Chat on the mat with master yogi Nicky Knoff
Nicky Knoff is one of the last true Mothers of Yoga.
The 81-year-old is renowned around the world for her teaching style of showing students how to look, listen, feel and tune in through the practice.
A direct student of B.K.S. Iyengar and Sri Pattabhi Jois, Nicky is the founder of Knoff Yoga – a new system of yoga principles that teaches a transformative mix of Iyengar and Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga based on intelligent alignment and energetics.
Next month, Nicky is bound for BodyMindLife for the very first time. Over two days she’s set to lead four workshops in Surry Hills on her syllabus, drawing from some of the greatest Indian teachers to challenge and enlighten what you know about yoga on the mat and beyond.
How long have you practiced yoga?
I started yoga October 1970 in Tokyo, Japan. It’s been 49 years.
It’s not often that you hear that in the West! Tell us about your teachers? Who inspired you in the beginning and how did your method Knoff Yoga begin?
My teacher in Japan was Bikram Chaudhury, when he was teaching the 26 postures of Gosh’s Yoga College of India. This was long before he was enticed to go to America and became infamous. I used to travel from Japan once per year and I would always seek out Iyengar trained teachers.
This encouraged me to study directly with BKS Iyengar and I eventually became a certificated Senior Iyengar Yoga Teacher. After 18 years of Iyengar I studied with K Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in Mysore and practiced this approach for 10 years learning the 1st , 2nd , 3rd and 4th Series. I also studied with TKV Desikachar.
From these experiences Knoff Yoga evolved. This method fuses the anatomical alignment of Iyengar Yoga with the energetic aspects of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga – Bandha, Drishti, Ujjayi, Pranayama and Vinyasa.
What’s a class like with you?
My students will tell you that I am strict and have eyes in the back of my head. We always have fun and there is laughter while people are learning (and they come back), so it can’t be too bad!
You’ve taught for more than 40 years. How have you seen the teaching of yoga change over that time?
One of the things that has changed is the level of physical fitness – over 40 years the level of the majority of new students has dropped considerably, to the point where we had to create a basic, more accessible level to accommodate them.
There has been a proliferation of yoga teachers with little to no knowledge, too. They are getting pumped out of substandard teacher training courses. So now, there is a plethora of low-level teachers, a huge gap in the middle, and a few excellent high-level teachers – it’s important to seek out these ones.
If you could give one piece of advice to students looking to deepen their practice, what would it be?
My one piece of advice is to practice with “full attention.” Turn off the music, switch off the phone, snuff the incense, and only leave the mat to go to the toilet. Have any props or equipment next to you so you keep focused. You’ll be amazed at what can happen.
We’re so excited to have you at BodyMindLife next month. Tell us about the four workshops you’re running in studio… who are they for and what can students expect?
I’ll be presenting the Knoff Yoga Foundation syllabus across two days of training. On both days, in all sessions, I will emphasise the Knoff Yoga 24 Principles of Practice.
Students will be given extensive notes before the course to get more from the sessions and they’re designed for everyone except brand new yogis. You can expect to work, learn and have fun!
Nicky Knoff is teaching four workshops at BodyMindLife on 21st and 22nd September. Spaces are limited! Click here for more details.