Hello all. My name is Kalina and I am a yoga novice. Although I originally come from Bulgaria, I have spent the last 15 years living in the United States with my parents and my twin brothers. I am an educator by profession although I have always been interested in beginning a career in writing. This past June I got married to my long-time partner, Nicolas, and we took the plunge by moving to Malta from New York City. It is a big change to say the least, but it has been a long-time goal of mine to immerse myself in different cultures.
- How does yoga help you?
Yoga is a lifetime practice. Therefore, it will take me a lifetime to reap the full benefits, however, I notice a significant change in my mood and outlook with every practice. Every time I walk out of my yoga studio (Ananda Marga), I notice that I am more patient, less susceptible to frustration, and everything seems more beautiful. Furthermore, I find that the asanas have really helped to improve my posture and lower back pain.
- When did you begin learning yoga?
My own journey started about 10 years ago when I first took a yoga class. Ever since then I have joined up various yoga studios in an attempt to find a practice that is both spiritually and physically rewarding. I found myself always starting and quitting yoga and I soon came to the realization that all the studios I attended were lacking that crucial component of spirituality that I was looking for. It is very difficult finding a holistic yoga practice in the United States. There, many treat yoga as the latest fitness craze. But I was always looking to find a practice that allowed me to understand myself and others better and to connect with God.
- Where did you learn?
I first started with a Bikram (hot) yoga class because it was very popular, and many studios were available in my neighborhood in upstate New York. Although I enjoyed the physical challenge, my instructors never spent time teaching us meditation. I suppose many of the yoga students weren’t interested in meditation, so it wasn’t popular. However, at that time of my life, I really needed meditation and quiet contemplation and I found that this practice only focused on one aspect of yoga rather than incorporating all the necessary aspects. I was very happy when I discovered Ananda Marga Yoga in Malta. It was exactly what I was looking for. My teacher, Dada has created a community of kind, inspiring individuals who are interested in bettering themselves and their world. Dada teaches us the importance of being balanced individuals.
- What are the benefits of yoga asanas and meditation?
The asanas are extremely helpful in stretching the body, adding strength to the muscles, and improving posture. At Ananda Marga, the asanas are challenging at times because they require flexibility and patience. However, once your muscles gain that flexibility, you find that the slow movement from asana to asana leads you into a deep relaxation. Meditation has been more of a challenge for me, mostly because people have so many opinions on how to meditate and why we should meditate in the first place. It gets very confusing. However, with Dada’s guidance, I have been able to develop my own meditation practice. It’s not easy making peace with the constant thoughts that flow through my mind, but I am learning to be kind to myself. Just focusing on my breathing and my chants (baba nam kevalam) helps me to come out of my meditation feeling refreshed and more alert.
- How often do you practice yoga asanas and meditation?
I would like to say that I practice every day, but it wouldn’t be true. I am taking things one step at a time. I try to attend yoga class with Dada on a regular basis and I have my own routine at home but of course it changes depending on my schedule. Lately, my goal has been to meditate regularly. I set a very simple goal of meditating for 15 minutes each morning. I find that this really helps take the pressure off. As I progress, I would like to add more to my meditation practice.
- Does yoga help you for your work?
Yes. I find that yoga helps to quiet my mind, so I become more alert and patient. Also, ever since I began my meditation experiment (meditating for 15 minutes daily) I find that I can accomplish much more in a day. I don’t waste as much time as I used to.
- Does it help you for health and mind?
Yoga certainly helps to improve my mental clarity. Going through the asanas and meditations helps to quiet my overactive mind. Also, I know that many people are afraid of looking at yoga as a spiritual practice, but I find that it helps me to connect with my idea of god and supreme consciousness. I think that spirituality is important for us to feel connected and loved. As I mentioned before, the asanas have helped me to improve my posture and back pain. It’s quite a miracle because I have suffered from back pain for a few years.
- Does it help you to manage your stress and anxiety?
Yes, it most definitely helps. Whenever I am feeling anxious or worried, I do a quick, 5-minute meditation by focusing on my breath. It really helps to slow down my heart rate and relieves that horrible heaviness on my chest. Also, if I am having a really bad day just going to yoga class with Dada helps tremendously. If you have trouble focusing on your own, go to class, the energy is different. The yoga studio has a very calming energy. It feels good to be there.
- Do you recommend others to join the classes?
Yes, join the classes. At Ananda Marga you will find a teacher who guides you with kindness, provides much needed advice, listens to you without judgement, and includes you in a wonderful community. But of course, what you are willing to take from the classes is totally up to you. Be open minded and know that yoga is a worthwhile path.
- What is your goal of your life?
My goal is to find happiness and to feel more connected with others. I find that there is a big disconnect between myself, my environment, and others. One of the main reasons why I am on this yoga journey is because I am interested in dissolving this gap. I want to be kind, patient, and helpful. Also, it would be nice to accomplish writing a book.
Interviewed by Acarya Shubhacetanananda Avadhuta on December 02, 2019