Meet Your Kula: Krystal Prout

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 Prajñā Yogi, Krystal Prout.

Tell us about yourself!

Hi, I am Krystal, mother, yoga practitioner and instructor. I currently live in Alberta, Canada teaching yoga and raising two amazing kiddos.

What started your yoga journey?

Yoga had always been a whisper and for years I had wanted to try a class. In the fall of 2015 I had two small children when a local yoga studio opened in my small town. I was looking to gain strength and flexibility and also get a little bit of “me time” in too. It only took two or three classes before I started to feel an inner shift. I fell in love with the physical practice all while unknowingly beginning an internal healing journey.

When did you decide to become a yoga instructor?

After an on again off again practice for about a year, I decided I was going to get serious about the practice. A little over six months after that, about two years into my yoga journey, is when people began to ask if I was teaching classes and suggested I should. I had never even considered the thought of being a yoga instructor. In the span of a couple weeks several people, including my mentor & teacher recommended I take my yoga teacher training. I took those nudges as a sign from the universe and enrolled my RYT200 in the fall of 2017.

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

Though I have training in Hatha, Yin and kids yoga, my heart beats for Vinyasa and Power yoga. I prefer to practice this style myself so naturally I’m drawn to guide it as well. There is something very powerful about these styles and watching students get stronger, playful and pushing themselves during their practice is very rewarding for both them and myself.

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

As I began to do “the work”, (the physical practice), it simultaneously began to start the work internally. My teacher would always say in class “we’ve opened up the front side, the backside...but the hardest part to open is the inside” and this is exactly what happens when we continue to go deep in our practice.

After taking my training and learning so much about the yogic concepts, I really wanted to begin to live true to myself. Taking responsibility, honoring myself and how I choose to speak and behave. Of course I still have a lifetime of work to do but yoga has pushed me to explore my values and lean into virtue.

What does the concept of Prajñā mean to you? How do you see this embodied in your practice?

Prajñā to me is wisdom. This concept, for myself, is about listening to my body. Knowing that my body is so wise and it will guide me if I simply listen. Embodying this in my practice means; listening inward. It means; if it feels good to push then I’ll push and if it doesn’t feel good, knowing when to let be. It also means being okay with where I am in my practice and letting that space between where I am and where I want to be inspire me.

Has this understanding changed throughout your yoga journey?

It definitely has changed throughout my journey of practicing. When I first began I was always pushing never wanting to find softness or stillness in the poses or in the mind. As a beginner, I was perhaps a bit aggressive in wanting to advance. I also had no idea of the capabilities of my body. Five years into my yoga practice and I'm continuing to surprise myself with what my body is capable of doing.

As you look back throughout your yoga journey, what advice would you give to other yogis?

Consistency is key. Don’t give up so soon on whatever you’re working on whether that be a meditation practice, the physical practice of yoga or some thing else entirely. Small changes over time become big changes. And try not to put yourself into a box of limitations. Knowing that your practice can look different each day, will feel different each day and that’s OK and to embrace that. Boxing yourself into limitations of “not being naturally flexible” or coming in with an injury or not loving your body type can mentally block you from moving forward in your practice. Each time you step on your mat enjoy the process and if you are not loving your practice, know that it’s ok to switch it up.

Are there any mindfulness practices or techniques that you use to center your practice? To open your mind?

I am a big fan of breath work. Incorporating breath work into my practice literally transformed it. I typically begin my practice with mind-body connecting. I will focus on feeling my body connecting physically with the mat (feeling heavy and grounded, then I begin to imagine my body extremely light - like I could float!) then I move into breath cleansing (retention breath and big sighs out to clear and create fresh energy), and finally calling in my ujiyi breath (this is my favourite prana) starting to create heat, sound and focus for my practice.

Where can we find and continue to support your work?

You can find me on Instagram at @krystalsyoga .This is my favourite place to share my practice and connect. I also have online classes that you can find linked to that account and in 2021 I’m looking forward to creating more virtual spaces for yogis to connect with me online!

You can also practice alongside Krystal with our Third Eye Opening Asana: 

I open my mind to all that I have learned and all that I do not yet know. I seek to deepen my understanding of both myself and others with non-judgment and a free heart.


Meet Your Kula: Mikaila Cruz

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.

 


Meet Your Kula: Nina Monobe

Meet Your Kula: Nina Monobe

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 Maitrī Yogi, Nina Monobe.

Hi Nina! Tell us about yourself!

Hi! I’m Nina (Marina) Monobe and I love to help others through my veterinary and yoga practice. I’m a Veterinary Doctor who moved to USA to work as a PhD researcher and teacher assistant. During my cultural transition time, I found myself practicing yoga as a therapeutic exercise to fight anxiety and depression. Nowadays, I’m an Alliance Certified Yoga Instructor and AFAA Fitness Instructor. I consider myself living between two different worlds, veterinary & fitness, which I love equally.

