Interview and Photography: Joanna Feldheim
Kanan Kapila knows how to make the most decadent Chai. And making Chai is just one of her many offerings.
When I first met Kanan, images of generosity, authenticity and gratitude came to me. Watery and wise, Kanan is generous with her many beautiful and unforgettable gifts— whether you are being handed an insanely delicious no-sugar cookie, expanding your yoga practice or even delivering your baby. Everything she says and does is informed by her depth of character as a Hindu American...all sprinkled with health and wellness, intuition and heart.
Her holistic approach to living embodies all of what she is and does. After a successful launch as co-founder of Jaipure Yoga, Kanan launched a new center, The Vastu Yoga, Yoga & The Practice of Wellbeing— a destination for yoga, teacher training, meditation and wellness.
I was lucky to spend an afternoon with Kanan in her kitchen as she made her chai and spoke about her life.
A: I was born in Gujarat, India and came to America when I was in the first grade. My father came to the US knowing nobody with $8 in his pocket.
A: As a young girl, I felt disconnected to the culture in America. Often teased and bullied at school, I longed to go back to India where my grandmother and extended family resided. I spoke my native language Gujurati fluently and then learned English while growing up here in the States. It was not until I was my freshmen year in college where I met a group of amazing friends that really embraced me, that I was able to stand proud and integrate being an East Indian American.
A: In my 20's, my best friend Reshma and I decided to try yoga. So we took our first class with a masterful Vinyasa teacher, Raji Torn. Raji was an American who chanted in Sanskrit and shared storytelling from India. We became good friends and his wife Rose became my birth doula who inspired my own path to serving other laboring women. This powerful connection with Raji led me to practice and explore more.
Another profound awakening was during Kundalini class with Gurmukh Khalsa at her studio Golden Bridge in LA. I was pregnant at the time visiting my sister Brinda, who mentioned some buzz about people recommending Gurmukh's popular prenatal class. Gurmukh had a way of making each woman feel strong, capable and empowered. She had us sit in a circle after the practice and share who we were, which trimester and how we were feeling. Each woman I met was extraordinary— from amazing artisans and businesswomen including Cindy Crawford, Carrie Ann Moss. I never felt so happy and grounded. It was a cathartic, heart opening experience. It was then that I found my passion to teach.
I trained in prenatal Yoga with Gurmukh and then went onwards and received my E-RYT 500 with the amazing and skillful Jennifer Kohl. And most recently, I have been studying with Nevine Michaan who founded Katonah Yoga. She is pure magic!
A: I teach Vinyasa class. We first set the intention (sankalpa) to tune inwards towards our heart, we cultivate sound through voice, inspiration, instrument, we then begin to move the body energetically while maintaining awareness throughout the arrangement of poses (asanas) created for strength, resilience, and fluidity. We focus on the breath continuously, then deeply relax and meditate thanking our lucky stars that we get to practice. Class is influenced by study and practice in Iyengar, Kundalini and Katonah Yoga. I also teach Restorative and Yin at the studio and designed a yoga program for Autistic children and adults. Currently, I am also teaching Prenatal Yoga privately...to prepare woman for labor and birth. In addition, I am truly enjoying an adjunct professor position teaching college level yoga course at Bloomfield College.
Yes. I grew up praying and meditating as a daily ritual every morning and evening. It's the most profound way of staying present and connected, no matter what is happening. Meditation transcends the physical practice, creates the space to illuminate...your own self to the supreme. There are different meditations out there and can be confusing. My suggestion to my students is to just sit and tune in.
A: Blue water tones, mocha, orange. I was once dispassionate about Green but now I am strongly drawn to it.
A: Cycling with my favorite instructor Kristin Kenny. She is currently at Flywheel in NYC. She is the real deal cycling master.
A: I have been successful serving mothers in best birth practices. The practice of movement, stillness, the transitions of breath is crucial in the laboring woman. My recent clients Thara Natalie and Jay Sean had an incredible birth story. Thara was super present, connected to every sensation and labored gracefully. The whole experience was meditative, intuitive and powerful. They have become family to me and I am grateful for every student and experience. I am hoping she writes a book one day.
