19 minutes | Jun 11th 2020

Kendra and Ben with Nirguna Yoga

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Kevin M.: Mixing It Up With The Fitness Community is a podcast created by Fit Mix that introduces you to local health and fitness individuals, along with their stories.Kevin M.: Episode 11, Kendra Rickert and Ben Kramer with Nirguna Yoga.  They give us insight into their personal journeys along with how Nirguna Yoga Studio came to be.Kevin M.: Hey, Ben. Hey, Kendra, thank you both for joining the podcast today. I really appreciate it. Ben K.: Hi Kevin. Thank you so much.Kevin M.: No problem.So you both are from the Nirguna Yoga. So why don't you tell us a little bit about your yoga studio?Kendra R.: Well, we've been open for about almost a year. We opened last April and we really were super duper excited to have our one year little anniversary mark until we kept his little COVID hit. I feel like a lot of yoga studios are either traditional or athletic. A lot of studios teach, what I guess I'd call like fitness yoga. And actually, that's kind of where I started. I started with Bikram yoga in L.A. about 20 years ago. And I guess I would call that very much fitness yoga just really hardcore. In other studios tend to be a little bit more. I don't. I guess you can call it traditional, although I'd say that some hardcore yogas are also traditional, Ashtanga and Bikram. I guess the studios that would call themselves traditional, don't necessarily sometimes seem to challenge the student, you know, physically. And so I would say that we really aim to do both. Our training is very traditional, but we feel strongly that it's important to, In my experience, to be pushed, you know? I want to be able to do a practice and I want to be able to see that change in myself. You know, I want to feel like I'm actually accomplishing something. So I would say that we aim to do both of those things.Ben K.: The other thing I would say is that we're so proud of the teachers that we have at our studio. And we're picky about who teaches at our studio. And we're not... We are traditional in a sense, but we're not we're not married to any one yoga tradition, per say. But we do really believe in the beauty of yoga traditions. And we just we just like to have bad ass teachers and some of the best. We have teachers with, you know, it's very normal for a teacher at our studio to have 20 years of experience teaching. And then we you know, and it doesn't matter in some sense if they have enough experience from their tradition. Then we know that we can kind of stay out of their way. We don't have to micromanage as studio owners. We just get to highlight the superstars to teach the students that come to us.Kevin M.: That's awesome. So do the teachers just set their own set schedule and their own style and then the way they're going to do their classes versus kind of collaborating with you guys and what you want them to do?Kendra R.: Well, I guess it's a little bit of both. We have a morning class, three days a week that we call yoga for life. And that's for people who would like to focus a little bit more on, what tends to be an older crowd. Like poses that a lot of people come who have a lot of injuries and those things tend to be a little bit more like alignment based. So I had those teachers who I wanted to teach those classes specifically. And so we kind of collaborated with those classes would be like. And then the early morning class, I teach the 26&2 series, five days a week at nine thirty. And then you're Vinyasa class at noon.Ben K.: So it depends on the teacher. You know, some of them are more consistent than others. But yeah, for the most part, the teacher decides what they're going to teach if they advertise a 26&2 class. There's kind of a famous 26 posture's and 2 breathing exercises that was made famous by the Bikram tradition. And when that's taught at our studio, we teach it in a very traditional way. And if that's written on the schedule, that's what the teacher is going to do. But for the most part, yeah. Teachers get a lot of their own say. And it's nice because you want to... I as a teacher, I want to watch the students. I don't know how a class is going to go until I see who came to class and what the students are up to and how the students feel. And it's nice to be guided by what's appropriate for who showed up that day.Kevin M.: That's nice. So you can kind of find out who there and based on their immediate feedback, kind of guide the class based on their needs. Ben K.: Yeah, yeah. Just watching their bodies.Kendra R.: And I think that's a hard skill to have in your first learning to teach yoga. But I feel like all of our teachers, they have that skill to where they can see somebodies body and know what they need and know how to choreograph the class to that person, whether it's like a group of people who came to the class and one person's like maybe more advanced, the other person is maybe not. And so they can they can work with both people.Kevin M.: Interesting. And so in the last year, what would you say is the most exciting or most interesting experience you've had owning a studio?Ben K.: Boy, a, I don't know, in the last year... I mean, it's this is our first year. So it's exciting to get to highlight teachers that we're proud of. It's exciting to get to cultivate our own students and to watch students grow. It's so exciting to see someone get... It's such an honor to get people excited about themselves. Right. To see someone not, you know, not just get excited about yoga, but get excited about, oh, my goodness, look what I can do. I didn't know that I had that in me. I didn't know I had that capacity. Maybe I saw this or that. And I thought never me. And you see people start to... They start to stand differently in their everyday life that you just see their bodies change. You see this excitement about who they are, how they are, how they can be, what they can do. That's extremely rewarding.Kendra R.: And I think to just like watching that, the relationships that have been budding in the studio, you know, like when we're first there, it's like we're just pretty new. So