For Naya Rappaport, yoga's more about the journey than the destination. The Florida-based yogi credits the practice for connecting her deeper to herself and helping her cultivate mindfulness, but what really fuels her passion is that there's always more to learn. Yoga never stops revealing new lessons—a discovery that Naya first made while committing to a daily practice after graduating from college. Now six years in, she teaches yoga in her community, spreading the amazing benefits of vinyasa flow coupled with breathwork and meditation. Get inspired by Naya's yoga journey, below, then flow to her favorite songs for an awesome practice.
How did you first get into yoga?
My mom introduced me to the practice when I was nine. Growing up in the Dominican Republic, my focus was having a basic student life. By "basic" I mean meltdowns, procrastination, insecurities, boys, zero body awareness and crazy hormones. Coming back to South Florida for college, I was able to pick up the Hot 26 (original Bikram Yoga) practice again. After getting my bachelor's in photography, I decided I wanted to become fully committed to my yoga practice. I drank the Kool-Aid and practiced asana daily for almost two years. As yoga revealed itself to me, I began practicing the different interpretations of the practice, and holy cow did I have a revelation about how much I didn’t know. It's now been over six years of continuous practicing, and I continue to have a tremendous appetite to get stronger and learn more.
Was there a yoga culture in the Dominican Republic when you were growing up there? What about now?
When I grew up in DR, there wasn’t a single yoga studio. Most people in DR are very religious, and yoga was frowned upon because the people’s misinformed view of the spiritual path of yoga didn’t align with their beliefs. Today, Santo Domingo, the capital of DR, has multiple yoga studios with an eager and growing audience!
The yoga community is absolutely expanding and I'm so happy to bear witness.
What’s your teaching style like?
I teach Vinyasa. I add the traditional sun salutations to every class, followed by a safe sequence to practice and flow to. Each class is different, and I'll keep you on your toes with a mix of Sanskrit words. I'll add breathe work (Pranayama) practice into the flow, along with meditation and my interpretation of the eight limbs of yoga, coupled with the balancing of the chakras.
How has your yoga practice impacted your day-to- day life?
My practice has helped me handle stress and loss and create a better relationship with myself and others. People continuously change & grow, and I believe my yoga practice has and is guiding me to become a better human, every day. I find myself smiling as I write this because I know how impactful yoga has been in my life to this point, and I’m so incredibly happy in knowing I still have so much more to learn and practice.
In addition to yoga, you’re also an amazing dancer! We love all your Insta vids where you fuse yoga and dance or just jam out in your house. What role does dance play in your life? Your practice?
Well, thank you! I love to dance!! I grew up in a dancing family, so every gathering, house party and school talent show was a dance-a-thon. I can't help but dance when I hear that beat. Also, dancing is a great workout!
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your yoga practice and how did you overcome it?
This is a good question. My biggest challenge has been honoring my body. For so long I've been stuck in the physical realm. After my 200-hour teacher training I realized that there are so many different ways to practice yoga. It was only after I completed my 300-hour teacher training that I got hooked on meditating and making yoga more of a mental practice. I feel like there will always be a challenge in my practice, whether physical or mental, but now I have the tools to handle it with grace, balance and poise.
What do you hope to accomplish next in your practice?
No expectations. Living day to day. I just want to be more mindful of myself and my surroundings.
What advice would you give to people who may be interested in trying yoga but don’t know where to begin?
I always tell them to just go to a studio and take a class. If you don't like it, try another teacher, go to a different studio or practice another type of yoga. There's something out there for everyone—it's just a matter of finding what interpretation is best suited for you. No studio? No problem. Get some books and visit Alo's YouTube channel for some guided asana practice.
Who or what inspires you in your practice? Favorite Instagram accounts?
Knowing that I'll see familiar and friendly faces at the yoga studios where I practice always inspires me to come back. There are SO many wonderful souls that inspire me! I honestly don't want to name any specific accounts because I don't want to mistakenly leave someone out.
Now, a Naya-curated playlist for your next yoga flow...