Lucky Luna chats with
Priya Patel and Suzy Sorensen
about yoga, food, culture,
Memory plays an integral role in how we understand food, how we taste, how we smell— mixing and melting into our subconscious in swirls of flavors and nostalgia. Our homes and heritage play a significant role in our relationships with cuisine. School lunches, holiday dinners, life-changing travels to new lands or returning to those of our ancestors— all create emotional and gastronomical maps in our memory. At Lucky Luna, our main focus is obviously on food and drink— the belly. But we wondered how others, whose lives are devoted to the physical and mental being (and arguably, the spiritual– definition inserted to liking), viewed the role of memory in their lives and so, Lucky Luna sat down with Suzy Sorensen and Priya Patel, two local yoga instructors, to get their two cents. And, yes, of course we talked about food!
LL: I think the classic profile questions ala “Hefner” style are still a worthy punte d’entre for interviews, so let’s start there (though not to suggest any association with the aforementioned 🙂 ).
Suzy and Priya, please share with us:
1) Favorite place in New York and why
SS: ONE of my favorite places is the Marble Cemetery in the East Village. I have a weird fascination with cemeteries in general. This one is special. It’s totally not scary, but you can really feel that it’s a sacred ground. When I used to live in the EV, my friends and I would go and picnic there – it opens up to the public a few times a year. You can also see a woman walking her white cat there. Sort of creepy?
PP: My apartment. It’s the one place where I can close the door in this crazy busy city, and do whatever I please.
2) Most recent embarrassing moment
SS: My dog barfed in the elevator because he ate too many leaves at the dog park. But I guess that’s more embarrassing for him than for me.
PP: Sometimes I feel like my entire life is just a series of embarrassing moments. Is that embarrassing in itself?
3) Last day on Earth, you have 24 hours, money is no object, what do you do?
PP: Have a delicious, leisurely meal with loved ones, probably do a little yoga, and have more belly laughs than ever.
SS: Spend the day with my beloved boyfriend, dog, and cat – frolicking, eating, and being near the ocean. And also say hi to my parents too. Are we all going to be obliterated together?
4) Most adventurous food you have tried and what’s your oddest craving?
SS: Oh, I don’t know. I grew up eating roasted and dried squid tentacles (oh-jing-uh). My mom would roast them on our stove top, and the whole house would stink wonderfully, and my dad would complain about it. I don’t really eat that stuff these days though. These days I stick to vegetables. I don’t know how adventurous you can get with that. Shiitake carpaccio?? My oddest craving… cucumbers with mayonnaise.
PP: Most adventurous food: blood sausage (meat mixed with blood). I have a secret craving for BBQ pork rinds and Coca-cola… more often than i’d like to admit.
5) Favorite yoga pose
PP: Love a good Dancer Pose. Feels like your entire body is opening up from your finger tips to your toes. Your chest opens up, your hips are releasing… so good.
SS: Crescent pose. It makes me feel grounded and open at the same time.
LL: Do you remember your first yoga class? How did you arrive from that first yoga class to becoming a bonafide yoga instructor?
PP: My first yoga class was my Freshman year in college. I was 18 years old. Yoga class was pretty much the only class I never missed that year. I was hooked. Even though there have been times when my practice hasn’t been at the forefront of my life over the years, I always came back to it. Getting a yoga certification just made sense. It will be a part of my life forever.
SS: Yes, it was one of the most humbling experiences I ever had. I came in with a big ego and tight hamstrings; things definitely changed after that. Yoga cured me, rather, taught me how to cure myself of the ailments (mental and physical) I used to have. (Let’s be honest, mostly mental.) I want to help people do the same.
LL: The body is said to hold memory, as in muscular— both in strength, as in training an athlete, and in scars, as a result from trauma. It is also said to hold true for emotionally tactile reaction, both comforting, as a loving embrace, and unpleasant, as the ghost of an unresolved pain. How do you see yoga resolving, or at least responding to, this idea of corporeal and emotional memory?
