Introducing Knoff Yoga
In the middle of 2018, I decided to do my first international Yoga teacher training in Australia. With many incredibly qualified Yoga studios to choose from, I had a tough decision to make, but fortunately I can see that I’d made a good decision to go with Knoff Yoga.
To choose the best fit for me, I thought about what I’d like to receive from the training and which teachers would best suit my style.
At the time, I was most interested in understanding poses (asanas) and modifying them to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for people with different abilities, body types and within different age groups and stages in their yoga practices.
After doing my research I chose to train at Knoff Yoga in Cairns. The main reason for my decision was the teacher, Nicky Knoff.
Nicky has dedicated her whole life to Yoga. I previously had one class with her a year ago. I learned so much during that session that I realised how little I knew about Yoga. She corrected me many times during that class. At the end of the session my body felt much better organised and I stood taller.
For me it was a no brainer that I needed to learn that way of sharing and teaching Yoga because it benefited me so much as a student.
Nicky teaches Knoff Yoga. You can find more information on her website - https://www.knoffyoga.com
In 2019 I had a chat with Nicky about Yoga and what is happening in the Yoga world with online classes and mindfulness coming into the mix.
I hope you enjoy my interview with Nicky below.
Q: Nicky, you’ve been practicing Yoga for over 49 years. Could you give some advice for those who want to start Yoga but aren’t flexible?
A: Surprisingly, flexibility is not the point of yoga… it is the body-mind connection. A stiff person actually has an advantage over a flexible person, in that they quickly establish this connection, whereas a flexible person has less feed-back.
There is a saying, “blessed with stiffness, cursed with flexibility”. The highly flexible person can assume most yoga shapes easily, but because they lack the internal feed-back they have not had to understand the internal aspects of the technique and will eventually get hurt, without knowing why? The goal of an experienced yoga teacher is to shift the student’s attention from the external shape of the pose to the experience of feeling the pose from the inside. This internalisation of the mind is yoga!
Q: Besides increased flexibility, what are some benefits of a regular Yoga practice?
A: When yoga is taught traditionally as a spiritual path and not as just another type of gym exercise, then the real benefits of yoga start to materialise. The student’s nervous system gets strengthened, the body-mind connection is established, and the student learns how to control their thoughts and emotions. In a world of craziness, this internal control and mental stability is worth more than gold.
Q: Nowadays there are many online Yoga classes. What are the advantages and disadvantages of an online class?
A: good online class can actually be better than a live class with a poorly trained yoga teacher, as they can and do injure students. But, a live class with a knowledgeable and well-trained yoga teacher provides the opportunity to learn vastly more than an online class. Imagine you want to earn your black belt in martial arts… can you successfully do this via the internet? The obvious answer is a resounding no! Real yoga requires every bit of effort and understanding as any martial art and only a live teacher can provide this.
Q: Some companies are investing in Corporate Yoga for their employees. How does this practice help to increase wellbeing and performance in the work place?
A: The majority of people are living at their edge of mental balance. It only takes a slight shove from an unplanned or unexpected situation to push them over the edge. Witness road rage and mass shootings in the workplace. When an enlightened company is pro-active and hires a competent yoga teacher, they are providing their employees with tools, which will help them find a better, saner internal mental environment. Learning how to shift the brain-wave patterns from the highly agitated Beta Waves to at least the quieter Alpha Waves, is a huge step towards a safe and productive work environment. The less agitated mind of a yoga practicing employee is a happier and more productive person.
Q: When I ask friends and students “How are you?” they respond that they’re either tired or stressed. It sounds like many people are often in these less-than-optimal states. How can Yoga alleviate these conditions?
A: As mentioned in the previous question, people are at their edge all the time. High levels of internal stress are simply the warning bells that all is not well. Many people resort to medication (legal or otherwise) and this simply puts a temporary patch over the problem. Putting a Band-Aid over a boil does not heal the infection – only covers it up.
Almost everyone is stressed and tired because of imbalances in their lifestyle, which results in stress within the body and nervous system. People overeat, under exercise, get inadequate sleep, drink alcohol, do drugs, have repeating negative thoughts and poor life skills. The real and long-term benefit of yoga is that it teaches the techniques of how to mentally step-back, access the current situation, and then make the necessary positive changes. If you can’t see the problems, you can’t make the changes. Learning how to achieve mental and emotional balance has zero to do with flexibility. With real yoga, the body is simply the tool we use to access the mind. In the process of learning how to access the mind, the side-effect of the yoga practice is better physical health. The goal is a healthy mind in a healthy body.
Q: What is the relationship between mindfulness and Yoga?
Contrary to what you see on Facebook and Instagram, authentic yoga is not showing people how wonderful you are. In fact, the obsessive trend of over sharing on these social media platforms is a strong indication of narcissism. Every single yoga technique (postures, breath-work and meditation) is designed to turn the mind and awareness inwards. This is mindfulness.
The excessive focus on the external is the opposite of yoga. Many yoga teachers don’t understand this basic truth. For example, listening to music during a yoga class causes the mind to focus on the music (whether you think you are or not) and not the internal environment. You cannot internalise and externalise at the same time – they are opposite.
Like heads and tails of a coin, the human body and mind are 100% connected; if you separate them you will die. Because our awareness is predominately focused outwards, we lose the internal awareness. Yoga is the process of turning the mind inwards to bring the connection back into balance.
Q: With the aging process the body and the mind become compromised. How do you see Yoga as an antidote for this?
A: Just as your car needs to be serviced regularly, so does your body and mind. An old car needs more servicing than a new car.
Q: Would you share your golden nugget for Yoga students?
A: My recommendation to all students is to practice slowly and gently, without strain, adjusting day-to-day according to energy levels and not being concerned at all with what you can or cannot do.
It is important to work at your own pace and not attempt any comparisons with your fellow students. You are unique and yoga will help you express your own individuality.