for each other. This is a beautiful message that women are powerful. Thank you very much and we can’t wait to meet you on Friday, March, 31st.