The mystic Rumi once wrote: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Kyra Anastasia quotes this line as she asks us to “inhale strength, exhale joy. Inhale grace, exhale compassion.” Being encouraged to breathe this way, I linger on the question that the Rumi quote delivers. What does it take to discover these often hidden aspects within ourselves? Whether we have built barriers against them or just put them in the closet, most of us need a bit of inspiration to reveal and embody these precious qualities.
Kyra Anastasia Sudofsky begins her classes by asking you to first find gratitude for being here and now, and then asking you to share a namaste to a fellow student – maybe even to someone you don’t know. “It doesn’t count if you don’t look them in the eye,” she says with a mischievous smile. In a world where eye contact is avoided, or a simple smile to someone on the street can bring a cold shoulder, this subtle gesture is deep work which begins our yoga journey to union. She has a way of making you feel that recognizing the community around you is just as important as noticing your breath, or even the whole asana practice itself.
Drawn to the epicenter of Yoga in the U.S., Kyra Anastasia Sudofsky recently moved to Los Angeles from Washington, D.C., where she was the founder and director of Inspired Yoga. She had come a long way from her first yoga experience in a Kundalini class at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. “The teacher wore a turban and white robes and used a gong,” Kyra recalls. “I thought it was bizarre, but I loved the way the breathing made me feel energized and full of life.”
Although she doesn’t exactly teach Kundalini or wear a turban, she brings that aura of the enchanted yogi to all her classes – which range from Chi Gong movements, Kriya techniques, chanting, laughter, and creative Vinyasa flow. Kyra Anastasia Sudofsky teaches all levels, and all who enter class come out with a lighter heart and brighter smile on their face. “Each class is different depending on who shows up and the energy in the room,” Kyra explains. She enjoys teaching from a creative perspective, which ultimately surrenders to the needs of the students and what the moment calls for.
Kyra Anastasia Sudofsky's own yoga practice began after an accident over twenty years ago. She dropped more than twenty feet off a mountain cliff while on a skiing trip with her family. She remembers waking up on a stretcher and being carried down the mountain. “Surprisingly, I didn’t have any major breaks,” she says, “but I did have very bad internal bruising. It took a long time to heal, and the only thing that seemed to help was yoga. Even now I feel my lower back if I miss a few days of practice. It is a constant reminder to get myself back on the mat.” It is this part of her courageous spirit, which inspires you to not be so hard on yourself, or even to find more connection and gratitude in our daily lives.
Kyra Anastasia Sudofsky has studied at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, the Nosara Yoga Institute in Costa Rica, and with many acclaimed teachers including Rodney Yee, David Swenson, Shiva Rea, and Saul David Raye. She has spent two years living and working in China, traveled all over the world with National Geographic Expeditions leading tours such as trekking in Nepal, swimming with dolphins in NZ, visiting Mayan ruins, and doing Quaker work-camps in Bolivia, Poland and Germany. Her desire to understand herself and to help others led her to the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, where she holds a degree in holistic health counseling and nutrition. She also enjoys teaching meditation to those in the service industry, to help “heal the healers,” as she would say.
Filled with knowledge from years of self-practice and study, she passes along delicious insights and meanings behind much of our movements in a way that integrates life on and off the mat. “Rhomboids are becoming the weakest muscle in the human body,” she states as we do some shoulder openers. “In our modern society where we find ourselves hunching over a computer, behind the steering wheel of a car, or just sitting down in chairs, we need to strengthen these muscles.”
The movements are carried by a heart-focused spontaneity where each student is allowed to find their own rightful range of motion, rhythm of breath, and path to healing. We sweep our arms through the air while in lunge and find a rhythm that is both energizing and mindful. “It is the simple things in the world which are the most beautiful,” as our breath deepens and sweat drawls to the surface, “trees, mountains, rivers…” My mind goes to a serene landscape with large green trees, the sound of water flowing nearby, and a cool breeze against my skin. “Make these movements simple, yet beautiful.” In Crescent we hold our hands in the air. Heaven sent dew drips from our foreheads and she reminds us to be grateful for everything we have in our lives.
So, what inspires Kyra’s Yoga practice? “Yoga inspires me to be a better person. To practice kindness and compassion towards myself and others. These days, I am less interested in the physical aspects of yoga and instead want to use my practice to still my mind and become more at peace with who I am and where I am in my life. If I can do that within myself, then I hope to offer that out to the world.”
Kyra Anastasia Sudofsky Teaches at Exhale Center for Sacred Movement in Venice & Tru Yoga at the Yahoo Center in Santa Monica.
Michael Blahut is a writer, bodywork and yoga therapist who lives and works in Venice.