Daniella and I first connected in 1999. She was a passionate and powerful young woman with a nascent yoga practice. A couple years later Daniella was one of my first models for my Sacred Form yoga calendar. As long as I have known Daniella she has been in love with yoga, not just the asana and movement, she is also a student and a teacher of yoga as a philosophy, a tool to help us find more clarity, equanimity, and purpose in our lives. I am excited and honored to share some of the photos that we have created over the years, as well as the wisdom and insights that Daniella has to share from her yoga practice and teachings. BodyTempleYoga.com
What is the biggest gift that you have received from practicing yoga?
The biggest gift that I've received is the knowledge of the True Self. Knowing who I am outside of anyone else's projections or stories of me. Knowing who I am outside of what society and the media have pressed me to believe. This knowledge has connected me even deeper to my own heart. I know who I am and who I am not and that is the greatest gift of all.
What was the biggest challenge you were able to overcome by practicing yoga?
Before yoga, I was creating my own suffering in a toxic relationship. My mind blamed my circumstances or other people for my feeling stuck and trapped. I was creating my own suffering by pointing the finger outside myself rather than inside and taking ownership of my own choice to stay in that relationship. The teachings of yoga showed me where I was getting in my own way. I learned that pain is a part of life, but suffering is optional, and there is a big difference between the two.
Are practitioners/teachers of yoga walking their talk? Has the integrity of yoga been lost? What would you recommend to someone searching for a teacher, studio or training?
There are teachers who are carrying the torch of yoga, its tradition and art with integrity. And there are others who are simply in it for profit. In any profession, there can be an abuse of power (EGO) and yoga practitioners and teachers are not exempt from this. It is important to keep our ego in check. I have experienced this with a teacher of mine who abused his power and overstepped boundaries with students causing the community to fall apart. I have also experienced jealousy, competition and undermining tactics from a yoga studio owner so much that I was kicked out of the community because I was seen as a threat rather than an asset to the studio.
I recommending following your own intuition or gut: How do you feel in the presence of the teacher/studio/training in question? What does your gut say despite what they are saying? Your path is important and you will go the furthest along your path and learn the most with the teacher you most resonate with and feel the most trust and safety with. Not all teachers are in this for the right reasons. Use your gut to discern who's who.
Look for actions over words: Do the actions of those practitioners, teachers and studios live up to the principles of yoga? Or are they preaching them but not living as an example? Or worse, doing the opposite. I would be cautious of the ones who do not teach the ethical principles of yoga. That is a red flag.
Put your money where your beliefs and ethics are: part of keeping yoga's integrity is not only investing in yourself and your education, but supporting those who are living the teachings. Give your time, energy and resources to those teachers, studios and trainings that embody what yoga is and you will be contributing to keeping yoga's integrity and powerful application of deep change and healing, because ultimately you will spread what you learn.
How has your yoga practice helped others overcome personal challenges?
My yoga practice has helped others understand and experience Self Love. One of my teacher training graduates came to the practice disconnected from her heart, her body and not knowing how to love and value herself. The first time she came to one of my classes she wept from all the heart opening alignment. It cracked her open enough to feel again and have a release. She kept coming back and then eventually enrolled in the training. Now, a graduate, she confidently claims, and with tears of gratitude, that she loves herself in a way she never thought possible. She's more connected to her body and trusts her intuition more than she's ever been able to. She understands that what she heard in her head was simply not the truth.
Why did you move to San Diego? Where are you going with your teaching practice?
I am still connected to the Bay Area and my yoga school continues to run up there. I expanded to San Diego because my heart told me it was time to go. I didn't really know what was going to happen. What became clear is that it was time for me to live closer to my mother. We have lived apart for most of my life once I left to be on my own. And our relationship has always been very challenging. I've done A LOT of personal work and healing around my relationship with my mother. The practice of yoga has helped me heal our relationship. I didn't know how it was going to play out and I was a bit hesitant about it, yet our relationship is growing, thriving and full of love. I didn't see that coming, yet the call from my heart to move down here was related to that. I look forward to seeing how this move continues to unfold and reveal more of its purpose to me.
Teaching what I have learned from the wisdom of the Heart, I tend to attract some amazing people and I built a tribe. People who are ready to be free to be themselves, who are done being stuck in suffering and want to learn a better way. People who are committed to learning how to let their heart lead and are willing to face what it is inside themselves that is in the way. Vulnerability and courage are what I see in the people I get to work with and teach. My yoga school is running programs both in San Jose and San Diego. I am developing new programs with the Heart Wisdom Work and I am writing a book alongside it. I offer more advanced yoga programs as well. I'm most excited about the Heart Wisdom Work that I teach as it's something that has been there since I was 5 years old and now has platform to come out. I had the proverbial calling, and it came from inside my own heart.
All images are copyright Kyer Wiltshire and used in the photo blog with the permission of Daniella Cotreau.