Ready to try yoga but think living in an apartment will get in the way of your downward dog, or that it may not be the right setting to practice? Not the case! We spoke with our yoga guru Julia Khafizov of Satori Yoga + Therapy in Grand Prairie, Alberta, who says all you need to experience the power of yoga is a nice cozy corner in your apartment to devote to yourself. We asked Julia about her passion for yoga, her favourite pose, and how to start off if you’re a beginner. Here’s what she had to say:
Is it possible to get a great yoga session in virtually in your apartment?
Absolutely, 100%. I’ve been teaching yoga on-line since COVID started, and that’s coming from a teacher who swore to never ever teach on-line. The funny thing? I keep asking my students if they want to go back to the studio - and the answer is unanimous NO. They like it on-line because they don’t have to go anywhere after the class is finished. They don’t have to scrape the windows of their car, get into all their winter clothes, and drive home on the icy roads in the dark. Instead, they can practice in their home, often in their pyjamas.
Where does your passion for yoga come from?
It all started with back pain I couldn’t resolve no matter what I tried. Yoga was kind of a last resort attempt and it worked! I can’t say that I was hooked from my first time on the mat, it was more like slowly falling in love with it. And I still am! I’ve been teaching since 2006, and I’m still constantly learning about human bodies and human minds, and I’m constantly amazed at how much wisdom yoga holds.
Do you view yoga as more mental or physical?
Absolutely both! Our minds aren’t as separate from our bodies as it seems. 5,000 years ago, yoga practitioners believed that mind and body were inseparable. And modern science has confirmed that in the last decade or so. We have neurons (brain cells) in our digestive system and in our heart. Body and mind is a single and whole, and it makes sense that yoga engages them both equally.
Which aspects of yoga do you get most excited about teaching?
I am excited to help people get moving. I specialize in Pain Care Yoga for folks who have trouble with mobility and movement. To me, it is priceless to see faces light up as people discover how much they can actually do if we structure the practice right.
What is your favourite go-to pose?
Shavasana, hands down! Shavasana is a relaxation pose where you just kind of get comfortable and breathe, but there’s so much you can do with the pose! Maybe more importantly, there is so much the pose can do for you!
Do you have advice for those new to yoga?
The most important thing to know for any yoga beginner is that you just have to start. You don’t have to be in a particular shape, you don’t need to touch your toes. Some days I can’t touch my toes either, so what! It might help to research the teacher you are considering and ask them questions about their teaching style, especially if you have underlying issues. Some teachers focus on a more athletic style, some hold lots of stretches, some specialize working with people who had trauma, and others work with folks who have persistent pain. Research your teacher to make sure their style matches your needs!
What are the essential must-haves for someone starting out?
This depends on the style of teaching. For some classes and some styles, sticky mat is a necessity. For how I teach, a rug will do. Some of my students like to practice on their bed - just because getting on and off the floor is a challenge. My classes use a lot of props - I like to think of props as tools that help us increase our mobility. So, we use chairs, and towels, and balls for massage. You can, of course, get specialized equipment but I usually suggest starting with just a few cheap, found-at-home tools to begin with. If you like how it feels, you can always start growing your prop library slowly.
What is the goal when a client/student leaves the Satori Yoga Studio or completes a virtual class?
That depends. Each student has their own goal for their practice. Sometimes it is the mind that needs to be settled; sometimes it is an ache here or there that needs to be addressed. My goal for every class and every student is to help each of them appreciate how much they can move already, to help them move with less pain and more ease, to reduce fear of movement, and to nurture a sense of hope.
A huge thank you to Julia and her team at Satori Yoga + Therapy for helping us take the next steps to reaching our fitness, flexibility, and mental health goals without making us bend over backwards (pun intended).