Interview with Niloo
So what opened up that spiritual door in your practice?
I became interested in yoga when I was around 18 years old. I was craving a practice that was not only physical, but spiritual as well. There are no accidents; after a few years of searching, I ended up at Yoga West in 1994 and instantly felt a connection with Kundalini Yoga. The classes allowed me to connect to my spirit on a very deep level. I attended his classes several times a week, as well as private sessions, to learn the practice deeply.
The exploration was amazing because as soon as I started practicing Kundalini Yoga, which is called the Yoga of Awareness, I did indeed become more aware. I started seeing new and different aspects of myself. During that time, I became more attuned to what I was eating, what was happening to my body and where I was in my spiritual life. This practice prompted the questions: who am I and what do I want to do? I was taken on a huge journey of getting to know myself in a much more intimate and authentic way.
In retrospect, what did that time represent for you?
It was a very interesting time for me because a few years after the start of embracing yoga I was challenged with some very serious health issues. Initially, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Later I dealt with daily migraines, depression, anxiety and fibromyalgia.
So my time became divided between being a mom, learning and practicing yoga and dealing with these very serious health issues. Though it was a very dark time in my life, in hindsight these challenges have enabled me to be more compassionate and made me a much better teacher.
How did you do that? What were the resources that helped you “pull it together?”
I was determined to heal. I went to my yoga classes even though I was in pain and had low energy. I kept going back to my teacher to find my way out of the darkness. I had decided, “I am going to do whatever it takes, even if it takes the rest of my life, then so be it.”
I also went to many different holistic doctors, nutritionists and healers. This journey introduced me to many powerful healing modalities and teachers and informs my teaching practice to this day.
Can you talk about this process of healing?
The healing for me, when I look back upon it, came together as a process of uniting on the physical, mental and spiritual level. Once I found my spiritual practice, I was able to allow it to heal my nervous system.
On a spiritual level, I really embraced my meditations, allowing myself to merge with the source. Being in that oneness so-to-speak, has been profound. There are many types of meditations that consistently guide me. A huge part of my healing process has been through Bhakti yoga and Kirtan, devotional practices of chanting mantras to open the heart center.
Finally, I have changed my diet, I know what my body needs, I am aware of my thoughts & patterns, I put the right supplements into my body, get the right exercise and make sure to get enough sleep.
Can you tell me a little more about Kundalini Yoga?
Kundalini yoga is a yoga of awareness. The Asanas (postures), pranayama (conscious breathing), mantras (transformative words), mudras (hand gestures), as well as meditation techniques practiced together in a set, work to balance the nervous system and the glandular system.
This practice is so powerful because it creates a balance of mind, body, and spirit, and in doing so enables self-healing to occur.
What is unique about your yoga classes?
Because of my own journey to find balance, I dove deeply into the teachings that resonated with me at the time. Along the way, I was blessed to learn from many amazing masters and teachers from different lineages. I bring into each class a range of powerful techniques and tools that I’ve learned over the years that make my classes more than “just a yoga class”.
I often include elements of movement/dance and aromatherapy for a place that is fun and uplifting to come to. I welcome students of all abilities without any judgment as to where they are on their path. I’ve been through very rough times, and creating a really supportive environment for my students is really important to me.
What other elements are important to what you do?
Considering proper nutrition is a very important element of Therapeutic Yoga, which is a large part of my teachings. Therapeutic Yoga is a combination of restorative yoga, guided meditation, some healing touch and breath-work.
Once I get together one-on-one with the client, to find out their history, comprehensive needs and goals we work together to create a plan to address their issues and lessen their pain. Nutrition comes into play because I have seen that there are certain foods that can either reduce or increase inflammation in the body. Watching what we eat and supplementing our diets with things that help us be our best is important. In addition, because of so many factors including depleted soil, modern food supply chains, etc. there just doesn’t have as much prana, meaning life force, in it as just a few generations ago. Therefore, eating organic and local foods as much as possible becomes vital. Taking food into the body that gives you life force, enjoying your food, and blessing your food every time you eat not only feels good, but also it’s good for your body. Food is supposed to be healing and we should eat accordingly.
I believe in the law of attraction. I make it very simple for myself! My vibration, which is my energy field, is attracting exactly what it’s giving out. So, I take full responsibility for everything that I am, I have and I am not, I don’t have. This means relationships, money, health….you name it! Change starts with me!
Do you have any special mantras or poses geared for specific issues that you or your clients are going through?
That is the beauty of Kundalini yoga. There are dozens of mantras and mudras, so many different kinds of breathing techniques, so many meditations that are geared for specific situations. Take, for example, if a student or client came to me with an issue of having just broken up with their romantic partner, I would give them a meditation to do every day for forty days and they would see the difference within just a week, feeling lighter, the grief less overwhelming and feeling less attachment to the situation. At the end of forty days the transformation that happens is simply amazing.
What is Yoga for Youth?
I did a teacher training with them in 2004 and I have been supporting them with their incredible mission. They go into juvenile detention centers and they teach the youth yoga and how to be aware and in control of their emotions so that they have the tools they need to keep them out of trouble when they get back into the real world.
How does your yogic path correlate to raising two daughters and being a good mother?
I was blessed to have been on a spiritual path before I had my kids and so for that,I am really grateful. Being on a spiritual path doesn’t mean that you don’t make mistakes as a parent. It just means that you are aware of them. I have made mistakes and I have been really hard on myself at times. Being a parent has allowed me to be a teacher to my kids as much as their student. I am constantly learning from them, for they have been my most incredible teachers. I have often asked, “Am I raising my children in alignment with my truth?” And the answer has always been yes. I wasn’t just merely raising them the way that I was raised. It wasn’t giving them exactly what was passed onto me. The awareness comes from a place of who am I—and who do I want to be as a mother—and how do I want to be aware for the sake of my children? Believe me, I got a lot of flack from other people for it—but I knew what I needed to do because it felt right to me—and I have been really blessed because I am so close to my daughters, but it is definitely work.
So when life gets tough or your practice gets tough, what helps you get through barriers or walls?
Well, life has been very tough at times, and I think everyone can relate to that. We all have stress. Saying, “how can we get rid of stress” isn’t a practical question. Instead, we may ask, “how do we respond to stress?” Having the tools of yoga, meditation, affirmations and awareness of positive thought patters and a healthy lifestyle make all of the difference—when we have that kind of awareness and utilize those kind of tools, stress is dealt with in a healthy way.
What is the appeal to embarking upon a spiritual path if it is bound to be a difficult journey?
The road is bumpy & unpredictable, but once you have tasted the nectar of divinity, feeling unconditional love & pure light of bliss and once you get to that place where your soul can speak to yourself and you can sit back and watch this conversation take place—when you get to the point that you have that kind of awareness & connection to the source and you are no longer relying on external factors to guide you and tell you what your truth is, you realize that this stuff actually works—and that realization in and of itself is very much worth it.