FEATURED TEACHER OF THE MONTH
Interview by Sara McElwain
Nadiya Nottingham, RYT, has been a teacher at IYI for more than 20 years. She is an advanced Hatha Yogini, a certified Qigong teacher, and a Celtic priestess of Bridget, Ireland’s triple goddess. Her meditation practice began 45 years ago in her native Ireland, where the sea and the land were her first teachers. Nadiya, a trained shamanic practitioner and medical Qigong healer, is in private practice in New York City and Dutchess County. She teaches in the United States and internationally. www.nadiyanottingham.net
What is your definition of Yoga?
My personal understanding of Yoga is that it gives me the freedom to allow my personal practice to evolve with my human body and my universal spirit. In other words, my practice is dictated not by some rules carved in stone but by the natural evolution of my life. I was born by the ocean, and Nature is my first teacher. In this way, Yoga spoke to me as an extension of Nature’s teachings for the human body; the value of this cannot be overstated.
What do you love about Yoga?
No matter how out of sorts my body and mind are on any given day, my practice brings me back into my personal source of light. On a practical level Yoga simply helps me move well and stand tall! I began to practice Yoga after becoming very ill in my 30s. I was a smoker and was burning the candle at both ends in the wild days of the 1980s in New York City. My left lung collapsed, and I was hospitalized for five days with tubes attached my body. This crash landing was an incredible life lesson for me. In the ward opposite mine, a friend was dying of AIDS. It was moment of searing pain and a realization of how precious life is. As I said good-bye to my friend I made a quiet promise to turn my life around. That opportunity came when I started practicing Yoga with the encouragement of my sister, Sheila. Integral Yoga was the beginning of a new life, breathing with Mother Earth and taking care of the gift of my human body with new eyes, a new heart-sense, and clean lungs. And there was something else by which I was amazed: chanting. The sound of OM filled me with such a sense of aliveness. Chanting is being at one with the uni-verse: the one song of all life.
Why do you teach Yoga?
There was no other choice for me. Were it not for Yoga, I would have to go live in the forest. Yoga gives me the tools for living in this world and understanding that everything is temporary except the spirit. Sharing the gift of transformation, which I receive with my students, is an outstanding privilege.
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?
Thirty years ago Yoga Nidra was the reason I fell in love with Yoga. I was swept into a new dimension through my first teacher, Vishnu Jason, at the IYI on 72nd Street. Today meditation is that other dimension for me; meditating with mudras is pure bliss for me. The Buddha said the hands are the human antennae, and that is true for me. I have strengthened my prana to such a degree by working with mudras that it blows my mind when I am practicing, but it is also deeply humbling to have been given the opportunity to study this work. This love of mudras brought me to the study of Qigong about 14 years ago. I began to study with Master Liu Dong and his sister Liu He. They are the grandchildren of a great Qigong master who was physician to the last emperor of China. I also study with Robert Peng and am certified by Master Peng and Master Liu to teach Qigong and to practice hands-on and Chinese energy medicine, also known as medical Qigong.
My own practice is close to two hours a day: Yoga, meditation, Qigong. In this way I do my own self-healing work and strengthen my Qi and prana for working with clients. Now I teach Yoga and Qigong workshops and classes with emphasis on mudras. Mudras are incredible tools that help our modern, technological minds to refocus. The human hand is a treasure house of teachings, and mudras help us to remember this gift at the end of our arms.
I bow to my teachers for sharing their teachings, wisdom, and life force with us.
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?
The greatest gift I have ever received from any teacher is the notion that I could achieve and assimilate the teachings of the day as my “personal medicine.” There is a saying that a true master is one who can show you how to become a master. My prayer for my own teaching is that I may bestow this kind understanding upon my students; that they feel they can find that deep place within, through breath, movement, and dedication, to become truly independent from a teacher if they so choose. In this way Yoga or any form of self-cultivation is truly that, not a religion where one is enslaved to going every time to the same place, which has the same answers to every question. We must empower our students through love, respect, and joy to be their own best friend, to trust their bodies and heart with the help of Yoga, meditation, and self-reflection, to see themselves in Nature and in all life.
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?
My favorite books are Yoga for Wellness, by Gary Kraftsow, Yoga Anatomy, by Leslie Kaminoff, and Awakening the Spine, by Vanda Scaravelli. The latter has a very complex asana practice, which I do not necessarily advocate; her life views, however, are well rounded, personal, and independent. Gary Kraftsow is one of the world’s best-known Yoga therapists. A student of Sri Desikachar from the age of 17, he brought Yoga therapy to the world stage and is universally recognized as someone who tailors Yoga to the individual. Leslie Kaminoff, founder of the Breathing Project, gave us a profound understanding of how the breath interrelates with the entire body, not just the lungs. There are many great teachers out there now who don’t have books. J. Brown has a super podcast, and Yoga International, once a magazine, is now a repository of many teachers’ offerings on its website. I will have my own set of videos on its site in October 2018, “Qigong for Yogis,” at www.yogainternational.com.
Ongoing classes at IYI: Yoga and Qigong, Thursdays at 5.15 p.m.
Coming Workshops at IYI: Shamanic Womb Healing, Water Prayer, and Healing Song for All Women, November 13, 6–9 p.m.