Interview with a Yogi: Nicoleta Vernadaki

About Nicol

Nicol is a yogilates instructor and has actively practiced yoga and pilates for 10 years. She specializes in chakras philosophy and practice of the 7 wheels of energy and body.
Physical exercise has always been a vital part of her life whether it was track & field, kickboxing, or yoga. It took one bad leg injury and a meeting with her then yoga teacher, to change her outlook, leave her corporate job, and follow the path of body and mind wellness. Her students rave about her personable and energetic teaching approach, as she always helps them find confidence and exceed their physical and mental limits.

nicol yoga

When did you first get into yoga and how did this happen?

The truth is that I was always a very energetic child and I loved sports. During school and college, I was a track field athlete and I liked to try everything… except yoga! It seemed a very low pace exercise for my taste but also for my way of life. In the first year of college, I used to workout 2 hours a day, so I could steam off from school stress, which of course led to burn out and injuries.

 

That summer, while on vacation at Kato Koufonissi, a beautiful Greek island, I met Jessica. A lovely woman and yoga teacher from Chicago. I watched her every morning and sunset practicing Yoga. One day I reached out to her and began my practice. I came back to Athens determined and I announced to my parents that that this was the path I wanted to follow in my personal and professional life. They laughed and told me to go back to my degree, and that I would forget about it in a few months. 3 diplomas later nothing had changed!

What inspires your practice?

The weather, my mood, a book I read, the music I want to listen during my practice, it can be many many things. However, most of the times I focus on listening to what my body and mind needs, which chakra I feel like opening.

Is yoga for every - body?

100% yes… BUT. You can practice yoga even if you’re 2 meters tall or petite. Skinny or juicy. Flexible or stiff. 3 years old or 100 years old. Injured or not. The ability, or inability, to perform a handstand pose or hanumanasana is not what will keep you from practicing yoga. The only obstacle is your mind. You mind creates fear of letting go, fear of deepening, fear of grounding, fear of being exposed, fear of hearing the truth that your body is telling you.

What’s your relationship to your own body?
How has this changed over time?

Due to the fact that I was an athlete from a very young age, I thought that I had a good relationship with my body, that I understood it. But, I was basically tiring my body with many hours of training and without enough food. I didn’t eat a lot and my food choices were unhealthy and I thought that being thin was more important than being healthy. Sometimes us teachers think that we shouldn’t admit past mistakes because we might give the wrong example to our students. But teachers are also humans and the truth must be communicated, especially weaknesses that have been recognised and conquered. 

 

I truly started to explore and love my body the moment I started to listen to it. I will listen my body when it’s hungry, I listen when it needs “healthier” food and when it needs chocolate or pizza. I will also take care of my body. My love for my job has made me 10 times more careful when I go climbing or skiing or diving from a high spot. And another thing I learned through practicing yoga is that you are only as old as your spine feels. That is why I make sure to do spinal twists every day, so as to strengthen and lengthen it. Keep it young.

Do you start your day in any particular way?
Do you have any personal practice in the morning or evening?

For me creating and following a morning routine determines if my day is gonna be good or bad. So what I do is that I prefer to sleep like 20 minutes less and have more time for myself before a hectic day begins. First thing in the morning, before I even open my eyes, I stretch in bed. It really helps my body to wake up and because of the practice I do every day all day it really helps me keep my body strong flexible and awake. After that I run (and I cannot stress that enough) to my coffee machine and I prefer to start by doing journaling.

 

In my journal I keep notes of 10 things that happened the day before and I’m grateful for. Then I write my to do list, from the most important to the least important things that I have to do during the day. It may be laundry, creating my classes, do my own personal practice, read a book, listen to a podcast, all sort of stuff. Then I take my dog for a walk to the park. I’m very lucky because I live very close to the hill so I usually try to walk in nature every day and listen to the sounds of nature and probably do my meditation while being at the park.

 

Doing my personal yoga practice it’s not a part of my morning routine, it’s part of my night routine and it’s the way I want to finish my day. I want to reflect on my practice everything I live during the day.  

If a person was very busy and they asked you about what practice they can do in only 15 minutes a day, what would you recommend them to do?

I love this question! I think part of me creating my yogilates this method is because I was working at a corporate environment and I was desperately in need of doing a workout that includes yoga and Pilates in 20 minutes. So my answer to that one would be 5 minute stretches, back opening and just be present. 5 minutes of yoga flows, salutations, warriors, whatever you feel your body needs at the time and 5 minutes of Pilates exercises focusing on one or two parts of the body.

What’s the best piece of health advice you ever received?

The best health advice is to take care of your mental health and to listen to your inner voice, this little person in your head. I know we are trying to do everything perfect and social media doesn’t help a lot. We believe that we can be that girl that drinks matcha latte in the morning, eats salads, runs 5 miles per day, wears amazing outfits during yoga practice, has an extremely nice body, travels all around the world, has so many friends and a perfect Barbie boyfriend. Have as a priority to detoxify your life from toxic people, images, work environment, family environment or relationships and then drink your detox juice. That’s the best health advice.

Nicol, what do you like to do in your free time?

I don’t want to sound like a yoga geek but in my free time I also practice yoga. But of course I don’t only do that. I like hanging out with friends, I love traveling, but traveling for nature, for sports, to explore mountains and caves. I like diving and swimming. Snowboarding, visiting art exhibitions, drinking wine and tsipouro and eating greek meze is also part of my free time. Playing with my dog. Writing. I love writing poetry and scripts. And reading books, non-fictional books only. I cannot sleep or being at the beach without reading a book.

How did Covid affected you as a teacher?

During quarantine, especially the second one, there was a huge difference on how I experienced my practice and teaching. A lot of my students, the ones that actually managed to come to class due to the conditions, came in and cried or they didn’t want to practice, they just wanted to talk to somebody and relax. And that’s ok!

 

What I found really interesting and wonderful, is the fact that the groups form the online video classes, like groups from London, Dubai, Athens, they all became friends and I was really looking forward to the classes with every single one of those special groups that had been created and had its own character. Also, what really touched me were the online classes we did with a mum and a daughter, who because of the restrictions and safety issues could not meet up. So, during the class they were talking, sharing news, laughing and coming closer.

 

I am grateful to all of these people who chose to spend this difficult time with me.

What's your connection with Aladastra?
Do you have any favorite products?

OK first I need to admit that I was a fan of Aladastra before I got to meet the person behind Aladastra. I think I got my first mat the moment that I was sure I was about to start teaching yogilates as a full-time job. What I love about the brand is that it has a holistic approach to yoga and wellness lifestyle.

 

So when Iwake up I light my Palo Santo to clean up the energy of the house. Before every class I practice on my Aladastra yoga mat. I light up the Soy Candles at night and I am using my Bath Soak to detox my body after a hard workout or just for a special treat to myself. 

 

I would say my favorite piece of Aladastra is the PRO yoga mat but that changed a few weeks ago. When they launched the Massage Candle! We all love candles, I am a fun as well, but this is different. It melts and becomes oil that I put on my muscles. I also use it to massage my students after practice and honestly I have no words for these products. I don’t know how Phoebe made it, I don’t need to know, I just need to use it every day.

 

Also a tip! The Yoga Pad is amazing for people that have injured knees as an extra cushion surface upon their mat and for crazy yoginis that travel all the time and need a small mat to practice their handstands etc.

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