Interview: Vanessa Gardner // Images: Jill Futter

Ever thought about chatting with that person on the mat next to you about their personal practice? We we rounded up four New Yorker yogi friends--Clare Chura, Linda Milagros Violago, Michael Terwindt, and Yasminca Wilson--and asked them the same four questions.

How has your practice made you stronger?

Michael: My practice started with Bikram. My 'real yogi' friends would laugh at my attempts at joining their ranks. Although I now call Vinyasa my style, and have seen limitations in Bikram, I am still infinitely grateful for those strenuous beginnings that taught me mental discipline. I’ve softened now, but the grit remains and has fostered a certain presence. 

Linda: I was trained in classical ballet, so I had very little upper body strength.  I remember what it felt like when I first began Vinyasa classes, and how, after a few years of practice, I felt "strong" and confident in what my body could do. On a mental level, I think that I’m able to let go of things easier.  My immediate reaction may (or may not be) frustration.  If something negative arises, I do notice it slipping away within a short period of time: I notice the "bigger picture”.

When life "happens", and you don't get a chance to be on your mat, what helps you find steadiness in the face of life's challenges, big or small?

Clare: I try to breathe evenly and deeply! I also remind myself that my life is shaped by the choices that I make. So, I can choose to act collected or frazzled during challenging times.

Yasminca: Each day is a new lesson in understanding yoga as more than asana practice. On the days that I don’t make it to my mat, my practice presents itself: in communicating with others, in deliberating how to expend my energy, or in managing my time. I also love to practice tadasana on the subway. The train is also a great place to have a short standing or seated meditation, or to simply tune in to my breath. 

When we think of the word “tree”, the thought of blossoming comes up. Which parts of yourself, your practice, or your life could be more open?

Linda: All of it.  When I think of tree pose, I think of grounding as well as opening: letting your branches reach out. I think of it as reaching out to what is outside of myself. I need to work on that so much on a personal level.  Maybe that's why I love this pose so much...

Clare: To me, the word “tree” means being grounded or stable. I could use more of that in life! Personally, I want to speak my mind with greater clarity and impact. I want to take a stronger stance for myself and for others.

Are there any good reads that have helped you grow your practice both on and off the mat that you’d recommend to us?

Michael: “The Way of the Superior Man” by David Deida. A guide for men and masculinity. “The Power of Now”, by Eckhart Tolle. “Love, Freedom and Aloneness: the Koan of Relationships”, by Osho.

Yasminca: "Yoga Sutras of Patanjali" helps me understand yoga's ancient principles, then apply them to modern life. There’s also an article called “How to be Fierce”, by Sally Kempton. This flipped the switch in my mind that yoga isn’t just effortless equanimity, non-attachment, and all those other lofty ideals. Yoga is about messy contradictions, about embracing your shadows. It is about liberation. 


Clare Chura is a yoga teacher-in-training at Yogamaya New York, but seeks to ultimately return to her roots in Florida, where she hopes to grow further into her practice while sharing it with others. Linda Milagros Violago is a self-described itinerant yogi and sommelier and, in a past life, was a former dancer with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School's Professional Division in Canada (she's left NYC since we photographed her, and we have no idea where she's flitted off to). Michael Terwindt is a Perth, Australia-born practitioner who's immersed in the New York City tech startup scene (and an "extreme lover of baked goods"). Yasminca Wilson has just earned her 200-hour yoga teacher training certificate through Sarva Yoga in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

And in case you were wondering: all four of of these yogis will happily chat with you shoud your mat happen to be next to theirs in class...