A few years ago after a particularly difficult time, I found myself face to face with this quote which had been posted on Nikki Ralston's facebook page.
"Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know" — Pema Chodron
I had one of those moments where a mental shift instantly took place and without hesitation I found myself reaching out to Nikki and embarking on an entire year of one-on-one yoga with this beautiful soul.
Not only did I instantly connect with the practice of yoga, as it fits in perfectly with my philosophy towards skin health and wellness, but also with Nikki herself — a beautiful, open-hearted gem of a human being. So naturally I'm thrilled to be able to share with you some valuable insights from Nikki including her favourite yoga asanas for glowing skin, something to calm and balance the nervous system, along with her essential self care practices.
KW: The yoga movement here in NZ has absolutely exploded over the past few years. With, what seems to be, a studio on every corner and an abundance of teachers offering different styles of yoga, how would you explain to the readers what they can expect when they turn up to one of your classes?
NR: They can expect to been seen and accepted for who they are first off. Urban Ashram is a safe, welcoming space where it's not about 'what' you do on the mat but 'how' you do it. We are really strong at supporting people in a yoga practice that can last a lifetime rather than fancy tricks to post on Instagram! We help cultivate a mindfulness that extends far beyond the mat that helps people live with more ease, clarity and joy in their lives.
KW: The thing that draws me to yoga is that it truly is a holistic practice. There's the physical side of it, combined with mental, emotional, and spiritual elements — I always leave a session feeling better than when I arrived. What first drew you to yoga and what keeps you dedicated to the practice?
NR: I initially came to yoga as a 19 year old athlete. I came as many people do for the 'stretch' but left feeling tall, lighter and more like myself than I'd felt in ages. Now after 20 years of practice that feeling is now my normal state and anything else is an indication of being out of balance. That is what keeps me practicing, the more I learn, the more I realise how much more there still is to learn and I love that!
KW: Even if I'm not doing a yoga class as such, I still find ways to bring yoga into my days with single asanas, especially when I'm working hands-on doing facials. For instance, when clients are getting themselves settled in the facial room I ground myself with mountain pose and breath work, and then in between facials my go-to pose is a restorative legs up the wall. Can you walk the readers through a simple asana that they can add to their wellness toolbox, perhaps something calming to the nervous system.
NR: My favourite is Setu Bandhasana for rebalancing the pelvis, opening the chest, balancing the nervous system and elevating the mood.
KW: The health of our skin is greatly impacted by all the other systems of the body. I wanted to chat about the circulatory systems (blood and lymph) so can you tell the readers about one of your favourite things — inversions, and how turning upside down can benefit the skin.
NR: Oh inversions are magic for the skin, eyes and brain! Don't worry you don't have to be in a headstand or handstand to reap the benefits — downward dog, dolphin or a wide legged forward fold work just as well to improve circulation in the face and head nourishing the pituitary gland also.
KW: Personally, this year's been really challenging and it's forced me to make some important life changes and really step up my own self care practices. I'm enjoying reclaiming a Sunday back as my own, having time unplugged and away from the phone, infrared saunas, meditation, and am super excited to get back to some yoga classes at the Urban Ashram! What self care practices do you ensure make up part of your day?
NR: Meditation for sure has become increasingly important. As a natural giver I can easily forget my own needs. It's a work in progress but I'm learning to say "no" more and valuing my worth, time and experience. This is my practice of self care at the moment and I tell you it's not easy, I love what I do so much, I'd do it for nothing — but that doesn't make life sustainable and I end up depleted. My partner Sef is also helping me get stronger to balance my body out, I just clicked to this now that the two run parallel, strength of my body and my boundaries - boom!
KW: And while we're on the subject of self-care. Something I often do is have a social media "detox", especially when I'm feeling overwhelmed — it's amazing how much space it frees up. I know you're super connected through social media, and of course we both appreciate it has its benefits, but what boundaries do you have in place to ensure it doesn't become all consuming?
NR: Boundaries again yes!!! For the first time this week I ran out of data because I accidentally turned wifi off, and I tell you it's been liberating and actually really great to not 'check in' all the time — it's really helped me to notice how it just seeps in and clogs up space. I do put my phone away at home and try to have phone free Sundays.
KW: Favourite product from the Aromatology range
NR: The rose facial serum No. 04
KW: Recommended read or must-see doco
NR: Light on life — BKS Iyengar
KW: Your ideal lazy Sunday
NR: Sleep in past 7am, morning snuggles, coffee, yoga, beach walk, yummy food, giggles more beach time, SUP, handstands, giggles, massage, fish tacos, movie, dark chocolate, cuddles, sleep.
KW: A mantra or quote you live by
NR: "Leap and the net will appear" - my Mum chose that one for me!