Natalie Backman — modern yogini, holistic life coach

Mind, body, spirit — yoga is a holistic experience for many. But did one element or another first draw you to the practice? That is, were you seeking to settle your mind? Have greater physical flexibility? Explore your spiritual nature?

initially I thought it was for ‘exercise’ — almost immediately, however, I noticed the greatest impact on my mind — from day one my yoga practice helped me gain mastery over my anxiety

How about now: does yoga feed your mind or your body or your spirit more, or are those elements more in balance than when you started?

it still tends to every facet of my being, but now is predominantly a spiritual practice for me

How long have you practiced yoga?

I began dabbling about 22 years ago, but have been studying and practicing with commitment for 13 years

How long did you practice yoga before you started teaching it?

lightly for about 12 years, but seriously for 3 — since then I have not stopped studying — my study and practice have only intensified

Do you have a preferred yoga style?

I study, practice, and teach Traditional Tantric Hatha and Classical Yoga — under the guidance of the Himalayan Tradition

When you were starting out, what came easiest and what was more challenging?

as a former dancer, I ‘thought’ the postures came easily, but soon realized I was missing the point entirely — loosening my effort was the most challenging, and making peace with the neurotic tendencies in my mind

From your experience as a teacher, can you generalize about what comes easiest for beginners and what is more challenging?

dissociating yoga from exercise seems to be the most challenging because in the west we’ve sold yoga as a workout — it isn’t — it’s a spiritual practice which utilizes the body to gain access to the breath, the breath to gain access to the mind, the mind to gain access to the soul — reframing students’ expectations which are based on a western misinterpretation of yoga is my greatest challenge as a teacher

What are the more difficult poses for beginners to execute?

Savasana and a Meditation Seat

What have been the greatest benefits of yoga for you?

more peace within my own mind and continuous joy in the midst of challenging circumstances

Apart from yoga, do you practice other techniques of mindfulness or meditation?

I practice a traditional Yogic meditation called Vishoka Meditation, as well as traditional Yoga Nidra — these both incorporate pranayama (techniques for gaining mastery over the breath)

Do you regularly do other forms of exercise?

I do — I love to hike, swim in the ocean, garden, and play with my dog

Outside of a yoga session, do you ever just strike a pose and stretch? If so, which pose(s) and where?

I often find myself utilizing yoga asanas to create more freedom and ease in my body — I try to be subtle about it in public so as not to draw too much attention, but when I’m at home I’ll stretch and twist and enjoy savasana just about anywhere

You have a choice: lead a yoga class (1) outdoors on a beautiful day, overlooking the ocean, or (2) in a well-designed, very comfortable minimalist indoor space. Which do you pick?

I love practicing outside and find it to be more comfortable and accessible for a lot of people — it’s a great way to reconnect to something bigger than ourselves

—interview © Marshal Zeringue