How did you begin your yoga journey?

As an immigrant in USA, who left family & friends back in Brazil, I had a difficult time trying to adapt to the new American culture. I always felt overwhelmed trying to prove my skills as good as or better than my co-workers. Subsequently diagnosed with anxiety and depression, I considered a variety of therapies that could potentially help me, including yoga. Soon enough I realized yoga as a life changing experience and I can definitively say it saved my life.

When did you decide to become a yoga instructor?

In 2018, I decided to take my practice to the next level. I wanted to deeply understand the alignment, benefits and history behind it. Since then, I found myself always enrolled in a different training. At this moment, I’m working on finishing a 500-Hour Orthopedic Yoga Therapy Training Course.

What type of yoga do you teach? What lead you to this particular style?

I teach a wide variety of yoga styles, from traditional Vinyasa Ashtanga and Restorative Yin Yoga with mediation music, to Power Yoga and yoga with weights, with pop music. My mission is to bring awareness to people that yoga can be fun and make you flexible, balanced and strong from the inside out and there is always a style out there waiting for you to fall in love!

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

Yoga is body-mind work. It makes me more flexible and stronger from the inside out. Physically I now have better flexibility, range of motion, endurance and muscle strength. I’m more aware of my body limitations and how to mindfully progress my practice. From practicing Pranayama, I’m more centered and present. I’m more grateful and appreciative towards everything in my life. I feel more complete and accomplished. I’m more understanding about situations and patient with people and myself. All of those feelings developed through yoga decreased my anxiety and stress levels.

How do you find compassion for yourself in your journey?

Yoga is a constant learning process. It was through injuring myself (on and off the mat) and not being patient with my body that I learned how to better listen to it. At some point you not only become aware of your limitations but you start loving yourself. As you recognize yourself as a human with ups and downs but in constant progress, you find compassion.

How do you incorporate what you've learned from your practice both on and off the mat?

By becoming more aware and learning how to love myself, I learned to always make adjustments to improve my physical and mental experience on the mat. Sometimes taking easy modifications or taking a slow and gentle flow. This allowed me to see that those small adjustments could always be applied off the mat. Situations I cannot control or plans gone wrong, I always find a way to adjust. Not blaming myself and likewise, taking it easy. Treatment myself with love, sometimes a relaxing bath or playing my favorite playlist to boost my mood. Also, yoga taught me to always take a minute for gratitude, during Shavasana or Pranayama. This is a practice I take everyday even when I don’t step on my mat. Allows me to find peace even on a chaotic day. Finally, by exploring the eight limbs of yoga on the mat, practicing it daily off the mat improved my relationships with family, friends and strangers. Being more patient and compassionate to others and not only with myself.

What would you share with a beginner?

First of all, I always had this misconception that yoga would be a stretching routine, mostly performed by seniors, or people with injuries. I remember being afraid of trying a class and it being super boring, with long meditations. I was totally wrong and I immediately discovered Yoga has many different styles and most of them aim to improve strength, flexibility and endurance. My first yoga class was Power Yoga. I remember taking breaks and feeling ashamed for not being able to touch my toes in a “simple” fold, while people twice my age were so much more flexible and stronger. The shame, combined with the physical challenge made me a regular in Power Yoga. However, I know many people never come back for the same reason. My greatest tip would be to never compare yourself with another person. Yoga is a journey and we all start somewhere. Our bodies are different, therefore, they perform differently and progress happens with practice. Knowing that, let go from frustrations. Focus on where you are and what you want to achieve. Sometimes, record your movements or poses and later on your path come back to see how far you’ve come!

How has your understanding of Maitrī grown and changed over the years, both in your practice and in your everyday life?

At first, most of the meditative practice was extremely difficult for me. Dealing with my mind wanders was always challenging. Maitrī meditation through Chanting helped me to channel my energy, center my mind and body and find peace. Over time, I found self-love and gratitude and consequently, I learned to be less judgmental and goal oriented as I used to be. As I became a yoga instructor, I nurtured my mind to become a beacon of light for others to feed off of, in a way that now what was a way I would use to find peace and happiness helps others to find them as well.

You can connect with Nina and follow along with her yoga journey at @ninayoganow.

You can also practice alongside Nina this with with our Maitrī Grounding Flow and our mantra:

May all beings be well, may all beings be happy. May I treat all beings with love and kindness.

 


Meet Your Kula: Mel Douglas

 

Meet Your Kula: Mel Douglas

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.

This month, meet Mel Douglas, our Karuna Yogi.