SS: Oh, good one. I mean, this is why I got into yoga in the first place. Whether we choose to embrace it or not, yoga is an incredibly emotional act. Our bodies hold the collective memory of our life – both physical and emotional. Tight hamstrings from holding too much tension in our shoulders – too much tension in our minds. A stiff, crooked finger from a high school volley ball game… When we move through yoga, we start to bring attention to these places. We start to notice and recognize, all these memories. It’s difficult and painful at first because we always want to thrust ourselves into the future (especially if we are particularly goal-oriented). Yoga reminds us not to force ourselves to be where we aren’t and absolutely cannot be right now, but to stay here, remember, feel, and release.
PP: Yoga is like riding a bike. The muscles in your body just remember how to move into what feels best for it. This is true regardless of if you practice everyday or once a year. You naturally respond to some version of what feels best in class. The key is responding to what feels best for your body, not what someone else’s body is doing. People say that you hold the most emotion in your hips. I find that sliding and breathing into yoga, wherever you’re at in your life, can stir up feelings and emotions that you might have buried long ago. Your practice can be quite cathartic if you allow it to be.
LL: What does “mind and body” mean to you in relation to your approach to yoga? And how do you see food playing into this relationship?
PP: I like to believe that a flexible mind will result in a strong body, and vice versa. This approach is great for both yoga and everyday life. Yoga prompts a feeling of lightness in your mind/body… somehow you naturally want to eat some greens and a smoothie after a yoga class rather than a burrito and a margarita. This isn’t to say that I won’t get down on some indulgent meals, but generally speaking.. you want to put into your body what makes you feel best. Yoga helps you become more aware of this.
SS: I’m a kinesthetic learner, which means I learn through moving (and doing). I am more productive and efficient when I get move around during the day and not stay cooped up at a desk. Yoga helps me exercise that. With yoga, more than any other physical activity, I learn more about myself: how I feel, what I can and cannot do right now, and what I want to accomplish. Yoga connects the body and mind, which I’m sure you’ve already heard. With regard to yoga and food, as I mentioned before, it just helps you get more in tune to your body. You truly start to understand when you’re actually hungry, what exactly you want to eat, and how you feel when you eat something.
LL: You both have proclaimed that you identify as bi-cultural/bi-racial, how do you see culture and ethnic identity informing, intentionally or perhaps subconsciously, your yoga? Eating habits?
SS: Hmm. For me, yoga is more of an expression of my soul. A form that transcends ethnicity, race, socio-economic status, whatever. It’s just you, your mat, and nobody else. The yoga industry as we know it here in the Western world, however, is a little different, but I don’t really want to get into that. (Or do I?) Let’s just say there’s a lot of cultural appropriation going on here and much of it comes from a place of privilege. I applaud and support everyone who is doing work to change that though. For food, I am definitely informed by my cultural heritage. Korean food nourishes my body. I grew up on rice, kimchee, and other fermented / pickled foods. (I grew up in Hawai’i.) I am more inclined to cook and eat Asian-style foods because that’s what makes my body feel the best.
PP: Being half Indian, half Italian plays a huge role in how I live my life. These are two very colorful, family-driven, strong cultures. I personally do not think that my race really affects my yoga practice. Yoga is huge in India, but I do yoga because it makes me feel good, not because I identify with it on a cultural level. Eating habits are another story though. Both cultures place an emphasis on flavors, spices, and fresh ingredients. Massive meals with family and friends, time spent enjoying and savoring drinks and dishes— I live for all of that.
LL: What is the first meal or food you remember loving and the one you refused to eat as a kid? Have these likes and dislikes changed as you have gotten older or traveled?
PP: I LOVE PASTA! Haha. My grandmother used to make a huge pot of homemade pasta sauce on Saturdays. It would make her entire (tiny) apartment smell like heaven. I used to have pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The one thing I refused to eat were olives. To this day, I still love a plate of homemade pasta, but my taste buds have matured and I love a good olive (particularly in a dirty martini).
