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Reflections of Master Teacher: Genny Kapuler

This week we meet the legendary Genevieve Kapuler, who has been teaching since 1980. Known as “Genny,” Kapuler teaches Iyengar yoga out of her loft studio apartment in SoHo, as well as at the Iyengar Institute, and has been a major influence on New York’s greatest teachers across many lineages.

Weaving poetry, art and science into her themed classes, Kapuler is deeply reflective; one who has always taken stock of her impressions. A modern dancer initially, she was encouraged by Meredith Monk to take up yoga to “be less dance-y,” and first started practicing in 1976 with the late Mary Dunn. She is certified in the Alexander technique and is a practitioner of Body-Mind Centering.

Jennifer Brilliant, a seasoned teacher and long-time student of Genny’s, said, “I’ve been practicing with her since 1998, but in the last 12 years, I’ve committed to studying with her every week. Her precision is inspiring and her creative metaphors linger for years. One like this is hard to forget: “Your mind becomes like a drop of wine in a glass of water. It diffuses through the whole body.” Sometimes in her class, I gain a new awareness about some part of my body. This insight can be so astonishing that it almost feels like I got a brand new body part.”

Kathleen Kraft: What does your yoga practice look like every day?

Genny Kapuler: It is a rare morning that I do not practice. I start with seated pranayama, usually around 20 minutes. On the weekend, I will begin supine and can hold the pranayama focus for longer.

For many years in my asana practice, I have started with surya namaskar and adho mukha vrksasana. Depending upon the spoke of the wheel I am teaching that week, I direct my attention to the refinement of the poses I will be teaching, looking for the directions both physical and metaphysical upon which to hang, like on a hook, the hat of the class.

During the week I also practice in the afternoon, before I teach my evening classes. I begin with inversions, and then again practice the theme or the asanas I need to organize further in order to be centered and easeful for teaching.

KK: What are the most important qualities of the student/teacher relationship?

GK: Students need to find the right teacher for them, the person who can open doors to their inner being, who can strengthen their sense of themselves. I am always grateful to all the teachers who directed me on the path of learning and leading a meaningful life. The right teacher guides the student out into the world to give back and be connected.

KK: What sutra is guiding you and why?

GK: Recently I have been filled with the desire to just watch my consciousness and its fluctuations, like following a thread… like Thesius in the labyrinth. I am using as a springboard sutra IV.22, citer apratisankramayas tad-akarapattau svabuddhi-samvedanam: “When the unchanging transcendental-awareness assumes the shape of that [consciousness], experience of one’s own cognition [becomes possible].” How can I just be present to witness myself and others—this is one of the struggles I wrestle with at this time, when I am so busy and hurried. How not just to be embodied, but how to be ensouled.

KK: Ensouled is an interesting word…

GK: At this point in my life I’m entering a new chapter, and I have to slow down. I can’t go as quickly as I once could. I need more time alone. I require time when I can read and I can study and I can think… I feel like this is part of ensouling myself. Having spent my life up until now involved in the body, I want to go deeper now.

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