Monday, August 16, 2010

Interview: Rosy Moon on Identity Yoga

After reconnecting with Albany-based yoga teacher, actress and personal coach Rosy Moon Schlussel, she invited me to an intro to the coaching and yoga instruction she does, a part of which she calls "Identity Yoga." Rosy's instruction was encouraging, precise and inspiring and I found the work to be effective at getting to the core of what's going on. I asked her more about her approach to yoga, coaching and the Identity Yoga workshops she teaches with her husband David Schlussel.

Q: What is "Identity Yoga?"

Essentially it's a playful moniker for what we're up to with this combination of yoga and coaching. Identity is that which we relate to ourselves as. The way that hatha yoga practices give you more freedom in your body. Identity Yoga gives you more freedom to be yourself.

Q: How did you first come to yoga? Was it through acting?
When I was 15 years old, I would go to Iyengar classes taught by Franciose Barbira
Freedman with my mother. I had danced since the age of 10, and by 14 I had discovered "new
circus," that was characterized by an emphasis on human skills with a more theatrical element, as opposed to relying on traditional spectacle and animals. Physical training and performance had become a joy and a necessity in my life, so you could say it was through the circus, although what I remember about those classes was feeling cold, rather bored and hungry! It wasn't until moving back to London in 1999, after briefly living in a beautiful Australian beach town, that I committed to yoga as a practice. I felt drawn to the flow and challenge of Ashtanga and I knew that I could not survive the London winter without this joy-drenching and spirit-strengthening infusion on a daily basis.

Q: Can you talk about how you arrived at your current approach to practice? You have a background in vinyasa/Ashtanga and I noticed you [often] emphasise longer held poses?
Before I had the good fortune to be introduced to my teacher Sofia Diaz, I had given up teaching. In a twist of fate that was as surprising to me as how I began teaching, it slowly dawned on me that it was no longer right for me to be teaching and I dropped the pre and post natal classes that had been my niche for a while. Then on the invitation of a dear friend I went to Sofia's class. Part-way through the rigorous practice she had us in a deep half squat for almost a minute and she asked the question, "Are you satisfied with this moment, right now?" It was one of the many things that cracked me open that night. I realized that I had been living in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction or withheld appreciation of each moment. In the moment of her asking that question I was struggling to simply stay standing and I felt able to choose, not only satisfaction with that moment, but celebration of every flavor of my experience. This re-ignited my passion for teaching—now I knew a whole other level of what yoga could offer. Through longer holding of poses and a real-time, deep inquiry into our emotional reactivity, we can access that which is greater than simply our own effort—the union with that which is greater than you, that yoga is named for.

Q: How would you describe the intersection of teaching yoga and personal coaching? Are they really that different? Any common themes?
They are very complimentary and distinct. The style of coaching that I practice could be called "being" coaching. We have ways of being that govern our actions in life. Awareness of these ways of being are often buried deep under layers of habits and assumptions. Thus we may believe the way we see the world is not just our perspective, it is "the way it is." Through coaching we distinguish habits from assumptions, from what is actually so. One of the wonderful aspects of yoga is that it can bypass the confusion and certainty of the mind. If you are confused and lost in some way, a deep asana, held for long enough will have you get pretty clear in a relatively short time. It will energize you and propel you beyond your small problem so that you can tackle the larger problems of your life without fear. If you are convinced of your limitations (certainty), with asana you get to feel your limitations and nuzzle into them while cultivating an appreciation for your limits. In this process, over time, without fail, your limitations shift. Yoga is a practice of feeling, with coaching we can also learn to feel and articulate feeling, which in our mind-oriented culture, is harder than it sounds and, in my opinion, is deeply necessary for our evolution/survival.

Q: How do you balance being a mom, working with your husband (also a yoga teacher) and your own work? What, or who, keeps you inspired?
I find the work that I do inspiring. As a coach I am working with people who trust me enough to share what is vulnerable for them so that they can change their lives and understand themselves and fulfill their desires. As a yoga teacher what keeps me inspired is my teacher, and yoga itself. As well as a regular practice, I take class with Sofia over the internet (she's based in Colorado & comes to the Bay Area every six weeks). I am also a practicing Buddhist in the Nichiren Daishonin tradition. By making time for these practices it not only informs what I teach, but also gives a radiant and peaceful light to my life and a greater capacity for trusting life as it unfolds. My husband and I do the same work so we are constantly sharing what we learn and teach. We inspire each other.

Q: What does a 'typical' Identity Yoga Workshop?
We [usually] have two days from noon to 6pm where we teach Yoga asana practices to explore freedom in your body, and relational games and practices to facilitate more freedom to love being who you really are, in any circumstance.

Rosy teaches Tues. & Thurs. & Sat. at Vara Healing Arts in Albany, CA. David Schlussel and Rosy Moon Schlussel teach Identity Yoga Workshops at AuthenticSF, & other studios in the Bay Area. Contact for more information contact

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