Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Yoga for all!

Now that I have your attention... Meet Angela Kilcullen. Pure beauty. Yes, beauty of body and form but also inner beauty. Her beauty is one of kindness, goodness, and maternal love. Angela's incredibly long lean strong body gave birth to THREE children, the youngest of which is less than a year old. Part of what she's got going on is just plain old good genes - the other part is dedication. Angela is a yoga instructor. Her classes are awesome but I have also gotten to know her off the mat and she really lives the yogi way in all aspects of her life. She inspires me to stick to my Sentimentalist Resolution and do yoga once a week. By now you all know that I think yoga heals. Heals minds, bodies, and hearts. The goal today is to share that healing with you all. Yoga can be intimidating so let's get to the bottom of it. Below you'll find answers and insights. Get inspired and give it a try. I'm not sure I will ever pull off Angela's moves above and below - but I will continue to enjoy trying.  

Q&A with Angela Kilcullen, Yoga Instructor

When did you get certified in yoga? What prompted you to take that step?   
I got certified in yoga 8 ½ years ago. My husband, Steve, and I had just moved from New York City to Charlotte, NC. While I loved being in the south and closer to family, my PR job just couldn’t travel with me. I ended up taking up another passion of mine, dance, and was on the NBA dance team while deciding what was next for me. Charlotte had such a vibrant yoga community and I instantly fell in love with a local studio and the Vinyasa style of yoga which paralleled my dance background. It was a natural transition and much easier on my body, healing old dance injuries. Steve and I hoped to start a family soon and I wanted flexibility to stay home with my children, but also have time to do something for me. It was a no brainer to get my 200 hour yoga certification and God blessed me with the perfect opportunity.

What is your favorite yoga position?  
Hand stand! In Sanskrit, Adho Mukha Vrksasana. I just can’t get enough of standing on my hands. I had been trying for over 20 years to stick one and finally achieved it a couple of years ago. I have my teacher, Mitchel Bleier, to thank for that. Yoga can really just be gymnastics for adults... thank God I found a forum for me to play as I have this strange desire to jump on the balance beam every time I take my daughter to her tumbles class. Please tell me I’m not the only one who feels that way?!

What style yoga do you teach and can you explain the difference between bikram, hatha, and vinyasa?   
I teach a powerful Vinyasa yoga class. Vinyasa simply means to connect the breath with movement and in a Vinyasa class you can expect to flow quite a bit.  Often times you will hear an instructor say “take a Vinyasa” which means to move from a standing position back to a high and low push up, into an upward facing dog and back to downward facing dog. You rarely know what to expect in a Vinyasa class as the instructor has the freedom to sequence as they choose. Bikram is a set of 26 poses from which classes don’t really deviate and it is taught in a hot room, around 100 degrees. You usually hold the poses for a longer amount of time than in a Vinyasa class. Many people like to know what to expect in their yoga and love this style. It is great for athletic types who are just starting a yoga practice. Hatha yoga is somewhat of the umbrella over which most Western yoga lays. Hatha connects both the sun (ha) and moon (tha). It is basically a physical form of yoga with a mind-body connection and meditation. 

What are the benefits of yoga for your body? your mind? your health?   The benefits to an active yoga practice are innumerable. The obvious ones are strength, flexibility, healing injuries, pain relief, body awareness and improving/deepening breathing patterns (which also help reduce stress, calm the mind, increase oxygenated blood flow & can even help fight disease!). It’s also a great accompaniment to any other athletic practice, especially those that curve your spine forward which most sports do. Besides all of that, it’s fun! It’s challenging. It’s empowering to see your practice unfold and advance. One of the best things about my job is the look of accomplishment and amazement when a student finally masters a pose they had been working toward. Yoga is also humbling; an injury, falling out of a pose (& maybe even on your neighbor - yes, I’ve done that!), an awareness of a need of personal change, learning to let go of control, can all bring you to your knees. Yoga also has a spiritual element of meditation and setting a mantra or intention to keep you focused on a greater purpose. Some of my deepest times of prayer have been on my mat. Lastly, in yoga you never know too much to continue being a student.  There is always someone who can teach you more. Some of the most incredible yogis I have seen are well into their 50s and 60s… you are never too old or too young to start!

How many times a week should you practice? How many do you?  
To really achieve transformation I suggest 5 to 6 times a week in the first few months. You may be hooked after that point and keep up those numbers, but 3 – 4 times a week is great for a sustainable practice. I wish I could say that I fit those numbers in now, but after having my third child it’s been hard to find the time to teach and practice! I know it’s just temporary though & I will be back on my mat with a steady schedule soon enough. I usually fit 2 classes in a week right now, if I’m lucky.

If you have always wanted to try yoga but have been scared away by a lack of flexibility and balance, how can you get started in a non-intimidating way?   
I suggest researching local studios and finding one that has a good beginner’s series or workshop so that you can get the basic terminology and have more hands on help. If you are someone who wants to get their butt kicked and sweat and you are very athletic, try Bikram. Bikram is a great class for guys who think they are too “manly” for yoga. Ladies, take your husbands and see how long that statement lasts!

Where do you teach?  
I teach at Mantra Mind & Body in Old Greenwich (Mondays at 9:45am), Greenwich Equinox (Wednesdays at 9:45am), Mamaroneck Equinox and YogaSpark in Mamaroneck. 

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