Teacher: Gabby Frolov
Teaching since: 2016
Where did you grow up? The Bronx
BK: How and why did you start practicing yoga?
GF: I started practicing Yoga officially when I had returned to New York after being away for about 6 years. I had tried it a few times in college and decided that it wasn’t for me. However, upon my returning, I reconnected with a friend who took classes in the city. Eventually, he convinced me to join him, and I began practicing about once a week even though my mindset had not changed. Although reluctant to attend classes, I saw it as an opportunity to meet people and make new friends. One day, while holding my Warrior 2, I gained body awareness. It was like someone dropped a water balloon on my head. That experience alone was so eye opening! One second I was just hanging out in the pose, and the next I realized where I was in space, what muscles I needed to engage, how my breathing played a role in all of it, and so on. It was then that I realized that there was more to Yoga than I had initially thought, and I took it upon myself to seek out a studio closer to where I lived to further explore my personal practice. I found Yoga Haven, and I’ve been hooked ever since!
BK: Who or what has been your greatest “teacher”?
GF: My loved ones! I’m truly blessed to have some of the most insightful and kind people in my life. They offer me perspectives and advice, and as funny as it may sound, we’re constantly having conversations about how to be better human beings, kinder to those around us, more attentive, vulnerable, and open. Yoga is a wonderful platform that is accessible to all people. You can go to any Yoga class and meet people that you would never cross paths with normally because you lead such different lives. Yoga becomes that commonality, that one environment where everyone is equal. If it wasn’t for Yoga, I wouldn’t have met some of the closest people in my life. I’m so grateful and thankful that we have met, because who I am now is a result of their compassion and love. They are my inspiration!
BK: What style of yoga do you enjoy teaching and why does this differ from your own personal practice?
GF: In a classroom setting, I teach Vinyasa. I’m very interested in anatomical alignment and proper muscle engagement, so sometimes I’ll pause what we’re doing in class to take a moment to tell my students what I would specifically like them to focus on, given what the class theme is. I’m also big on safety in the poses! So flow and alignment are typically how I lead my classes. When it comes to my personal practice, unless I’m taking a Yoga class in a group/studio setting, I prefer little to no flow. I’m able to take more time to assess and dissect what I’m feeling and experiencing, so I’ll get into a pose and spend as much time there as I want or need to.
BK: What obstacles have yoga help you overcome?
GF: The biggest thing Yoga has helped me with is shifting my perspective. Perspective is everything! It’s quite literally how each individual views the world, themselves, situations, and it is our view that determines how we feel and how we act. Yoga has helped me shift my perspective on my body image, the tone of voice that I use, my thought process, my reactions, and how I deal in and with difficult situations. It has helped me open and soften my heart, be more mindful towards others as well as myself, and has solidified the type of person that I want to be in my life. The cool thing here is that I haven’t perfected any of these things. Some days there is no way I can overcome my obstacles, but if there is one thing I can try to do, it is to shift my perspective. And those little shifts that I have made, that I continue to make, have been deeply healing and liberating.
BK: What obstacles sometimes keep you from your own practice?
GF: My work schedule tends to get in the way of my physical practice. I’m constantly running around! Between my full time job and teaching, I have little time to myself. However, I have come to realize that I need to make the time for myself, and so I have been. I’ve started to attend more classes, and whenever I have the time either throughout my day or when I get home, I’ll meditate, whether it’s 2 minutes or 20 minutes. I always notice this lightness in my mood and demeanor afterwards.
When it comes to the non-physical practice, I do my best to keep a “watching from the outside” mentality. Doing so keeps me balanced, especially in tough situations. Those tests can make it difficult to keep a balanced mentality, and I’m human so I falter. I can come from a reactive standpoint, but my Yoga helps me reel it in and assess what happened and how I can do something differently the next time around.
BK: What is your mindset when you step onto your yoga mat?
GF: I instantly switch into “Yoga mode.” Everything else just fades away and I stay as present in my practice as I can. My mind does travel, but I’ve become good at noticing when it happens and bringing myself back to that moment of focus.
BK: When did you understand you wanted to be a yoga teacher?
GF: I used to have this image in my mind that in order to be a Yoga teacher, you had to be this calm, soft-spoken, all loving, zenned-out, super bendy, vegan, hippy who is spreading the message of peace, love, and acceptance. I know myself well enough to know that I have never been that type of person. We all have our various personality traits and qualities, and I didn’t feel like mine aligned with “Yoga teacher.” When I met Melanie Goio, that’s when things began to shift. From taking her classes and spending time with her, I saw how she is always authentically herself when she teaches. She’s playful, fun, loves to laugh and joke around, and yet she teaches great complex flows that always challenge you. Knowing her has helped me realize that I’m fine just as I am. I don’t have to change my personality in order to teach Yoga. Anyone can become a teacher, but no one can be me. So I began to embrace my little quirks and authenticity, and I always let that show when I teach. I may not be the extreme of all those qualities I thought a Yoga teacher should have/be, but there are parts that I do identify with and they all fall together in a little special pattern that makes me unique.
