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