Time with Nango Murray, Costa Rican yoga teacher and world traveler!
RYB: How and when did you fall in love with yoga?
NM: In 2004, yoga tripped into my life! I was a dance teacher, teaching an adult dance class in a gym, and the owner of the gym announced to me that the space I was about to teach my class in was going to be used by a Yoga instructor he had hired to come (from the U.S.) and offer an intensive “yoga fit” training course to the gym´s personal trainers. In compensation for using the space I had sublet for my dance lessons, he invited my students and I to take the master yoga class. He further compensated by including me in the weekend intensive training course.
A few days after experiencing yoga and I was FLYING!!! I literally felt I could FLY…I was so energized, fulfilled, enthusiastic and free of pain! A dancer tends to live with pain, and I was no exception. I even had a hospital appointment for surgery on both my knees the following month. Due to this surgery, I wasn´t looking forward to a 6-week recuperation period, (staying still is not easy for a “Vata”) so I ordered some yoga books on internet (mind you, there were practically NO yoga books in Costa Rica 10 years ago) because I wanted to look into this “new” (to me!) yoga philosophy. I continued practicing a little yoga here and there (very few options in CR at the time) and when my doctor´s appointment came up 3 weeks later, I asked the doctor to postpone the surgery date because my knees felt almost 90% recovered. It has been 10 years with no surgery even in my thoughts, and MANY, MANY yoga books and teacher´s training yoga courses later, I am completely immersed in Yoga: teaching, learning, practicing, offering retreats and Ayurveda workshops, Spiritual trips to India, etc. My dance career happily moved to another place and yoga is now part of my life to stay!
RYB: How would you describe your yoga classes?
NM: My classes are active, dynamic, challenging, but “doable” for any level of practitioner. I always share a little yoga philosophy at the begining, so my students experience a learning aspect of yoga and not just “copy the postures the teacher is doing”. I like to include pranayama techniques and finally asana. Meditation is offered after asana when I teach at retreats, where time is not a limitation.
RYB: You were a dancer and professor for many years, tell us a little bit about it...
NM: First, I was a Phys. Ed. Teacher. I was in the University Gymnastic´s Team, and a very delicate, graceful Japanese gymnast came to CR to be our coach. I thought of taking a little dance clases on the side, so I could be as elegant and graceful as my Japanese coach and fell in love with dance! Classical ballet and Modern Dance had the physical aspect that I thrive on, as did gymnastics, but this had an artistic-creative aspect as well, which interested me very much. A few years later, I found yoga which is both physical, artistic, creative AND spiritual! I had run a dance school for 20 years, as teacher, dancer, choreographer, producer, costume designer, etc. with a very demanding schedule, so the transition to yoga was easy...as if yoga had been waiting for me all this time!
RYB: What are some similarities between dance and yoga?
NM: In my opinion, there are no similarities at all! Dance, especially classical ballet technique, does not apply a natural alignment of the bones in the body, whereas yoga is all about alignment and protecting the joints. Dance does not emphasize any particular breathing technique, whereas yoga is all about breathing through the movement. Dance is about achieving perfection in the form and movement of the body, while yoga is more about feeling and flowing through the postures, and adapting the posture to the body´s possibilities. Dance is practiced to reach a goal, to achieve an esthetic visual effect, and the only goal in yoga is being present and aware.
RYB: How has your passion for dance shaped your yoga practice?
NM: Dance has given me a deep awareness of my body and general understanding of my students bodies, but most important, I apply the same discipline from my dance career to my yoga practice.
RYB: You are from Costa Rica and spend much of your time teaching all over the country…tell us where we can find you?
NM: I teach mainly in the capital city San José, but offer retreats at beach locations, mountains, rain forests, etc. (Cala Luna, Tamarindo; Tiskita Lodge, Pavones; Montaña Azul, Los Angeles de Rivas, Macaw Lodge, Bijagual) Also, I have been teaching all year at the women´s prison in San José. (Centro de Atención Integral el Buen Pastor).
RYB: What are 3 benefits to living in Costa Rica?
NM: I have only lived here in Costa Rica all my life, so I have no other country for comparison, but I guess I really appreciate the weather (no snow EVER!), we don't have an Army which makes us feel happy and comfortable, and we are so close to incredible nature: sunny, pristine beaches, spectacular mountains, wonderful rain forests, tropical dry forests, cloud forests.
RYB: What is your favorite places in Costa Rica?
NM: Sámara and Punta Banco (Pacific beaches) and Montaña Azul (retreat center).
RYB: How do you see yoga evolving in the country (CR) in the next 10 years?
NM: I hope it moves towards the more spiritual aspect of yoga because, as most of yoga in the West, CR has embraced the deep asana practice, sometimes leaving out the endless wisdom of yoga philosophy!
RYB: One of your favorite places in the world you would recommend:
NM: India because it is vibrant, caotic, colorful, astonishing, diverse, enigmatic, delirious, sensuos, exotic, generous, friendly, hallucinating, spiritual - all of these qualities blend together and always offer a learning experience!
RYB: One of the best pieces of advice you would like to share with readers?
NM: The advice I offer my students for the maintenance of a healthy body, mind and soul is to give yourself a short 20 minute daily practice (if its too long, it´s easy to skip occasionally!) of pranayama (5 minutes), asana (10 minutes) and meditation or just “checking in” with oneself (5 minutes). And then combine this with at least two or three group yoga practices a week.