it's like we're like holding the conversations. But we're able to just see all these little relationships developing and people going and hanging out after class and and creating a little community. And it's just been really, really lovely to see.Kendra R.: Yeah, yeah. And for somebody that wants to experience what you guys just talked about but are a little nervous when it comes to trying yoga. What would you tell them?Ben K.: I mean, one of the things I would say is you don't know until you try what your capacity is. Everyone has. Well, I don't know what I call freak poses, but I sort of on both sides. Like, everyone has weird, freaky things they can do that they didn't know they could do. And actually, many of us have weird, freaky things we can't do, like for whatever reason. I have a hard time touching my toes, but there are other some things that I can do it for. I don't know what reason I was touched with the ability to do certain things that I've. I can just do. And everyone has those. And you don't know until you show up these weird little tricks that you have hidden so far up your sleeve, you can't even see them.Kendra R.: And I think that's maybe one of the coolest things about being a yoga teacher, for me anyway, is getting to inspire that in other people. Getting people to see that they can do so much more that they they thought they could do. And just like watching that little spark and the light shining in their eyes and they're like, wow, I'm actually pretty damn good, you know. Even like my old dad, who doesn't seem like he can do anything with any comes, you know, and I get to play with him a little bit. It's like Dad. You're doing pretty good. You know, you're doing pretty good and having them see that about themselves. I think it's a really, really precious.Kevin M.: Definitely. And what about you guys? How did that spark get into you and make you guys into yoga? Kendra R.: Well, we've been. I mean, we've been blessed to have incredible yoga teachers. I've been doing this for like 20 years, teaching yoga and practicing yoga. I feel like my teachers were some of the best in the country. And I feel like the way that they saw me holding that vision of me that they had helped me  reach the potential that I felt like they saw in me. And I felt like that was one of the best trainings I had in terms of how I want to be as a yoga teacher. I want to hold that potential for others.Ben K.: And we met practicing together. We met at a school for yoga, philosophy, ancient languages, meditation. And we we lived there ten years. It was all we did for ten years. At the end, we spent three years of that in silence and isolation. So no contact with the world, no computers. No nothing. Just practicing everything that our teachers had poured into us. And with the hope that one day we could come out and and build a community where we could share those things. So, yeah, again, like you know, what's the last year been like? We're getting that opportunity now to start to share that. And it's just really exciting. And to see people get excited is uh... It's an incredible honor.Kevin M.: That's so interesting. So three years of silence.Kendra R.: Yeah. Yeah. And we prepared for it for like seven years beforehand to be like one month long meditation retreats by ourselves without each other. And then we went in and did that together. We built a little straw bale cabin off grid with an outhouse and it was all on solar and no technology in terms and cell phone and computers. And we didn't even talk to each other for three years. We were just in total silence and trying to embody the teachings that we had been taught in a way that wasn't just theoretical as more experiential.Kevin M.: That is so impressive. I can't go an hour without looking down at my phone, much less a day or months or years. That's so impressive.Ben K.: It's hard to go an hour without looking at your phone. I think we rarely do now either. And we're really lucky that we had the opportunity to get to do that. And we had a lot of support and doing that. A lot of people helped us. We had a lot of people helping us to make room for us to be able to do that. It is hard, but you can't bring your phone into yoga class with you, Kevin. And so at least for that hour, we won't let you use the phone. And that is it's like a little taste of that. You come into the room and, you know, when we went away for three years, we didn't. It was the plan was never to live there. It was so that we could come back and be of greater service to our family, to our friends, to the people that we love and come into contact with. And the same is true when you, I like to say in yoga class sometimes. Right? You are more available to your friends and family because you left your phone in the locker room for an hour.Kevin M.: That such a good way of looking at it. I mean, it's really a time to focus on yourself, focus on others, but just connecting at the same time.Kendra R.: It's just like taking care of yourself for that hour and a half hour, hour or however long it's going to be. You're focusing on your health, you know, your heart and your well-being, your joy. And then and then you're a little bit freer in the day to be able to, like, focus on other people, the people, our lives, who need our attention, you know, because we just took care of ourselves. And I did what I had to do for myself. And now I can be available to you.Kevin M.: Definitely. What would be a misconception that people have about when they think about it?Ben K.: I think, you know, one big thing that comes to mind is that people have some very weird ideas that yoga is like some kind of ancient religious thing. And it's... The word yoga. Right? It's a Sanskrit word, which is an ancient Indian language that is related to English. So, like we have the words yoke or unite or join are all related to the word yoga. And it means to, in a sense, it means union, but it means like union in the mind or concentration or meditation to join yourself with what you want to, whatever you want to in life, you see. And so people have used that for religious practices in history. And it's and