Teacher Profile: Yasa Rasakhoo

Each month, we’ll be featuring a different Yoga Nook teacher on the blog so you can learn more about their unique styles, personalities and inspirations. Plus, all scheduled classes taught by the teacher of the month will be $10 community classes all month long!

Today we’re getting a jump-start on April with Yasa Rasakhoo. Read on to find out why we love her, then stop by Yoga Nook to experience her classes firsthand:

Monday 6:45-8 p.m. — Classic Yoga Level 1 & 2
Wednesday 7-8 p.m. — Qi Gong/Chi Kung
Saturday 8:30-9:30 a.m. — Qi Gong/Tai Chi

What originally drew you to the practice of Yoga? How has your practice changed over time? 

I have always been interested in Eastern practices, especially Yoga, meditation, and Qi Gong. I have been meditating for 35 years and practicing Yoga to some degree for the same period of time. My newest love, Qi Gong, came into my life in the last five years. I studied Qi Gong at the School of Chinese Medicine and am amazed at the power it has to heal the body and mind.

Why did you decide to become a Registered Yoga Teacher? What inspires your teaching today? 

I decided to become a yoga teacher six years ago. I had no definite idea why, except that I wanted to further deepen my knowledge and understanding of anatomy and the philosophy behind Yoga. I am inspired by how Yoga evolved and is still growing and changing constantly. The sky is the limit.

How would you describe your teaching style? What makes your classes unique? 

I like to teach slow and steady classes because of my Qi Gong background. I use the ideology behind Chinese medicine, that using and warming up the joints gives us much more access to the poses and makes the practice pain-free, soft and easy, and enjoyable.

Are there any particularly memorable or transformative moments from your practice or teaching that you would like to share? 

Every class is unique and memorable. My teaching improved when I decided to be myself and not imitate other teachers or books, and I realized that this is the only way I can teach – by being myself.

What is your favorite pose, and why? 

My favorite pose is Side Angle (Parsvakonasana), because it is so beautiful and expansive. The technique of shortening one side to be able to lengthen the other side is very appealing to me. It is an awesome pose.

What advice would you share with a student looking to deepen his or her practice?

Be yourself. We are all unique in our own ways. Let your practice BE and not DO. Love what you do and enjoy the students. Know that we are all just one energy expressing uniquely.

If you could choose one quote that best encompasses your approach, what would it be?

“Connect to the breath.” Follow your breath, let it guide you through your teaching and practice. It will do magic for you.


A Blinding Flash of the Obvious

One of my valued gurus, Judith Lasater, uses this phrase to describe the moments in life when we suddenly gain a newfound awareness of something that’s not new in the world, but is deeply relevant to us – an “aha!” moment that is recognizable as a whole-body experience. We have all felt these to a greater or lesser degree.

I want to share a blinding flash of my own, a revelation that changed how I think about meditation. It was a realization that allowed me to feel successful for the first time in a practice that had, until then, been fraught with discomfort and disappointment.

When I began to meditate about 20 years ago, I was filled with ambition. I wanted to be a great meditator and feel the bliss that my own teachers seemed to be experiencing. But the harder I tried and the more determined I was, the more frustrated I felt – and the further away from meditation I seemed to be.

Meditation is one of the eight limbs, or techniques, that make up the practice of Yoga. In just the same way you learn physical poses (asana) in a beginning class, it’s wise to begin a meditation practice with baby steps.

During my own teacher training, I was taught that the definition of meditation was 144 seconds of uninterrupted concentration, or a little over two minutes. While two minutes doesn’t seem long, it can feel like eternity if you’re uncomfortable, not at ease, or experiencing “monkey mind.”

One morning, as I attempted in vain to achieve two minutes of uninterrupted concentration, I had an epiphany, a blinding flash of the obvious. What if I went for a walk in my garden and walked with concentration for two minutes, my mind completely focused on the walking? Perhaps I could do some Yoga (asana) and move with mindfulness for two minutes, or be focused and completely present as I prepared the evening meal by chopping vegetables with full intent on the task.

The more I thought of applying mindfulness and meditation to everyday life, the easier it seemed to find activities I could do with 144 seconds of focused concentration. Once I gave myself permission to integrate meditation practices with everyday activities, I discovered multiple opportunities to practice.

Try these ideas to add mindfulness and meditation into your daily life:

1.  Rise early and take a short walk. Be mindful of each step you take, the nature around you, the temperature, and the sounds of the morning. Remember, walking is the meditation. Unlike walking for exercise, you’re not focused on a goal, outcome or destination; you are simply focused on the walking itself.

2.  Make a simple salad for lunch and eat with conscious awareness. Notice the way you chew your food, the texture, and its flavor. Take your time – each bite is an opportunity to practice being present.

3.  The next time you take a shower, bring your attention to your sensory experience. Notice how the water feels on your skin, the smell of your shampoo or body wash, and the sound of the water as it hits the ground. Just be aware of your experience as you cleanse your body and mind.

Blending mindfulness and meditation with movement, cooking or enjoying nature were the beginning steps I needed. Now I celebrate the start of every day by sitting for 30 minutes or so. Sometimes my eyes are open, sometimes closed, but my practice is always calming, quiet and blissful.


Image credit: Tomi Tapio K on Flickr (CC)

It’s Meditation March at Yoga Nook!

To celebrate over one year of FREE community meditation classes, Yoga Nook teachers will be integrating a five-minute meditation in every class at Yoga Nook throughout the month of March.

The meditation may be a mindful movement portion of the class or a more classic seated experience, and will be included in every 75-minute yoga class regardless of the level.

Be Present Meditation Workshop

Join Pat VanBuskirk, Jessica Nilson and Jeni Winterburn for a FREE meditation workshop on Saturday, March 21 from 12-1:30 p.m.

Together we will practice simple seated concentration, mindfulness meditation, as well as meditation in movement. Learn how to bring greater mindfulness to your yoga poses and enhance your experience in meditation.

Beginners are welcome. Please call (805) 390-8175 to reserve your spot today.


Image credit: Brian Ambrozy on Flickr (CC)

Get OFF Your Yoga Mat

I love Yoga. So why am I asking you to get off your mat?

Because in the West, we have a very narrow view of Yoga — we think it’s all about stretching. We celebrate flexibility as if it’s the only result Yoga can help us achieve.

I’m here to show you how Yoga can benefit you OFF the mat. Rooted in a history that’s over 5,000 years old, yoga techniques are as relevant in today’s world as they were to the ancient yogis and yoginis.

My intention for this blog is to show you how to apply these ancient techniques to your lifeI’ll be giving you practical tips, sharing my own yoga experience, and inviting you to comment on the posts.

I’ve been a Yoga teacher in Simi Valley for over 20 years, and Yoga Nook has been in business for 12 of those years. Our studio is built on a valley-wide reputation for excellence in teaching yoga classes, teacher training and somatic education.

Until now, the only way you could benefit from Yoga was to come in and take a class. That’s about to change. Now you can subscribe to our blog to receive two monthly posts that will shed light on how Yoga can help you understand yourself and the world we live in.

Simply enter your email address below to sign up. I invite you to share your insights, stories and comments. Join us and become part of the Yoga Nook community, living Yoga OFF the mat.

With gratitude,

Jeni Winterburn


Image credit: bradleypjohnson on Flickr (CC)