I remember my first ever yoga class with Nataliia. Soft and strong at the same time, positive and shining like the sun! I felt so good after, simply wanted to dance and embrace the whole world… Today she is living in the Netherlands, spreading her light and knowledge to the locals, though you can watch her yoga courses on-line and catch up in Kiev (as she’s visiting Ukraine from time to time).
When you were a child what were you like? and what were you keen on?
I was a very energetic and cheerful kid, at the same time I was quite stubborn and mischievous. I was ailing all the time. Thanks to yoga I became healthier and my character softened. Now I have more energy, as asanas help with it.
What kind of ambitions did you have?
I dreamed to have a ballet dancer career. Can you imagine me being at home walking on tiptoes and mastering leg splits!? Yeah, I did it. I was extremely persistent. I guess this experience helped me to achieve success in learning asanas.
What education did you get?
After school I graduated from the Kyiv State Linguistic University with bachelor’s degree in translation and philology. But during the last two years I rarely attended classes. You know…because of work and huge interest in yoga!
Tell us, please, about your first experience in yoga. Why did you take interest in it?
It happened when I was studying at university. I was simply curious about trying different methods of personal development. It took almost all of my free time. Everything else was pushed to the second place – friends, studies, work and even sleep! In the morning I was studying, then working during the daytime and exercising asanas at night:)
Where did you get the information about yoga? How did you know what to practice?
First year I studied by the photocopy of an old book. At that time Andrey Siderskiy and Andrey Lappa were the only teachers giving the classes in Kiev, it was quite difficult to take part in them. I was collecting small pieces of information, and immediately experienced them on practice. In time the other teachers and like-minded people appeared in my life. As an interpreter, I was also engaged to translate the workshops of Masters, who were invited to Ukraine. Thereby I was communicating with them and learning from them.
How often do you practice today?
When I just started to do yoga, I could practice for six hours per day. Today the Life itself has become an unceasing practice. What we THINK, how we ACT… All these factors influence the state of mind, body, character and life in general. Depending on circumstances, I devote 15-120 minutes for practice every day. It’s not always yoga but can be meditation, pranayamas, jogging, dancing, sauna or just full relaxation of the body.
What do you rely on to build up the practices (feelings, moon calendar, problematic zones etc.)?
Depending on the current situation, I choose the most appropriate kind of practice: if there’s a need to rest – shavasana (full body relaxation); if I need to cheer up – jogging or dancing; to warm up – sauna; to balance the state – breathing; to resolve some inner problems – meditation…
Earlier I followed a prescribed program and harmed myself quite often. For example, due to the unbalanced yoga exercises I had lower back pain, due to the multiple diets – amenorrhea. Today I listen to my body, analyze my state and choose the proper practice. From time to time I keep a diary that helps me to understand what factors effect my health and what practice is better for me right now.
Who do you consider as your teachers?
It is considered that people who surround you determine your way of living and your success. I am grateful that there are so many wise and intelligent personalities around me. Vyacheslav Smirnov is my yoga teacher. Evgeniya Adamova shared the women’s secrets with me, Alla Vladimirovna Dmitrieva helped me to apply ancient practices to modern circumstances. I can say even more, each and every person who I meet is my Teacher. Including those who teach me through failures. I am thankful to all people who bring knowledge to this world – Nikolay Amosov, Mahatma Gandi, Carl Sagan and many others – we can learn a lot from them!
Which physical and psychological changes did you experience after 18 months of practice?
During the first three years my body changed a lot. I lost 20 kg of weight, became healthier and more active. My skin became cleaner. I started to breathe easier and freer, earlier I had the short wind attacks though.
When did you start to give yoga classes?
As it is said in one of Shakespeare’s plays, ‘to be or not to be: that is the question’. However, when we like something, there is no question, to do or not to do. The same happened to me. I quitted my job where I had to sell clothes made of fur and leather, and told my parents that from now on I would teach them yoga☺. They were my first students, but they were not super happy about my classes, and soon I found a substitution for them. Thus I got my first yoga group☺ That was success!
Do you remember your first class?
