We are delighted to share with you Nancy Turnquist, Plank's Inspired Instructor. This knowledgeable, creative, real-world class facilitator and teacher is the qualified, energized and Plank "yogi of the moment." These dedicated individuals are body aware, mentally engaged with your experience, socially conscious and just plain GOOD at what they do. Take a sec, read all about it in our Q&A and of course...
Inhale. Exhale. Enjoy. It's our way to always be a part of the Plank experience in being inspired, informed and in action.
Plank Featured Instructor Q&A:
1) How is it you became a yoga instructor?
The moment I found yoga practice, I knew I had found the path I was seeking personally. My only intention was to learn and practice. I took as many classes as I could each week at the Iyengar Center and signed up for all the weekend workshops on all the different aspects of practice.
Eventually, I took the two year Iyengar teacher training with my teacher, Patricia Walden, because I wanted to deepen my understanding of yoga. My main priority in doing the training was to work intensively with my teacher and to immerse myself in the subject. As a passionate student of yoga I was often informally showing yoga poses to friends, family and my students (I used to teach school) but it never occurred to me to be a yoga teacher.
As my teacher training began, a friend asked me to take over a gym class she had been teaching. With my teacher's encouragement, I accepted and began to teach one class a week. I practiced daily, studied constantly and gave those twenty students in my class everything I had to offer. I had quit my job before the start of the training to have time to practice and reevaluate my priorities. I
lived simply, bought nothing, did some freelance translation work to make ends meet and dove into practice. By the end of teacher training, I had been offered more classes at the gym and was invited to apprentice further with my teacher and begin the rigorous Iyengar certification process. It was then I realized I was going to be teaching yoga. Now almost ten years have passed. After my training and regularly since then, I travelled to Pune India to study with BKS Iyengar and his children Geeta and Preshant. The power of their teachings is an indescribable gift and is fundamental to my continued growth as a student and teacher.
2) How is it you have chosen the style and core practice that you have chosen?
As an intense and soulful child, I fell in love with language, literature and poetryand, as I grew up, I identified more and more with my mind and less and less with my body. After major open knee surgery, I was left without effective tools toface the challenge of recovering my internal balance and integrating the traumain my body, mind, and soul. Aware of a need for healing but unable to find a
path, I moved on with my life. A couple of years later I discovered Iyengar Yoga and I knew I’d found what I had been looking for after my surgery and, indeed, formuch of my life – a system that addressed all aspects of the human experience, recognizing the body as the temple of the soul. I have never stopped being amazed that such a practical approach of aligning the body, also aligns the mind and soul and has such powerful effects on people in every pose and every class. The study of pranayama (yogic breathing) and yoga philosophy that are hallmarks of this method have also profoundly inspired and deepened my practice. These studies help to infuse my practice of postures with meditative awareness.
My practice of Iyengar yoga gives me a feeling of faith and I feel supported by and connected to a lineage of practitioners: my own teacher; Patricia Walden, BKS Iyengar and his teachers before him.
3) What do you treasure most about the exchange and experiences you've shared with your students?
There really aren't words to describe how much I treasure the mutual respect I share with my students and how that fuels and supports my personal practice. They are the reason I teach. Their interest and passion and devotion to the study of yoga challenges and inspires me to grow beyond my limitations and see beauty in places I could have never imagined before.
On a personal level, I love watching students make connections in class, or receiving emails from students reporting that they've made it into a pose in their home practice that we've been working on for months or years, and having the priviledge to work with students over the course of years and help them to practice yoga through many moments and phases of their lives.
4) How has practicing yoga changed your life in any specific way and if so, what have the changes been?
Yoga practice has changed my life in too many ways to count. My body, mind and sense of the world have slowly changed over time and through practice. It has shown me that real change is possible with devotion and effort.
The change I appreciate most is that my practice has deepened into something that feels consistently sacred. I am now beginning to feel what BKS Iyengar has said in many different ways: if you pay attention and devote yourself fully, deep practice is always possible, no matter what the condition of your body or the situation you find yourself in. And that deep practice brings you into contact with something much greater than your individual self.
5) As an instructor you are with students regularly, but how often do you practice yourself?
Yoga practice is the joy that leads me to teach. I practice asana and pranayama every day. If I am teaching a lot, I try to extend my personal practice time so that I have more energy and insight to give to my students.
In the Iyengar lineage, students are encouraged to begin a regular home practice very early on. In teacher training, we were taught from the beginning that teaching is a profound art and that a teacher must have a committed, regular practice of their own in order to teach and also to help them understand the issues their students may be having. I often devote part of my practice to explore my students' issues.
BKS Iyengar is 92 years old and still practices for about four hours each day in the yoga hall at the Institute in Pune, India. An inspiring example!
6) If there was anything you could personally share or change about the idea and perception of a yoga practice, what would that be?
Beginning a yoga practice is simple. You don't need to be a certain way to practice yoga. You can come exactly as you are. The practice itself changes you. Find a well-trained teacher with experience who you trust and practice in class and carry that practice home. It's a profound gift you can give to yourself to let it be simple and allow yourself to learn.
7) Humor and being OK with making mistakes and not being "perfect" in class is something Plank wants to impart with followers; have you had any funny or imperfect moments you'd like to share?
I find humor is essential to practice and teaching. My story about not being "perfect in class" is about learning how to work with an injury with good humor. When I returned to asana practice after a second knee surgery, I faced a major lesson in humility. I felt eager to jump back into practicing as I had before, but my teacher gave me clear instruction on just what I could (and couldn’t) do. I was fortunate to receive expert guidance in how to work with myself and encouraged to cultivate patience and discernment of what my body actually required in the moment. I started to see that when I worked with where my body and mind were, I felt connected to a still place inside. I also experienced organically the purpose of the props as tools for healing. I learned that by dealing with my injury and acknowledging my imperfections I could enter a much more profound practice after I healed because I had learned a lot about my body from my injury and could apply that awareness in challenging poses. Had I stopped practicing because I was injured or pushed through my injury I certainly would not have healed so well or learned the lesson my injury had to teach me.
8) If you had the opportunity to walk up to a complete stranger and knew you had only one minute to share with them your philosophy on your preferred yoga, what would you tell them?
When I discovered Iyengar yoga years ago, I felt a glimmer of hope that communion between mind, body and soul was possible. Following these teaching with my whole heart has led me to the depths I had dreamed of but could not have created without the fire of practice. BKS Iyengar exemplifies what originally drew me to this lineage – that through the devoted practice of yoga, our bodies can express the poetry of the soul.
9) Where can a student find you this spring and summer? Any upcoming retreats or workshops?
After teaching in Costa Rica this fall and a busy winter I'm staying closer to home. I am teaching a series of workshops this spring and summer on yoga and women's health, exploring the incredible teachings of Geeta Iyengar on the basic principles of women's health in yoga and how to practice at each phase and cycle of a woman's life.
Check out my website www.YogaOffering.com for more about my teaching schedule.
You can also find more information about me, my teacher Patricia Walden, and the Boston Iyengar community at www.yoganow.net, the website for the BKS Iyengar Yogamala of Cambridge. Photos courtesy of Laura Barisonzi.
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Coming Up! May 15th Instructor sister team from Nashville Kelly and Lauren Farina of Hot Yoga Nashville.
...We knew we had discovered our passion when we truly became dedicated to our individual practice. Yoga is our daily meditation that keeps the mind peaceful and always inspires each of us to learn more about our physical and mental self. We love that yoga is so simple and is for everyone, yet continues to challenge us everyday. You feel like you can do anything, be anybody and you want to do it with peace and love in your heart...Who doesn't want that?
Hot Yoga Nashville