When Nikki Vilella stumbled into Tribeca's Kula Yoga back in 2002 (her first class at an actual yoga studio), little did she know that her first hip opener would have her hooked! The same teacher who taught that very class, Schuyler Grant, would soon be her partner in Kula Williamsburg, and Nikki would go on to be one of the best yoga instructors around.
Nikki talks to us about her athletic background and how it's shaped her practice and teaching, which definitely makes for one of the most interesting perspectives on both subjects. We also cover her best-in-the-biz adjustments, her influences, and more.
MBG: When did you first come to yoga?
NV: I grew up a sports junkie. From the time I was enrolled in kindergarten I was a gymnast, and then as I grew older (and taller!) I shifted my focus to playing basketball year round. This meant I spent a lot of my formative years in weight rooms, in gymnasiums, and on basketball courts. When I got out of school and no longer had organized sports in my life, I took up running because I didn't really know where to channel my desire to be physically active and how to continue to cultivate this mind/body connection I had relied upon as a cornerstone of my life for so many years. I would run up in Central Park and then go to the gym nearby where I would do some stretching among other things. They had yoga classes there and I just dropped in one day. This was in 2000. I cannot honestly say I loved it at first! But then the first time I went on a trip to Michigan to visit my family and didn't have any yoga classes to attend, I realized how much I loved the practice and how substantial a part of my life yoga had become. When I moved to Tribeca around 2002, I lived around the corner from where Kula Yoga first opened, and on the way to the train I passed a board outside with schedules and thought I would give it a shot. Why not? This is when I really connected with the practice as I do now. My first class in an actual yoga studio was Schuyler's, and needless to say I was hands down hooked by the first hip opener.
Do you think being an athlete has helped your practice?