Meet Your Kula: Mikaila Cruz

Part of what makes us so unique are the amazing members of our Yogi community, our kula. Each month, we’ll feature one member of our yogi community, chat with them about their practice, learn more about what draws them to yoga, and get to know each other a little more.

Meet our Drishti Yogi, Mikaila Cruz.

Tell us about yourself!

I was born and raised in New York City. Both of my parents had backgrounds in finance, and belonged to a military family. I learned to be an independent thinker early on, yet followed the straight line of attending school, then attaining a good paying job.

What started your yoga journey?

When my Dad arrived in Manhattan he learned Ashtanga Yoga, and when I was five years old he taught me how to come into a headstand. I knew nothing about the yoga philosophy, but thought it was fun to come into an inversion.

When I was 16 I started running, and when I hit my goal of 12 miles a day I began feeling pain in medial part of my right knee. I went to see an orthopedic surgeon who gave me the option of surgery or practicing yoga. Being that all I knew of yoga was a headstand I thought that was it. The surgeon recommended I look online for various yoga poses. After a few days I decided to begin my yoga practice.

When did you decide to become a yoga instructor?

While at a friend’s house one morning she asked how to come into Urdhva Dhanurasana (wheel pose). I thought about it for a moment, and guided her through the breath first, then the pose. Afterwards she exclaimed, “You should totally be a yoga teacher!” I returned home and looked up various yoga teacher programs in the area. Nine months later I became certified.

What type of yoga do you teach? What drew you to this particular form of yoga?

The yoga teacher training program I was accepted into specialized in Vinyasa yoga, which I teach Vinyasa Yoga. My classes incorporate various postures from the Ashtang method as well. I do have students who are fellow runners and athletes, so I also teach restorative yoga and focus on alignment and flexibility.

How has the practice of Yoga affected your life? Spiritually? Mentally?

Spiritually, the yoga practice enhanced my view of the world. After my survival of 9/11 my mind was lost, but the yogic path found me once again.

My mind still experiences triggers from 9/11, so from a mental standpoint yoga in the form of meditation helps me stay in the present moment.

Tell us what Drishti means to you – how do you practice this in your day to day?

I view Drishti as a focal point found not only on the mat, but when focusing on daily tasks as well. A mentor once said that one needs to be laser focused on what is important, and put 100% of effort into it. When the mind is overwhelmed with thoughts it is imperative to use the Drishti to attain mindfulness.

How has this understanding changed over the years?

My understanding of this not changed but broadened my knowledge of the importance of Drishti.

Looking over your own journey, is there any advice that you would give to someone struggling to find their focus or footing in their practice?

I myself have struggled in finding focus and footing in my practice. Practice ahimsa whenever possible. Be kind to yourself, as the yoga journey is a path of oneness and not to be compared with another.

Do you have any inspirational quotes or mantras that you use to center yourself?

The quote that helped me along my yoga journey is by Lao Tzu: “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”

Where can we find and support your work?

You can find my blog, yoga teaching, social media platforms and other works on my website.

You can connect with Mikaila and follow along with her journey at @mikaila_nyc

You can also practice alongside Mikaila this month with the Chandra Namaskar or Moon Salutation and our mantra:

I am enough, I focus on the perfectly imperfect fullness of my self with utter love.