it's beautiful and it's beautiful to use meditation in that way and to build your spiritual path around that. But this is up to you. If you use these techniques because you want to have yoga butt or yoga abs, whatever, that's it's there for you. And if you use it because you want to be stronger or smarter or more intelligent. If you use it because you want to be a more loving person, a more compassionate person. If you use it because you want from top to body, inside and out to be someone who just has the ability because they're mind is sharp and their body is strong to take care of people. You see, then these sorts of ancient tools have been handed down for millennia to help you become the best you that you can be. Whoever that is, not to decide who you're going to be, but to give you the ability to decide for yourself who you're going to be. And that's really what yoga is about.Kevin M.: It's really just about you making it yours. What works for you more than fitting into somebody else's construct.Ben K.: And it always has been and always has been for thousands of years and always has been. You know, it's the idea that there are techniques to being a happier, healthier, emotionally stable, strong person. You see that you can it's not accidental, right? There are things you can do. Tasks you can repeat day after day that create healthy habits and a healthy body. And that idea for, you know, thousands of years was called yoga.Kendra R.: And it should be, you know, like Ben said, you know, it should support anybody's belief, you know. Whatever religion you are and it should make that faith even stronger.Kevin M.: Totally. Well, I think we're getting towards the end. So before we end, though, I have a couple of last questions. Where can our listeners connect with you guys?Kendra R.: You can find us on our Website, which is NirgunaYoga.com. And we're starting to post our classes online. Our free online videos. And you can find that, too, at the very top of the Website where says free online classes. And we are excited to... We're going to be releasing a podcast of our own here pretty soon. And that'll be on the Website.Ben K.: We've got a teacher training coming up. You know, we hope, that that, you know, assuming that that works with the world. We're partnering with Hot Yoga Downtown. We've partnered with them in the past. And so we'll be working with them again this year to do our 200 hour teacher training. Any of these things you can sign up for the mailing list on our Website. I think you get like a free coconut water or something for signing up for the mailing list. But the point is that you get the mailing list for signing up for the mailing list and we'll tell you about all the cool things we do. Many of which are free. Again, those online videos, we just want people, especially now we want to be able to do things to release the practice that will be free. The podcast will be free. The teacher training is not free.Kendra R.: We mentioned the 200 hour. But we're also partnering with Beryl Bender Birch for a 300 hour in November. She's a world renowned yoga. She coined the term "Power Yoga" back in the 70s. And she's going to be coming in on co-leading a 300 hour teacher training with us in November.Ben K.: We also hold a lot of classes pretty often about the history and philosophy of yoga and meditation. In addition to our regular yoga Asana classes, which I think are some of the very best and toughest around. They're not all tough, but yeah, NirgunaYoga.com. Goc heck it out.Kevin M.: Awesome. Thank you. And then what are both of you guys as favorite movement.Kendra R.: Movement or I mean, I love dancing. I love yoga. I love. I just for me, I'm just like an athlete in that regard. And I just I love Vinyasa. I love the 26&2 series muscle. Some of my favorite poses are inversions and backward bends. Inversions are really super duper important because all day long it's like gravity is pulling you down to the ground. The blood is like pulling down, gravity's pulling you down. And so just going upside down, you can find in ancient text like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, where it talks about like the importance of doing inversions. They say that even like fights against our old age or sickness or death even, which is kind of a cold thought, which is going upside down, doing a headstand, doing it and doing a shoulder stand, doing any sort of thing where even just Foward folding, it's like that same benefit. Ben K.: You know, backbends also. I mean, I think that one of the things that keeps us going to yoga and makes us scared to go to yoga is bending backwards. And I think that we get such profound benefit from those moments. And and there's something about yoga where people wonder, like, I don't know, like something weird can happen in yoga or something exciting can happen in yoga. And it I think it happens as you learn to bend backwards. As you learn to face the other way, as you learn to reverse things. Something happens at the heart and you feel those moments and those moments in the yoga class are where things get, I don't know, from scary to good to even almost trippy or like beautiful and fantastic. So that and Kendra, by the way, also on the free yoga video section on our website, just did a free class that's available to you on Backbends and inversions.Kevin M.: Thank you, Ben and Kendra. I really appreciate you guys taking the time to talk with me.Ben K.: It's wonderful.Kendra R.: We appreciate it so much too. Thank you. And thank you for all you guys are doing. It's been really inspiring. Ben K.: It's really nice.Kevin M.: Yeah, I'm happy to do it.Ben K.: It's beautiful Kevin. It's a beautiful thing to do.Kevin M.: Thank you.Kevin M.: Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed the Mixing It Up With The Fitness Community podcast, we'd love for you to subscribe, rate, and leave a review. Kevin M.: Next week, Sara talks with the owners of Conquer Fitness Preps, Alicia and Jonathan Montoya. Tune in to find out why they started Conquer Fitness Preps  and how far they've come since.
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