Jennifer (Jenay) Aiksnoras is the founder of Lake Tahoe Yoga in Lake Tahoe, Nevada.
How long have you been practicing and teaching yoga? I began practicing Yoga in 2000 and earned my RYT-200 (Registered Yoga Teacher 200 hour training) in 2005.
How did you first get interested in yoga? It was my friends that influenced me to begin practicing. As an undergraduate at Northeastern University we were offered the opportunity to take or audit a 1-credit Yoga class. A group of my friends had enrolled and invited me to audit a session with them. The class was in the style of Svarupa and, rather than a true course on Yoga, it was just an hour-long practice. We all loved it because it gave us an opportunity to relax and de-stress in the middle of our day.
What change has yoga made in your life? Yoga has changed me in many ways. The physical practice has made me stronger, more flexible and more balanced. It has given me the ability to fall gracefully and to feel comfortable taking on new physical endeavors. At a Raja-Hatha practitioner, I use The Yoga Sutras and The Hatha Yoga Pradipika as guides for my life. I have learned to slow down and pause between thinking and acting. I continually reference the 8-limbs in order to remind myself to consider how everything I think, say or do not only effects myself and but others, as well. Owning a Yoga studio means guiding others. I have learned the importance and continue to try to embody the practice of Yoga.
What does the spiritual aspect of yoga mean to you? The studio in which we practice is called Svadhyaya. I chose this name because I think the spiritual aspect is the most important piece to finding Yoga. The practitioners at our studio range from church-goers to the local Rabbi. My own understanding of spirituality as it relates to Yoga is that you have to know your Self. This concept is powerful and has helped many of our practitioners take what they learn in the studio and relate it to their own beliefs and faith.
What inspired you to begin teaching yoga? My teacher forced me into it. Well, she strongly influenced me. I really never considered teaching Yoga, I enjoyed being guided by others and having a practice in which I could both work and relax. My teacher saw the natural teacher in me, my love of the physical practice and that I understood the deeper aspects of the practice. She was opening a Yoga school and was looking for teacher trainers, she told me that she thought I should enroll.
What do you like to emphasize in your yoga classes? I emphasize the fact that the practice is more than asana. Each class begins with a dharma talk; a discussion of a text, concept or practice. I incorporate that discussion into the practice; focusing on pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (withdrawing of the mind from the senses), energy work, moving inward and more. Each class moves beyond the “how to” of the poses on the physical level, and I encourage the practitioners to consider how they feel and how the physical effects their energetic bodies.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in yoga but afraid they won’t be able to do the postures? It’s not about the postures. It’s about how the practice makes you feel. If you are interested in attempting the physical practice understand that it takes time to develop the strength, balance and control in the postures and, in order to get there, you might need tools like blocks, blankets and straps.
Have you noticed any effects of different eating habits on your yoga practice? I should share that I am not your traditional Yogini when it comes to food. I’ve never been able to practice on an empty stomach and I actually perform better when I have a snack in me before class. I know that my body is very quick to let me know when I’ve engaged in poor eating. I don’t practice vegetarianism nor am I a vegan. However, I eat a well-rounded diet (skipping red meat and pork). I love sweets and, when I over-do it, my body lets me know.
What would you say is the ideal schedule for yoga practice? As far as the physical practice, I would say that whatever works for you is right for you. We all live different lives and our physical practice should be consistent for us. However, if you’re really practicing Yoga, then you’re doing it 24-7.
What type of yoga clothing do you find works best for you? Cheap and durable. I wear Yoga clothing every day. I don’t buy stuff that just looks pretty on the rack or that has a particular brand name on it. I buy clothing that is practical for my needs.
What are some changes you’ve noticed in your students after they took up a yoga practice? Where do I begin? They are physically stronger, more balanced, more sure of themselves, more comfortable in their own bodies. They are open minded, kind, generous and grateful. They are more connected and engaged in the world and with others.
Do you have a favorite yoga pose? If so, why do you like it so much? I can’t say I have a “favorite” pose. I am far from perfect as far as the physical practice goes. I think it’s important to do what is difficult so, I am always working on at least one posture that challenges me.