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Mel Douglas and I’m a Brooklyn, NY native currently living in Los Angeles with my pup Kenji. I’m a plant mom, black coffee lover, and outdoor adventurer. I spend much of my time advocating for wellness in my community by sharing my journey with mental health, wellness, and yoga. In 2018 I founded the Black Women's Yoga Collective (BWYC), a community organization focused on increasing accessibility to wellness and generating true safe spaces that offer intersectional wellness practices.

What started your yoga journey?

I like to say that yoga found me because it turned out to be such a huge part of my life pretty unexpectedly. I was bored of going to the gym, so I started trying out the different classes offered there instead. I ended up in a power vinyasa class, got my butt kicked by a deceptively gentle voiced lady, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

When did you decide to become a yoga instructor?

I decided to become an instructor about 6 months into developing my personal practice. Something clicked for me right away and I knew I wanted to teach, to share what I was learning with my community. I recognized the impact that having teachers who looked like me had on how I was able to connect in class and felt that I could foster that sort of connection for others through teaching.

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

I mostly teach different styles of vinyasa yoga because I love the way flowing leaves me feeling grounded and connected. The styles range from gentle restorative vinyasa to hot power vinyasa, and everything in between. I believe that we can practice flowing through life much the way we do a vinyasa class.

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

Practicing yoga has changed my life completely. As a person with a mood and anxiety disorder, the practices I’ve learned on this journey have allowed me to begin to navigate life in much healthier ways. Yoga has helped me better my relationships, feel empowered in my abilities, and deepen my capacity for joy.

Tell us more about BWYC! What led you to create this space?

I created BWYC because I noticed a lack of resources and representation as a Black woman starting my own journey with yoga. When I stopped attending yoga classes at my gym in Crenshaw and branched out to actual yoga studios, I was disappointed to often find myself the only Black student in class. It also became apparent that finding other Black instructors was going to be a challenge.

I knew that a part of what helped me connect with yoga when I did was the comfort I felt being surrounded by my community. I had practiced before a few times throughout my life but had never felt like it was truly for me, until I experienced yoga in an environment that was for me. So I decided to create a space for more of that and it’s bloomed beautifully over the last few years.

How do you incorporate what you've learned from your practice both on and off the mat?

I do my best to flow through life with ease and intention, much the way we’re taught to flow through a yoga class. A lot of the Baptiste methodology particularly is around staying in alignment with your true purpose, facing tough times with ease, doing what you can and knowing it’s enough. In a class I use those things to remind myself to be kind to my body, in life I use those things as a reminder to be kind to my whole self.

What would you share with a beginner?

I would say don’t be afraid to explore all of the different styles of yoga to find the style that fits you best. A lot of people think “yoga” is just one thing but there are so many different ways to practice.

How has your understanding of Karuna grown and changed over the years?

Before I started practicing yoga, I believed that compassion was something I only gave to others. Over the years and through practice, I’ve come to understand that it starts with me. I’ve come to understand that when I am compassionate to myself, it is much easier to be compassionate to others. When I’m kind to myself, it’s much easier to share kindness with others. When I heal myself, I create space for others to heal themselves.

You can follow Mel's journey and connect with her on Instagram at @meldouglasyoga. You can support her work at Black Women's Yoga Collective on Instagram at @blackwomensyogaco. You can also practice alongside Mel this month with our Karuna Heart-Opening Asana with our mantra:

I extend deep and unconditional compassion with each breath. I find presence and happiness through boundless, abundant compassion for all living creature


Meet Your Kula: Whitney Davis

Meet Your Kula: Whitney Davis

 

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.

This month, meet Whitney Davis, our Ahimsa Yogi.

blonde female in purple yoga clothes
Tell us about yourself!

I'm Whitney! I'm a yogi living in Florida with my husband and one-year-old son named Bodhi!

What started your yoga journey?

I started my yoga journey in my freshmen dorm room. I started yoga to find relief from anxiety and to increase my flexibility and strength.

When did you decide to become a yoga instructor?

I decided to become a yoga teacher after leaving a career in social work. I loved the idea of helping individuals tune into themselves and find peace and healing through the yoga practice.

blonde woman yoga on the beach

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

I am currently a stay at home mom, but when I was teaching I preferred to teach vinyasa and yin. I love those two styles of practice because they help us find balance.

What grounds you in your practice?

Meditation and my breath help me stay grounded. When I am feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I try to get on my mat and flow with my breath or sit in stillness.

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

Yoga has helped me stay present in all facets of my life. I’m naturally very hyper and a “type-A.” This leads to anxiety and since I’ve incorporated yoga into my daily life, I have found more moments of equanimity and peace.

blonde woman in splits

How do you incorporate what you’ve learned from your practice both on and off the mat?

