Mindfulness Matters | Meet Yoga Teacher Nikki Carter

02.09 / MISSBISH Flex Zone

As a professionally trained yoga teacher and student of Motor Learning, you could say that Nikki Carter is incredibly in touch with her body. However, the art of practicing yoga goes beyond just the physical for Nikki. She has used donation based yoga studio, Yoga to the People, to help reconnect and find unity within the yoga community. She is hyper aware that an end result may never come, and that it’s not about counting lessons learned or milestones reached; it’s the journey into becoming a more mindful person day-by-day that matters most. Check out her interview below to learn more about her interpretation of yoga and what it means to be a yogi.

Tell us a bit about yourself!
I am a New York City-based yogi, originally from California. I’ve lived in New York for the last 14 years since I moved here to go to NYU. I’m currently enrolled in a Masters Program at Columbia University in Motor Learning which I love. I’m able to take all the knowledge that I’ve gained experientially from the last 10 years of teaching yoga in New York and teaching people how to teach yoga, and now see the actual science and research behind it all. I’m hoping to eventually use this degree to change the way we teach and understand the yoga teaching industry in the US and beyond.

How did you get into yoga and what was your first experience like?
I grew up in a pretty “hippy” area of Northern California and we had yoga in my elementary school so that was my first experience. I remember being in a circle with a bunch of other students learning yoga postures and breathing techniques at probably 8 years old. I didn’t get into practicing yoga regularly until I was going to college at NYU and needed a way to de-stress.

What style of yoga do you prefer?
I enjoy strong movement-based practices the most. My mind wanders easily at first and having a physical challenge helps me tackle the mental challenge of coming mindfully into myself. I also enjoy pranayama breathing work for the same reason. Even though it’s not full body movement, it requires a lot of mindfulness.

Of all the studios available in NYC, what drew you to Yoga to the People?
Well, like I said I was in college, so needless to say I was pretty poor at the time. I was living next door to the old Jivamukti location but couldn’t afford their classes. That’s when I found Yoga to the People, about 3 blocks away. All of their classes were donation based. It was such a relief to find a place where my financial situation was not a barrier to my ability to take a great class and have a daily yoga practice. About a year after I started practicing there I started teaching there, and about a year after that I began owning studios with them.

How important is the teacher?
I think there can be great benefits to having a teacher that you really connect with and can lead you deeper into yoga. But I also believe that really, we are all our own best teachers. I believe a great teacher will use their craft to bring their students closer to each of their own truths, rather than their teacher’s truth.

Yoga requires a certain mastery of your mind that some people aren’t in touch with. How would you describe your mindset?
I don’t know that I would say “yoga requires a mastery,” I don’t know anyone who I would say has really mastered their mind. I would say that yoga requires a willingness to inquire into one's self. To achieve that mastery is something that we may never really achieve, but ideally, yoga is a lifelong practice. I would say that my mindset is one of a student. I am always interested in learning more, learning new ways to implement what I find into my life, my teaching, and my practice on the mat.

“To achieve that mastery is something that we may never really achieve, but ideally yoga is a lifelong practice. I would say that my mindset is one of a student. I am always interested in learning more, learning new ways to implement what I find into my life, my teaching, and my practice on the mat."

Do you consider yourself a yogi?
Yoga means Union and I believe that to be a yogi means to be in union with your experience of the world around you. This is a very difficult thing to do. We all have a history, an identity, ideas that we believe about ourselves and the world. These things keep us safe and allow us to function day to day. To be a yogi is to move beyond this idea of the world. A physical yoga practice can help in that for a few moments, you can start to release some of these ideas, this outer sheath, and operate from higher levels of yourself. On a good day, maybe I get a few minutes in of living as a true yogi. But this is why we call it a yoga practice, not a yoga performance or a yoga pageant. Maybe last year I only got a few breaths of my day. Maybe next year I’ll get a whole day.

We love the photos of you and your husband, @parker_hurley, doing acroyoga together! Do you find that the practice brings you two closer?
Yoga definitely has brought me and Parker closer, we actually met for the first time in a yoga studio. I love having something that we can do together that we both love. It’s fun for us both to be on the mat with one another and is a great way to connect beyond words.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learned through yoga?
I don’t know if there’s one lesson that is greater than the others. Maybe simply that the lessons keep coming. What I learned when I was 20 and doing yoga seemed mind-blowing at the time, or at 22, or 25, or now at 32. I appreciate that I can look back and see where I was, the growth that yoga has allowed me to be where I am now, and have faith that my practice will continue to serve me for as long as I continue to show up and do the work.

In the midst of all the city hustle, how do you maintain a balanced lifestyle?
My home is definitely my haven, it’s always been very important to me to make my apartments comfortable and inviting. I need to have that safe space in the city. Getting out of the city is also huge for me. I love to travel and also love to simply take a quick drive out to a beach for a day. I love the fast, loud energy of the city, it energizes me. For me, it's like taking a big inhale of life. And then I take time to be quiet at home with a project or a book, or come to my mat to breathe and feel, or get away for a day, and that’s my long slow exhale.

What are 3 hidden gems in NYC?
1. I love Abraco coffee. It’s right around the corner from my apartment. They have the best coffee and homemade pastries plus the community there is so lovely. It’s hard to find that in New York.

2. The art galleries under the Highline in Chelsea. They’re great for a stroll during the day, always so diverse and inspiring. It’s like a free museum without the crowds!

3. Yoga to the People! Donation based and low-cost yoga is so important, especially in Manhattan where right now it feels like the prices of everything, especially at yoga studios, are sky-rocketing.

What does MISSBISH mean to you?
Community is super important to our growth as humans. Places that people can come together with those who are like-minded and also those who aren’t with the intention to share, collaborate, and exchange ideas. I love that MISSBISH combines so many different facets of what it means to be a woman in today’s society and I’m so happy to be able to share some of my experience here.

Photos by: Leonard Fong

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