As a student and teacher of yoga, Felicitas Kusch-Lango lives in a natural world that is soothing to her senses. In fact, she calls yoga an incredible gift that has given her an intense and vibrant life, whether working in her East Aurora studio or at her home with her family on the dairy farm.
It makes sense, then, that during this busy holiday season we take a minute and ask her how she does it.
How do you thwart stress?
I take refuge in my yoga practice. When I first started yoga, I was in a very high-stress job as a television producer. I was always running, and when I started doing yoga I felt it was a sanctuary, a place where I could come back to myself and be quiet. It made such a huge difference in my life to have that.
Specifically, what do you do?
A practice every morning, which is sitting still and meditating. I meditate for a half-hour, and then I do some prayers, some postures. I calm myself. It's really about finding strength and then refuge.
And when you're done?
I feel I started the day in a conscious way, so even though a stressful situation arises, or in moments when I get frustrated or upset, I have that sense of perspective. I can't change the situations, but I can change the way I look at them, so I don't get drawn into them and all freaked out.
Anyone can do this, right?
Anyone can meditate, at any age, at any time, in any environment. I have yoga students who are 83 years old. A meditation teacher will tell you, you don't have to sit down and cross your legs. You can be in a meditative state whenever you feel you need to.
Why do yoga people twist their bodies so?
Yoga is a broad practice. It's not a religion. A long time ago, the yogis and the yoginis knew to upgrade your energetic system. In yoga, we work with Prana. It's the same as chi in tai chi, a life force, a vitality. So the postures are all about releasing stagnation in the body, allowing that life force to flow unimpeded.
What is a good exercise companion for yoga?
I love to run. I think a good companion is jogging. If you want to do some weightlifting, work on your core. You want to keep yourself healthy. I love to be outside. We are not just trying to tone our abdominal muscles. Yoga is mental, emotional, physical and spiritual.
Do you practice yoga as a family?
I live on a farm. My husband is a dairy farmer. There is a lot of reality on a farm. My husband does not do yoga in terms of postures, but he has a really wonderful way of understanding what yoga is all about.
How can I create a peaceful space for myself?
I love to create sacred space, where you can really relax. I love certain colors and I love certain atmospheres. I grew up in Rome, and Rome is the most amazing city in the world. Even when I was a kid, I would love to go into churches. I would love to sit in them because they are so peaceful.
Would you call yoga an intimate practice?
Absolutely. You get very intimate with yourself. Particularly now, when so many people get so frustrated going to a doctor, it's a great resource to have because we can develop our intuition to know what is good for our bodies.
Are you a vegetarian?
I was for 12 years. I have, over the last two years, started to eat some chicken and fish once in a while. I felt on the tail-end of that long period as a vegetarian that I was always hungry -- even if I ate and ate. I know where the chickens I eat come from, how they live and how they died and that feels very good for me because at least I know they are in an environment that is not that bad.
You're in the middle of a holiday dinner, and you need a quick hit of relaxation. What do you do?
Always when there's family, it tends to be more stressful. There are a couple of things that I try to do when I meet up with my larger family. I try to connect to my feet, and I try to visualize my breath going all the way down to my feet because a lot of times we want to detach from our body in time of discomfort.
Leave your feet connected to the earth and allow your body to soften in support of the force of gravity. On an emotional level, this is what I say to myself when I see a situation can be potentially stressful: Yield. Do not become rigid. Be spacious. Allow spaciousness.