Yes, of course! I asked my dad to help me throwing almost all the furniture away from my room to prepare yoga hall. I remember my poor parents “twisting and spinning” while difficult asanas which I asked them to do. My approach was much more complicated at that time☺
What is yoga for you?
For me yoga is development in many aspects – body, mind, habits, social activities and relations. Yoga is considered to be a way of living your own life, what means a necessity of improving not only your bodily imperfections…
How do you call your yoga?
As development is a kind of coming back to the essence, returning to your nature. And as yoga helps to do it, I call my school ‘Yoga Nature’.
According to your experience, why people come to do yoga?
Most of people begin to practice when they are not satisfied with something in their lives or they have physical inconveniences. Many people practice because it’s useful, cool and fashionable. Not many people come for conscious development.
Are there any aspects that help to achieve success in yoga?
Positive attitude mostly. In yoga it is called Santosha. It is when you are satisfied with what you have. Ability to laugh at yourself, make jokes, a strong belief that it would work. And of course patience, moderation, desire to learn, love towards yourself and the outer world.
Talking about healthy food, what people should take into account when choosing their diet?
In Ayurveda there is such a principle called desha-kala-patra, meaning time-place-circumstances. Therefore when choosing your ration you need to take into account the current life conditions, climate, tasks that you perform in life. For example, you shouldn’t keep to a diet while being stressed. You need to choose appropriate time when the organism is ready for it. For instance, women’s hormonal system is more sensitive, therefore we bear the fast, caffeine, alcohol with more difficulties. Especially if these factors are followed by the irregular sleep, overloads and stresses. Women should simplify their diet at the end of menstrual period when hormone estrogen reaches its highest level. Men can go through stressful conditions easier, therefore the ascesis such as fast are recommended for them. You don’t have to fast the whole day. Skip your dinner or breakfast – it can help to offload some waste products from your organism. Healthy eating is very simple! You just need to exclude certain products:
– stimulators (coffee, alcohol, strong tea),
– products that cause zymosis (yeast),
– fast carbohydrates (sugar, sweets, honey, dried fruits),
– heavy products (meat, fat, fried),
– wheat and oat flour (bread, spaghetti, oatmeal…),
– milk and hard pressed cheese (with more than 45% fat).
It is better not to drink after food. All liquids should be taken 30 minutes before a meal or 90 minutes after it. It is recommended to drink nearly 1.5 liters of fresh water (juices and tea do not count). It is good to eat nuts, but not more than 30 grams per day, preliminary steeped. The same thing about the dried fruits. Eggs must be homegrown, not more than four eggs per week are allowed.
What body cleaning techniques can you recommend?
The best time for that is spring. At this time organism wakes up with nature. Therefore it is good to clean your liver, bowels and kidneys. It is better to hold soft cleaning procedures that would include changes in your diet. For instance, someone would clean the liver by eating just a salad (fruits’ or vegetables’) napped with lemon juice and a spoon of oil in the morning. You can add a milled flax (to activate the kidneys and adjust the estrogen) or/and fiber (to clean your bowels). It is good to eat much greens (parsley, fennel, coriander, salads, spinach…), cabbage of all types, celery. You can make juices, smoothies, ragu, soups, and salads. It is important to exclude fast carbohydrates, coffee, green and black tea, milk, all meals made of wheat and oat (bread, spaghetti etc.), yeast, alcohol, meat, products with high glycemic index from your ration. To help your body clean itself you can use the herbs that a specialist would assist to choose individually depending on your goals. For example, tripharmacum, dragon tea help to clean from parasites, brier and milk thistle clean your liver, flax – the kidneys. All this would be enough to clean your body.
During the diet it is important to check the protein level – minimum 1gram per 1kg of your weight. They should be better taken for lunch, then it would be easier digested and better absorbed. It can be fish, eggs, nuts, beans – don’t forget about moderate quantity.
Do you have any inspiring examples of life changes because of yoga?