A: Meditate first thing to set the intentions, then I warm up spending at least 20 minutes doing elemental surya namaskaras (sun salutations) with deliberate intentions on grounding (earth), gratitude (fire), spirit (air), flow (water) and illumination (space). Then practicing class sequencing, often inspired by the seasons and what the body needs to sustain. I also participate in Iyengar and Kundalini classes by my stellar teachers at The Vastu.
A: We are delighted to be offering a TVYTT this year. The training is an in-depth exploration of several modalities, bringing potency in practice and serving your purpose as a teacher or simply deepening your practice to be a well centered practitioner. TVYTT includes notable and international teachers as guest faculty.
A: India is a magical, spirited place with spaces big and small for every being to come together and experience the culture, foods, rituals, structures and to share their rich offerings. I believe the PRITI brand and philosophy upholds what yoga means, to be one...with nature, self, each other. Yoga begins with gratitude and the PRITI brand embraces wholeheartedly gratitude for the origin of Yoga in India— therefore supporting their precious cotton and weaving techniques from artisans.
The PRITI brand believes strongly in Ahimsa (Non-Harm) and uses Khadi, fairly traded organic cotton, undyed or azo-free dyes and eco-sustainable tree-harvested rubber. They also share the warmth with blanket donations to the homeless and support Kids of Kathmandu— supplying food and blankets to children in Nepal. Every household should have an item from PRITI. Each item is beautifully designed and intrinsically functional.
A: A cookbook! The Indian Modern Cuisine... a fresh take on family recipes. My mother cooks simple dishes full of flavor and my father is also a fabulous cook. My family owned a restaurant in Gujurat, which my father took to passionately and named it “Milano,” meaning a place to meet in Sanskrit.
A: Start with organic tea leaves...I currently use a wonderful local company Yogic Chai organic black Assam loose tea. Use organic milk of choice, I prefer organic whole milk.
A: I'm delighted to.
by Kanan Kapila
Masala chai (/tʃaɪ/; Hindi: मसाला चाय, literally "mixed-spice tea" Urdu: مصالحہ چاےٴ Nepali: मसलेदार चिया) is a flavoured tea beverage made by brewing black tea with a mixture of aromatic Indian spices and herbs. Originating in South Asia, the beverage has gained worldwide popularity, becoming a feature in many coffee and tea houses. In many places, there is a misconception that "chai" in itself is made with cardamom, ginger, and the other common spices. However, chai is simply the Hindi word for tea and can be prepared black, with milk, without sugar, etc.
For new students, The Vastu Yoga is offering first class free. Mention PRITI to redeem your free class. For any further information:
Kanan, LCSW, E-RYT 500, is a mom, teacher and therapist; she has been teaching yoga since 2001. She was born in India, the birthplace of Yoga, where she was introduced to meditation at an early age. After graduating with a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Fordham University, she worked as a licensed therapist in private and public sectors of maternal and child health. Her passion for teaching Yoga began 15 years ago, practicing Vinyasa and Kundalini Yoga & Meditation.
Kanan approaches Yoga as an art form. Her classes are rhythmic and robust, integrating the media of energy and calm position with attention to what is present in body constitution, breath, sound and meditation. Through meaningful teachings and powerful practice, yoga creatively informs us that we can strengthen and refine the shape and quality of our body, mind and heart.
Her yoga practice empowered her two beautiful homebirth experiences, which led to her becoming a Prenatal Yoga teacher (Khalsa Way) and Birth Doula (MotherLoveDoulas). Kanan received her 300 and 500 hour advanced yoga certifications in Hatha/Vinyasa, Kids and Prenatal at Lotus Yoga. She trained and maintains her study and practice under the guidance of notable teachers in NYC, NJ and CA.
She is featured in print & film media including “Orgasmic Birth” and “Postpartum Yoga with Gurmukh.” Kanan also leads a skillful prenatal program offering labor & birth workshops, doula services, nutrition and lactation support.
The Vastu Yoga Architect: Doug Miller dmiller@ahmarchitects.