Off The Mat: An Interview With Yogi Rachel Goldstein

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Off The Mat: An Interview With Yogi Rachel Goldstein

Welcome to Off The Mat, a student spotlight series where we interview experienced practitioners about how yoga has equipped them for (and had an impact on) their non yoga lives. Today we sit down with Rachel Goldstein:

What type(s) of yoga do you practice? How often?

Mostly Bikram these days. On special occasions hot vinyasa (usually Baptiste) or very occasionally regular vinyasa. I also take Dharma wheel classes which use the yoga wheel throughout class to deepen back bending as well as to practice various postures and vinyasas. I typically practice bikram around 5 times a week, maybe with a day of a different style instead of or in addition

Has that cadence changed over the years?

Absolutely. I used to be all cardio, running mostly. As I have gotten older, I have had various injuries (knees, wrist) that have shifted the balance from cardio to yoga.  Yoga is much gentler on my joints and has so many other benefits I enjoy.

Can you tell us a bit about your life when you’re not doing yoga?

I am a Social Worker at a Planned Parenthood, mother to a 10 year old daughter and 13 year old son, and wife to my best friend since we were 12. I love to hear live music, read, chill with my family, hang out with my bunny, talk about my job, because I love it!

What skills have you learned on the mat that have been applicable to the rest of your non yoga life?

I keep a running list of the little kernels of wisdom I have picked up from teachers over the years.  It is incredible how Bikram specifically has transformed how I view myself, others, the world, events, and my body.  It has taught me about meditation through movement, how everything starts with the breath, how to truly be present, how every single moment of every single day we are different and always shifting, how feelings states are fluid, how to go from 100% exertion to 100% relaxation, the beauty of stillness, how to value what my body can do rather the how my body appears, how to create space where there had not been any, how beautiful and different all bodies are, how progress can be incredibly slow but possible and incremental, how doing your best looks different for every person each day, how not every feeling is a call to action, practicing without attachment (to good or bad moments), and mostly recognizing how important it is for me to carve out space for myself so that I can show up as best as I can for my kids, my family, my job, and myself.

Can you think of any memorable moments in life when you thought to yourself, “Wow, I’m sure glad I’ve done yoga to help me through this experience”?

I am grateful for my practice every single day. After I leave work feeling emotionally drained in need of a buffer before shifting gears to be home, challenging moments parenting, standing in a crowded subway, moving through busy sidewalks, traveling on a plane, living in this current political climate, and so on. I use my breath to regulate myself in every setting. I have also visualized the Bikram series in my head as a way to get through challenging times, i.e., passing time in MRI machines, CAT scans, or particularly anxiety provoking scenarios. As I age, I am also grateful for the strength, flexibility, endurance and overall feeling of wellbeing that I believe yoga sustains.  I am 44 years old and feel tremendous gratitude that I don’t feel how I imagined 44 would feel.

How has your yoga practice evolved as your life has evolved?

I used to exercise as a way to regulate my anxiety and to experience the adrenaline/endorphin boost that comes along with cardio. I used to be a gymnast, then loved aerobics, then running. Always high intensity, not always with healthy goals in mind. As I have gotten older and my joints less cooperative, I find that I crave slowing down, being still, being quiet, connecting breath with movement, and mostly connecting inwardly. Very different than cardio.

If you could invent your own style of yoga, what would it be? (Assuming no budgetary constraints and a guaranteed target market of eager students!)

Honestly, there is nothing better than a solid Bikram class with an experienced teacher who knows how to engage students, assist with alignment, and can work the heat consistently and reliably. If there were a way to incorporate a handful of vinyasas into the Bikram series, that would be my dream class.

Thanks Rachel!

Scott Ginsberg is the author of 40 books, a TEDx speaker, the world record holder of wearing nametags, and the author A Year in Hot Yoga: Daily Meditations for On and Off the Mat. Scott is a Community Leader at Yoga Tribe Brooklyn, where he is a daily practitioner and the Managing Editor of their award winning blog. Learn more at www.nametagscott.com

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