Meet Dana Damara:
Dana Damara is one of the Bay Area’s premier yoga instructors and leading advocate for women and young girl empowerment. She is a mystic, teacher of teachers and an author. She exudes a balance between the mystical realms and real life drama of a mother of two teenage girls. She is an activist for women of all ages: committed to feminine embodiment, self-love, sisterhood, sacred ceremony and ritual, and creating a safe space for evolution.
Meet Aimee Nitzberg:
Santa Cruz is where I was born and raised. Nature, family, friends and health are the things that I value most in life. I love traveling, discovering new places, engaging in experiences and trying to offer a little more love and kindness wherever I go. My boyfriend and I live in South Lake Tahoe, and I usually spend at least one week per month in Santa Cruz so I can check-in and teach at my yoga studio, Pleasure Point Yoga.
She.is.beautiful: When did you start practicing yoga and what led you to your first class?
Dana: I started practicing yoga when I was pregnant with my first daughter. This was about 15 years ago. I couldn’t do all the things I was used to like running, kickboxing and step-aerobics! (Yes, it was that long ago!) So I practiced yoga instead and I loved it! The breathing was pretty incredible for my birth, the postures helped ease hip pain, and I recovered a bit quicker than I think I would have without the practice. I didn’t really know the benefits and what path I was truly on until a few years later though. The “real yoga” didn’t start until my second daughter came along which was a few years later.
Aimee: My first yoga class was in Boulder, CO back in the spring of 2000. I was a runner, and I thought yoga was a new-agey practice that wasn’t for me, but because I had a lot of physical pain in my shoulders and neck, I gave it a try. Yoga rocked my world, and I immediately took a teacher training and opened a studio, less than a year later.
SIB: What is one myth about yoga that you would like to clear up?
Dana: People think it’s about the postures. It’s not. According to the 8 Limbs of Yoga, the postures are only 1/8 of this thing we call yoga. Yoga means to unite, yoke, to union … it does not mean to put yourself in a gorgeous posture, compromising your safety, just to get “the shot” for Instagram. I have a little issue with that these days. There is no such thing as a “perfect pose” … it’s called a yoga “practice” for a reason you know? Every single time you step on your mat, you are offered an opportunity to explore your body and how it feels that day. You’re offered silence to explore where your mind goes. And you are offered space to allow your heart to pull in all the air it needs to remember that everything is One and that everything is Love.
Aimee: Flexibility is not the goal of yoga, it is a nice fringe benefit. If you are not naturally flexible, you might actually receive even more benefits from practicing yoga!
SIB: What is one message that you have to someone new to yoga?
Dana: Start slow, don’t compare yourself and have fun! Use props if you have to and explore what your mind says to you when you fall out of a posture. Use this place and time on your mat as sacred time and allow it to be your own “discovery channel”. Find your community and your tribe and be playful! This is not a time to be completely serious. Laugh, use your voice, sing LOUD .. even if you think you have a terrible voice … trust me.
Aimee: Do not assess whether you like yoga or not while you are practicing yoga. Try to practice consistently for at least a month or two, and then take pause and reflect whether or not it seems beneficial to your health and well-being.
SIB: What is the most surprising thing that yoga has brought to your life?
Dana: Quiet and loud all at the same time. Meaning … the silence on my mat gave me the space I needed to really see what was going on in my life. And at the time when I started, I realized I didn’t like my life so much. I equate the practice of yoga, the consistent practice of yoga, like living your life in HD. Everything comes into focus and you begin to see what the truth is. It’s brought physical strength for sure, flexibility yes, focus yes, but most of all courage.
Aimee: It is lovely to realize how much more open-minded and open-hearted I’ve become because of my yoga practice. I never thought I would enjoy meditating or chanting because I was originally drawn to the physical practice of asanas; it’s very cool to be surprised. Yoga has brought me new friends, community, livelihood and opportunities to teach and travel all over the world!
SIB: In one word, describe how yoga makes you feel:
Photo credits for Aimee Nitzberg: Sawdust Imagery