Finding Isvara Writer Nikki VanVoorhis Made the News!!!
Check out this lovely article in the latest edition of the Vermont Standard newspaper about Finding Isvara's Nikki VanVoorhis! Special thanks to writer Moira Notargiacomo.
Maybe Yoga as a New Year's Intention
By Moira Notargiacomo
Behind the residential brick façade at 77 Central St. in Woodstock lays a serene uplifting beautiful environment where bodies are moving silently, rhythmically with purposeful breathing at Yogamari Vermont, an Ashtanga yoga studio. YogaMari is owned and operated by Nikki VanVoorhis. I met Nikki by accident a year ago when I did a Google search for a particular local yoga studio in Woodstock that was recommended to me and landed on a different one. When I met Nikki, I was intrigued. I instantly fell in love with her genuine, kind and funny nature. I have done yoga on and off for 30 years and tried different forms. Ashtanga was new to me. I enjoyed it immensely, however sore muscles got the best of me and I dropped out after a few sessions with the intention to return one day when I felt stronger. I sat down with Nikki this week to talk about New Year’s wellness resolutions.
Rather than think in terms of resolutions which are daunting and create guilt when you fail them, Nikki prefers to think in terms of intentions, which she feels are much more attainable than resolutions. She told me that Ashtanga yoga practice makes intention a daily practice. The opening mantra sets her intention for each practice and every day of her life. The mantra is a moment carved out to remember who she is, where she is going and why she is doing what she’s doing. It is 30 seconds for her to ruminate about it and remember. Breathing the intention in each day helps her hold it, which she believes is important for the long game. For 2017, Nikki’s intention is to do what she loves and is passionate about; teaching, writing and spending time with friends and family. She wants to fill her life with inspiring things and avoid those things she usually thinks she should do, but in reality aren’t really necessary.
Nikki is a native Vermonter. She moved back to Vermont from Los Angeles and opened her studio in August 2015 after 10 years of practicing yoga. Although she practiced various forms of yoga, Ashtanga really resonated with her. “It’s not fluffy or loosey goosey,” she said. Nikki likes a challenge and she feels like she has met her match with this practice. The structure, stability and integrity of the practice have enabled her to make a deeper connection with herself. She likes the repetitiveness of Ashtanga. It never changes. There are no surprises. It is very physically demanding, vigorous and requires you to breathe. The more you do it, the more intuitive it becomes. She knows what she is up against and what she has to do to get to the other side. Once she memorized the movements and it became a daily routine, she could make it her own and enter it deeply. The practice eventually evolves into a moving meditation that doesn’t require thought. So you can quiet your mind in a way that you can’t in other styles of yoga. For her, the physical, mental and spiritual wellness it brings is magical.
Nikki has found that being a yoga teacher requires her to do the work or she can’t teach it. It holds her accountable for what she is putting out in the world. She wants to empower her students to find their own connection with the practice. She led classes for the first year while students learned the sequence and breathing. While she still leads one class a week, most of her classes are Mysore style for students who have memorized the sequences. Mysore is a self-led practice where students do the sequences from memory at their own pace self-adjusted for any physical limitations. Nikki watches and assists as needed. She does not call out the asanas. Some students doubted they could do it, but they did. Still, it’s not for everyone, she says. Nikki wants to be brutally honest about the practice. Ashtanga is hard. It is fast paced, involves intense concentration, and takes years to become comfortable with it. You sweat. Your muscles hurt. You wake up the next morning and wonder what the heck you did. If you can get to the other side of all of that, it’s pretty awesome she promises. The students who have stuck it out really want to be there and cultivate their own practice outside the studio. Nikki enjoys watching students take ownership of their practice and the impact on their lives. Coming to the studio motivates them to keep up with their practice. It’s hard to maintain a practice on your own. The experience and energy of practicing in the beautiful space with others doing the same thing listening to the only sound, breathing, is uplifting and motivating. You can find out more about Nikki and Yogamari on her website at yogamarivermont.com or by calling her at 802-734-4882.