How fun! A friend of mine just interviewed me about my yoga practice! Yay!
Sarah: How long have you been practicing yoga?
Zo Manik: I've been erratically practicing an asana practice since 2004. Every single time I get asked this question, the year changes, I think it's because I came to terms with the idea of my doing yoga perfectly as being completely ok. I used to think that when people said "Oh, I've been doing yoga for 15 years" it meant that they showed up every day on the mat probably doing crow and headstand. The reality is, of course, that they probably didn't and that they too (like myself) have a delightfully imperfect practice that was perfect for them right then.
My asana practice doesn't require mat work every single day, though sometimes I have gone through long spells of daily practice. Sometimes I don't even use a mat. As my practice is deepening, however, I would like to play with asana every day because there is that epiphany the body has after even just a 10-second Tadasana; it's like the "ah-ha!" of haiku, such seemingly small gestures awaken the senses and create a whole experience.
S: What got you onto the mat in the first place?
Zo: Yoga always fascinated me. When I was a teenager I got in trouble for photocopying an entire book "Yoga for You" by Elaine Landau (which I still have today!) but when I went home I struggled to understand how to interpret the body's movements, or breathing. The meditation portion was a beautiful revelation to me; I was never really into sports or athleticism as a kid. My favorite things to do were read books and do homework (yup, I was that kid).
But something kept bringing me back to yoga; there was this whole life system around it, it wasn't just about being on the mat. In 2004, I picked up a Yoga/Pilates Dvd by Jennifer Krys and I fell in love with the simple movements which made the body feel so strong and sensuous. It was like I could be both woman and warrior.
S: What made you stay? What about it has kept you going with yoga?
Zo: The only real answer to what keeps me doing yoga (the whole system, not only asana) can only be analogized as water. If a body lacks hydration, it starts to react: fatigue, dry mouth, hunger, headaches, insomnia, even body systems go to hell. But when hydrated, the body runs efficiently, the mind is quick, the eyes are sharp, even pooping comes easier. If yoga is removed from me, I fall apart. It's water.
S: What styles have you worked in? Which do you enjoy most?
Zo: The concept of styles is something I've only more recently engaged, but I have yet to find my go-to. I love the kriyas (or what I call the infrastructure) of kundalini. There's something really calming about having a specific routine in that everything is already sorted out for you--the time, the reason, the asanas, the breathwork. All the details are splayed out like a buffet and you can say, "I'm having digestive issues" or "I really want to create space in my hips" and ta-da! Yogi Bhajan has the remedy.
But, truthfully and at the heart of it, I veer towards what I call an intuitive flow. This is where I let Heart and Spirit dictate what will be created on the mat. I suppose this may be the problem of becoming a poet before becoming a yogi; the impulse of call and response or play and creation supercede any systematic modality, no matter the benefit.
S: What have you struggled with in your personal yoga practice, physically or mentally?
Zo: So, this is where I out myself as a perfectionist. I have a bit of "Hermione-Granger-syndrome", a term I often use in speaking about my students and even some of my colleagues. I (except for a few short stints of anxiety and depression) was a grade A student. I love having all the answers, I love getting it perfect on the first try. I fight and struggle EVERY SINGLE DAY with non-attachment to perfect outcome. What ends up happening is that I get so stressed out about being perfect, that I scrap an idea altogether and/or not show up because I won't be perfect. It isn't even about what others think about my lack of perfection, though that is a small part of it. The reality is, is that I hate not living up to the ideals I have brainwashed myself into believing to be true.
Funny enough, yoga is BRILLIANT for this, though. All that movement and breathing and thinking and non-thinking and sensory exploration shatters blockages in the solar plexus chakra, the location of confidence (and fear). When I step outside of my fear center or rather MOVE regardless and drag fear kicking and screaming with me, it bleeds into other areas of my life. My yoga teacher training program kicked my ass back into the classroom, where I once thought I could teach and have my own students. It was weird, it was as if I woke up one day and realized I had no choice--I had to teach, because teaching, sharing for me is also water. And yoga as water hydrated those parts that I had let fear dry out.
S: Is your yoga practice largely done through classes, or do you have a home practice?
Zo: My practice is done 99% at home. I do take classes now and then, and I actually feel it in me to take more but my schedule can be such that I am unable to meet at offered class times. I really dislike skipping around among teachers or dropping in on random classes. I like to take courses from a teacher or two, get a feel for their methods and philosophies. I think this is where the serious student "Hermione-Granger-syndrome" comes into play for a benefit. I learn best in an arena where I feel understand who is sharing the information and why so I prefer having a small handful of teachers and their methods to build from, rather than skating surfaces of a multitude. (This is also why I am terrible at reading more than one or two books at a time, despite my having to do so when I was in university and grad school!)
S: When do you enjoy practicing yoga?
Zo: I will practice whenever I feel like it and whenever I don't, but I love love LOVE to practice in the morning, post-shower. There is something so delicious in being clean and creating agni as the framework of my day. It wakens me up and brings me from dreamstates or worries and wishes to the breath, specifically the exhale, and this now-moment. Plus, all those sun salutations are incredible for drying my long hair!
Q: Do you listen to music when you practice yoga? If so, what kind?
A: I don't listen to music in the morning because I prefer the quiet of just my mind, my hands and feet and my breath. The earlier the practice, the better because Gaia's profound silence bites through even those subtle sounds and there's this interplay of personal significance versus insignificance that melts physical boundaries.
I do however play music at other times and it really depends on what I'm needing or feeling. I have a Pandora station I named "Zen Garden", another named "Sitars & Beats". But then, I have this wild Youtube playlist called "Body Moving Music"of music from A$AP Rocky, Kanye West, and Flosstradamus that really gets my ass moving, where Beats Antique is the down-tempo group for savasana. This kind of a pump-me-up playlist is particularly incredible for when I need to get out of my own head. The bass and beats allow the physical, sensory and sensual to path me out of ruts to create space for newness. Going back to the example of water, it's as if the water has been turned to wine or whiskey or a double barrel IPA, and it helps me to unblock my lower three chakras, which is crucial for me because I'm always floating in my upper chakras.