The Practice, created by Nikki Costello, was developed as an opportunity for teachers and students to dig into the different aspects of yoga with an intimate group of peers on a similar quest. Quietly, yet quickly, it gained traction for those searching for something deeper and more substantial in a yogi scene that seems headed in the opposite direction.
This Wednesday, Costello will begin a four-month series of 100 hours examining The Warrior through asana, scriptural study, discussion, and one-on-one private sessions culminating in a five-day treat with scholar Mark McLaughin. Lisa Dawn Angerame sat down with her to find out what it is all about.
Lisa Dawn Angerame: Why did you choose The Warrior focus for this series?
Nikki Costello: When we practice hatha yoga, the warrior poses come again and again, teaching qualities such as strength, endurance, focus, and one-pointedness. I have faced challenges in my life that echo those I have heard my students share. As a teacher, I consider it my duty to look closely at how I have persevered in the face of challenge and The Warrior Practice will further demonstrate the approach, attitudes, and qualities that serve both as my inspiration and guidance. Arjuna was a warrior and the archetype is one that holds steady and perseveres.
LDA: Why do you think it will be relevant now?
NC: I’ve been teaching over 20 years and realize that those qualities stated in the Bhagavad Gita are constantly reinforced. Especially the following of one’s dharma. I’ve read it again and again and always find a reinforcement of the commitment to practice and that practice will yield fruits.
LDA: The text you are using on the Bhagavad Gita was translated by Jnaneshwar Maharaj? Is this translation important to you?
NC:Jnaneshwar Maharaj, who was a 13th century poet-saint, wrote his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita at the age of 16. He imparted his own experience on the path of self-realization like a story, weaving through the verses similies, metaphor, and imagery. So not only do we receive the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, we also experience it through the wisdom of one who has attained the truth.
Jnaneshwar's was the first commentary I studied. Over the years I have come to understand why it has been so profound for me. Jnaneshwar was speaking to the common person, making it accessible in their language of Marathi. This was an enormous offering because before that only those who could read Sanskrit had access to these writings.
Hundreds of years later it continues to break the language and cultural barriers of our time and shows me how to look at the world through nature, my mind, and my personal experience in a way that makes yoga accessible in every moment. The Samadhi Shrine, or
tomb, where Jnaneshwar rests is in Alandi, near Pune, India. I have been there many times and plan to bring students with me next year to experience the power of sacred pilgrimage.
LDA: Tell us about the teacher who will be partnering with you?
NC: Mark McLauglin is a dear friend and a great scholar who has explored the yogic scriptures with profound depth and insight.
We are so fortunate to have someone of his expertise to illumine our study of Jnaneshwar. He received his Ph.D. in South Asian religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is an American Institute of Indian Studies Junior Research Fellow, and a recipient of the Professor Raimundo Panikkar Memorial Award for academic achievement in the study of Comparative Religions in South Asia. His dissertation is Lord in the Temple, Lord in the Tomb: The Hindu Temple and Its Relationship to the Samādhi Shrine Tradition of Jñāneśvar Mahārāj.
LDA: Who is this program right for?
NC: I look and listen for that student who is sincere, good-natured, willing to give and receive from others, and is committed to learning as a human art form. It is right for those who wish to apply ancient wisdom in modern times.
The Warrior Practice will be held at Kula Yoga Project in both Tribeca and Williamsburg starting tomorrow. For more information, click here.