The interview that follows took place on March 24, 2020 as the coronavirus had already begun to strongly impact our day-to-day lives. Like so many other yoga teachers and studio owners, Sue Elkind has been busy navigating the best way to bring her studio’s classes online, as well as how to keep her family and herself safe and healthy during this pandemic.
She has been grappling with a range of issues that require strategic choices—including which video software to use for recording her yoga studio’s live online classes, how to efficiently manage her schedule and that of her teachers, whether or not to adjust the dates and/or formats of upcoming events at her studio, and how to balance all of these things with time spent with her husband and two teenage boys.
She also wondered out loud if she’ll have any time left over for the other things she loves: making pottery, cooking, and playing music. And she reflected on what this “disruptive but needed” moment means to her.
She talked about her hope that society will embrace a more enlightened approach to work and life going forward, and expressed her feeling that “We have an opportunity now, albeit in a horrible way, to rise up to a new level of responsibility. To work together in a more collaborative and cooperative manner. Competition and rampant capitalism were not working. It’s time to move away from how things are affecting ‘me’ to how things are affecting ‘we.’”
Much of what Sue shared with us about her path with yoga helped to explain her expectation that the practice could aid such a transition in society.
Sue's interest in movement began at a young age. The daughter of a professional ballet dancer, she danced as a child and always loved trying out new styles. In the early ’90s, after she graduated from college, she moved from New York to Los Angeles and did jazz, African, and street dance. It was in a street dance class that she sprained her ankle, and as she began to heal she decided to try yoga again (having previously taken some yoga classes in New York). She recalls going to a very crowded, very hot Baptiste-style class and feeling out of place. “I couldn’t do anything! It was humbling to see all the people in the front row doing hard poses. I wanted to master those poses too.”
Sue’s first teachers were Baron Baptiste and Bryan Kest, and she did her first yoga teacher training at YogaWorks with Maty Ezraty, Chuck Miller, and Eddie Modestini. “This was in the early ’90s when Los Angeles was truly the hub of yoga education in America,” she says.
Today, Sue is an internationally respected yoga teacher, educator, and author of the widely distributed Dig Pregnancy, Birth & Baby: A Conscious and Empowered Approach to Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga. Her pre and postnatal approach has been successfully replicated in teacher trainings around the world that support pregnant people, parents, yoga teachers, midwives, and doulas.
Sue and her husband, Naime Jezzeny, are “yoga parents” to hundreds of students and teachers. As yoga studio owners for the past several decades, they are known for creating community as a sanctuary to gather and grow. They offer weekly classes, meditations, and teacher trainings through Dig Yoga, their home studio, in Lambertville, New Jersey. Dig’s livestream classes are available now through digyoga.com. (You can also take classes with both Sue and Naime on Yoga International!)
Below, we ask Sue the same questions we ask all of our featured teachers so you can learn more about her yoga background, her interests outside of yoga, and what you can expect from her classes on YI.
What style, tradition, and/or lineage are you a part of (if any)?
After my training at Yogaworks, I went on to train in meditation and yoga with Erich Schiffmann. And for the next decade, I continued to learn from an extraordinary list of international senior Iyengar and Ashtanga yoga teachers who came to L.A. I regularly took class with teachers like Rod Stryker, Shiva Rea, Seane Corn, Max Strom, and Ana Forrest, and also studied kundalini yoga with Gurmukh, Viniyoga with Gary Kraftsow, and Anusara yoga with John Friend [Sue was among the first fifty certified Anusara teachers and went on to train many people in the school before she left].
Along with the many talented people I’ve studied asana with, I have also been blessed to have the extraordinary scholars Sally Kempton, Douglas Brooks, and Paul Muller-Ortega as my teachers in meditation and philosophy for over two decades.
My style today is a combination of all that I’ve learned over the past 25 years of yoga experience—I guess I’d call it alignment-based hatha vinyasa.
What can students expect from your classes on YI?
My prenatal and postnatal classes emphasize good biomechanics, precise instruction, breathwork, empowering language, and always a laugh or two! We work hard but equally enjoy time to rest and restore. My classes are lighthearted yet challenging, emphasizing good alignment, strength, and creative sequencing that either flows or goes deep into long holds. I always make time to restore or meditate. My aim is to inspire students to expand their potential physically, mentally, and spiritually.
What’s on your mind these days yoga-wise?
I am lucky to live with a serious anatomy geek, my husband, Naime Jezzeny, so there’s always conversation in our house around the latest research in human movement science and biomechanics. I love helping people with their muscular imbalances and injuries. I am also passionate about studying and sharing any new research on brain health, heart coherence, and the benefits of meditation.
What do you like to do outside of yoga?
Being in nature is extremely important to me, especially right now in this time of social distancing! I make time every day to get outside either to take a walk or just commune in my garden. I love to keep my creative juices flowing—right now it’s working with my hands in clay, making pottery. I love creating things of all sizes and functionality. My next goal is to get back to playing music—my harmonium and tamboura have been waiting patiently for my return.
What has been an ongoing source of inspiration for you?
I love cooking for my family. Food and eating well are a source of inspiration and non-negotiable for me. When I have the time I can easily spend five hours in the kitchen. Sometimes I wake up early to make a big breakfast for my family. Steel-cut oats with cut mango and shredded coconut are a favorite.
Find out more about Sue and try one of her pre or postnatal classes or pre/postnatal courses on YI!