December 17, 2011

Elephant Yoga Interview with Anusara Certified Yoga Instructor, Neesha Zollinger.

I had the fortunate opportunity to attend one of Neesha’s workshops in Copenhagen, Denmark back in 2009…

Enamored by her cosmic energy, her elegant strength, her humble, wise approach, and her undoubting uniqueness and depth, my energy has been drawn to Neesha time and time again. Wanting to share some of Neesha and her positive Jedi-force with Elephant Yoga, not to mention her sense of humour, I reached out to her for an interview.

The topic? Anusara yoga.

1. The basics – how long have you been teaching Anusara yoga and why Anusara? How did you find this path?

Neesha: I began teaching some influenced form of the Anusara method almost as soon as I discovered it. My first experience was in 1999 with Margot Snowdon. I loved the bio-mechanic aspect of Anusara as well as its themes. The teachings of the heart served my spirit by giving focus, depth and understanding to what I was already experiencing.

I found Margot in The Tetons, where I currently live. I had come to the area to work for a dance company. When I visited Wyoming, I had a full body/spirit experience of “alignment”  a term that I did not know had spiritual references at the time. My entire body surged with a deep knowing that I was supposed to be there. I felt completely plugged into the earth, the dancing community and I felt energised. Even though I was leaving a full-time position as a soil scientist and had a PHENOMANAL yoga teacher and access to dance where I was, the pull to move to the Tetons was undeniable. I think that Anusara was part of that invisible yet obvious magnetism.

2. In general, what do you believe is your own unique approach to teaching Anusara yoga and how would you describe it? How does the magnificent you come out in your teaching, alongside/balanced with the lineage?

Neesha: I am not sure if it makes me unique but there are four main things that seem to shine through me and as this lineage has taught: service, humor, depth and joy.

I care about each student and have a deep desire to be a vehicle of service through every word and deed that comes through. I ask the universe regularly how the highest can transmit through this container of Neesha, and I am open to receiving the best way that my vessel can serve the greater community. I ask my guides, my teachers and the potency of the lineage to support the most pinnacle inspiration for each person. Invoking like this seems to transfer something much bigger than I can imagine into the hearts of each person.

In the past couple of years, it seems I am more of a channel. Sometimes that shows up as silliness. It is surprising at times who and what shows up through me. If we are all lucky, it is funny and brightens the inner body experience. Some people call it a sense of humour.

Another gift that comes through this practice is the transmission of depth of access to the inner body. My seeing into the subtle is keen so the students get a deep experience of it too.

Lastly, from what I am told and feel, my container and spirit seem to be here to transmit joy.  It is fun! 

“When one asks the question of how the big impulse of life wants to serve humanity through the individual, one never knows exactly what will come up.”

3 What inspires you to keep teaching, sharing and creating? What are some of your ‘projects of goodness’ that you’ve been working on? Have all of these been inspired by Anusara?

Neesha: The inspiration to teach is service. Spirit shows me that it wants to serve through me in this way. This is why I do this. It is not so personal. When one asks the question of how the big impulse of life wants to serve humanity through the individual, one never knows exactly what will come up. As of now, this is how I am doing it. I feel very fortunate that yoga and connecting with is a fulfilling way to serve.

I am envisioning two new projects, one that does not have form yet and one that is not quite formed enough to articulate yet. (Oooh, mystery!)

Continuing my home studio in Jackson Hole, Akasha Yoga is one of the projects that even though it is not new, is a constant nugget of energy that loves to be fed.

Other projects I do are dance related. Even though they have nothing to do with Anusara, my dancing is more intelligent now, compared to my youth. I am stronger and have a great range of motion in a balanced way. Also, it is an exuberant way that life expresses through me.

The 13 years that I have dedicated to Anusara have given access either directly or indirectly to my wisdom. Most things that I say and do are inspired by Anusara. It has shaped, grown and taught me how to live more skillfully and it keeps going!

“You have to see when you are re-creating the same scenarios or habits. The only way to see yourself and your stuff is through self-awareness.”

4. Do you have any words of encouragement; words of wisdom for helping others face their deep, sometimes very dark patterns (samskaras)?

Neesha: Dark Patterns. That is a big one. Here is an outline of what I find supportive…

A daily check-in and synchronizing with your most beautiful, good and true self is a great way to start. Then when patterns come through that are not in tune with your higher intentions, you can see them and act from there.

You have to see when you are re-creating the same scenarios or habits. The only way to see yourself and your stuff is through self-awareness. Asana builds that but meditation and contemplation are essential. Meditation shines light on yourself and contemplation helps you see where you are.

Helpful tools:

1) Honoring where the pattern came from, formally releasing it as no longer necessary in your (or your family lineage’s) evolution.

2) Replace the habit with something better. The tendency to get mired down in your “pattern” is just why lots of psychotherapy does not do what we want it to. Yes, you see it, but then, let it go, choose something better to take its place. Don’t become habitually attached to seeing your pattern or talking about your tendencies. It can become a new (and potentially weirder) form of identification. Once you ‘see’, release it and move on. Go to a better place where the non-life affirming habit cannot be sustained or nurtured, and that will keep it from rearing because it can’t exist in a reality where it is not supported. If you find yourself reverting to the place where the habit is engrained, wash it away again or lather, rinse and repeat.

3)  Surround yourself with people who elevate and uplift you. Keep referring back to the bigger picture: how you are getting along with others and how you are in relationship keeps you honest. The world (or at least your family and co-workers) need you to be your best self. Notice the reflections around you and, be gentle with yourself.

Always remember that on the largest frame, you are perfect just as you are… AND very few of us are fully realized and acting from that place of perfection… so we all have work to do to gain access and mastery of the human potential.

5. How would you describe Anusara yoga in 3-words?

Neesha: Innovative, love, depth 

6. Do you have any thoughts/comments you’d like to share on the resignation of known Anusara yoga teachers? 

Neesha: Life, people, and systems (hopefully) all change if we are on the track of evolution, getting better. To me, this is a natural reflection of life and its’ shifting. It is an inspiring example of courage of these teachers to step away from something they love, to open to the next round of how life moves authentically through them.

7. Oh, one last question – favorite pose(s)?


Favourite pose for morning: handstand and uttanasa (standing forward bend)

For midday: backbends and pincha mayurasana (forearm balance)

For after travel and hiking: eka pada rajakapotasana preps and variations (one legged pigeon variations)

Anytime: squats, standing thigh stretches, uttanasana

Desk breaks: hands clasped behind the back

Photo shoots: natarajasana (cosmic dancer)

Simply joy-I love you pose:  basic lunge

Standing pose: parsvakonasana or trikonasana

I want to feel a yoga buzz pose:  headstand for as long as I can

Photo credit: #1 image Andy Bardon

Thank you so much, Neesha. Sending love.

For more Neesha, please visit her at Akasha Yoga, Yoga Today, Blog

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