Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Practice of Yoga - An Interview with Nancy Moran Mermelstein

I've always been taken with the practice of yoga. I just plain like the idea of it. Born into a vegetarian, meditating family, yoga was part of daily life. It was the class that everyone took. Now, on the occasion that I do yoga, however gracelessly, I feel strong and beautiful. When I was pregnant with my son, I did a yoga for pregnancy DVD that made me feel so relaxed and fit. It's amazing.

I haven't done yoga in a while, though I plan on starting up classes again in the fall. I feel a strong need to nurture my body, and I know that yoga will play a major role in doing so. Everyone that I know who practices yoga looks amazing and seems more centered than the rest of us. 

I am so thrilled to be starting this blog off with a interview with Nancy Moran Mermelstein, the director of the beautiful Prana Yoga Center in Denville, NJ. 

BF: Everybody has heard of yoga. Most people who don't practice yoga know the basic moves like downward dog but may not be familiar with much else. How would you explain yoga to someone who knows nothing about it?

NM: I would tell the students to allow themselves the luxury of being a beginner. Yoga is meant to be practiced over a lifetime. Just when you think you've got a pose down, there's another variation. It is a process that is constantly unfolding, much like the blossoming of a flower. Aside from the physical, yoga cultivates balance and inner well being.

BF: There are many types of yoga. Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Bikram (Hot Yoga). What are the differences between these types, and what type is best for the beginner. 

NM: Ashtanga and Vinyasa are physical forms of yoga that utilize a connective movement to link the poses. Iyengar concentrates on alignment and staying in the pose for longer breath counts. Bikram focuses on heat to detoxify the body. All of the have their own merits and which ever style resonates with the student and motivates them to continue to practice consistently is what's best.

BF: If someone is looking to be more centered, is there a style of yoga that is more meditative than another?  

NM: Some people come to yoga for the physical aspect, others come for the spirituality and still others for the meditative quality.I believe that all styles cultivate inner awareness, it's just that it takes time to get you there. It most likely won't happen after your first class, but you will absolutely discover the "it" factor that yoga brings. With continued practice, yoga becomes a moving meditation. 

BF: I know that when I was pregnant, there were certain positions I had to modify and certain positions that I had to avoid. In addition, when menstruating I've been told to avoid inverted positions. Is this true? Should a woman advise her instructor of any condition she may have? 

NM: Absolutely tell your instructor of any physical ailments/conditions or even if it's their first time taking that instructors class. It allows the instructor and student to be on the same page and also provide for a safe learning environment. Certain conditions do call for modification or elimination of certain asanas (poses). Keeping the line of communication open is key to a healthy practice. Regarding menses, the student should not invert during the fist three days of her cycle.

BF: What is the benefit to doing yoga in terms of flexibility? In terms of strength? 

NM: Clearly flexibility is often associated with yoga, however many asanas due require strength. These poses are a fantastic way to improve bone density. In addition, a regular yoga practice helps realign the body - posture improves, digestion improves and an overall sense of well being is achieved. 

BF: Can anyone do yoga, or are there restrictions?  

NM: Anyone can practice yoga at anytime in their life. Often I hear people say they can't do yoga because they are not flexible, but that is an urban myth! Yoga does not discriminate.


Nancy Moran Mermelstein is the director of Prana Yoga Center, a full service studio located at 78 Broadway Denville NJ. Certified since 2003, Nancy continues to study with many inspiring teachers and shares her passion of yoga with her students. You can find her teaching schedule at or call the studio at 973-627-9642. Prana Yoga Center offers classes for all levels - from True Beginners to Advanced for the seasoned practitioner.

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