Reflections of A Master Teacher: Nevine Michaan

This week we get to know Egyptian-born Nevine Michaan whose combination of yoga, Taoism and unconventional yet wise insights have made her a widely respected and popular teacher.

Born in 1954, Michaan moved to America at the age of three. She began studying meditation and yoga after college, training under the auspices of renowned yoga guru Alan Bateman. Michaan began taking on her own students after relocating to the New York City suburbs in 1980s; founded Katonah Yoga Center in 1991, and a studio in NYC in 2011.

Taoism has been a primary study, she says. “It has deepened my sense of the inner directional intelligence of the body.”

Devoted student and yoga teacher Philip Askew said, “Nevine is a philosopher poet; a seer, a sage, a savant. Mystical & magical, her teachings are laden with meaning and metaphor, both esoteric & practical. Her extraordinary gift for piercing insight is matched by her uncanny ability to convey and communicate her keen acumen. Her generosity of spirit and big-picture perspective are always refreshing and inspiring. She is a channel for cosmic consciousness, a true fountainhead. I feel blessed to know her.”

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

Nevine Michaan: I have three practices I generally play with: a sitting pranayama practice—the techniques are similar to Kundalini, Taoist breath, and energy rotations or “circular tracks” (for example, fire rising up the back, water down the front); a vinyasa sequence including sun salutations and fluency practices for bones, which are actually very malleable. That’s the practice I usually do with others in the late afternoon or around sunset, sometimes with music.

My third practice is my longevity practice. I work with five asanas, and each one is done for "time.” A breath count of 100, using the asanas to build time within the frame of each breath: rounded plough, forward bend, inverted rabbit, sleeping Buddha, virasana fish variations, ten flipped wheels, a twist… I tend to spend two to three hours in practice daily, but that is my privilege, the luxury of now having time.

I think of the body as the abode for information, conformation, reformation. Through practice, repetition, and revolution, there is the potential for revelation. I find practice revelatory.

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

NM: Trust. That is the goal for me. I don’t teach an emotional practice; I teach a technical practice, so I need to be trustworthy. The teacher needs to show you something you cannot see. Trust is essential.

KK: What sutra is guiding you?

NM: The sutra atman or the threading self… the golden thread of personal consciousness or being. I like the myth of Ariadne's thread—the string ball given to Perseus as he entered the maze of the Minotaur. After slaying the Minotaur, by virtue of the trail of thread he unraveled on his way in, Perseus was able to turn around and retrace his way out.

KK: So yoga is the string or the suture?

NM: Yoga is the technique to weave the string properly. It’s how you stop time from doing you in.

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