SS: I LOVE KIMCHEE AND RICE. When I was a kid, I hated steak and fish. Things are still basically the same. I think as I’ve grown older and traveled, my palate has broadened. I love Indian food, Mexican food, and Spanish tapas. Things that are spicy, flavorful, and warm the soul.
LL: You both have blogs and are instagrammers, how do you see the role of social media in documenting your memories and experiences, and what do you want your readers to take away from your posts?
SS: I was having a chat about this with a friend the other day. There are many ways people use social media, and I don’t think it’s all mutually exclusive. On one hand, I want to begin to craft my brand and my business, though I’m not really sure what it is yet. It gives me a space to explore and be creative – right from my very phone! On another hand, let’s just be honest, sometimes these nice pictures of ourselves help us validate our existence. We look at it, and we think, “Ok, my life is ok. It’s not bad. It’s pretty good, actually.” On another hand (because I have three), I want to show off how cute my pets are.
PP: I have mixed feelings around social media. I love sharing my experiences with the world, but I do also think it’s important to take everything with a grain of salt. My life looks great on Instagram and Tumblr, but I do have days when I just want to stay in bed and watch a movie with some ice cream. I hope that my readers have a good grasp on this concept as well. There’s always something more going on behind the scenes. Social media should be used for fun, but not as a rule of thumb for shaping your life.
LL: How do you see yoga fitting into the world of social media?
PP: Yoga is all over social media and I have such a love/hate relationship with it. I love that social media gives people access to yoga wherever they are. However, similar to my beliefs on my personal social outlets, I hope that people will not feel discouraged by constant posts of yoga tricks, etc. Your practice is just that – YOURS. A forward bend is just a perfectly satisfying and awesome as a handstand with eagle legs or whatever. Let your body get there in it’s own time.
SS: That’s tricky. There are so many hands. It can be used for good and for evil! As a yogi, I think social media offers platforms where we connect, be inspired, and learn from like-minded people. It makes the exchange of ideas and information much more immediate. In that way, it’s great. It’s also nice to have your little online community liking what you do. It makes you feel good. On the other hand, which I am quite worried about, is that I fear that it’s going to make the yoga industry more superficial. I’m afraid that people will think about getting into that pose that so-and-so did because they want to take a picture of it. I’m afraid that yogis will feel like they need to be at a certain physical level in their practice because they need to show the world what they can do. I’m also afraid that these pictures, as beautiful and amazing as they are, will negatively influence young people – making them think ‘well, I can only do yoga if I look like that.’ Or, ‘why don’t I look like that, something’s wrong with me.’
LL: What’s in store for the future?
SS: Well, now, that’s a secret! What goes on the Internet, stays on the Internet – for all the world to see.
PP: The only thing i’m really certain that my future will hold is a lot of laughing… and yoga.
Suzy and Priya have always dreamed of a more personalized and open space to practice and lead yoga, particularly in an industry which can have the tendency to conversely lean more towards being competitive and comparative. They are excited to embark on more creative endeavors, bringing yoga out of the studio and into the realm of everyday life. To Suzy and Priya, the practice of yoga is a way of tuning in your natural state of being, rather than tuning out. Their classes are focused on linking your movements with your breath, staying strong in your body while remaining soft and expressive, and of course – having fun.
This fall, Suzy and Priya will come together in a series of unique yoga, food, and drink workshop parties with the assistance of Lucky Luna. The workshops aim to invigorate the breath and soothe the body with a 45 minute invigorating flow + 30 minute nourishing flow, including hands-on support, gentle massage, and meditation. Yoga will be followed by a casual introduction to cocktails and cuisine inspired by a particular culture (namely one of ours: Korean, Hawaiian, Italian, Indian, Mexican) beginning with a replenishing refreshment. Suzy and Priya each contribute their individual styles and energies to these distinctive, collaborative sessions as they explore cultural identity through yoga, food, and music outside of the traditional studio in a relaxed environment.
SAVE-THE-DATE: Saturday, October 19th in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. Stay tuned for more information on how you can participate or email email@example.com