Name: Valerie Viosca
Where do you teach?: New Orleans Athletic Club and Swan River Arabi
What style of yoga do you teach?: Prajna Yoga
Valerie is a native New Orleanian who moved back to the city after many years out west. Her interest in holistic wellness is evident in her various degrees and certifications. Along with being a 200 Hour Certified Prajna Yoga Teacher, Valerie has a Masters in Oriental Medicine and is a licensed massage therapist and acupuncturist. She combines her knowledge from these disciplines to deliver a unique blend of alignment, anatomy, and Chinese meridian awareness in her yoga classes.
You’re certified in Prajna Yoga, which may not be a familiar style for some of our readers. Could you fill us in on what is unique about this particular form of yoga? The word “Prajna” in sandskrit means insight or wisdom. I like to translate it as an “anatomical understanding” that transforms the perception of one’s physical body while practicing asana. Through enhanced somatic awareness, the ripple effect of interconnectedness ties it together, thus explaning the “knot of eternity” which is one of the eight symbols that express the wisdom of the Bhuddist teachings. The Knot of Eternity is Prajna Yoga’s adopted symbol. It’s an awareness that is permeated to the nerve endings.
What inspired you to become certified in Prajna Yoga? I took classes at the Yoga Source in Santa Fe when Tias and Surya Little were the teachers and owners of that studio. I was in acupuncture school then, back in 1999. In 2005 I started working on the 200 hour teaching certification. I embraced the anatomical focus, alignment drawn from the Iyengar style, the skillful flow from Ashtangha, and the somatic awareness infused into classes. I knew I could take that, plus my backround in bodywork and Chinese Medicine, and instruct in such a way that a new philosophy could evolve one pose at a time.
How do you feel your students benefit from your combined understanding of several wellness modalities? I place emphasis on cultivating a deeper sense of presence and awareness through the breath and movement. They get a lesson in anatomy and Chinese Medicine theory. It’s east and west intermingled through an insightful, physically, mentally, and emotionally balancing practice.
Having lived and studied in New Mexico and Colorado where holistic wellness is fairly widely practiced, what do you find different about practicing and teaching in New Orleans? The holistic scene in the Rockies, from Boulder to Santa Fe, is saturated with alternative modalities (bodywork, acupuncture, and yoga). Almost everyone out west either has or knows somebody that gets massage or acupuncture or practices yoga.
I moved back to New Orleans after Katrina after having been away for over 15 years. I just wanted to help people feel better after that whole Katrina mess and kept that intention.
Since the Spring of 2006 I have seen yoga in New Orleans blossom into a thousand petal lotus. There are many more bodyworkers offering different styles and more people are turning to acupuncture for various ailments. They just want to feel good naturally.
Finally, what brings you the most happiness? The great outdoors…from the swamps, to the beach, to the mountains.