I met Nicolina Sandstedt in March 2016 when I was a student of hers in the Living Yoga Alchemy 3oo hour core module at Yandara Yoga Institute in Baja, Mexico. During the weeks of the program I was inspired and intrigued by her strength and softness, her extensive knowledge of mystical stories, her beautiful story telling, her wisdom of the physical body, and her balanced radiance. I fell in love with the Yandara community after my first time visiting and participating in a training in 2010. I am grateful to be a witness to their evolution as they develop and offer more trainings, and excited to continue learning from the teachers and community at this very special place. Here we catch up with Nicolina as she talks a bit about the magic of life and the development of the Living Yoga Alchemy program that she co-leads with her partner, Christopher Perkins.
How did you originally connect with the Yandara community and what made you stay?
My first yoga teacher training was with Hatha Yoga teacher Corrin Adams at Yandara Yoga Institute in 2006. I immediately felt at home with the loving community and the desert-meets-ocean magic that surrounds the center. After about 6 months I got an offer to come back, which led me to put my university plans on hold and pack my bags. I worked with administration and attended as many of the inspiring classes and workshops as I could. After about a year of learning and growing, I returned to Sweden to complete my university degree in Physical Therapy. Apart from being a full-time student, I taught lots of yoga, attended trainings, and eventually opened a studio. Everything was flowing well for me in Gothenburg but in the end what made me pack my bags and return to Yandara a third time was love…After spending a few years in Sweden, Christopher, a kindred spirit and one of the co-owners of Yandara, came for a visit, and…the rest is history. Christopher and I recently built our dream home next to the Yandara center in Baja, Mexico. We work side-by-side and I am grateful every day for me life and wonderful community at Yandara; both the permanent year-round community and the new community of yogis that join us every month for their teacher trainings.
Tell us about the vision behind the Living Yoga Alchemy program…
The vision behind the Living Yoga Alchemy program is to create an experience with just the right heart and mind opening ingredients to inspire true personal and spiritual evolution. When putting together the program, I spent a lot of time thinking about the teachings that have inspired me to grow. With Living Yoga Alchemy we aspire to present the wisdom that has stuck with us and that continues to inspire us daily. We wish to reflect back to some of the most inspiring teachings we have collected. We also asked ourselves: What is it that makes a great Yoga Teacher? The answer that kept coming back to us is that the students come to yoga to have an experience of themselves, and a great teacher is not always the one with the most advanced asana practice; great teachers guide their students toward their inner Self. And so, the Living Yoga Alchemy program is truly designed to illuminate each practitioners personal path.
Can you tell us about your passion for story sharing while teaching?
Ancient myths and stories have fed our souls and our imagination for thousands of years, long before Netflix, TV, or even books. Told around campfires, they would bring the community together and inspire us to be brave, compassionate, truthful, self-less, generous, and other admirable attributes. The stories from the yogic mythology carry within them the teachings of yoga in a captive and relatable way. Each character, the dark as well as the light, exists within our own mind and heart. They are archetypes of our own psychological energies. Energies that we feel, but may never have the courage to invoke or express. They are representations of aspects of our inner selves and their stories represent the countless inner struggles we do through in our daily lives. To me, the stories are simply another way of studying the teachings of yoga. It makes it fun, creative, and adds just the right amount of magic.
“To me the ancient teachings of Yoga are an invitation to be deeply curious about the flow of Life, and to cultivate it on all levels of our being. It is a practice of moving through any stagnation or blockage so that awareness can permeate our entire being.”
Does Yandara have other advanced studies and offerings in the works?
Apart from our core module, Living Yoga Alchemy, we offer the elective modules: Ayurveda, Life Coaching, and Yin and Bhakti Yoga. A new offering is a 10 day module called “Yoga in Community“. This module takes place in Hawaii and is focused around the idea of living a yogic lifestyle in a yogic community. Apart from practicing yoga and meditation together, this module will take you to some amazing farmers markets and teach you how to cook delicious vegetarian meals. Other offering that will take place int he future are: Yoga for Pregnancy, Qi Gong & Vision Quest, and a Meditation and Energy Work module. We like to keep the advanced trainings alive and flexible, we have many inspiring ideas and also want to make sure that the quality stays high.
What inspires you most right now?
Living far from any big city, which is where most yoga events happen, inspires me to take a lot of online courses. Lately I have been inspired by the Life Coaching methods of the Handel Group that teaches how to craft dreams for different areas of our lives, as well as the Art of Attention work by Elena Brower. I am also inspired by my daily yoga and meditation practice which often includes a Kundalini Yoga Kriya.
Who have been some of your greatest teachers?
There are so many! But if I have to choose a few that have inspired me a lot along my student and teaching path, it would be: Angela Farmer for encouraging me to always stay curious; Shiva Rea for showing me how to tend my inner fire; and of course my rock ‘n’ roll guru Patti Smith for inspiring me to stay authentic in all areas of life. Most of all, my students are my greatest teachers.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself continuing to spend part of the year in Baja and part of the year in Sweden together with Christopher. I stay close with my friends and family and I continue to love being a student and teacher of yoga. The roles of the student and the teacher inspire each other in a way that guides me to evolve breath-by-breath, day-by-day, year-by-year. Being a student inspires me to be a better teacher as much as being a teacher inspires me to be a better student. When I think back to 10 years ago, I realize how much I have evolved and how my practice has evolved with me. I am very curious to see where I will be in 10 years from now. I welcome further evolution!
After living a nomadic lifestyle for several years, Nicolina spends most of her year teaching with Yandara Yoga Institute in Baja California Sur. Nicolina’s inspiring presence and teaching style, is organic and intuitive. Through centering, up-lifting and challenging yoga practices, she guides her students to awaken and explore their own sense of flow. Nicolina is in awe of the magic that is everywhere. When she’s not teaching yoga, you may find her surrounded by the elements of nature, admiring the cactus forest, exploring the arid desert hillsides, doing tarot spreads, making delicious raw treats for community potlucks, and sipping endless cups of tea with her beloved.
Photo Credit: Yandara Photography