Q & A with Annie Kunjappy

Posted on October 14th, 2015


Annie K_opt

Annie Kunjappy was born and raised in Malaysia by immigrant parents from Kerala, India. She has been in New York since 2004, spreading her knowledge and love for food and conscious eating. Annie will be leading the food portion of our Seasonal Self-Care workshops on November 1 (Winter Wellness) and April 3 (Spring Detox).  




How do you know Leigh?

Leigh was my first yoga teacher! She started teaching her first yoga class at the warehouse loft space where I lived in San Francisco in 1990. I feel that her amazing teaching laid a strong foundation for my yoga practice in the years to come. We were both artists in the theater/dance/ performance world and have collaborated on several projects over the years.

Have you always been interested in food? When did you realize you would have a career as a chef?

My mother was a fabulous cook, so I had the good fortune of growing up eating very good food! I have always loved delicious, creative food, but my specific interest in food and healing came about from my own investigations into healing myself from eczema and other sensitivities that had plagued me since childhood. Western doctors at that time offered very little beyond steroids and cortisol creams as salves for the symptoms. My “return” to Eastern medicine and particularly to discovering the power of the daily practice of conscious eating was what finally healed me. This lead me to getting trained as a chef specializing in food and healing.

You studied and taught at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts. How did you decide on that specific program? What was it like going from student to instructor?

The Natural Gourmet Institute offered a program that included the study of Ayurveda, Chinese 5-phase Theory, Macrobiotics, etc. Their approach to gourmet cooking had, at its heart, a devotion to health and healing.

Your approach to to nutrition and self-care is based on Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine and western nutritional science. Can you explain how you integrate all of these “systems” into one?

Each tradition has fine-tuned it’s approach based on the truths of their environment, culture, history and value system. They have their differences and underlying similarities. I do not integrate all these systems into one by any means. Each person, under their specific set of conditions will ideally learn to address their own physical and spiritual needs informed and aided by the richness offered by these various approaches.

What can people expect from your upcoming seasonal attunement workshops?  Is it accessible to people who have not been exposed to ayurevda, chinese medicine and seasonal practices?

It is designed to be accessible to the newcomer with plenty of inspiration for further study and investigation. There will be very do-able recipes and easy to follow charts, etc. to take home and start your own practice. 

New Yorkers tend to be perfectionists. Is there a way to eat “perfectly” for the seasons? How would you suggest people approach a seasonal diet?

With a keen sense of listening to your own body, curiosity, and flexibility.

When you eat in alignment with the seasons, how do you feel?

Vital, energetic, strong, healthy. Not suffering from overheating in the summer, nor freezing in the winter. There is a sense of flow and ease.

You are also a performer. Do your two passions ever intermingle? 

There have been a few shows that included the eating of cupcakes, the cooking and consuming of food on stage, and recipes… And I try to bring my performance background into my workshops, with the hope of making them fun and inspiring…

What do you like to do in your free time?

Hmmm….. “free time”? Time is time for me…  I write and paint and read and do fun things with my family and friends….

If you could go anyplace in the world, right now, where would it be and why?

Right now, not always, it might be Tibet, as it used to be… I am curious to experience what a country whose governmental mission was the research into spiritual life would have been like….. Also the thin air, the high plateau the vista… 


Q & A with Jo Brill

Posted on September 2nd, 2015


We are delighted to present the Introduction to Sanskrit, with Jo Brill Sept 12, 13  through our Yoga Sukhavati: Art of Sound Module. Jo is a gifted and generous teacher and we are very excited to share her with you! We talked to Jo about her love of Sanskrit, how it enhances the teaching of yoga, and the many wonderful people she has met on her journey.

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Where are you from originally? How long have you lived in NYC?

I was born upstate, in Troy, but grew up “in the middle” — Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa. I’ve lived in New York State since 1980 when I started grad school, the first time, and I’ve lived in Peekskill (commuting distance!) since 1987.

How did you find yoga?

I started taking yoga after my first baby. Lucked into a wonderful teacher, Mia Azcue, the very first class and I have been her student since then!

How long have you practiced yoga? How long have you been teaching yoga?

I started practicing in 1988 or so — but casually. I got much more interested after a mid-life crisis in my 40s (I schedule one each decade!) and that’s when I sought out training, with Fran Ubertini, and began to teach — in 2004. Fran gave us several assignments to reflect on various yoga sutras, and I got frustrated with the variances in translation and interpretation! That’s what led me to Sanskrit.

How do you know Leigh?

I met Leigh when she signed up for a one-week intro intensive. That class was full of bright and loving people!! Of course Leigh was a ringleader!

Who is your sanskrit teacher?

I’ve studied with many wonderful teachers. My first teacher, Vyaas Houston, gave me invaluable tools for learning and focus — and his love of the Sanskrit theory of grammar proved contagious! I have had amazing opportunities to study with marvelous teachers at the University of Chicago, Oxford, Columbia, and Penn — some of the finest Sanskritists in the world. I must also mention Prof. Ramkaran Sharma, with whom I studied seven summers; his sweetness and brilliance as a teacher and a person is unparalleled.

What got you interested in Sanskrit? At what point did you decide you wanted to teach it yourself?

It was not the sound, though that attracts so many people. It was the philosophy. I wanted clarification! And I wanted it straight from the source, not distorted by commentary. Yes, I was a little naive!
Vyaas had us start teaching early. When I started in 2007, I’d been studying for just 18 months, and really didn’t know much! — but I was able to teach the alphabet using his wonderful method.

What is the most rewarding part of learning sanskrit?