In spring, 2015, we made an experimental course. 30 persons practiced yoga and followed a diet during 40 days. We filmed all that. The main heroes were my parents. They agreed to participate in this experiment to support me, as a result – they continue practicing regularly and their nutritional culture has drastically changed. The main thing – they feel young and full of strength again! Though there are many more successful stories, this one is the most important for me. You can watch this film on my video-channel or on my site yoganature.info
What are your favourite countries for travelling? What kind of trip would you call a spiritual one?
I organised many yoga-tours in many countries. The tour to Tibet was the most remarkable. This trip was physically and materially difficult, but the experience would stay with me forever. That was a tracking around the sacred mountain Kailas. It is said that the Gods of 5 religions, including Buddha and Shiva, live there. The highest tracking point is 5600 meters. Despite the difficult walking, you feel happiness inside.
This trip opens absolutely another world and shows attitude towards life based on non-material values. I suppose these places are spiritual because people experience difficult circumstances and feel total harmony inside.
The second place in terms of impressions – India. The third – Carpathian mountains in Ukraine.
You have great experience in organizing individual and group tours. What are the advantages and disadvantages?
I have visited Tibet twice – first time with a group, second – with my beloved. Group trips are usually strictly planned and organised. In my groups there are mostly people who develop themselves. In that case the trips are useful and interesting. We do yoga, communicate a lot, visit interesting places, sing, have fun together.
Individual trips are more spontaneous. You are more likely to have an unexpected meeting or event. I love both formats, as they are completely different.
What is the difference between yoga in Western Europe and Ukraine?
There are pluses and minuses in both. In Europe people are more proactive. For them yoga is a tool to support their health, a possibility to relax. They have less esoteric and more physical exercises. In Ukraine yoga is more spiritual, and not always this spirituality is healthy. People look for solutions to their problems in yoga, instead of acting in reality to complete their tasks in life. But there are many adequate schools where I had studied. One thing I know for sure, popularity of yoga keeps on growing in the whole World.
What is your favourite meditation?
Gratitude. When we think about how much we have and feel gratitude for…
What kind of books would your recommend to someone practicing yoga?
– Life without limits by Joe Vitale,
– The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal,
– Woman code by Alisa Vitti (for women),
– Yoga anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff,
– – The Heart of Yoga by Desikachar,
– The seven habits of highly effective people by Stephen R. Covey.
I would add several favourite films about self-development, among them are: Peaceful warrior, Samsara, Spirited away
What would you recommend to yoga coaches who start their career?
For the beginner yoga teacher, it is normal to feel timidly. It is important to remember that you teach yoga because you want to help people to feel better. Your positive attitude and desire to help will work.
Read and learn a lot. Minimum once a month attend classes of other instructors.
Don’t forget about your personal practice. It should be regular on daily basis.
Yoga is a tool to improve the quality of life. Don’t forget to evolve in other spheres. Remember a definition of the World Health Organization: “Health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being and not only the absence of disease..”
Give as many classes as you can without harm to your health. Give more instructions with your voice. During the class correct people because a soft touch often creates miracles.
I can talk a lot on this subject! In the nearest future I plan to organise an on-line school for yoga instructors. You can get more details at yoganature.info or by subscribing to the mailing list on the same site.
What about recommendations for beginning practitioners?
One of the most important rules in yoga is ahimsa. It means non-violent behaviour, first of all towards yourself. When we start to practice yoga, there are always lots of new things. It is important to listen to yourself first of all, and only after that to an instructor. Listen to your breathing – if you are unable to control it, if you have a short wind or uncontrolled breath holdings – stop exercising and take a few deep breaths. Only after this continue your practice.
It is important to keep to a diet. At a certain moment you may feel absence of progress just because of your ration.
The body should get all types of workout – stretching, strengthening, cardio exercises, deep relaxation. It is important to balance your practice relevantly.
Watch your body – how it reacts to your practice. If you feel pain or the necessity to visit a physiotherapist after your practice, you should tell about this to your instructor.
When choosing your instructor – visit several classes to find exactly what you really like.
I wish you success and inspiration in your practice!
Interview taken by Olga Sydorenko.
Translated by Olga Tibuntsova.