Every week, we have the opportunity to connect and collaborate with incredible women from around the world as they do amazing things. This is our chance to share space with some amazing ladies from the health, wellness and personal development community as they follow their passion. This week, Natasha Casanova took the time to tell us about what inspires her in her business, Kathmandu Yogi, and talk to us about their upcoming Kickstarter campaign.
Natasha: I have been a yogi for over 10 years. My first teacher, and introduction to eastern philosophy, was studying under Lois Steinberg, Phd, an advanced Iyengar Yoga Instructor with over 35 years of practice under BKS Iyengar. I met Lois while completing my undergraduate degree at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in Communications in 2002. I then met and became a student of Lama Ole Nydahl, an accomplished Tibetan buddhist master who has founded over 700 lay Buddhist centers all around the globe over the last 40 years at the behest of the great H.H. 16th Gyalwa Karmapa.
In August of 2014, I founded Kathmandu Yogi, a purveyor of ethically made, limited edition meditation and yoga accessories handcrafted by artisans in Nepal. Prior to establishing Kathmandu Yogi, I worked as a marketing and communications professional in the nonprofit, arts, public relations and retail management sectors.
Passion Yoga School: How do you use your work as a spiritual tool?
Natasha Casanova: I don’t see spirituality and work as separate things. My work is my spirituality. In fact, I think that everything we do can be spiritual. For me spirituality is realizing our own inherent potential, and I try to always keep this in mind with everything I do. The word “work” often carries a negative connotation. “Don’t work too hard.” "Take a vacation from work. " "You work too much.” We’ve all heard these statements from time to time. But work can be joyful. Work can bring benefit to both you and others if it is conscious and meaningful. I try to remember this as best I can and use meditation and daily life as my practice to do that.
PYS: The cracks are how the light gets in. Tell us how your core wounds have inspired your work.
Natasha: We all have dark stories and moments. But, I try not to focus on these and focus on the present moment, and do my best to learn from challenging experiences and not repeat the same mistakes and patterns. Of course it’s not easy to break old habits. I reflect on my behavior critically, but also try to practice compassion and patience with myself. We all have the potential to be happy and see glimpses from time to time. I look for the potential in people and situations, and view challenges as opportunities to learn and be creative
PYS: What is your worst habit and what are you doing to improve it?
Natasha: I am sensitive. Too sensitive at times, unnecessarily taking things personally. But, I’m working on it! I frequently hear my teacher’s voice saying “People behave the way they feel." I’m working on developing more patience and compassion with and for others.
PYS: What advice would you offer to other goddesses working to actualize their potential?
Natasha: Be fearless. Try to be here now and notice the potential in every new day and moment. Get to know yourself, and view yourself and others with curiosity instead of judgment. Look for qualities in others. It helps you recognize them in yourself. Take some time to reflect and be quite. Get to know your gut and then listen to it. We all know our own truth. We just have to be aware enough to notice it, and then have the confidence to trust it.
PYS: What does your daily spiritual practice look like?
Natasha: Meditation (specifically Tibetan Buddhist Meditation) is part of my daily spiritual practice. However, a spiritual practice extends beyond the formal practice and one’s time on the cushion. Spirituality can be practiced every moment. It’s possible to live life with awareness and intention. And that doesn’t mean we police ourselves at every moment. It means we become an observer. And just pay attention, without judgment. When we're not caught in a wave of emotion, we can think clearly and behave meaningfully. The goal of my spiritual practice (both on and off the cushion) is to maintain this awareness at all times.
PYS: What secrets (past or present) have kept you from living in your truth?
Natasha: At the present, I feel that nothing is keeping me from living my truth. If I would have been asked that question even a year ago my answer may have been different. It’s taken me decades to get to know myself and my truth, and it wasn’t really until after the most dramatic and difficult moments in my life that I discovered and trusted it. We can really trust that the sun comes out after the storm. No matter how big and dramatic the storm, if we can weather it and keep our integrity we will come out victorious, stronger and more stable than ever and can serve as an inspiration for others.
As a teenager I was embarrassed of so many things and never wanted to stand out. I was first generation American, the child of Cuban parents who worked very hard to rebuild their lives after coming to U.S. with nothing. I didn’t appreciate it growing up. All I wanted was to assimilate. To be just like my classmates, many of which came from very affluent communities. I didn’t like my name, I wished my parents didn’t have accents and I wished we had a nice home and cars like they did. Now I feel ashamed that I felt like that in the first place and couldn’t see how amazing my family was.
I find that women in particular have the tendency to feel ashamed, and naturally hide it from others. Men have been some of my best teachers when it comes to owning your mistakes or shortcomings. They can be unapologetic and treat mistakes with humor. We women tend to be overly apologetic without need. Everyone makes mistakes. We can also laugh it off, as our male counterparts do.
PYS: Who inspires you?
Natasha: I fall in love all the time. There are so many inspiring godesses out there inspiring others while living their truths. My latest professional crush is Cari Rogers from Tribe Healing in Chicago. She and her business partner, Ellen, started Tribe as a response to the need for a wellness community space, a place where wellness professionals could converge, collaborate and share experience and networks, and be engaged in continuous learning. These inspiring ladies basically started a wellness incubator, an innovative and very beneficial concept, creatively and resourcefully applying a concept from the tech world to the very low tech world of wellness.
PYS: Tell us about your upcoming Kickstarter campaign.
Natasha: Kathmandu Yogi was bootstrapped and this is the first time we are publicly asking for funding. On May 1, we will launch a Kicktstarter campaign with the goal of raising $15,000 to jumpstart sustainable employment opportunities for over 100 Nepali women. We presently work with one fair trade collective and if our goal is met, we will be able to establish three new partnerships. If we meet our stretch goal of $25,000 we will be able to provide sustainable work for these women to support themselves and their families for the entire summer. And anything beyond that we will be steps closer to starting our own training institute and workshop, where women will learn business and language skills and have the support they need to start their own enterprises.