I have been blessed with an expansive journey though my yoga teaching practice. What began as a traditional Hatha yoga practice primarily in studios was quickly widened during my 7 years teaching at the world renowned Golden Door Spa. During this time I had the privilege to work with a very high end clientele that included celebrities, leaders, and dignitaries in a destination spa setting. Group classes could range from very beginning students with severe body limitations to very advanced practitioners, thus my teaching style developed to provide a safe and yet wide spectrum of offerings within the same class. Concurrently I was also teaching at local studios, traveling to the east coast to teach privately, and taking periodic sabbaticals to live in Yogic Community at the Mount Madonna Retreat Center in Santa Cruz, California. In 2004 when I began my Expressive Arts Therapy work at San Diego Youth Services, I offered yoga to the at-risk youth populations I was serving. Often I would teach some of the most privileged people in the world to some of the most underprivileged in the same day. What I learned was to serve all people to the utmost of my ability however they showed up, and to humbly bring as many offerings, tools and ways into the practice as possible.
Nikyta’s Yoga Teaching Style:
My identity as an art maker also influenced my teaching with the incorporation of poetry, live music, journaling, and guided imagery weaving through each class. I have found that each population resonates with different metaphors and that souls are deeply inspired by the poet’s perspective into the nature of soul care and union. Thus my teaching has a distinctly poetic tone, which combined with my professional voice training brings an aspect that students often remark on and enjoy.
My asana and pranayama teaching is characterized by the philosophy that each student is the authority of their own body, and thus my role is to provide offerings that both hold space and get out of the way of their union of inner and outer alignment.
200 Hr Teacher Training in Indra Devi Hatha mentored by Leslie Ferree, at Camelrock Yoga, Valley Center California, 2000.
1 Year Daily Apprenticeship in Astanga Yoga as taught by Patthbi Jois, mentorship with Christina Allen at Ashtanga Yoga Center East, San Marcos, California, 2001-2002.
Mysore Practice with Tim Miller, Ashtanga Yoga Center, Encinitas, California 2002-2009.
Restorative Yoga from the Iyengar Tradition with Dr. Roger Cole, Yoga Del Mar, California, 2003.
Anusara Teacher Training Immersions 1-3 by master teacher Geri Portnoy, Yoga Del Mar, California, 2010.
Street Yoga Certification with founder Mark Lilly, Los Angeles, California, 2010.
Camelrock Yoga Center , Valley Center CA 2000-2001
Asthanga Yoga Center East , San Marcos, CA 2001-2003
Golden Door Spa, San Marcos 2003-2009: Group & Private Yoga Classes, Meditation, Pranayama (Yogic Breathing), Labyrinth Facilitation, & Expressive Arts Classes
LA Fitness, Encinitas, CA 2003-2005
Yoga Del Mar, Del Mar, CA 2005-2011 *Taught classes with live musicians Todd Boston
Kava Living Arts Gallery, Kava Lounge, San Diego, CA 2005-2007 *taught classes with live musicians Todd Boston, Tabla Ras, Scott
Yoganic Studio, San Diego, CA: 2005-2008 *orginiated Earth Yoga classes here
San Diego Youth Services, San Diego, CA 2005-2011: taught at-risk youth. Populations included homeless youth, pregnant & parenting youth in drug recovery, survivors of human trafficking, deaf youth, youth in adoptive & foster care.
Calvin Klein Performance Space, San Francisco, CA: 2012
Piedmont Yoga Studio, founded by Rodney Yee, in Oakland, CA: 2012-2014
Bill Wilson Center, Santa Clara and San Jose, CA: 2012-2014: taught at risk youth. Populations included youth in group homes, transitional aged youth, and youth in drop in centers.
