In 1982, Nora Pozzi and her family moved to Richmond to wait for an organ transplant for her then-husband. They were supposed to be here for three months but ended up waiting for three years. During this stressful period, Pozzi, an architect by trade, began her journey into the mysteries of yoga. In 1992, she took her teacher training.
Since then, Pozzi has used her yoga skills, knowledge of Reiki and Phoenix Rising yoga therapy to help herself and others all over the world navigate difficult life issues and find serenity in everyday living.
RM: How do you define raja yoga?
NP: Raja yoga — one of the six branches of yoga — is known as the philosophy and the psychology of yoga. Though it gives meaning to what we do on the mat, it is so much more than what we do on the mat. It is about our lifestyle. Raja yoga forces us to look within, so we can become more aware of the different ways in which we think, talk and act. It gives us practical tools to align them, so we can be more authentic. Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is the first written text where these teachings were expounded. It is amazing that 5,000 years ago when yoga began, people had some of the same challenges we currently experience.
RM: What are some specifics regarding lifestyle that are included in the teachings of the sutras?
NP: One, for example, is the four locks and four keys. This has to do with cultivating certain attitudes toward people. Did you ever have a co-worker or family member who was difficult to get along with? This is a way to handle different types of people while retaining calmness. It goes like this: First, be friendly toward happy people. Second, be compassionate toward unhappy people. Third, delight in virtuous people, and lastly, disregard the wicked or mean people. Notice that those people could be us. So how would we want to be treated when we are happy, or unhappy, or the times that we are upset or angry and hurt somebody without intending to?
RM: So if raja yoga helps deal with different types of people, what is your advice for dealing with this combative political climate?
NP: That is a challenging one. It is difficult to change anything or anybody if we are in the midst of an emotion like anger, frustration, et cetera. We just lose perspective of the entire picture, and whatever we think, say or do comes from that emotion, which distorts our vision and understanding. In that way, it would just escalate the problem as opposed to generating a solution. However, if we keep our peace of mind, even in the midst of a challenging time, then we can listen and understand more about the sources of the problem, which would help us to make a more conscious decision or arrive at a more accurate understanding of the reality.
Yoga is the art of finding clarity and aligning our thoughts, words and deeds with the intention of nonharming (ahimsa) and being truthful (satya). Gandhi used these two yogic principles to deal with a very difficult political and economical situation in his country — and it worked!
RM: How does hatha yoga or the physical practice of yoga help people emotionally and mentally?
NP: Three of the key components of hatha yoga are mindfulness, physical stillness and breathing, done in a noncompetitive way. The practice of stilling the body leads to the stillness of the mind. We cannot change that which creates mental disturbance or stress, because life is about change, and any change brings stress. It is how we perceive that stress that disturbs our minds, not the disturbances by themselves, however painful they may be. With a quiet mind, we can control how we react or respond to those stresses.
RM: How might people benefit from yoga therapy?
NP: [Phoenix Rising] is a bridge between the mind and the body that uses assisted yoga poses and dialogue in a very safe environment. It is based on the belief that the cells of the body hold memory of many events in one's life. These past events rule our lives, unconsciously in many ways, through habits and patterns that show up in physical ailments, mental disturbances or emotional stress. They also manifest in the way we relate to our goals in life, to ourselves and to other people in our current lives.
RM: Has yoga helped you through specific issues in your life?
NP: Yes, it has. I believe that it has helped me in so many ways I can't even start to describe. One of them has been redirecting my life in a way that it is so much more meaningful than it used to be. I dedicated 25 years of my life to a career as an architect. It was not easy to change from being an architect to being a yoga teacher. The uncertainty of financial income, the professional image and the loss of so much time investment in my career. Yoga then helps us to identify our purpose in life and to align ourselves with that purpose. Then life becomes so much more enjoyable and meaningful as it unfolds into the mystery of what is next in our adventure.