Mona is equally passionate about restorative yoga which played an instrumental role in helping her recover from a bout of severe asthma attacks many years ago. She has co developed a restorative yoga training, Anand Menza Restorative, that is a uniquely ISHTA approach to restorative yoga, emphasizing the subtle body and incorporating visualization, pranayama, kriya and Ayurveda into the practice.
Over a decade ago, Mona began combining her love of both restorative yoga and yoga nidra to create her signature Restorative / Yoga Nidra Workshops, a style now being emulated by teachers around the world. She has developed a seven part Restorative /Yoga Nidra Chakra Series and a three part Ayurveda Series.
Mona's classes focus on bringing a lightness and joy onto the mat and into our lives. To her, the advancement of the practice is the ability to recognize our own imbalances and to have the tools to find balance. For Mona, the role of the teacher is to provide students with these tools and to empower students to trust their own inner teacher. Her classes stress the importance of becoming aware of and finding humor in the beliefs and assumptions we hold that shape our reality.
Mona currently teaches group classes at ISHTA Yoga and leads yoga retreats to India and around the world. She has a Masters in International Affairs from Columbia University and lives with her husband and two daughters in New York City.
Q&A from Ishta Blog
Where are you from?
I’m half Indian and half American. I grew up in Mumbai and moved to the US when I was 16
What inspired you to start a yoga practice?
I first started practicing yoga at school in India. We had a teacher come in and teach us Yoga Nidra. I felt so still and relaxed during and after yoga nidra that I continued to practice this technique through college and graduate school. In fact I would teach my friends in school how to practice yoga nidra when they were really stressed or hadn’t slept during exams -twenty minutes of yoga nidra is often compared to four hours of sleep.
As an adult I started having serious asthma attacks. In India, yoga is used therapeutically to help control asthma symptoms. As a child I went for special breathing classes before school to learn to breath correctly and build my lung capacity. My initial return to yoga as an adult was to control my asthma. I started taking restorative classes, which really helped release the stress locked in my body from the attacks and medications. I ventured into asana classes as well. I was a gymnast growing up and taking asana classes reconnected me to a stillness that I knew and loved when we put our minds into our bodies.
I love Ishta because the practice is individualized – we recognize that every day what we need to balance ourselves is different. Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of medicine, is a sister science of yoga, recognizes that each individual has a different body-mind type and therefore what each person needs is different. At ISHTA, we integrate the principles of Ayurveda into the practice. I worked with Alan to develop a method of integrating the principles of Ayurveda into the asana practice. ISHTA gives us the tools to recognize our imbalances and through the practice finding our own inner balance.
What makes teacher training and the practice at ISHTA different than other studios?
We don’t see life in black and white but instead in shades of grey. This translates to different ways to approach the practice for different body mind types. Also, as a tantric school, we believe that we are all perfect as we are and therefore the practice is not about getting from here to there but instead tapping back into our inner perfection that is already within us. This translates into a practice of self-acceptance and letting go of external measurements as a measure of the advancement of the practice. The ISHTA training gives teachers tools to help each individual step back into their essence using a variety of techniques including asana, pranayama, meditation, yoga nidra, visualizations or mantras.
Trainers have very different focuses and each teacher is encouraged to delve deeper into the part of the practice that resonates with them. For me it has been yoga nidra. I’ve worked on integrating yoga nidra and restorative yoga. My focus has been on developing yoga nidra practices for each chakra and most recently on designing yoga nidras for doshic imbalances. Alan and I are currently writing a book on yoga nidra and the chakras.
How would you describe your classes in three words?
Balance, breath, philosophy
Share with us your favorite moment or inspirational exchange with Alan Finger.
What inspires me about Alan is his lack of dogma. When you ask him for advice, he’s not wearing his yoga hat. He’s always present for the question and gives you advice that is real rather than fitting into a box of what would be the right yoga answer. It’s what makes his style of yoga so unique – you cannot put it into a box of do’s and don’ts.
Do you have a favorite sutra?
My favorite concept from the sutras is pratibakshabhavanam. When we’re feeing one way do the opposite to find balance. Often when we’re feeling depressed or anxious we get stuck analyzing what has caused the depression or anxiety. By resting on our worries and what’s wrong, we strengthen these synapses in our brain and it takes less and less to run these circuits. Pratibakshabhavanam encourage us to do the opposite of what we’re feeling to find balance. The more we run circuits of joy, the more we strengthen these circuits and the easier it is to feel happy. The ancient yogis had figure out what neuroscientists can now see through brain scans.
What classes do you teach at ISHTA?
12:30 – 1:45 pm Open with Yoga Nidra
12:30 – 1:45 pm – Open with Yoga Nidra
9:30 – 11:00 am Beginner/Intermediate with Yoga Nidra
I also teach Restorative/Yoga Nidra workshops to balance the Chakras and Doshas about once a month usually on Thursday evenings at Ishta Downtown.