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Get To Know Our Faculty – July 26 – August 1, 2021

What has the pandemic brought to light for you personally?

Dan Coogan: The pandemic has shown me how easily I adapted to what now seems like an unsustainably frantic pre-pandemic pace of life, and how being forced to adopt a different pace of life during the pandemic has been a healthy change for me.

Deidra Demens: Before the pandemic I was working to get to a place where I would have everything together, where every part of my life was perfectly balanced, and never disrupted. One of the things that I have learned during the pandemic is that I don’t always have to have everything together. Learning this has helped me become more present, instead of always looking for some perfect future. I can just be. 

Liza Toft: The Pandemic was a very difficult time, a time of collective trauma, however it gave me personally an opportunity to slow down and dig deeper into looking at how yoga can be used as a healing modality.  Not only personally, but how to heal communities – especially the most vulnerable. 

Susan Turis: The pandemic pause brought me many gifts and growth. I am a disciplined person and the fear of letting go of relationships with people and commitments that caused me stress and unhappiness never entered my mind. It was the full stop break that brought light to what had been working beautifully and also what was not.  This examination allowed me to use my drive to learn and to teach what I truly desired and for this I am humbled and grateful.

What pose/poses are you currently exploring?

Dan Coogan: I am currently exploring timings in Sirsasana and how different timings affect my practice after Sirsasana. The longer I stay in Sirsasana, the more easily I settle into a slower and more contemplative subsequent practice.

Deidra Demens:  I’m exploring padmasana. Since the pandemic, we’ve all been at home more. I was sitting on my couch way more than usual. I realized if I sit on the floor, I could take seated poses like virasana, baddha konasana, and upavistha konasana to help my padmasana practice. 

Liza Toft:  I’m not exploring any one particular pose right now. But watching how my body responded to this time of the pandemic and quarantine.  I lost a kind of strength that has felt more difficult to regain. Abhijata’s Srping Sadhana really spoke to me in that regard.  We need strength to keep moving forward during this difficult time.  Not just physically, but emotionally, psychologically. 

Susan Turis: I used to strive for particular asanas and explore the ways to open my body and go further or deeper.  But an acute spinal diagnosis that is now chronic has stopped that too.  Now my practice has evolved to perceive similarities of actions in poses to achieve a result in a safe and progressive way.  I may be practicing basic asana or advanced asana but I see them as moving parts that lead somewhere and I have let go of preferences… Forward bends soothe me but I become lax so recognizing this I practice for stability, strength and the serenity that comes from a complete practice bringing peace of mind.

What is your favorite quote from the Iyengars?

Dan Coogan: “Paripoorna Matsyendrasana may take a longer time to master than I have anticipated. One should try this asana every day irrespective of failures.” For me, this quotation is less about Paripurna Matsyendrasana (which is, as the quotation suggests, an extremely challenging pose) and more about the exhortation to continue to challenge oneself even in the face of “failure”. So many poses in the Iyengar method seem almost impossible, but the work is not to “succeed” in arranging your body in the manner prescribed for a pose. The work is to do the work, regardless of “success” or “failure”. 

Deidra Demens:  It changes, but right now I really like this one “Yoga is like music. The rhythm of the body. The melody of the mind. And the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life”

Liza Toft:  My favorite quote from the Iyengars is from Prashant: Abhyasa is a study not in the sense of studying the texts of yoga but studying one’s own body as a text – there is much to observe, much to study much to experiment with, much to try and much to understand. 

Susan Turis: “Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame.”This quote by Guruji is written on my heart because of pratyakṣa. Direct experiential knowledge that has come through my yoga practice and the fruits of it.

What words of encouragement do you have for new students?

Dan Coogan: Start to practice and explore on your own, and don’t overthink that process. Many beginning students feel that they need the guidance and structure of class instruction to do yoga. While this may be true at the very beginning, students can very quickly start to explore the basic standing poses on their own without worrying about sequencing or precise instruction. In other words: just do. 

Deidra Demens:  I would encourage students to have fun, and enjoy the journey. You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to know everything. Just explore in your practice.

Liza Toft:  Practice to stay present with whatever your experience is, cultivate awareness. The more you practice the more interested you will become. 

Susan Turis: New students to Iyengar yoga can be excited or overwhelmed depending on their prior yoga experience. I will help them to progress over time if they are willing. I tell them to not take anything personally.  This is an instructive education of language on how to move the body.  When they miss something or think they got it wrong I try to help them have success because they have listened to the detailed instructions given.

What is your favorite ice cream, work of art, place in the world, book, or movie?

Dan Coogan: Favorite book: Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche. A beautifully poetic narrative presentation of a radical philosophy that shares some important characteristics with the philosophy of yoga.

Deidra Demens: My favorite book is “If Beale Street Could Talk” by James Baldwin 

Liza Toft: I don’t have just one favorite piece of art, that is impossible!  But if I were to say one that first comes to mind, is anything by Forrest Bess..but “Homage to Ryder” is a great little painting.

Susan Turis: My favorite places are usually near the ocean.  I spent my childhood at Rockaway and Coney Island beaches. We spent the last 16 years swimming and sunrise meditations at the ocean in Miami Beach. I have vivid memories of swimming in the Adriatic sea before breakfast on 2 family vacations where I felt as free as the fish and at peace.

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