Down Dog Studio, Lopez Island, WA: 2014- Present
Creaky Yoga, Lopez Island, WA: 2015- Present
Selections from Publications:
From the Article “ The Hollywood Yogis” in the Online Magazine
Little India By Lavina Melwani March 13, 2006
Yoga in America has morphed into something Hindu yogis would hardly recognize. Whereas the real yoga is about austerity and meditation and a simple mat in a corner of nowhere, in America’s avid consumer society it has become a multibillion-dollar mega-mall of name-brand yoga clothes and accessory lines, countless workout videos, music and classes. Every gym and spa teaches yoga and there are countless versions, some more outlandish than others. You can find the authentic meditative practices and serious practitioners as well as fitness experts in the garb of yogis, teaching yoga to a disco beat.
We turned to Golden Door, an exclusive spa and resort in California set on 377 acres on the rolling hills outside of San Diego, Calif., which has been frequented by countless celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Streisand, and Martha Stewart. It’s the ultimate in luxury with a ratio of four staff per guest. New York magazine wrote, “For bar-setting luxury mixed with body punishing workouts, only Golden Door in Escondido, Calif., is still the time-tested best.” There is an emphasis on body, mind and spirit and yoga is just one of the many activities here.
Nikyta Palmisani, yoga instructor at Golden Door, says they teach all the manifestations of yoga that are practiced in the west from stretch and restore to power yoga, derived from Ashtanga yoga, and everything in between from Active-Slow Yoga to Yoga Ball. “It’s really about the conceptual difference between yoga in America versus yoga in India,” she says. “There’s such a big difference when yoga is taken out of context and taken out of the Rajya yoga path where the third step of the asana is just to prepare the body to sit in stillness and to move toward meditation, toward withdrawal of the senses. But in America it’s been taken out of the spiritual sense that you’re trying to reach samadhi and so, many yoga practitioners here are simply concerned with the physical motion.”
Whereas traditional exercise classes emphasize stretching for the sake of stretching, in yoga you’re stretching in a mindful way and using your mind to control and have mastery over your body. It becomes a deeper and more meditative experience, which is important to Americans, who need it to combat the stresses of daily life.
“The consequence is that if you’re only taking the asana or the third step of yoga then you will find as many different ways to do yoga as there are different people and that is why we offer so many different yoga classes here, because we have such a wide range of population,” says Palmisani. Her clients range from an inactive 85-year-old woman who needs very gentle yoga, perhaps even in a chair, to very flexible and in-shape people in their early 20s, whose bodies need more intensity, more strength and more focus.
Has it become more like a game, mixing yoga with Pilates and tai-chi, and fad activities like balls? “If you take it out of the context that you’re preparing yourself for – meditation – well, of course, it becomes a physical activity, becomes calisthenics of India really,” she says. “The Japa chants and mantras are often replaced with other music and the spiritual context is totally done away with.”
She gives an interesting comparison: “It’s like if you took the rosary presentation out of context, and then it basically becomes a game. How many ‘Hail Mary’s” can you say going around your rosary? Can you say it on one leg? If it’s not in the deeper, spiritual context of Catholicism, simply saying the rosary is not going to do the same thing.”
The real practice of yoga is far removed from the daily lives of most Americans who, many being Judaic or Christian, may not be comfortable with the religious connotations of yoga. While yoga is not a religion it does have its roots in Hinduism, but it is interpreted here just as a path to self-improvement. The asanas make American bodies feel great and so those are adopted. At the same time, many Americans take yoga in its entirety very seriously, researching and practicing it and even traveling to India. Yoga in America exists at many different levels.
So yoga has taken on a life of its own in America and changed into quite something else? “Absolutely. Americans have done what they do with everything. They’ve pioneered, they’ve innovated and even added their propensity for fads. Yoga has changed drastically since it came to America since the turn of the century,” says Palmisani.
While many of the fad forms of yoga may not be kosher to the serious practitioners of yoga, they still help people achieve better health, becoming more aware of their bodies and their stress levels that are often the cause of so many diseases. They find a huge benefit to be able to de-stress naturally without having to take pills.
“There are many paths to the same mountain and it depends what people want from learning yoga, whether it’s union with the supreme or merely a firmer body,” says Palmisani. “Classical yoga is 5000 years old for a reason. I think the balls and fads and games will come and go and lose their faddish appeal, but yoga will remain. Why? Because it has! It’s a system that’s been around so long because it serves deep needs and it works.”