Interview with Yogini, Philanthropist and Adventurer Nianna Bray
Nianna Bray is an inspiring yogini, philanthropist and adventurer sharing the wisdom of embodiment while running her non-profit, childrenweserve.org and leading global retreats and trainings She lights a fire in the hearts of her students and gives them the tools to tend the flame. She is honoured to contribute to this edition of Yogagenda and looks forward to meeting you along the path.
ON THE PERSONAL SIDE…
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I currently find myself more engaged with the issues facing our planet such as the global seed crisis and the reality of our oceans, then self-promotion yet I am very happy to share my story with Yogagenda readers in hopes of inspiring them into action beyond themselves. Thank you for interviewing me! I have been teaching yoga as my seva, service to humanity, for 11 years and practicing for 19. I have always been one to want to “change the world”. Yoga has given me a sense of purpose and strength that I can change the world one person, one breath, at a time. Every positive impact we make on a daily basis contributes to either a world of peace or violence. I choose peace and yoga has given me the tools to look within and find it, then be a living example for others. I have recently rebuilt a school in Nepal after it fell in the two devastating earthquakes last year. Now 500 students are back in classrooms and their lives will have been touched by the love of our team and donors. That feels good.
Why do you think yoga is becoming so popular in the West?
I think yoga is becoming popular in the West because the West is obsessed with youth and beauty, the material world. Yoga asana contributes greatly to the wellness of the human body and is regenerating in essence. When we clear our minds of excess worry and release from our bodies excess toxins we will surely feel good and glow. The body is incredible and can do incredible things. People have been mesmerized by the outer glow, physical prowess and youthful radiance of yoga practitioners seen on Instagram or magazine covers. Yet a digital image only tells one part of a story. A lot has been lost in translation and the plastering of the current “yoga image”. I trust that the essence of yoga will emerge and take us all beyond the surface of the exterior. Yoga has the power to transform our lives on the deepest most profound levels of our being yet we must all wield that power intelligently to see real change. I also think that people are in fact waking up and want more. People want to be more conscious, intimate and loving and yoga is a way toward that.
In your classes, what’s the asana you like to teach the most / least and why?
I am enjoying teaching women how to move more fluidly in their bodies. One of my favourite and effective practices is a fluid bridge as well as undulations of the spine, and spirals and circles of the hips. It’s about bringing back the sensual body and awakening women to their natural curvy, snake like movements. It’s very liberating and a lot of fun.
Who/What has been an inspiration in life for you and why?
I have had amazing women in my life. I have been blessed with powerful mothers and inspiring female mentors who have bravely lit a path for me to follow. I am inspired by women who uplift one another and the planet and have watched and learned from women who were empowered to speak their truth, dance their sensual bodies in freedom, sing their heart song and contribute to the world in a positive way. While training in Los Angeles for 9 years I apprenticed, studied and circled with incredible goddesses such as Micheline Berry, Shiva Rea, Denise Kauffman, Emilie Conrad, Gabrielle Roth, Hala Khouri, and Jo Tastula to name a few and they have been living examples of the divine feminine and now I travel globally inspiring and empowering other women. It’s a beautiful thing.
Do you find that there is a question your students tend to ask again and again?
People want to be told what to do. That is why they look to a teacher. A good teacher will turn them back toward themselves where all the answers already exist. Teachers inspire us to live our truth, share their wisdom from experience and keep us accountable to some degree so it is important to have a teacher we can trust. The greatest obstacle is the untrained mind and biggest question people have is “how do I quiet my mind.” The answer is usually not what people want to hear. People want a quick fix yet it takes time to train the mind. My answer is practice. The mind is like any muscle and it needs to be trained. Take time out each day to sit quietly. Start with 3 minutes then gradually sit for longer and longer. Use the breath or mantra as a steady reminder to focus the attention. Then I give them a practice that they can commit to.
If you weren’t teaching yoga, what would you be doing?
I was born to be a yogini so teaching yoga is like breathing for me. But If I weren’t teaching yoga I would be trying to figure out how to slow global warming, figure out how to save young girls worldwide from child marriage and take down Monsanto. Besides that I would hike and dance and skinny-dip in the ocean all day and feed loved ones at night. For now I contribute as much as I can to the organizations working on those causes and my own non-profit, The Away Inward Foundation, retreat into nature as much as possible and enjoy the blessings of the great outdoors.