A weekend surfer who has been known to teach yoga in jeans, Teddy Sczudlo makes a discussion about enlightenment as accessible as talking about your weekend plans. And yet, you walk away from the conversation rocked by the knowledge he’s given you.
As a yoga student, I spent a long time focusing on the crude physical body. When teachers spoke of Mula Bhanda, I might check in with my pelvic alignment without thought to the more elusive subtle body. Teddy’s way of downloading information about chakras and bandhas to his yoga students is accessible and freeing. His class, featuring Lady Niguma Yoga at Three Jewels in the East Village, is an intricate dance through chakras that encourages deep investigation. I wanted to know more about this.
Sofia Belen: Can you describe the Lady Niguma Yoga series?
Teddy Sczudlo: Lady Niguma Yoga is an asana practice designed as an ascending series starting at the first chakra and going up to the crown. It uses a unique system to get in touch with each chakra and develop a relationship with the channels. There are four steps to each chakra that we work with: twisting the side channels, straightening the side channels, gathering prana at a chakra, and moving the prana upwards.
SB: What is the known history behind this series?
TS:Lady Niguma was a yogini of extremely high caliber, a mystical enlightened being. Some say she was the sister of Master Naropa (a great Tantra practitioner in the 10th century) and some traditions say that they were partners. Lady Niguma developed a system of practice and realization that could greatly expedite the path towards enlightenment.
It is said that a monk inquired after Lady Niguma and talked to a clairvoyant who directed to him to an island on the Ganges River. This monk took gold as an offering to Tibet and found the island, where he saw Lady Niguma and her female practitioners practicing yoga in the sky. The monk asked her to teach him, and she agreed, giving him a full transmission of this teaching. He then singlehandedly brought it back to Tibet.
SB: Can you talk more about the emphasis on the chakras in this practice?
TS: As a yoga practitioner advances on the path to the higher stages of asana practice, they begin to have complete experiences and directly feel a prana-body relationship. When you practice Vinyasa, for example, you’re doing unbelievable work for your subtle body, but you may not be sure of what you’re doing until you have spent time practicing. Lady Niguma yoga helps the practitioner greatly expedite the relationship with prana in the body.
Instead of just feeling good doing Warrior II, if you really focus on the chakras you develop a relationship with the channels. You’re opening up the first chakra, the throat, the heart. The reason you have Mula Bhanda is to have subtle amounts of prana move up the central channel and begin to open up the heart chakra. You can understand what is happening subtly and deepen your practice.
SB: I don’t know if I’ve really felt the reality of a chakra yet. Does it work for someone who is still discovering his or her energetic body?
TS: At first these things are just theoretical and the practitioner is accepting the idea of prana at face value. The more you do Lady Niguma Yoga though, the more you develop an intimate relationship with the way prana moves in the body and the way it affects the different states of the mind. With practice and time, practitioner is able to have genuine experience of this prana moving.
SB: What do you find most pleasurable about this series?
TS: One of the most brilliant parts of the series, for me, is working with the first chakra. We do perineal contractions and Kundalini drops where you rhythmically drop your seat to the floor, and this enables you to directly feel the movement of prana traveling in small amounts through the central channel. As soon as that begins to happen, the entire yogic science about the inner body no longer becomes theoretical.
Teddy teaches yoga and meditation at Edward Reynolds Public School. And if you’re not 13-18 years old, he teaches Lady Niguma Yoga at Three Jewels Thursdays at 5:30pm (by donation). He is also a professional photographer. Check out his website for more by clicking here.