Photo by Barclay Wright
When it comes to yoga, meditation, and finding balance, we turn to LA yogini, Naomi Zelin, to answer our questions and provide guidance. Naomi turned to yoga to help recover from a physical injury, but has continued her practice ever since! We sat down with her to understand the benefits of starting a yoga practice and how easy it is to incorporate into your daily life!
What inspired you to start practicing yoga and how has your practice evolved over the years?
I came to yoga due to a snowboarding accident, I fractured my back while I was in college. While rehabbing my spine, I heard that yoga was helpful for injuries and the rest is history! My practice has evolved over the years just as much as I have, evolving from rehabilitation to a strong physical exercise. These days my yoga practice has a deeper, more spiritual aspect to it than physical, incorporating more meditation and breath work than ever before.
There are so many different types of yoga; what are the differences and which one should we choose?
I could talk all day long about styles and types of yoga, but I will make a rough list of what I think to be the leading styles and teachers in your generation.
Iyengar - BKS Iyengar is the reason why we have the physical practice out here in the west. His style incorporates tons of propping, ropes, blocks, chairs, blankets, and straps. This is a heavy alignment practice, amazing for those who have injuries, a lack of mobility, or beginners.
Vinyasa - This seems to be the most popular style out there, and is best suited for more physically active people. Poses are linked together by the breath and move at a swift pace. Vinyasa is great for athletes, dancers, runners, and intermediate to advanced students.
YogaMazé - You will not find this style everywhere, but Noah Maze is my teacher so I must give credit where it is due. YogaMazé is in my (very biased) opinion, the best yoga out there. With a heavy integration of kinesiology and physiology, the body is shaped into the most healthy and safe way to practice. This style is great for all levels and all abilities.
Hot Yoga - Hot yoga usually incorporates variations of a vinyasa style set to a heated room, usually between 95-105 degrees. It is a great style for those who want to lose weight, detox, and gain flexibility. Always remember to stay hydrated and drink TONS of water before and after class.
Yin and Restorative - I like to call my yin classes "adult nap time" because there is little to no movement in these classes. You hold postures for 5 and sometimes up to 10 minutes at a time. These classes promote tranquility and help open the fascia and ligaments in the body. These classes are great for injuries and anyone who is trying to relax, destress, and get a good night’s sleep.
How can busy people incorporate a strong yoga practice into their daily lives?
Like incorporating any new habit into your life, consistency is key. A strong yoga practice takes time, dedication, and persistence. If time is a constraint due to a busy life, committing to 30-45 minutes of yoga per day is great. Add it to your morning ritual and your days will feel more manageable and less stressful. If time is not an issue, classical vigorous yoga classes range from 60-90 minutes. The best way to get the most bang for your buck and to keep you on a strict schedule is to ditch the trip to the yoga studio and get started on a personal home practice. There are countless online sites offering classes from some of the best yoga teachers. My go-to online sites are yogago.com and codyapp.com, which offer a wide selection of teachers and styles of yoga.
What about people with injuries or physical limitations — how can they practice yoga safely and still get the benefits?
The great thing about yoga is that there are so many different styles and ways of practicing. I like to tell my students that yoga is similar to Mexican food: there are many different dishes but all the ingredients are the same. Yoga styles deviate, but not too much from each other. If you are a senior coming to yoga for more mobility, chair yoga would be the best option. The chair offers support for those who can’t stand for long periods of time and adds stability for standing and balancing poses. The chair will help for those who can’t stand for long periods of time and add support for standing and balancing poses. If you are coming to yoga after an injury, I recommend restorative, yin, or Iyengar yoga as a great way to ease back into physical activity. These styles are quite slow and incorporate the use of props like blocks, bolsters, straps, and the wall to help support the anatomical structure of your body.
What are three of your favorite poses or series and why?
Mountain pose is a fantastic super simple yet incredibly dynamic posture. Mountain pose looks just as if you were to stand up strength with your arms over your head. I love the complexity of such a simple looking pose, a fun added bonus to this pose is that it helps you feel confident and self-assured, it’s been known for people to stand in mountain pose for 5 minutes before a job interview or a big meeting to help with self-esteem.
First of all, handstands or inversions are just so fun! I often think of inversions more to the likes of gymnastics and acrobatics rather than yoga, but either way they are invigorating! Second, handstanding takes a strong body but also a very strong mind. Another bonus of inversions is that they are the body’s natural shot of espresso. Hop into a handstand for a minute and your energy levels rise.
Backbends are some of my favorite postures because they are beautiful and challenging, and also require the balance of both strength and flexibility. Backbending helps change your literal and physical perspective, as well as emotional and psychological. Backbends are even known to help relieve feelings of depression and anxiety.
Combining her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology with her love of natural healing, Naomi Zelin became a certified yoga teacher in 2013. She’s participated in several additional training seminars in India, Thailand, Nepal and Indonesia. Catch one of her incredible classes all over Los Angeles!