FEATURED TEACHER OF THE MONTH
Interview by Sarah McElwain
Paula Suranadi discovered IYINY more than 30 years ago when a fellow dancer invited her to attend a class. The teachings were a balm for her body and mind. She knew she had found an oasis of calm that she would return to again and again.
In 1996 she took Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga while pregnant with her first daughter. In 2014 she enrolled in Hatha I Teacher Training. Currently she is certified in Intermediate and Advanced asana and pranayama, Raja Yoga, and Meditation and has completed Jason Brown’s Anatomy Studies for Yoga Teachers.
Paula and her husband, Chris, are the proud parents of two daughters, who also attend classes at IYINY. She is profoundly grateful to be part of the loving sangha that is the IYINY community and to be able to share through teaching.
What is your definition of Yoga?
Yoga is union. Ultimately it is the union of the individual self with the Absolute. It is also any path that leads to such a union.
Yoga is abyasa (practice) and vairagya (non-attachment).
Equanimity of mind is Yoga.
“Easeful body, peaceful mind, useful life” is Yoga.
“Be good, do good, serve all, love all.”
What do you love about Yoga?
I love that Yoga gives me access to the peace within. I often feel calmer and more centered after Hatha practice, meditation, scripture study, selfless service, or Kirtan. I love that Yoga is multifaceted. There are endless ways to practice. There is something for everyone.
I love Lord Buddha’s poem that hangs on the wall at IYINY:
Ye that are Slaves of the ‘I’
That toil in the service of the self
from morn until night
That live in constant fear of birth,
Old age, sickness and death,
Receive the good tidings that your cruel master
Yoga gives me a way to be free of this “cruel master,” if only for a while.
Why do you teach Yoga?
Teaching gives me the great privilege of practicing with many other Yogis on a regular basis. We are really all teaching one another. Radha, a fellow Yogi, says that teaching a class has the effect of taking a class times ten. Being “the teacher” elicits a level of discipline, devotion, and dedication that I might not bring to my own practice otherwise. Preparing for class requires planning what I will say, what poses I will teach and in what order, what to emphasize. I love this process and learn a lot from it.
When I signed up for my first Teacher Training, I intended to improve my own practice, not to teach. The training gave me a deeper appreciation for the IYI class that Swami Ramananda describes as “an easy-to-follow outline of asana, relaxation, pranayama, and meditation” with powerful healing effects. By the end of the training I had fallen in love with the IYI sangha—the community of teachers, staff, and Swamis—and I knew I wanted to teach. I wanted to share the gift that has been so beneficial for me.
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 I was dancing with the company STREB. After rehearsals I would take class at IYI to unwind and recuperate, but I would leave before deep relaxation. I thought I did not need that part of the class. Now I think it is the most important part.
This year I have been teaching Level II/III and multilevel Hatha classes. I enjoy the expanded vocabulary of postures and especially love teaching arm balances and postures that develop upper-body strength. Whatever level the class, I feel the asana practice is preparation for the deeper practice at the end of class—Yoga Nidra (deep relaxation), pranayama (breathing techniques), and meditation.
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?
Easeful body, peaceful mind, and useful life!
During Yoga Nidra I say, “You can always be peaceful and easeful. This peace is always available to you and contingent on nothing external.” I think many students do not hear this, because they have drifted off during deep relaxation, but I hope they get it anyway. It is what I hope we can all get from our practice—an abiding knowledge of inner joy.
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?
One of my most dog-eared books is The Eight Limbs of Yoga: A Handbook for Living Yoga Philosophy, by Stuart Ray Sarbacker and Kevin Kimple. It has a tribute on the back from Swami Asokananda that says, “Have a highlighter handy—every sentence is a concise, profound gem. Read it slowly. Practice. And read it again.”
It is a small book that I carry in my bag. I open it to a random page while waiting in line or on the bus or the train. It is pocket “Pratipaksha Bhavana,” and the message is always uplifting.
Ongoing classes at IYI: I am taking a few weeks off from teaching a one-hour multilevel Hatha Zoom class every Sunday at 3:15 p.m. and hope to resume soon.