FEATURED TEACHER OF THE MONTH
Interview by Sarah McElwain
A former dancer and photographer, Narisara Vanichanan received her 200-hour and 500-hour Yoga teacher training from OM Yoga Center under Cyndi Lee, Prenatal Yoga certification from Janice Clarfield, Yin Yoga certification from Corina Benner, and Restorative Yoga training from Judith Hanson Lasater. She is a graduate of the OM Meditation teacher training program. She is also 200-hour certified in Therapeutic Yoga from Abhyasa Yoga Center/Heart of Yoga and in Yoga for Cancer survivors and has practiced vipassana (insight) meditation for more than 16 years. Narisara has studied anatomy at the Breathing Project with Amy Matthews and Leslie Kaminoff for three years. She has additional certifications in pranayama and mudras from Joseph and Lillian LePage of Integrative Yoga Therapy. She is currently studying meditation and dharma at Wat Florida Dhammaram under Abbot Than Chaokun and her parents, Drs. Chotip and Jaranan Vanichanan.
For Narisara, teaching Yoga is an opportunity to help others, and she offers a creative but structured environment where the present moment is honored. She blends poetry, the visual arts, anatomy studies, and dharma into her classes and draws inspiration from everyday urban life. Outside the studio, Narisara has worked in the arts, consulting, and nonprofit management. She has a master’s degree in arts administration from Columbia University and is a graduate of Coro Leadership NY. She is grateful for the opportunities and for the many teachers at Integral Yoga Institute.
What is your definition of Yoga?
Yoga is alive and vibrant, offering your best “you” in this moment. Practicing Yoga is like riding a bicycle, where creating balance is harmonizing several elements—steering, falling, pedaling, seeing, listening, breathing, exerting oneself, and gliding—so union with the moment could take some effort or not much effort at all. Yoga is a heartfelt steadiness of mind that can skillfully respond to the constantly changing flow of life.
What do you love about Yoga?
I love that Yoga offers a practice to observe and listen, that I can take these skills beyond the mat and throughout life in New York City. How I deal with states of mind and emotions during the practice directly translates into how I interact with the world: in the subway, when discussing politics, on the streets of New York, when traveling outside the city. In the intense summer heat, it has been good for me to learn to work a little less, calm the striving, and see how mind, body, and inner life are truly interdependent. With the onset of fall and cooler weather, my body takes longer to heat up, and the poses that were enjoyable have changed over the years. The transitional spaces, the in-betweens, are places for me to explore and become friendly with as well.
I love the people whom Yoga shapes. I love that Yoga is happening in more places now, in many situations and languages, and continues to offer paths toward wholeness and freedom, unity and integration. I remember coming to IYI in the 1990s, when I first visited New York City, and have always felt that this place was a sanctuary, a place to regain strength and heal.
Why do you teach Yoga?
I teach to offer my students relief from physical and emotional pain, to help them cherish moving the body, and to strengthen the heart and mind. I learn so much from teaching, from observing how students connect to their own breath and bodies. I teach to remind myself who I want to be.
What are the particular areas of Yoga you are teaching in now or in which you have created your own, special offerings? What attracted you to those areas?
I currently teach Yin Yoga at IYINY and love bringing mindfulness and breath awareness to the inquiry. Being a former dancer and a consultant, I have in the past overworked the body and pushed myself to mental exhaustion. While teaching, I enjoy encouraging qualities that can be difficult to manifest, such as patience and generosity. Now more than ever, I believe it is important to emphasize balance between the physical posture (asana) practice and the integration of the other limbs of Yoga. I enjoy teaching a range of Yoga classes: Vinyasa Flow, Hatha, Restorative, Yin, Prenatal, Yoga for Cancer, and Therapeutic Gentle Yoga. The variety enables me to craft group lesson plans and private sessions that respond to diverse student needs.
What do you hope students will receive from you as a teacher, and what do you hope students will get out of your coming offerings and workshops?
I hope what I offer helps transform my students’ attention and efforts on the mat into compassion, loving-kindness, and good, honest work. I hope my love of the practice shines through. If students walk out of my class or workshop knowing themselves better, then I have done my job.
Do you have a favorite book or Yoga mat or product that you like, something you sincerely enjoy and wish to share with the teacher sangha?
Recently I’ve been experimenting in my personal practice with prop simplicity: for example, not using a mat for standing poses but instead standing on the wooden floor, to activate the feet and legs, or using a blanket as part of a base in standing poses, to create a slightly unfamiliar, soft surface to challenge balance and activate physical structures.
This past year, I’ve been working with refining my offering of Yoga Nidra, using a timeless, classic book called Yoga Nidra, by Swami Satyananda Saraswati. I love the theory, explanations, and classic scripts. The book offers excellent ways to lead students through progressive relaxation, visualization, affirmation, and insight. It’s an exceptional reference to help New Yorkers who are often sleep deprived, caffeine driven, technology obsessed, and sugar stimulated. Yoga Nidra is magnificent, simple, and yet profound! I absolutely love offering Yoga Nidra to help students unwind completely and cultivate wholesome intention.
Ongoing classes at IYI: Yin Yoga, Saturdays, 11:15 a.m.
Coming workshops at IYI: In the coming year, I plan on presenting workshops on specializing in Yin Yoga, hand mudras, Yoga Nidra, and mindful vinyasa flow.