The final push towards my decision was influenced and inspired by my friends. A year before my teacher training, I knew about 6 of them who were in the process of trainings. They are all so different and all from different walks of life. I had a moment where I realized that if they had the courage and confidence within themselves to pursue becoming a teacher, then I definitely could do the same. So I did!
BK: Why is yoga so important for the times we live in?
GF: As New Yorkers, we have this go-go-go mentality that rarely leaves room for anything else. Surprisingly, being born and raised in New York, I’ve been laid back most of my life. Often times I catch myself telling others to slow down and stop rushing. When you’re running a million miles a minute, you forget what it’s like to appreciate what you have, to appreciate your surroundings. We can get so focused on the world around us that we forget to take care of ourselves and listen to our own needs. One part of Yoga is self-care. When you take the time to make it to class, you set aside that hour and fifteen minutes for YOU. When you get stressed out and you take a deep breath, that breath is for YOU. Yoga allows us to pause and check in with our body, breath, mind, and spirit. Yoga also presents the opportunity to open the lines of communication with ourselves and have an honest conversation of where we stand, what we feel, and what we need. I think in the times we live in, there is a scarcity of self-care, but with the ever growing popularity of this practice, who knows what doors this can open? Yoga is for anyone and everyone. There is no other requirement besides a willingness to be open. So be open and take the time to take care of you!
BK: How do you categorize your teaching?
GF: I would categorize it as strong, playful, with an emphasis on focus. I usually demand focus because I want everyone to be aware of what they are doing and how they’re moving. It keeps them present. Then the fun part is seeing if they can maintain that focus through a strong sequence, and yet leave room for playfulness at the same time.
BK: What makes your class different, how and why?
GF: I think I bring the “human” aspect into my classes. When I say “human,” I mean I show up as flawed as I am, and I’m not afraid to show it or own it. That means if something important has happened in my life that I believe to be worth sharing, I will share it with my students. If I’m demoing a pose and I fall out of it while everyone else is still in it, I laugh it off and keep moving forward. I have a habit of walking into props, dropping my (closed) water bottle repeatedly, and even mixing up my words. I find that my students view me more as a friend, rather than a Yoga teacher and I prefer it that way. I like my Yoga classes to feel light and happy. I also love to make my students laugh! Sometimes when we see photos of other Yogis doing various poses or offering some profound words on life and love, we compare ourselves to them and put them on a pedestal. We might end up thinking that they have it all figured out and we will never reach that point. I’m guilty of thinking that way. I don’t want my students to ever think or feel like we’re not equals. I want them to be fully aware that I am very much so on the same journey they are on, and, hopefully, being unapologetically myself will inspire to them to embrace their quirks.
BK: What are your current interest/studies in yoga?
GF: My studies and passions within Yoga change every few months. Even back when I was doing my teacher training, I was fixated on alignment and breath. These days I find that my interests have evolved towards meditation and spirituality. My Yoga centers around a few minutes of movement and a long period of meditation or restorative poses. I’m still very much focused on alignment and breath, but I’ve started exploring guiding my students through meditation, making centering a little longer than I’m used to teaching. I’m curious to see what lasting impression this current journey I’m on will have on my style of teaching, as well as what my next interest and focus will be in the coming months.
BK: Where is the weirdest place you have practiced hatha yoga?
GF: As I think about it, I don’t think I’ve practiced Yoga in a “weird” place. However, I can say that weird, but often times cool, things have happened in the various places that I have practiced asana. One time when I was at the airport in between flights, I practiced at the gate and when I came up into a high lunge, it was timed perfectly with witnessing lightning strike in the distance. Another time I was practicing in a field where I was unaware that there was a large caterpillar population, so trying to navigate that situation was difficult. I accidentally stepped on a few of them (they crawled onto my mat and right onto the place where my foot landed). I felt bad, figuring all they really wanted was a place to practice their Yoga and my mat presented the opportunity. I also challenge people to try and sit in meditation (or savasana) while feeling caterpillars crawling all over your hands and legs. My nerves were done by the end of it all, hahaha! There is even the occasional hiking adventure that turns into an AcroYoga session on top of a mountain. That’s only a few experiences! I got a lot more! 😀