Spotlight on an ISHTA Teacher: Gina Menza
When did you take your first yoga class? What was that like? I took my first yoga class in the late 80’s. It was the dog days of summer in NYC and I heard there was an air conditioned yoga class with soothing music at a Crunch gym near my apartment in the east village.
How did you find ISHTA? I found Alan through a friend in Los Angeles who knew Al from his days teaching in Hollywood. Al had just moved to New York and I joined his classes when they were in a photography studio above Bumble and Bumble.
Why is a restorative practice so important for students to do? When we ask a physical body to go through what is demanded in life it is exhausting. Not just in our bodies, but in our mind, spirit and emotions. Not even sleep can truly rest us to where we need to be to function from a healthy place. Many of my restorative students cannot find a way to meditation that suits them. Frequently, after practicing restorative yoga for a while, my students find a calm that enables them to sit for meditation more comfortably. Restorative yoga also opens the body in subtle but profound ways. It helps let go of the obstacles on our way toward stillness. A healthier, more balanced and improved version of oneself usually emerges. Have you ever seen the faces and bodies leave my class? They are floating and smiling.
Tell us what inspires you about the Anand Menza Restorative Training that you and Mona have developed. I must have been a scientist or physician in another life because the science behind why yoga works, and why my students float out of class is fascinating to me. I needed to research… what on earth is going on? The science of sleep, of meditation, of relaxation all come into play in a restorative practice and our training teaches a bit about why. You can watch it all at work. I also love the symbiosis that takes place when essential oils are used. As long as a student consents, the aromatherapy factor can gently push the practitioner more deeply toward their goal. I thoroughly enjoyed my restorative training years ago, but when you combine the energetic element that Mona brings (along with her take on yoga nidra) with my more scientific eye, a beautiful synergy is created.
What is it about the ISHTA system that inspires you? It never ceases to amaze me that what drew me to yoga…air conditioning and a studio filled with supermodels, was and is soooooooo far away from what I love about yoga. It was Al’s lineage and deep roots in yoga that kept me devoted to my yoga practice. It was Alan watching me practice for a few years and then asking me to take one of the first teacher trainings ever held by ISHTA (and the many gestations of Alan Finger yoga) that made me who I am today. The deep roots come through, regardless of surroundings. Alan’s love and knowledge of the energetic evolution that comes from a yoga practice come through his teachings and left an indelible mark. I cannot imagine a day without a deep breath and grounded feet.
What is your favorite pose? What kind of question is that…savasana of course!
Tell us about your prenatal experience, what inspires you about teaching prenatal. Watching pregnant women practice yoga is mind blowing if you ask me. Women’s bodies are gifted in the capacity to create a life and it is a bonus to be invited to witness the event. I have watched women who are weak, scared and exhausted bloom into warrior women, ready to take on the pregnancy, delivery and new motherhood with immense confidence and strength. I always try to create a community within the room. It is lovely to see like-minded women from all walks of life share the experience of yoga while pregnant. I’ve seen beautiful friendships begin in class…and I always feel and appreciate the pure energy of the babies in the room, even though they are in utero, it is profound.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your own prenatal trainings and your approach to prenatal? I have created an 85-hour Yoga Alliance registered training that is my favorite. It takes away the fear felt by many yoga instructors when a pregnant girl walks into class. The snippets our ISHTA trainees get in the 200-hour and 300-hour are always a load of fun too. I want instructors to celebrate the pregnant yogi, not be intimidated by her amazing state of affairs. This year I started doing one-day prenatal immersions at ISHTA. I hope to create enough to completely cover my 85-hour content. This way instructors can take their time getting certified prenatally. It’s an amazing niche to have as a yoga teacher, there are so many of us now, a specialty seems necessary to shine light on oneself.
Gina’s Restorative class at ISHTA is on Mondays and Fridays at 11:15 am!