Carolina Lindoff is our Teacher of the Month this October. Carolina grew up in Sweden where she studied dance and was introduced to yoga. Since her move to New York City in 2012, yoga has been the anchor that has helped her through the transition and beyond. Carolina completed her 500 hour Teacher Training with YogaWorks in 2015 and now teaches Hatha Flow and Yoga for Kids at Bread and Yoga. Join her adult Hatha Flow class on Wednesdays at 7:30PM.
Q: When did you come to the U.S.?
I came here the first time in 2007 for six months to study dance [at Steps on Broadway]. I always wanted to come back so I decided to do more dance studies in 2010. I stayed here for about a year and that’s when I met my now husband, but I went home because my visa was expiring and I also wanted to work as a dance teacher. I got a great job offer so I went home and did that for a year.
Q: Is yoga popular in Sweden?
I would say it’s really growing and growing. My little hometown outside of Gothenburg has it’s own yoga studio now, which is great.
Q: How did you get into yoga?
I have a background as a dance teacher and the dance world and the yoga world are pretty close. During my programs at some studios they offered yoga, but I never got hooked until later.
[It was when] I was home in Sweden for that year. I went for a three-day Anusara workshop with a great teacher. It was a lot of practice, but it shifted something in me and made me think that I wanted to deepen my practice.
I had also started to understand that yoga teachers come in very different manners. I always thought a yoga teacher was all totally Zen and bliss and I never felt that I fit into that stereotype, but then I started meeting a lot of different people practicing yoga and different yoga teachers so that was when I started to get hooked.
Q: So from there you built a regular practice?
Yes. There were no yoga studios where I lived, but I had a good home practice by then.
Q: Where were you living at the time?
Vimmerby in the south of Sweden. You know Pippi Longstocking? The author of that book is from there so everything is about her. It’s very small: 7000 people. I went from New York City to there!
Q: Wow! You came back to the New York five years ago. How did your practice develop when you returned?
I started doing Karmi shifts at YogaWorks because I didn’t have my work permit yet. I thought it was great to help out, folding towels and things, and get paid in yoga classes. I decided that I wanted to deepen my practice even more. I had a friend who had done their teacher training. I thought about it during the fall and then I started that February. It was a nine-month program, so it was kind of a slow process.
Q: How was the teacher training experience?
It was great. It was challenging in many ways. A lot of things come up, about how you think you should be and how you want to be.
Q: And how did you want to be?
Q: Physically or?
Yes, physically, but also mentally. I think that’s why I came to yoga, as many other people do, to find that balance and that calmness.
Q: You said you didn’t initially picture yourself as a yoga teacher because you had this idea of them being very Zen. Why did that not fit with your idea of yourself?
Sometimes I feel like I am a little bit too loud and I talk a lot (laughs) But also, you know, we all have things inside that we battle and mine has been anxiety. Sometimes that has been overwhelming, but now I know that that’s how a lot of other people come to yoga too. A lot of my teachers have gone through the same things and that’s why they are practicing. I understand now that most people are not as Zen as you might think they are.
Q: So what made you shift and decide, ‘Wait, I can be a yoga teacher?’
I loved being a dance teacher. I knew that teaching was kind of my calling. As I started to feel how yoga was helping me and I knew that I wanted to teach that to others.
Q: How did yoga help you?
I became more aware of my both physical and mental patterns, understanding my habits, especially in my thoughts. I think awareness is one of the major benefits of yoga. You understand yourself better and then you work with that, for the rest of your life.
Q: How did you come to Bread and Yoga?
I discovered the studio when I started to look to see where I could teach. It was love at first sight.
Q: Really. Why?
It felt like home. There are always expectations when you come to a class, but there’s no judgment here, either as a student or as a teacher. I feel very calm when I teach here and honored. It feels silly saying that- ‘I’m so honored to be here’- but I do feel that.
Home is a good feeling. We all want to find that home, especially in a big city like this. We want to find those places where we can be ourselves.
Q: For someone coming to your class the first time, what can they expect?
