When rock star yogini Sadie Nardini first started practicing yoga in a desperate attempt to heal her body after a debilitating childhood accident, she never envisioned that she would become one of the most sought after yoga instructors in the country; But when she was thrust into a teaching position after her yoga instructor moved to India, Sadie found her voice and has been using it to empower men and women across the world to rock their most authentic selves. She has developed a unique teaching style and philosophy that focuses on helping students connect with their center, and incorporates expert anatomy knowledge to ensure safe alignment while moving through core-strengthening sequences to access the full benefits of yoga.
Not only is Sadie a rock star on the mat, but she has been rocking out behind the mic and will be bringing her new band to this year’s MAYfest, where you can catch her performing tracks from her debut album, Salt & Bone, as well as new music she has been working on with some of the best musicians and producers in the country. Other artists on the lineup for MAYfest include Trevor Hall, Turkuaz, Pink Talking Fish and many more.
I had the opportunity to chat with Sadie Nardini about her unique approach to yoga and wellness, her path to realizing her true nature as a bad ass singer-songwriter, and her exciting plans for MAYfest, the three-day music, art, and yoga festival which takes place May 27th-29th in Cold Spring, New York.
Check out our conversation below, and then head over to the Official MAYfest website for more information about this once in a lifetime event.
SR: You had a pretty serious injury in your youth that led to years of pain and health issues. How did you end up finding yoga, and did you have any idea that the practice would be such a powerful tool for physical healing?
SN: You know, I didn’t. I was desperate, because I didn’t know if there were any answers or any way to get out of the illness that I thought I had. I was given a diagnosis of spinal meningitis, but I found out later in life that I had actually broken my spine in an accident when I was younger. The untreated injury was causing so much pain that I couldn’t move; I couldn’t walk. The doctors did not really know what to do and pretty much just said, “Good luck”, and sent me home. My mom was familiar with yoga. She watched the Richard Hittleman shows on TV, and at one point bought the book, so when she found the yoga book on the shelf she gave it to me in hopes that it might help. I ended up doing restorative yoga for a year. My teacher would put me in these postures and I would just hang out in them. That ended up essentially realigning my spine and helped me move better, little by little. It really saved my life because I thought it was over. I found yoga out of desperation, and it ended up being the one thing that brought any kind of comfort or relief to my situation. I just kept doing it as much as I could because nothing else was helping, and it completely changed my life.
SR: Did you know immediately that you wanted to teach?
SN: Not at all. I never thought I would be a teacher, ever. Once I could move a little better, I started studying with a woman who taught power yoga. After three years of studying with her she made a move to India and wanted to certify me so that I could take over her classes. I didn’t have any interest in that whatsoever, but I knew that If I didn’t all of her other students would be losing a teacher, so I got over myself and got over my fear and started teaching so that we would have a place to go each week and do yoga. I don’t think I would have ever done it on my own without someone forcing me to do it. Since then I have studied with anatomy masters for over ten years because I really wanted to be able to teach the biomechanics and how to access the healing powers of yoga more safely for every type of body. People who don’t think they can do stronger movement end up being really surprised in my classes because we are working with how their body organically moves so that they can adapt to meet themselves where they are.
SR: These days you are super busy, travelling all over the world to teach. How do you maintain a regular practice and healthy eating when you’re on the road?
SN: I really try to make myself first priority. Wherever I am I think, “how can you get what you need today no matter what environment.” So if I know I am going to have an all-day flight, I will take a sack of healthy food, some moisturizer, a lot of water, and ear plugs to help me sleep. It’s not always perfect, but if I’m making the small choices to put my health first, it all adds up. I just try to keep in mind that I won’t feel well if I’m not taking care of myself first, so it really just has to be a conscious priority. Each year, I am just trying to figure out how I can do more of the things I love with less strain.
SR: There has been an increasing phenomenon of the yoga teacher celebrity. Social media has played a huge part in exposing people to yoga who might not have found their way to a studio otherwise, but it seems like it can be pretty exhausting to have to be ‘on’ 24/7. How do you keep from burning out?
SN: I do get burnt out sometimes. It is a lot to show up in person and then also to do all of the online stuff. It’s all relationships, and relationships take a lot of energy. If I feel myself getting burnt out, I try and look at where I’m over giving. No one really cares about my new haircut. Do I have to post that? Not really. So we’ve got to learn to get over ourselves, and serve more and give more value through social media, which is something that I’m passionate about. If I make it about me, it’s for some kind of teaching moment – It’s to help teach authenticity, or integrity, that it’s okay to be a wild woman.
