At Manduka, we were founded on the simple concept of creating a foundation to support those (teachers, studios, community guides) who Inspire the Practice. The yoga teachers and studios inspire more they will ever know. They become people and places of familiarity, comfort, community, and joy. They help create strength in the chaos. They push us when needed and grant space when it's best. They facilitate our own ‘moments’ on and off the mat.
Quite simply, they are our inspiration.
With that, today we are proud to launch our “Inspire the Practice” campaign. Over the next few months, we will celebrate teachers and studios from New York City, to Santa Barbara, CA, to Reno, NV by telling their stories. As they have gotten to know us, we now ask about them. Who are they? Why are they doing this work? What is their mission? What makes them laugh? What music do they like? What do they like to do when they are not leading our communities? What inspires THEM?
Manduka is grateful for the thousands of teachers and studios who make it part of their life’s work to create a sanctuary for us to move our bodies, free our minds, and find peace. Even if for a moment, we honor you and say thank YOU for Inspiring the Practice Inspiration is what unites us all to make ourselves and this world a better place.
Inspiration is what unites us all to make ourselves and this world a better place.
Let’s take off on this journey together to celebrate those that #InspirethePractice.
Why We’re Inspired
Neeti Narula is a yoga and meditation guide and the Director of Mindful Movement at THE WELL in New York City. Her classes are inspired by various schools of yoga. She is known for teaching alignment-based classes infused with thematic dharma and yoga philosophy. Neeti believes that the way you move and breathe on your mat shapes the way you move and breathe in your life. You can practice with her in person at THE WELL or at Modo Yoga NYC. To learn more about Neeti, check out her Instagram @neeti.narula.
Name: Neeti Narula (@neeti.narula)
Residence: New York City. New York
Occupation: Yoga & Meditation Guide
Cause: Desai Foundation
In Her Words
If a decade ago you had asked me what inspires me to practice yoga, I don’t know if I could’ve told you much more than “it makes me feel a little bit better.”
I was in my early 20’s, grieving the loss of my 27 year old brother, and trying my best to continue along on the ambitious finance career path I’d set out on after graduating from college.
Looking back now, after thousands of hours of teacher training and yoga study, what inspires my practice is much more apparent to me– I’m practicing for life.
Wandering into a connection with the practice
The first time I truly connected to the physical practice of yoga was a few months after my brother had passed. I’d been taking all the steps towards healing that I was supposed to – I saw a trauma specialized therapist, spent time with friends and family, immersed myself in work in hopes of distraction.
I was doing whatever I could to make the days pass as quickly as possible into years. Having lost my father at 8, I had the unfortunate foresight to know that years passing was the only thing that could potentially attempt to dull (or at least bury) the pain of loss. Looking back I now see that I was doing everything I could to escape being in the present moment. The present was simply too painful for me to handle.
Somehow during this time, I wandered into a donation based yoga class in midtown Manhattan. I was asked to stash my belongings at the cubbies near the door, pay cash, and change into yoga clothes in what essentially was an overcrowded closet.
The room was sunny and warm. There was a musky smell of sweat and incense that stayed on my yoga clothes when I left even after they’d been washed. During that first class, I desperately glanced around at others to follow along with the sequence. I felt awkward, exposed, and even vulnerable. But at the same time I felt completely anonymous. No one around me knew the sadness that was beneath the effort of each little movement I was asking my body to make, and something about this notion was very freeing.
When we finally got to the floor portion of class, the angst and vulnerability of trying to follow along subsided. I felt less visible on the floor and in hindsight, being low to the ground and supported helped me feel safe.
While laying on the sunny wooden floor on my rented musky mat, I moved through the teacher’s instructions with slightly less confusion and worry. As I stared up at the blank white ceiling with exposed light bulbs, I remember what must have been a millisecond that felt completely quiet. No just in the room, but also in my head. Because of this fleeting moment, for the first time in months I felt like it might be possible to feel hope again. And this was enough to keep me coming back to my mat, musky scent and all.
Practicing with purpose
I began practicing vinyasa style yoga a few times a week. I connected with the fast past and I found the vigor of it helped me work up an appetite at a time when even eating felt like a difficult task to accomplish due to my grief.
I found myself actually enjoying my time on my mat a little more as each week passed. And over time, I became slightly more confident that one day things might be some version of normal again. Yoga was slowly giving me hope that it would be possible to enjoy life again.
Looking back, what was happening?
Looking back, I realize that yoga was showing me how to be with the discomfort of the current circumstances of my life. Many of the physical postures in yoga are not easy. My first time practicing asana felt as if the instructor was telling me what to do in English but I had to respond in a completely different language.
To stay calm and steady in moments of extreme discomfort, we have to cultivate tools to help us through the discomfort of the present moment. Yoga practitioners rely on things such as breath, gaze, and meditative techniques to help regulate our nervous systems and thus apply that sense of calm to moments on our mats that feel quite the opposite.
Practicing yoga is practicing for the curveballs of life
When you cultivate and practice these tools on your mat, they start to go with you into your life. Thus, the way we move and breathe on our mats has the power to shape the way we move and breathe in our lives. Each moment is an opportunity to observe and learn about our nature and our reactions. When we take this knowledge with us off our mats and into our lives, we are able to live our practice.
In my own classes now, during final savasana I often remind students that even though this is the last posture of the class, it is actually where I believe the practice begins. This final resting pose is the bridge between what we practice on our mats and what we practice in our lives. To inspire the practice is to inspire your life.