I try to incorporate the breath practices I use on the mat in my life. I notice when I take those moments to go inward or breathe deeply, I am much more patient and centered.

What would you share with a beginner?

Enjoy the journey and try not to wish for what is next! It is easy to see advanced asanas and feel defeated or intimidated, but every yogi was once a beginner too and we learn the most about ourselves in the journey of our practice.

How has your understanding of Ahimsa grown and changed over the years?

At one time, I felt ahimsa was only about nonviolence to other beings. But over the years I have realized that I need to extend that nonviolence to myself and body. There were days I would teach my students to be kind to themselves, but then not extend that kindness in my own thoughts and standards towards myself.

blonde woman beach yoga

 

You can follow Whitney's yoga journey and connect with her at @whitneydavisyoga. You can also practice the Ahimsa Asana alongside Whitney this month with our Ahimsa Core Strengthening Asana with our mantra:

I offer peace, love, and compassion to all beings. I greet each moment with grace and understanding.


Three Practices to Help You Find and Keep Stillness

Does being still require an exquisite landscape to study and absorb? I really hope not because a mountain view or ocean scape are simply not always accessible.

Stillness is a state of mind

If we accept this to be true, we can maintain stillness in a crowd or while with our families. We can find it while engaged in a conversation or during our yoga practice. Stillness doesn't mean we can't be moving or interacting with others.

"In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you." ~ Deepak Chopra

This sounds marvelous, Deepak, but how do we actually do this? Is stillness something we can practice?

Thankfully the answer is a resounding yes. We can practice stillness just like we practice everything else. But it's the willingness to cultivate it that might scare some of us. It doesn't feel natural so therefore, we decide we can't obtain it. But we absolutely can and the rewards are so worth it.

The Rewards of Finding Stillness

  • Happiness. Stillness helps us find calm. Our nervous system responds in a positive way. We move from a baseline of agitation to contentment and we spread this to others with our presence and state of mind.
  • Increase in energy. It's just like when you get enough sleep and you feel full of vitality. Stillness and meditation can help us acquire energy by assisting us in replenishing the wells that have become quite depleted.
  • A more connected relationship with ourselves. Think of someone who typically seems very confident and self-possessed. That could be you. Stillness provides clarity and allows our truths to rise to the surface. Once we connect with who we really are and cease hiding from what is, our confidence grows. By knowing ourselves better we calm down because we are no longer uncertain or confused about who we are and what we stand for.

Doesn't this all sound grand and illuminating? How could we not want these rewards? It's a matter of figuring out how to actually achieve this state of mind and not run away from what we learn. It's dedicating to this practice the same way we are committed to asana. So where do we begin? Deepak has a few more ideas about this that are worthy of contemplation and can serve as a starting point for the practice of stillness.

"We can actually accelerate the process through meditation, through the ability to find stillness through loving actions, through compassion and sharing, through understanding the nature of the creative process in the universe and having a sense of connection to it. So, that's conscious evolution." 

He makes it sound so easy. And maybe, eventually, it actually is.

Here are a few practice ideas to help you experience the often seemingly elusive state of stillness.

1. Do something for someone without telling anyone about it.

Not only is taking anonymous action a little bit like being a superhero, but it feels so gratifying to offer a kindness without needing credit. No action is too small. Placing a bottle of your yoga buddy's favorite essential oil in her coat pocket without a word or note. Leaving hand-picked flowers on your neighbor's front porch. Making a donation to charities you revere and believe in. Recommending someone for a job without telling them you did so. Paying off a debt for someone whom you know is unable to do so themselves. The list goes on and on. Make your own and take action. It will offer you the gift of giving without expectation of receiving in return. It will shift your sense of give and take and help you focus more on not what others do for you but all you can offer to the world.

2. Take the time to listen to another and stay with their words.

Conversations always require a back and forth. But it's the way we choose to conduct the dynamics that award us a sense of stillness. If you've ever experienced a conversation where you were more focused on what you wanted to say in response than in what you were hearing, then you've felt the frustration of not being present and ignoring the opportunity to learn. Listen to another. Really hear their words and digest them. Ask questions to keep them talking and sharing. The delight that comes from focusing on another expressing their ideas, views, feelings, and outlook brings a delicious sense of being present for another. The unrest that comes with focusing on being heard versus really hearing will go away.

3. Sit in silence with another person

We don't have to meditate on a mountaintop in lotus position. Being with someone else without having a dialogue quietly drinking in their energy and allowing them to share in yours will offer profound feelings of being close and interacting with our subtle bodies. Breathing together and having a shared experience without words offers a connection that goes beyond what we think interaction should be.

I hope you find some moments of stillness today. You deserve them.