Yoga:My Path to Enlightenment

Yoga:My Path to Enlightenment

by: Niki Cheng Photos by: Mireya Acierto

When Rick asked me to write an article about yoga, I automatically started thinking about writing an introduction about yoga and types of yoga practices in New York City….but that would have been boring. The amount of yoga posts and experiences that my friends share with me are countless and I thoroughly enjoy reading and hearing about them. Even though I am not a yoga teacher, people tend to relate me with yoga. So instead of recommending yoga poses that will get you in the best shape, I am going to write about my yoga journey, what it means to me and what I have learned from practicing it. Yoga is very main stream now. Most of my guy friends think yoga is very sexy but yoga is much deeper than that.

“I like my women who practice yoga, they have tight asses” -Frank K


I am not going to lie; I started practicing yoga because I wanted to lose weight. I wasn’t overweight; I just wasn’t my “ideal” number at the time. About 12 years ago, or so, going to the gym became a trend. I proudly enrolled myself at a New York Sports Club. I, unwillingly, tried running, had a personal training session, lifted weights and took classes. Going to the gym was like pulling out teeth but I kept going two to three times a week to keep up the persona that I was a work out junkie. Then one day, I decided to take a yoga class. I figured it would be relaxing and I could brag about “taking another class” to my friends. Turns out it was far from what I thought it would be. The class was taught by my very first yoga teacher, Sylvia Smith. This woman alone changed my life and because of her, yoga became the workout I could come to love. The rest was history; I continued to see Sylvia at NYSC twice a week. I stopped practicing when I got pregnant. My body told me to stop and so I did. I parted ways with yoga for about 4 years.

“The main thing to me is the poses. The poses are so amazing. There is so much to learn. I don’t care if a teacher has a creative flow. That’s like yoga-tainment. We wouldn’t want to bore the students now, would we? Most teachers I find are not teaching alignment. They don’t know how to break down a pose.” -Sylvia Smith, certified yoga teacher.

After being gifted with two beautiful children, my body itched for a good stretch. I wanted to keep fit and be healthy. I left NYSC after we moved and enrolled at a yoga studio next to our new home, Sankahpah. I had never practiced at a real yoga studio before and was absolutely intimidated. Here I was in my mid-30’s raising 2 kids while running a business that I started in my 20’s. I saw myself as a conqueror: an immigrant from a developing country that “made it” in New York City. The students there didn’t care about you or what you did outside of class.

In there, all that mattered was you being in the here and now. That’s when I met Issac Pena. I realized that yoga was no joke. His classes were something I looked forward to everyday. My attitude changed; I became more humble and more content with work and life. His classes were very creative, challenging, fast, and precise. I also learned to listen! The simple act of listening to Issac’s instructions changed me dramatically. From listening, I learned to focus and by doing so I became even more passionate. I started to want to understand and be compassionate with the people around me.

“In the practice room, whether you call it a studio, a dojo, an ashram, a “living” room, you must strive to embody the same virtues and presence you wish to continue outside the room.” -Issac Pena, certified yoga teacher.

Sankahpah closed years later and I continued to practice at other studios, meeting a lot of amazing teachers and students along the way. I used to think yoga was just a physical workout but the physical aspect is just one of the 8 limbs of yoga called, Asana. What’s the other 7? I’ll let you go and discover that for yourself. There are now many types of yoga practices in NYC.

I take aerial, acro, astranga, iyengar, and hatha yoga, among many others. Try out as many forms as you can. Each one will take you on a different journey.

“Yoga is a great way for people to reconnect with themselves, to relieve stress, feel better both mentally and physically.” -Amanda McDonald, certified Aerial yoga teacher at Ohm Factory.

“I always left practice feeling a great sense of contentment that was independent of external circumstances. that contentment brings more compassion to my interactions with others.” Barbara Verrochi, Co-owner, The Shala “For me teaching is another form of practicing. So I think teaching changes you for the better – it keeps you honest, and demands that you are walking the walk and not just talking the talk.” Stacey Brass-Russell, Co-Owner, Yogamaya Yoga Studio.

All in all, to me, I have learned that yoga is a form of art; a very graceful act and lesson that brings everything together. The poses are dance moves where my body is active but my mind is calm. What I do on the mat daily carries forward to my everyday life. It has helped me become more disciplined, articulate, aware, observant, responsible and passionate about my surroundings.

“I think yoga is a phenomenal way for people to understand reality through the magic of their own bodies, to learn how to zoom out and see all of the intricate relationships that make the big picture what it is.” -Taylor Chen, Co-owner, Eastern Scholars Healing Arts

Now, what journey will you embark on?


Niki Cheng

is co-owner of BoConcept New York with her husband, Shaokao Cheng. They started BoConcept New York in 2003. With an architecture and interior design background, she has furnished many homes in New York City. She is the proud mother of a 7-year old girl and 4-year old boy.

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