Q&A: Yoga Instructor Goldie Kaufenberg
If you do yoga in Boston, you’ve probably heard of Goldie Kaufenberg. She teaches at popular studios like Sweat and Soul Yoga and Back Bay Yoga. Here, Kaufenberg tells us about her life as a celebrity yogi, the benefits of hip-hop yoga, and how you, too, can do that gravity-defying arm stand.
What first drew you to yoga?
In short, my older sister, Zoe. I can recall my first yoga class as if it we yesterday. Zoe was heading to the original Back Bay Yoga Studio and asked me to tag along. It was 2008 and I had just ran the Boston Marathon, only two years after having titanium screws surgically placed into my broken ankle from a traumatic bouldering fall. I figured with all of the athletic training I did I should have a yin to my yang. Coming from a modern dance and ballet background, I loved my first class (which happened to be a Forrest Yoga class). I was intrigued, and couldn’t wait to go back.
What’s your favorite part about practicing?
When I am practicing, I am completely free. I am in a different world, a world so clear and uncluttered that when I move, I move in a way that creates a feeling of leaping across a floor in a tombé pas de bourree glissade grand jeté. (Visualize a ballerina leaping across a hardwood floor.)
I think a universal reason why people practice yoga, log mileage in sneakers, or spin pavement on bicycle wheels is because it provides us all a feeling of “Sigh. Ahh.” The dopamine that is released while moving the body and the mental clarity that is provided as a result is one reason why I practice yoga.
What advice would you give to a yoga newcomer?
I chat with people on a daily basis who have never been to a yoga class. Generally, these people tend to be athletes of some sort and crave the discipline that I know yoga can provide, or they just enjoy getting a good sweat in. I first remind them that yoga is preventative medicine that will buy them more time doing the sports they love to do. That’s how I first reel them in, and then they fall in love with it! I read a Facebook post once that said, “Yoga is like break dancing in slow motion.” I loved that quote and will occassionally throw that one to the men (sorry, guys) who think yoga is “easy.” Bottom line, yoga is for everybody and every body. Put on your big girl or boy pants and try something new. Don’t be lame and fall into the same routine. Do I sound like I’m peer pressuring you? Is it working?
How can someone who isn’t a professional yogi avoid intimidation in class?
First off, let’s get one thing clear: There is no such thing as a professional yogi. There are professional yoga instructors, but there are no professional yogis. Even teachers are students and have to practice daily. Lets put it this way: We all walk into a class looking different, having unique body shapes and sizes (thank goodness), and when we all do the same pose we are going to look different as a result. It’s a beautiful thing. You could argue that there is intimidation in everything and anything we do, from walking into a Whole Foods with no makeup and pajamas on, to giving a presentation at work. That’s not a reason not try something. Intimidated? All the more reason to practice yoga. Love thyself. You’re just as cool as the person next to you in a full split.
You teach a lot of unique classes, like black light yoga and hip-hop yoga. Why should someone try those as opposed to traditional yoga?
I think all practitioners should try all systems of yoga. I don’t think someone should try black light yoga or hip-hop yoga “opposed” to other classes; I think they should try them in addition to other classes. Different surroundings created by lighting, sound (or lack thereof), teacher, sequence, room temperature, etc., will all create a different experience for someone to practice in. Try everything, especially if you doubt your ability to like something.
Advanced poses like arm balances and inversions seem crazy to a lot of people. How can they work up to it?
They seem crazy to me too. Wait…they are crazy! Most people walking down the street don’t balance on their hands, so just practicing one krama (stage) at a time is progress in the making. I could go on and on and on about this, but I will provide you with a very straight forward, alignment based tip: A strong, solid chaturanga is the foundation for most arm balances. 90 degree angle in those elbow creases, yogis!