Natasha Poperechnaya: yoga is for everyone and not just for elite who can do acrobatic tricks
Natalia Poperechnaya, a yoga teacher in Kiev school of yoga, has shared with TopYogis some insights on why practices of Vajra yoga are safe from the point of view of biomechanics and common sense, why easier is better, and what important (and often ignored in other styles) elements of practice are included in Vajra yoga classes.
TopYogis: Natasha, what is yoga for you and why do we come to yoga?
Natasha Poperechna: Everybody has their own goals for yoga practice, but ultimately the goal is always to get in touch with oneself. There are many ways of self-discovery. Very often it is some activity that you love, that comes from your heart. Somebody likes to paint, somebody likes to draw. And the person gets to know oneself better, develops. But yoga, besides giving us a tool for self-development, also provides tools for self-reflection. Being a philosophical discipline, yoga also works with the body. Because if we develop only our mind and ignore the body, the body will suffer. And vice-versa.
TopYogis: I liked your class a lot. It included physical component, but also a lot of self-reflection, meditative practices, breath observation. Is it your approach, or is it methodology of Vajra yoga?
Natasha Poperechna: I teach Vajra yoga. It is a methodology of safe yogic practice. As you might have noticed, we did not have inversions. There was no deep backbends and forward bends, no twists. The practice is correct from the biomechanical point of view. We do not teach any asanas that can harm anyone. This is the methodology of Vajra yoga school. Also, all the teachers pay attention to the practice of Maha mudra - the state of presence, attentive observation. This is the main exercise. Therefore, two elements of the style that are present in every class are the correct approach to the spine and Maha mudra. Some teachers can change the sequence a bit, but basic things are common.
TopYogis: Every teacher believes that his approach to yoga is correct. What is the difference of your school from all the others?
Natasha Poperechna: There is a difference because all the exercise are carefully selected from the point of view of biomechanics and common sense. Our vertebrae are connected to each other in at least six points. It tells us that the aim of such design is to maintain the spine without excessive movement. We have vertebrae to accommodate the spinal cord and protect it. And when we start to move these vertebrae in extreme directions, this is what happens: ligaments that should connect vertebrae to each other, do not connect, and they cannot hold the spine intact. And if we make a sudden movement, the muscles that run along the spine get spasmed, a person feels pain and cannot even stand straight. That’s why the exercises in our school are selected on the basis of biomechanics. We use a natural range of motion of the body: forward and backward, to the sides - as much as my obliques and serratus anterior allows me to bend, I can bend. If I start to add inertia to this movement, if I start to stretch myself using my arms - those muscles that should not be involved in this movement - I cannot feel the limit. That’s why our practice is based on mechanics and on common sense. No violence, no inertia, no levers, no teacher’s force is involved. And the results are very good. I see by my students that they are getting better and better in their movement, in how they feel.
TopYogis: I also liked that during your entire class the attention was directed inwards.
Natasha Poperechna: Yes, have you noticed how our focus gets better? We perform simple movements, but when you work with deep muscles, you need to work calmly and attentively. The belly is breathing, pelvic muscles are working. But if you are thinking of other things at the moment, you cannot perform all these movements, cannot coordinate them. That’s why in our practice, the mind is concentrated at all times. In this way, we always perform our practice on several levels - physical and mental.
Our practice is based on the principles of mechanics and on common sense. No violence, no inertia, no levers, no teacher’s force is involved. And the results are very good.
TopYogis: You have been working as a yoga teacher for a long time. Have you changed your approach to teaching yoga over the years?
Natasha Poperechna: With every year, the practice gets simpler and more accessible. Some 10-12 years ago I was also interested in more challenging poses, as these fancy asanas cause fascination. But now I understand that it’s external aspect, and it does not reflect the true nature of things. I understand now that with simple exercise you can achieve more because simple exercises are accessible and useful for older people and people with injuries - those who need yoga the most. That’s why yoga is for everyone and not just for an elite that is capable of performing acrobatic tricks. Everyone has consciousness, therefore everyone can do yoga. And we use exercises to support our body in a good state, so that we could enjoy life. Because the old age is not scary per se, what is scary is sickness and invalidity. And when our body is healthy thanks to yoga, one can live a long and joyful life.
Performing fancy asanas is an external aspect of the practice, and it does not reflect the true nature of things. I understand now that with simple exercise you can achieve more because simple exercises are accessible and useful for older people and people with injuries - those who need yoga the most.
If you have practiced with Natalia, please share your experience by leaving a review on her personal page or her school's page. On this page, you can also contact her and check where she is currently teaching.