Sanskrit continues to teach me about the incredibly complicated texture of human learning and culture. For a while I loved the neatness — you know, like math. Turns out, as with math, when you go far enough, things get less neat! I’m just grateful that somehow I found this language, so elegant and powerful, as well as the astoundingly huge multitude of texts it opens up for the reader.

As a yoga instructor, how does learning sanskrit beyond the names of asanas enhance ones teaching?

More and more, I feel that it’s important for westerners, many of us from variously privileged backgrounds, to remember that we are choosing to spend our time with cultural phenomena that are not ours by heritage. For our students’ sake too, it’s important not to be a jerk. Even inadvertently! While we may love the “exotic” for its power to show us truths about ourselves (more clearly perhaps than our own cultural practices do) — we should keep in mind that symbols, and certainly utterances, have religious and political implications we are almost certainly not fully aware of. It’s important to keep firmly in mind that we don’t know everything — on the contrary! Sanskrit has been for me a never-ending onion. Its layers and layers of meaning and significance are truly humbling.

What are you looking forward to most about being a part of Yoga Sukhavati’s Art of Sound module?

I absolutely love teaching this workshop. For one thing, I have met so many lovely people through Sanskrit. So when I walk in and see your faces, and hear your voices, I know that there are warm and precious connections to be made. For another — well, any time you spend hours with these sounds, you will have fun and you will go deep! Last, I know I will learn something. It’s through Sanskrit that I finally learned how grateful teachers are for students. I will love meeting each person!

You just returned from India.  Any take-aways from this most recent trip that you would like to share?

It was only my second trip. I’m still processing, but again, I must emphasize the people. Brilliant and caring teachers, a warm and wonderful host family, and awesome fellow students who broadened my mind with their wide range of interests. Such generosity!

What is your favorite activity to do in NYC?

Hmmm, that’s difficult! Theater, maybe? But I also love to eat! Recently my two sons that live in Brooklyn have been showing me some great new restaurants. My third son has also treated me, but you didn’t ask about Boston!

Please add anything else you would like to share!

Until we meet, भद्रं ते !


Q & A with Lucy Child

Posted on July 13th, 2015


On Friday, August 21, 7:30-9pm Lucy Child will lead a Gong bath to kick-off the Healing Power of Sound, which is part of the Yoga Sukhavati: Art of Sound module. We talked to Lucy about the healing powers of sound, the people who inspire her and where she gets lost in the city.


Where are you originally from?

I’m from upstate New York about a mile from Lake Ontario, Rochester.

How long have you been in NYC?

Too long…!

What brought you here?

I came here to pursue my creativity in any way possible; acting, singing, songwriting and performing.

You’ve been a musician all your life. Who are your biggest influences?

My biggest influences would have to be 60’s icons like Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, such beautiful truth and poetry-Joni with her rawness and vulnerability both lyrically and musically, Bob for his rebellion and stream of conscious prose in the simplest of melodies.    

As part of the Yoga Sukhavati Art of Sound module, you will be leading a sacred gong bath during the Healing Power of Sound workshop weekend. What exactly is a gong bath?

A gong bath is a sound meditation, an act of passive and active listening while lying down in a relaxed pose.  The sounds consist of the harmonic and deep tones of the gong as well as other sound makers like bowls, bells, chimes, tuning forks, drums and the voice.  It is a bathing of sounds, but also a sonic adventure for the spirit.  It can be an unusually profound experience.

In your opinion, what are the healing benefits of sound? 

I think the benefits are limitless. Every experience is different. Everyone experiences it differently, too.  Scientifically speaking, it has been proven to balance the energies of the brain hemispheres thus slowing the heart beat and breath, and can even minimize and/or eliminate chronic pain. It is a great tool for relaxation and meditation. But I believe the benefits to be far more significant than that. I’ve heard so many varying and personal stories from people about their experiences. And I also have my own experiences to draw from.  Sound is poignantly deep work. There’s something about it that not only connects us to our inner realms, memories, and hidden emotions and fears, but also something greater, something sublime. This is something we are craving in the modern world we live in. It’s a hopeful experience.

As a part of the Yoga Sukhavati Art of Sound Module, what are you most excited to share with the participants of this weekend workshop?

I love to create a tranquil environment for everyone to explore in and of course sharing my beloved gong.

How do you know Leigh?

I met Leigh a few years ago when she came to me for a sound healing. A mutual friend had gifted her the session I believe.  She then asked me to teach a module on sound for her Yoga Sukhavati training.

You are the founder of Sacred Sound Tribe. Can you tell us more about that?

I wanted to create an experience of sound as a community, one that is rooted in positive intent, self healing and raising awareness of our personal and communal power to create change.  I also wanted to create a platform to connect to ancient tribal traditions of using music and sound to heal, a sacred way to sort of safely clear the airwaves via listening and the energy of the tribe, a place to come and know we are not alone wherever we are. The idea of it continues to evolve.

When you’re not leading sound baths, what can you be found doing? 

I often get asked to lead sound meditations for various events, private gatherings, and ceremonies-funerals, weddings. I also do workshops, private sound sessions and occasionally gong lessons. 

What is your favorite thing about NYC?

My favorite thing about NYC is its rawness and uniqueness. It has such an energy, very alive. It’s city that doesn’t try, it just is.

What is your favorite thing to do in NYC?

My favorite thing to do is just walk and get lost, eat somewhere delicious along the way. Let the day take me. I’m never bored roaming these streets.

Where is your favorite location for an escape from the city?

I’m a big fan of the tiny East Village gardens. They seem to be on every block the further east you go in Alphabet City. I could also get lost at the Met.

For more information, visit Lucy’s website. Sign-up for the Healing Power of Sound workshop, here!