As the co-founder of Maya Yoga, a studio in Maui, Hawaii, Nicki strives to teach each student that yoga is about being fully present in the moment and discovering that we are truly all One. Nicki’s yoga journey began in 1991 when she traveled to India to study yoga. She went to Mysore to meet Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and immediately realized she had found her teacher. Although rooted in Ashtanga, Nicki’s teachings combine asana, pranayama, philosophy, and poetry. Nicki’s emphasis is on awareness: creating integrity within each pose that can be carried beyond the mat into daily life. Nicki teaches at yoga studios and conferences across the globe. Nicki will be teaching at the Hanuman Festival this June in Boulder, CO.
What is your gift for teaching? What are your weaknesses? How do you challenge yourself to continue learning as a teacher?
My gift in teaching yoga is my passion for the practice. Yoga has brought so much to my life. I am constantly amazed by it all. I feel a responsibility and honor to inspire others as I have been inspired. My weaknesses have more to do with time management than anything else! I find it hard to end a class mostly because I am so into the teaching that I get lost with the time. The best way to challenge myself as a teacher is to remain a student. I am going to take a Yoga Sutras workshop next weekend, and I am so looking forward to just receiving the information and the grace. As the zen practitioners tell us, keep a beginner’s mind always.
How do you approach difficulty and challenge? What gives you strength to persevere or surrender?
Funny question as the last year and a half have been the most difficult to date. In the past I tended to try to avoid difficulties and not rock the boat too much. As I have grown up I have come to see the challenges and difficulties we face in life as opportunities to grow. Change is the only constant in any of our lives and if we resist and try to hold on to something that no longer works or serves us, we will suffer. I now choose to embrace change—that took a lot of hard work. That hard work came in many forms: my yoga practice which was always there for me, my friends and family, and a great therapist. Knowing there is so much more life to live and people to serve gives me the strength to persevere. The true meaning of courage is to have the strength to speak from the heart honestly. It has been a wonderful teacher and reminder for me. And on top of all of that are my children. They give me so much love and joy that I need to face the challenges that life continues to present daily.
Who has been your greatest influence? Who are your yoga heroes?
I could not say that I have one greatest influence in my life. There have been many. My maternal grandmother was the most spiritual person I have ever met. She was always kind to everyone she met and was always loving. I remember that always. My guruji, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, influenced me to start teaching. He seemed like he enjoyed every moment of it, and his joy was infectious. He is certainly one of my yoga heroes. I just met another hero the other day, Kevin Pearce. He was a pro-snowboarder when he suffered a traumatic brain injury while snowboarding competitively. He started a foundation called Love Your Brain, and he has been using yoga as part of his healing process. He came to my class on Maui last week and blew my mind. He has accomplished so much with his yoga practice, and his loving vibe is so wonderful to witness. He’s definitely my new hero!
What serves as your touchstone for integrating techniques and practices into your yoga teaching?
My practice and the many many years I spent traveling to India to study with the masters have been the touchstones for integrating techniques and practices into my teaching. Question a yoga teacher that doesn’t have a yoga practice! Parenting has also been hugely influential in my teaching. It has added a layer of compassion and patience that I did not have before I had my kids. They are the true gurus.
What does love mean to you? How do you move towards or achieve this in your life and teaching?
Love is everything. It is stronger than anything I have ever witnessed. In my darkest times when I forgot about the love, I felt lost. As soon as I remembered the love and allowed myself to be enveloped in it, I knew I could get through anything. I love yoga so much and that love inspires me to keep teaching and traveling so that I can share that love with everyone! As Rumi said, “ Open your arms if you want to be held.”