It’s a Hatha Flow class and I do like to flow, but I also focus on the alignment of the poses. I think that comes back to the idea of awareness. We create awareness of the body, of where it is in space, and from there we go deeper and create more internal awareness. I also like to explore some different ways of getting into poses. I like modifications and I like to use props.
They allow us to make the poses work for us, rather than trying to get into a particular shape. It makes me think of cookie cutters. That’s not how we work. We don’t all fit into one shape. We have to make the pose work for us and that’s how the props can help.
Q: Now that we are in an age with yoga where we see so many images on Instagram of people in the ‘perfect yoga pose’, it’s easy to go into class thinking, ‘This is what I should look like.’ How do you encourage students to do what’s true for them?
I try to create an environment where people can feel comfortable taking modifications. I always try to show the modifications rather than showing that pose that is up there and maybe not accessible for them or for me. I also explain why we use the props. It’s not a crutch. It’s a tool to find the pose that works for you.
Q: What pose do you find most challenging?
Me and crow pose have always been shaky. I think it’s the fear. Once when I felt that I just needed to be able to do it, I put bubble wrap under my forehead so I knew that if I were to fall it would be soft. That helped actually. It’s really mental. I think I’m strong enough to do it and I have been doing it, but it’s about not having the full faith in that I can balance. You have to go all the way there to be in the pose. You cannot go halfway because then you won’t get up.
Q: What is your most easeful pose?
I’ve always love Trikonasana. It’s something about the opening and expansion.
Q: How do you plan your classes?
I almost always have a peak pose or a theme. It might be a hip-opener theme rather than a specific hip-opening pose. Sometimes the Dharma talk or spiritual theme is connected to that and sometimes it’s less connected, but I always try to give something for students to think about or to inspire their practice. I think it’s important to connect our mind with what we do in our bodies, so I always try to offer something.
Q: Can you give an example?
The other week I was so inspired because I got to see Stevie Wonder and his joy and his spirit that he had were amazing. We all have that light and joy inside of us. Sometimes we just have to dig deep to find it, so that was my theme and then we did heart openers to connect the physical practice.
Q: Is the spiritual aspect something about yoga that appeals to you?
I think I initially came for what many people do, which is more the physical aspect, but then I was also looking, really since I was a teenager, for something to help me feel more balanced. So it’s always been there. I’ve cried many times in yoga when the teacher has said something that really connects with me.
It’s definitely important. I’m still exploring what it means to me to be spiritual. I think it doesn’t have to be so big always. It can be in the smaller aspects of being spiritual like how we treat someone on the subway. It’s not necessarily about finding the big answer to why we’re here, but how we act in our daily lives and how we live.
Q: In addition to Hatha Flow, you also teach classes for our pre-school program. Can you describe what it’s like to teach kids’ classes?
I love teaching kids. It actually is a great yoga practice because you have to be in the moment. If you’re not the kids are not there either. We do asana, but we do it in a very playful way. If you’re in Downward Facing Dog, you’re probably barking like a dog.
But even with the youngest ones, you do some kind of mindfulness. I think that’s pretty neat to bring that in when they are small. For a two-year-old to lay down for even a minute or two in Savasana, it’s a big deal, but they can do it.
Q: How did you get into it?
I thought for a long time that I shouldn’t get into teaching kids. I’d been teaching a lot of dance for kids and I was in that mindset of, ‘I want to be an adult yoga teacher, I don’t want to take THAT route.’ I had my resume up somewhere and a school reached out to me and I thought, why not? I went for an audition and got hired and then I was like, ‘Oh wait, this is awesome, this is really fun,’ and then it’s been growing from there.
Q: How do you see kids change over the course of a couple of months in terms of their relationship to yoga or their abilities?
Oh, it’s quite amazing, especially with the younger ones. You can have a child that for a long time doesn’t do anything. I know that they are doing things in their mind, but it just might not look like it. You might not see it and then all of a sudden their doing a pose, like you say Downward Facing Dog and they are up there. They are sponges. They learn a lot and they learn in different ways.
I have a lot of fun teaching kids yoga and that’s really the key to all teaching. You have to enjoy it. I would say that kids yoga classes fill my cup up.