Coffee Break: Donna Kuebler
15 minutes with the co-owner, program director and instructor at Elements Yoga
Donna Kuebler has been practicing yoga for over fifteen years and, after working as an event planner in New York City, opened Elements Yoga and Wellness Center with her husband, Bruce Bassock. Both Elements and Donna have garnered several accolades over the years; Elements has been voted the "Best Yoga Studio" in Connecticut and Donna was a recipient of the Fairfield County "40 under 40 awards", an award that celebrates forty business professionals who have achieved distinction in their field.
I spoke with Donna about several aspects of yoga and she let me know about everything from the best classes for beginners, how often to practice yoga, and how it has evolved over the years.
What is the best sort of yoga class for a beginner to try?
There are a few good options to consider depending upon ones personal situation. If you are brand new to yoga and do not have much of an exercise routine in place, I would suggest starting with a class that is specifically designed for beginners or that is labeled as "Gentle".
1. "Absolute Beginners": This class covers all the classes of poses (i.e. standing, seated, twisting). It moves at a slower pace so that students can really integrate the alignment instructions and names of the poses while they are asked to focus and slow their breath. That is a lot to incorporate when you are brand new, so the pace of this class allows for that. These classes are also great for those who find comfort in knowing that they are not the only beginner in the room.
2. "Gentle" in nature: At Elements, our Gentle classes are also slower moving but they mainly focus on seated poses, breath awareness and are more mellow and restorative. These classes are also appropriate for those who are newer to yoga.
3. All-Level Align and Flow: A few of these classes are taught by two teachers. Those who are new to yoga and who are active often times feel comfortable jumping into a mixed level class where there is extra instruction available. Since we have two teachers in the room at once - there is a lot more one-on-one interaction with the instructor.
What's the best way for a beginner to learn the names of the poses?
Come to classes and/or peruse the internet. There are so many resources on yoga available on line. Yogajournal.com has a nice section on their site where they list the name of the pose (both in Sanskrit and in layman's terms) along with photos of the pose and its benefits. It is always helpful to know why you would want to twist yourself into a pretzel. Becoming aware of the benefits of each pose makes the pose more meaningful when practiced.
Is it ok to do yoga everyday or should your muscles rest in between?
You can definitely do yoga every day, but you must vary your practice. There are many ways to practice yoga. Asana (the poses) is just one way. Meditation is another and can be a wonderful addition to one’s weekly schedule.
How much has yoga evolved over the years and how does it continue to evolve as a form of exercise?
As individuals, it is in our nature to grow and evolve - so it is no surprise that this ancient system has done so as well. Incorporating popular music with yoga has been a big trend. Students love to move and breathe and let the busyness of the day fade away as they are inspired by song. Another evolution is that by incorporating good alignment techniques new poses are being created all of the time.
What are some basic etiquette rules that people should follow during a yoga class?
The studio is a sacred space for students to come together to practice this ancient art and science. One should be respectful when entering the room and cell phones should be turned off.
What is the other side of yoga beyond doing the poses? Breathing techniques, meditation etc.
As I mentioned before, the poses are only one way to practice yoga. Pranayama (breath work) and meditation are also forms of yoga. These components are often times included in our classes but can also be practiced alone. Certain types of breath work can detox our system, calm and balance the hemispheres of the brain, and can stimulate and energize, for example. The benefits of meditation are vast. Meditation has been known to enhance the immune system, relax our nervous system and increase creativity - just to name a few.
How has yoga enhanced your everyday life?
The more I practice yoga the less I quibble with my husband. I say that to be a little funny but it is true. Being more kind and compassionate and gaining perspective is a side effect of the physical practice.
What forms of exercise do you like to do in addition to yoga?
For me, yoga is a one stop shop - if offers so much physically, emotionally and even spiritually. I have a new experience every time and it is quite meditative, which I love. I honestly don't even feel like I am "exercising". So I generally stick to yoga but I will occasionally take a spin class or hop on the elliptical machine. Since the latter are repetitive - I personally tend to get bored after a bit. So the best other "exercise" I do - if you would call it that - is when I walk or hike with my dogs.
What's the best piece of advice you've been given throughout your practice?
The valuable "nuggets" I've received over the years are not so much in the form of "advice" as they are yogic teachings. As a teacher, I was taught to teach from your heart and to be authentic. As a student, I was taught that yoga helps you to deepen the relationship with yourself. In other words - yoga helps you to get to know yourself better. Another powerful teaching I'd like to share is that with practice, Yoga can help us become the best versions of ourselves.
354 Heights Road, Darien; 203-655-9642