If you talked to me three years ago I would have been like “I don’t know, I’m just trying to do everything right now and see what works”, but I have figured out the things I like to do. I actually love social media, and I still post everything myself because I really enjoy it as an outlet. I love teaching online, and I do think that you can have a real relationship with people online. I’ve had people watch my videos for six years and while we have never met in person, we’ve changed each other’s lives. They help me, and I help them. I love going to stuff like MAYFest. I get to sing with my band, and teach in a beautiful place with amazing people, and that’s healing for me. So these days it’s more about tweaking. What I have been changing is how much I’m showing up in person. In 2016 and 2017 you’re going to see me showing up in more places that I’m really passionate, but focusing more on being online, because that’s what I really enjoy.
SR: Speaking of MAYFest, not only are you are rock star yogi, you have been rocking out with a new band that you’re going to be performing with at the festival. When did you start singing?
SN: I have always been a musician in yoga teacher’s clothing. I grew up in a musician family. My mom was a singer, and I always wanted to do that myself. Now I have this amazing opportunity to share my voice and inspire people in a new way. I am really excited the band we have lined up for MAYFest. All of these musicians are super talented, they have worked with Lauren Hill, Dave Matthews Band, The Roots; Justin Michael Williams, who does the business of yoga for Yoga Journal, is going to come do a couple songs. We are going to play some of the music from the first album, but we’ve already created a second album so we are going to share some of that music as well. I’m excited for everyone to come out and experience this other side of me. It’s going to be a really amazing show.
SR: For people who haven’t heard any of your music yet, what can they expect from the sound? Who are some of your musical influences?
SN: The first album was a mishmash. There is some indie, some dance music, a little bit of everything. The second album is going to be more cohesive. It’s kind of like if Bon Iver and Adele had a baby and made it really Indie Rock. I really love Florence and the Machine, Ray LaMontagne; I have been digging on Scottish music right now, so that influence is going to make its way on to the third album. I am also thinking a lot about Prince right now and how prolific he was. He never compromised for anybody and he was really truly himself at a time when people were like “Who are you? You can’t do that!”. He was able to balance a musician’s life with service. He was able to be totally himself and do so much service for the world and that is really inspiring to me. I’m really taking a lot of counsel from him right now.
SR: How has yoga influenced your music, and vice versa?
SN: I was always a writer, but yoga helped me deal with the terror of actually doing my own albums. You can sing other people’s songs all day long, but when it comes to stepping forward and doing your own music, that’s really scary. Yoga has helped me deal with the fear and be able to step into my own skin more and get out of my way enough to make these albums. Yoga teaches you impermanence; it’s all going to melt away anyway, so why not just go for it see how it all works out.
I want to be able to balance both the music and the yoga. I have a lot of passion for yoga and authenticity training, and I think that they can go together to inform, infuse, and really turbo-boost each other. Music and yoga go so well together because they are both forms of personal expression in a way that is almost invisible. You can see a yoga pose but you can’t see what is driving it, in the same way you can’t see the spirit in a song. I’ve noticed, both in being a yoga teacher, doing personal movement, and being a music artist, you are connecting to source and expressing it. They are both very similar in that way, so I think music and yoga are really complementary as ways to connect to your center. We all do our yoga in different ways: musicians spend years meditating on their instrument and it becomes a part of them. The musician’s asana is the way his hand meets the strum. Just honoring that is yoga.
SR: What else do you have planned for the festival?
SN: This will be my first time performing with this band, and it is the first time I’m going to be able to do both yoga and music in the same place, so I’m really excited. I will be leading a couple of great workshops during the day: The Yoga Jam: Advance Your Toga Practice with Dance on Saturday, and Rock Your Yoga: Amp Your Empowerment & Find Your Voice on Sunday. I’m also really looking forward to seeing the other artists and teachers. Justin Michael Williams is doing a meditation for busy people and a business of yoga workshop that is going to be great, so I’m looking forward to just traveling around learning new things. It’s perfect!
SR: What would you recommend for anyone who is interested in starting a yoga practice?
SN: I honestly think the internet is a really great tool. You can seek out a lot of great teachers and figure out what you like without having to spend a lot of money. There is a cornucopia of yoga online, from YouTube to Yoga Journal and other online resources.
You can practice with Sadie, and a host of other renown yoga teachers, including Elena Brower, John Smrtic, Sondra Loring and more at MAYfest 2016. Pick up your tickets and learn more about the festival at the Official MAYfest website. Namaste!
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