Amara was your first yoga studio, and now you have experienced many different studios both as a student and teacher. Can you talk a little bit about the L.A. yoga scene?

The L.A. yoga scene is abundant. There's every type of yoga for every type of yogi. Most studios have vastly different teachers (some have been teaching for more than 20 years) and classes, which makes if fun to explore. I feel very grateful to be apart of it! From high-end gyms to small homes that have been turned into studios, every place has something special to offer. It's funny how each area of the city has its own yoga community- the west side is typically fast paced, advanced, and hot. The central city is a bit of everything and the east side (where I live) tends to be a tad slower than the west but just as advanced taking time to dive deep with correct alignment of poses. While there is competition with so many studios and so many teachers, I do feel a sense of positivity and support throughout the yoga community to rise up the vibrations and shine light to all. 

Tell us about your teaching schedule in L.A. Has it been easy to get new teaching jobs? What do you think has given you an edge to help you land jobs?

I teach about 15 classes a week at 7 locations through 3 different associations, teaching 2-3 classes a day. The hardest part was finding my first teaching gig with a catch 22 of not having any experience teaching yoga in a big city, so it was hard for people to let me in. My mentor, Kia Miller (a very well known yoga teacher in the western world) had me sub her classes at YogaWorks before I got a class of my own- it felt as if I was thrown to the wolves (those fast paced advanced west side yogis) but I think she knew I just needed a little push in the right direction to ground my feet deeply as I started my journey into the Los Angeles Yoga scene. Once I landed my first gig all doors opened up. The most positive influence would definitely be my connections with others and my communication to what my goals and aspirations are. From there I would get referred to studios, audition by teaching a 30 minute mock class to the owners or managers (after subbing for Kia everything else felt like a piece of cake), and then would get offered classes. My schedule is constantly fluctuating which I like because I'm ultimately working with others to find what times, locations, and studios feel right for me so everyone can be the happiest they can be. 

We loved your yoga scene in True Blood, which you choreographed and appeared in. Was it intimidating to train actors to do yoga? How did you keep from laughing at the teacher?

That was fun! I wasn't intimidated by the actors and actresses, they were great to work with (although some of them have never really done yoga before)- they caught on fast as it was like a script they had to memorize just with their bodies. I was slightly intimidated by the director who was a very powerful woman that knew exactly what she wanted. I think the fun part was actually working with the director on where the camera would be (slowly flying above us) connected to the script of the 'guru' to find perfect the tempo of the class mixed with the level of the camera (standing vs./ on all 4's) all the while connecting to what the 'guru' was actually saying through his script. I went into that thinking I was only going to choreograph, and when they asked if I wanted to be in the mix I couldn't say no. I definitely laughed internally at the script, the guru, and the scene in general but after doing that scene a good 50 times to get the best take it felt like a sequence I’ve done for years. I've also been thinking about teaching actors and actresses more and more (I think the connection to the body, mind and spirit is quite important for those in that world) and I look forward to doing more of it.

Tell us a little bit about what you have been up to recently with the Wanderlust folks and other things.

I've been very excited about this next stage of my yoga career. Wanderlust is opening a studio in Los Angeles this month and I will take the Wanderlust Teacher Training in October, which emphasizes on advanced creative sequencing. I've been taking lots of classes from teachers out of this program recently and have fallen in love with the style. I recently assisted a yoga retreat at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur led by Kia Miller (my mentor) and Schuyler Grant (who is the co-founder of Wanderlust). I'm hoping that after this TT the doors will open to potentially teach at the Wanderlust studio here in LA with the opportunities of teaching at the Wanderlust festivals in the years to come. This new Wanderlust studio will be more than just a yoga studio- it will be a community center with a mixture of yoga, meditation, music, conscious food and drinks, lectures, and other special events. It's a place for people to come together and be together for longer periods of time than just taking a class and leaving. I whole-heartedly love this idea and can't wait to be a part of it. 

Your style is Kundalini-inspired. Can you describe that a little bit?

Although I don't have any classic teacher training in Kundalini, I've been studying for 5 years under my mentor Kia Miller who is known for her ability to translate the subtle teachings of Kundalini in a highly accessible way. I do plan on taking a Kundalini Teacher training in the future and hope to gain more knowledge to share with others in this field. I like to add pranayama, meditation, mantra and specific asanas that help awaken the Kundalini, lifting the energy from the root chakra to the crown. I often add this into my hatha and vinyasa flow classes finding balance in the practice from the gross to subtle body. 

You completed your 500-hour training with Kia Miller through YogaWorks. What were some of the main things you learned that you could share with us?

The main thing I learned through my teacher trainings with Kia is that being a yoga teacher is all about sharing your own practice with others. The most important thing then is your own practice. It's easy to lose yourself in your teachings and forget about yourself as you are constantly giving to others. She kept reiterating the importance of a daily sadhana, some kind of daily meditation possibly through mantra, pranayama, or a small asana practice to help shift into your own spiritual practice. The best is to do this in the early morning to start your day before all the hustle and bustle of the day arrives. Other keys of teaching I’ve learned are to teach to the students in the class, not just teaching the class. In other terms, you can plan a whole class out but once you get there you have to assess the scene looking at bodies asking about injuries, past experiences with yoga, etc., then adjust your plan accordingly to make sure everyone will be benefiting from your information your sharing. This is one of the hardest parts of being a teacher but also one of the most fun parts- it forces you to be absolutely present in the moment and makes the class more personal as you connect with the individuals there. 

Your upcoming workshop is about Creative Sequencing. Explain sequencing a little bit and what inspired this workshop subject. What can people expect? Is it just for yoga teachers or can anyone benefit?

Every yoga class I take in LA inspires my teachings. As I said earlier, I've fallen in love with creative sequencing specifically through teachers that have been trained through wanderlust, but really every teacher that provides a new transition, emphasis, and or link of poses. I feel that creative sequencing forces the student to be in the moment, as they have to stay alert to see what the next movement will be. As a full time yoga teacher for the last two years I've seen so many injuries caused by repetition of poses through misalignment. Think about how many times we move through our classic vinyasa of chaturanga, up dog, to down dog. That's a lot on our wrists, elbows and shoulders. While that is an amazing way to keep the heart rate up and generate heat to keep the muscles warm as we dive deeper that's not the only way to keep the tempo and heat going. I've noticed that my specific body resonates with less classic vinyasas and more intelligent sequencing towards our 'peak pose'. Sequencing is like any other story. There's a beginning, middle, and an end. You first find your peak pose (might be the most advanced pose of the practice, in this case lets say upward facing bow pose) which will guide you into your theme of the class (shoulder opening), finding an emphasis on actions with that through poses as we roll the shoulder blades back, down and into the chest, structurally opening the heart and strengthening the back body, while possibly adding an emotional and or connection to the chakras (ahimsa, non violence, love and the heart charkra). Now we have the content, after that we can explore possibilities of linking poses together instead of the classic surya a, b, or c, maybe you use child’s pose or table top position, maybe down dog or plank without chaturanga as the equal standing pose (tadasana, and/ or samastitihi). There’s a world of possibilities and this workshop will touch base on those possibilities to ignite our own creativity through sequencing. We well work through a creative class together, then talk it over, and make some of our own with mock sequences feeling it in our bodies and sharing our thoughts and experiences with others. Everyone can benefit from this class especially if you're interested in gaining and intelligent at home practice. I do recommend some kind of experience and practice with yoga, as there will be a lot of movements and information given. I hope to see you there! 

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AuthorDebra Domal