Former dancer Arielle Danziger helps new yogis and students recovering from injuries find comfort, strength and happiness through yoga
As told to Fern Langham
You have been on the yoga path for many years. What brought you to yoga and what has yoga brought you?
I found yoga twice. The first time I was living in a tiny apartment in Madrid and bought yoga DVDs to get some exercise. I enjoyed my yoga then, but was wholly focused on dance as my first form of movement.
A few years later, I returned to my yoga DVDs when I was recovering from a long illness and stomach surgery. As soon as I was healthy enough, I sought out yoga classes. Through yoga, I regained strength and learned to trust my body again. I also found methods to relax (which I had not been very good at) and began a meditation practice. Yoga has enabled me to live happier and healthier day to day.
I knew I wanted to share this gift with others, and I have always loved teaching – I assisted my dance teacher when I was in High School, taught dance classes in college, and led group fitness classes post-grad, so getting certified to teach yoga was a natural next step for me. My practice and understanding of yoga deepened and grew exponentially during my teacher training program at Yoga People. I have been teaching ever since graduating and it is more fulfilling than I could have imagined. Teaching yoga brings me joy each and every day. I love seeing my students improve alignment, gain strength and flexibility, find comfort and relaxation, and most especially, I love see my students tune with their bodies’ needs. I feel so blessed to be a guide on their journey.
2 Words to describe your classes and teaching style. Go!
Playful and adventurous!
My classes are definitely based around a vinyasa flow, and I encourage students to feel playful and adventurous, discovering their bodies each day on the mat. I give many options, so students of all levels and physical abilities get what they need from their practice. In my heart, I am a teacher. In every class I teach, my goal is to inform and support my students, while encouraging growth and exploration.
Which style of Yoga appeals the most to you as a practitioner and which style do you like to teach most?
I really love the extremes of yoga classes – challenging physical classes that leave muscles tired AND restorative classes that help me find deep relaxation and surrender.
I like teaching classes that give students options. I always begin with a warm up that allows me to gage where my students are in their practice and then build up heat. We work hard and sweat and then there is plenty of time to stretch. I love a long Savasana and give my students the same. (Note from Fern: Arielle’s Savasana adjustments are AMAZING! When I get the chance to come to her class, it’s a lovely treat!)
Any advice for someone brand new to yoga who may be hesitant to get on the mat?
The hardest step is the first one. There are many reasons we hesitate to try something new, and most of these fears can be overcome by simply GOING FOR IT! Once you get in a studio (or in front of your DVD player) on a mat, you will have taken the hardest step. Yes, the poses will be challenging, but remember it’s only your first time. No one expects you to get into every pose perfectly, and neither should you. Give it your best try because you might just find what you’ve been searching for.
What tools do you think are essential for starting a yoga practice?
I believe the only thing you need to start a yoga practice is an open mind. With an open mind, you will be receptive to the physical, mental and emotional benefits of yoga. You can allow expectations to slip away and truly enjoy moving in your body!
For a yogi in any stage of practice, I believe an open mind is the most important thing. It’s not easy because we constantly filter every input, comparing our expectations to reality, worrying about not working hard enough or working too hard, comparing ourselves to other students in class (even though we know we’re not supposed to), deciding if we agree or disagree with the teacher’s theme or lesson, wondering why someone is in childs pose not handstand, or vice versa, etc… Keeping an open mind allows us to acknowledge other’s actions and opinions without focusing on them or judging them. Then we can give ourselves the same courtesy, and that is truly a beautiful thing.
If you could do only one pose from now on, what would it be?
Downward Facing Dog! Adho Mukha Svanasana provides so many benefits: a hamstring and calf stretch, strengthens arms, helps us find length through the spine, it’s a gentle inversion as the heart is above the head, and it just feels GOOD. The first downward dog of practice gives my whole body tremendous relief from whatever I came into the room with.
When do you teach at YoGanesh?
Come find me on Mondays at 7.30pm and check the schedule for other times! Looking forward to meeting lots of Ganeshers!
Passionate about movement, energy, balance and healthy living, YoTeacher Arielle received her 200-hour yoga teacher training from Yoga People in Brooklyn Heights, where she is based, and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the Vassar College. Her playful vinyasa-style yoga classes balance flow and breath with alignment and intention. A former dancer and athlete who has had her fair share of injuries, Arielle is knowledgeable about how to modify a yoga practice and work with injuries. She is a wonderful resource for beginners and advanced yogis alike, as well as anyone looking to deepen their yoga practice. Check the schedule to find out when to catch her at YoGanesh.
Arielle is also teaching during an upcoming yoga retreat to Puerto Rico in February. Learn more and join her for inversion and arm balance workshops, nourishing meals provided by a personal in-house natural gourmet chef, and surf lessons from February 27 – March 3, 2014 in beautiful Rincon!