After over 20 years of performing, choreographing and teaching dance, Sasha Nelson stumbled upon yoga. Realizing the profound connection between her experience as a dancer and her newfound passion for yoga and nutrition, she was led to a career in wellness. Sasha is certified in Integrated Nutrition and she continues to foster her yoga practice as a teacher and a student. Follow her journey here.
Keep reading for an inside look into Sasha's life and passions.
Good Zebra: What was your ‘aha’ moment?
Sasha Nelson: My "aha" yoga moments come often in various ways, but the one that probably most significantly propelled me down this path is one of my first actual classes at a 24 Hour Fitness gym in San Francisco in 2008 (ish), when I ended up crying like a baby in savasana. I was relieved, confused and intrigued, so I begrudgingly showed up for class every week as a supplement to dance. I began envisioning myself teaching mindfulness concepts to students, just like my teachers were doing for me. At the time I was studying sustainable fashion in grad school and also began recognizing the deep connection between fashion, food/nutrition, yoga/mindfulness, and planet Earth. I ended up in NYC shortly after graduating with my MFA; I was unable to land a job in sustainable fashion and wound up finding employment by accident at Institute for Integrative Nutrition. While working there I did my first 200-hour yoga teacher training; the wellness path keeps evolving in ways I could have never imagined.
GZ: You studied dance, taught dance and were a dancer yourself for most of your life. What do dance and yoga have in common?
SN: Movement, breath/body connection, freedom, mind/body connection, creativity, dedication and diligence, joy, attention, a balance of effort and ease.
GZ: Where’s your favorite place to practice yoga?
SN: My mat, alongside friends, Nikki Costello's teacher's practice at Kula Yoga Project, at home, in nature, near the ocean. I recently led my second retreat at Rayos Del Sol in Costa Rica and practiced every morning on their yoga deck amidst the sounds of the ocean and jungle, which was really special.
GZ: Which pose did you have to work the hardest for? Which is your favorite?
SN: I have had to and continue to work hard for all of the asana postures - especially after studying more regularly with Iyengar teacher Nikki Costello - and I don't know that I have a favorite pose per se... it shifts as my practice evolves. Savasana (final resting pose) is always surprisingly difficult because the mind is much more challenging to turn off than the physical body. Trikonasana (triangle pose) feels different every time. A tricky posture for me right now is finding comfort and ease in the knees in supta virasana - some days it feels great, some days it feels off. Poses at the forefront of my attention right now are probably sirsasana (headstand) and padmasana (full lotus) - not necessarily because they come easily to me (they are most definitely an effort), but because I am continually working towards them and I am beginning to notice progress, which is always exciting. I love being upside down and balancing on my hands, so those poses are always enjoyable, albeit challenging.
GZ: There’s an ever-growing list of health and fitness fads and diets. It's hard to keep track! What does being healthy mean to you?
SN: I am growing weary of very trendy fitness and wellness hacks, not because I think they are a bad thing, but mostly because they are - like you said - hard to keep track of. I also believe we are all very unique and what works for us might not work for our neighbor. This among other reasons is why I have turned to the ancient teachings of ayurveda in my own healing work (namely with Divya Alter) - I firmly believe in it because of its attention to our different bodies and needs, including its alignment with nature and the seasons. It makes sense to me, and I love that it can be applied to anyone, anywhere (like yoga!). To me, being healthy means balancing effort and ease - again, like yoga - so I make an effort to take good care of myself in ways that feel enjoyable instead of stressful. I do in fact make all of my meals fresh every day (which took a while to figure out, and was not always stress-less), and eat out occasionally at quality places I love and trust. One day self-care might look like clean homemade food and exercise, while the next day might consist of a great Seamless delivery (although I am very picky of my takeout options) alongside Netflix and a cookie. I think the most important component to all of this is to remain open to options, to listen to our minds hearts and bodies, and to take action (or no action - rest is imperative) according to our needs.
GZ: What are the secret ingredients to a “Goddess Brunch” and how do we get involved?
SN: Goddess Brunch evolved from a desire to hang out with my wellness girlfriends outside of wellness events. I had a few ladies over one day for a potluck - because I knew that food was going to be DELICIOUS - and we decided to make it a monthly gathering. I think the concept of women coming together in unconditional support of one another is necessary, especially in our current society and a place like New York City where life is fast and relentless and sometimes merciless. We often will have a brief sharing circle at some point to express a word, feeling or thought on a particular topic. As of now, this is still a group of my friends and our local network, but I hope to expand it to a larger community in the near future. Till then you can join the Facebook group here, follow @goddessbrunch on Instagram, and download the Goddess Brunch e-book here!
GZ: You post the most gorgeous food pics on your Instagram! What’s your ideal food day from start to finish?
SN: Thank you! I love food, and I love the food I make/eat. My ideal food day is inspired by Ayurveda and a mentor of mine Divya Alter's cookbook: it begins with a boiled apple right after waking up/meditating to kickstart the digestive fire (even before drinking water). Then comes a breakfast of oatmeal with dried fruit and spices or smoothie (because of food combining I started making them without greens unless it is a savory smoothie) alongside a latte with homemade almond milk- I love Matchaful organic matcha and an herbal mucuna brew I get on Chandika.com. Lunch is typically a kitchari of some sort - lentils and/or quinoa cooked with spices and ghee, veggies and greens, with avocado and a squeeze of lime juice, sometimes homemade cheese. I always have a little treat after, usually a soaked date or mulberries with soaked nuts and cinnamon/cardamom (similar to this treat, and the soaking aids in digestion), followed by peppermint or rooibos tea. Dinner is something similar to lunch, or white basmati rice with cooked or roasted seasonal veggies, followed by a beautiful boiled milk recipe as both a delicious dessert and sleep aid. Boom.
GZ: Where’s your happy place?
SN: Yoga, dance, laughing/being with friends, eating/making/sharing delicious meals, the ocean - being near and/or in it, traveling/exploring, nature, summers in Brooklyn, cruising on my bike Daisy, live music.
GZ: What do you never leave home without?
SN: My S'well bottle, Metro card, phone (unless I purposefully leave it), a few deep breaths, more often than not a snack of some sort just in case, my reusable utensils and a reusable bag if I am out for the whole day, as much awareness as I can muster.
GZ: Our favorite childhood food memory is animal crackers, of course. What’s yours?
SN: I loved all of the animal crackers (and ate them well beyond childhood, before my conscious wellness habits kicked in...)! [My favorites were] the camel and I always liked the powerful, magical lion.
GZ: What are your top 3 tips for achieving inner peace?
SN: 1. Practice, not perfection. 2. Be gentle with yourself. 3. Everyone is on their own path and timeline. And many others, depending on the day...
GZ: Where can we take your classes?!
Weekly schedule here: http://sashayogawellness.com/classes/
Events updated here: http://sashayogawellness.com/events/
Hope to see you there!