We sat down with senior yoga instructor at Yogaworks, Mia Togo, to discuss all things yoga. She has been developing her personal practice and path for 20 years, continuing her journey with hundreds of students here in Los Angeles. Mia leads 200-hour and 300-hour teacher trainings every year, helping guide aspiring teachers down the physical and spiritual path of yoga. She’s also a dancer, life coach, and all-around inspiring person to be around. Read on to hear her thoughts on everything from the social ‘handstand trend’ to moving past the physical practice into the spiritual.
Q: Were you hooked on yoga after your first class or did it take some time?
A: I was not hooked at first, in fact I didn’t really like it. About a year later I took a class where I resonated with the teacher’s voice and style, then the love affair with yoga began. It was a slow process, about 3 years into my practice, I was finally hooked.
Q: What is the toughest part of your practice?
A: In the past it was being consistent with my asana practice. Now I practice almost everyday, even if it’s for 20 minutes of simple breathing and movement. I sit in meditation at the end for at least five minutes. Now the toughest part is to make more time to sit still, I’m working up to 30 minutes everyday.
Q: How do you feel like the “handstand trend” (in social media) has affected vinyasa yoga classes?
A: That’s a good question, and the positive part of this trend is that it’s opened up a dialogue to understand how you want your yoga to serve you. Handstands are grounding and fun when done with careful alignment and a deep understanding of the mechanics and the energy of shifting your perspective upside down. All of these poses affect our psyche as well as our soul, and that needs to be addressed so it doesn’t become a 3 ring citrus where students are getting hurt. I personally don’t post myself in fancy poses because that doesn’t feel authentic to me. The gift of my personal practice is the refinement of understanding my internal process so that I can make choices on and off the mat that serve my truth and spirit.
Q: What helped you start to delve beyond the physical asana part of the practice?
A: I was a psychology major and I started doing deep personal work with a gifted teacher years before I stepped into yoga. I was also a professional dancer, so I had a natural love of moving my body in a creative way. To me, our bodies are our vessel for transformation. We can choose to stay stuck and congested or we can choose to move through our ego/shadow and open up inner channels of communication. Yoga, became a sanctuary where I was confronted, challenged, but also had the choice in how I wanted to shift my practice and my life. It’s a powerful and revealing practice and when done with deep awareness, the ability for growth and expansion is endless.
Q: What is your #1 recommended book to read for learning more about the background and spirituality of yoga?
A: There are so many wonderful books. I’m going with “The Heart of Yoga“, one of the first books I read on my yoga journey. I found it very soulful and straight forward.
Q: What advice do you have for yogis graduating their teacher training, looking to further their career?
A: Make sure you are furthering your career from an authentic place. Teach what you love and are passionate about. Always be a student and stay inquisitive. When you stay open, your path will unfold organically. If it’s right for you it will happen with ease.
Q: Do you vary your exercise routine with anything besides yoga?
A: Yes! My yoga practice is not my exercise routine. Asana keeps my body in tune with my psyche, emotions and connected to my spiritual endeavors. I also take dance class, pilates, snowboard, hike and bike.
Q: What are the first three things you do when you wake up?
A: Kiss my boyfriend, kiss my dogs, and take a moment to be grateful for my life.
Q: What is your go-to breakfast?
A: Oatmeal, fruit and toast.
Q: Do you have a longtime quote or mantra that you always go back to?
A: Let it go and let it flow!