Nikki Costello is an Iyengar Yoga and Meditation teacher. She has built an incredible business around yoga. She has been a yoga teacher for past 23 years and we talk about yoga and about her business in this podcast.
Can you tell us a little about Iyengar yoga and difference between it and other styles of yoga?
Iyengar yoga started because of BKS Iyengar who developed a method/system to go deep inside oneself to where the source of the teachings arise. Iyengar yoga is named after BKS Iyengar. Nikki thinks that when you have someone like BKS as a guru then students can learn in an accelerated manner. BKS created a method for people to understand how body works and how it performs simple functions like creating strength and flexibility. However, BKS also enabled us to go in the depth of ourselves that we do not necessarily get to see. He developed a method by which through practice you start with your physical body and through the practice of your body, you penetrate through layers until you reach your own heart, spirit and your own creativity.
What should someone expect if they take their first class?
Iyengar yoga studios have a particular reputation of being very clean and simple. Yoga studios are clean in terms of the environment of the studio. When you start from level 1 Iyengar yoga, you will move your body in a way that is with alignment to your body. Nikki says a new student should always approach their teacher and let them know if it is their first class and let them know if they are suffering from some sort of injury.
Can you talk a little bit about inner being and its relation with yoga?
Nikki says we are in contact with our inner being in one way or another. She believes the environment that surrounds relationships, our workspace, how others treat us, all of this affects us in ways we cannot even imagine. Sometimes, in our lives, due to the misfortunes or undesirable events, we start losing connection with our inner self. Yoga is used to dissolve any impediment, obstruction or darkness that is between our inner self and us. When Nikki shared the meaning of guru earlier in the podcast, she said a guru is someone who removes darkness/ignorance and that is why the practice of yoga returns you to that state of being connected with yourself and at peace.
What her practice looks like on a daily basis?
Nikki says that as a yoga teacher getting proper sleep at night is very important for her. She initially started her practice from Ashtanga yoga and had to be at the studios 6 days a week. Nikki says whenever she stayed up late or ate something heavier the night before her practice, she felt like she could not do her yoga practice properly. Nikki wakes up between 5am and 6am. Her first part is pranayama practice, which is sometimes combined with chanting, and recitation of mantras that she believes connect her to her heart and it helps establish her an inner posture. Nikki almost spends three hours of her day in active practice in which she reads something inspiring, sometimes something as small as a quote, contemplating on what she reads, letting that contemplation guide her actions during the day
What is pranayama practice?
It is a deeper, more subtle connection to the Prana, which means ‘the life force’. Yoga practitioners believe that Prana is the supreme life force; something that moves our heart, draws the breath in and out. Pranayama is about exploring the source of Prana. Therefore, we use breath as a tool to travel inward toward that pulsation. Meditation is when we are absorbed in that state of connection.
Can you give an example of pranayama exercise?
Nikki guides listeners and readers to become still (physically), if the listeners are moving, they should start to slow down. She then asks them to inhale and exhale slowly feeling their own breath coming in and going out. First stage is to become aware of the breath, to feel the presence of your own breath moving throughout your body so it essentially begins with greeting and acknowledging that your breath sustains you all the time when you are awake or when sleeping. Once we become aware of our own breath, only then we can begin to look at its qualities. Only then, we can start to feel if the inhalation and the exhalation are of the same duration.
How can someone build a business and a career by being a yoga teacher?
Nikki says that the subject of yoga is vast and there is more than enough of what one can study. There is plenty of room for growing in this subject. She says the profession may look enticing to young people and that there is a lot of room to cultivate yourself in the field of yoga and it requires living a life for it. Nikki believes one of the good things about this profession is that she is able to make choices for herself like holding yoga courses, travel around the world with reference to her work and earn money out of it. She says when she started the practice 23 years ago; she never thought she would end up becoming a proper and full time yoga teacher. She also says that the practice of yoga is at the very foundation of yoga and if you want to become a proper yoga teacher and keep getting good at it, you have to keep working hard on yourself as well and practice it every day.
How we can connect with her?
Her website’s URL is