Chloe Kernaghan

CO-FOUNDER OF SKY TING & YOGA TEACHER, NEW YORK CITY

"To think that anything is separate from everything else is a fools move and nutrition is definitely a part of that... all of these things all add up to you and who you are as a human and how you’re managing and walking yourself through life."

TALKS YOGA, THE BODY & MOVEMENT AS MEDITATION TO RETURN TO SELF

Chloe is the co-founder of an amazing yoga studio called SKY TING that successfully houses and has managed to foster one of the most vibrant and light hearted yoga communities in New York.

I absolutely love this conversation as it touches on a lot of the things that I’m passionate about. Not only did Chloe eloquently bridge a gap in talking about the importance of movement and its role in maintaining our sanity, but also by offering me a different prompt into how we think about the accessibility of yoga in some of its more traditionalist ideologies. What Chloe gives up about her personal experience with the practice and how it found its place in her life and her calling as a teacher, all of it was quite special to me. I mean this whole conversation just goes to show how she has managed to bridge a gap with SKY TING and pave such a unique way to make the healing modalities of yoga less intimidating and accessible to everyone no matter who you are. Sometimes it’s okay to laugh out loud during practice and SKY TING has always been the one to teach me that :)

She also beautifully touches on other things like the body, engaging with how it feels, orchestrating self expression and just being human. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I have in delivering it to you x

 
I FIND MORNING RITUALS AND HOW PEOPLE START THEIR DAY SO INTERESTING. CAN YOU WALK US THROUGH YOUR MORNINGS?

My mornings vary depending on the day because most mornings I’m often up and teaching yoga privates really early. I always chug a lot of water and I like to make coffee at home if I have the time because I think that’s always a nice way to start the day - with the ritual of making a warm beverage for yourself.

 

I always wash my face and obviously brush my teeth and things like that but it’s all very simple as I usually don’t have a tonne of time and I’m not really the type of person that needs to wake up two hours earlier to get ready. I’m usually just trying to get as much sleep as possible so I like to keep everything simple.

 
ARE THERE CERTAIN THINGS YOU LIKE TO EAT TO START OFF YOUR DAY?

I usually have to eat something in the mornings otherwise I become a monster if I don’t have any food in my stomach and especially because my days start so early. I love a savory breakfast so if I have the time I’ll make eggs with something simple like a side salad or do spinach with eggs on top. If I’m feeling indulgent, I’ll go next door and get a croissant and do eggs on a croissant because that’s always quite fun. But often I’ll just stick to something simple like yoghurt and some fruit with granola on top. I just make sure to eat something that I know can sustain me for a period of time.

 
 
HOW CONSCIOUS ARE YOU IN THE CHOICES THAT YOU MAKE WITH WHAT YOU EAT AND WHAT YOU PUT IN TO FUEL YOUR BODY?

I mean I’m not an angel by any means and I am very human on this earth and am very much a New Yorker. I love being exuberant and I’m a big lush when it comes to food and wine and life experiences. Over the years you definitely register and tune in more with the things you’re doing and how it’s affecting you and with a yoga practice, it becomes all the more apparent. I know I shouldn’t be eating some things and sometimes I still do and sometimes I abstain just like anyone else. Yoga tunes you into being able to pay more attention and with that I can feel my body and how it reacts to things and not just physically in the way of, oh I feel so sluggish today - but with everything in my day to day life.

You could say yoga heightens your awareness to these big bag of bones we call our body and suddenly you wake up and you find yourself being able to register different things like - oh this is interesting, I feel something here, or in my wrist or in my ankle. To think that anything is separate from everything else is a fools move and nutrition is definitely a part of that as well as sleep patterns, self care rituals, who you’re hanging out with energetically and to the type of work that you do. All of these things all add up to you and who you are as a human and how you’re managing and walking yourself through life.

So there are moments - I mean I’m not good at fasting or with any limiting diets and I have digestive tract issues that flare up every now and again. It’s all just been a process of figuring things out because I can’t eat the things that most yoga people die for like the quinoa or kale and beans because I don’t process them well. I go to acupuncture once a week which has been my saving grace and I’ve done things like cut out gluten and coffee for two years but now I choose to be back on them and I really love it.

 
 
I FIND THE STRESSES OF RESTRICTING YOURSELF FROM DIFFERENT THINGS CAN SOMETIMES SERVE TO BE MORE DETRIMENTAL AND DAMAGING ANYWAY.

I mean yeah and with that there’s also the mindfulness in how you eat for sure. I grew up on a little island and we didn’t have any fresh produce - it was all brought in on airplanes so our salads were never great because they would spend two weeks on a ship or a plane to get to us. We relied heavily on meat growing up and I don’t know if that’s embedded in me and I’m sure that it could all be reprogrammed with some work but I do think the things you grew up eating is what your body is able to digest easier. I was a vegetarian but now I eat a little meat and I don’t eat it that often or feel the need to have animal protein or animal products but when I do, I am always very mindful of where it’s coming from. I feel fine to be vegan for a good amount of my meals throughout the week and I try and find a sense of balance with being true to myself and good to my body and obviously still remaining aware of the times we’re living in and what’s going on in the world.

 
WITH YOGA, HOW DID THE PRACTICE FIND IT’S WAY INTO YOUR LIFE?

I grew up dancing so physical practices have always been major pillars in my existence. When I came to New York I went to NYU for their undergrad drama program and my first acting teacher had us do sun salutations to warm up and that was my first taste of the practice. I was like, oh I’ve done something similar to this but this is new - with a breath count and everything. At that time my acting studio was up the street from Jivamukti when it was on Lafayette and my other friend who was also a dancer was practicing there and said I should go with her. At first I was like - oh I don’t know about this yoga, I mean I dance so I don’t need yoga? However in the end she talked me into going and my first class was with Lady Ruth who’s this older Jivamukti teacher and for anyone who knows her, she’s very intense and very strict. I walked in thinking, yeah I can do this no problem and within ten mins we went from chanting to everyone holding handstands. The class went for an hour and a half and I left thinking, what the heck did I just go through?!

 
 
HOW DID EVERYTHING ELSE UNFOLD?

Well that hooked my interest but it wasn’t until after college when I was still doing a lot of choreography and dance and started working at restaurants to make money. Soon I was promoted to a manager and I was young and took the position because it was a nice paycheck but my soul started getting sucked out of me and I started practicing yoga regularly because it was accessible. Soon enough, it became the only consistent outlet my body had at the time. I mean I was doing so much restaurant work I wasn’t able to do a tonne of dance and it was a darker moment for me because I felt really removed from who I was and wasn’t doing the things that really sparked my joy. I found yoga because it was able to fill some of that for me and take over my need for physical expression at the time.

Soon enough I left the restaurant world and started working at a desk job and that was when I really started questioning things like - what do I actually want to do with my life? How can I make a sustainable living? I mean I never really wanted to be a professional dancer and I always wanted to choreograph but didn’t want that to become my job as it was something that brought me so much joy and something that I saw as more a passion project. I was doing all this yoga at the time and had taught before in the way of dance so I connected the two and decided to do my 200hr teacher training just to see what it would be like. I started teaching pretty much right away and then everything just unfolded from there.

 
I WAS ALSO IN A SIMILAR PLACE AND I THINK MAYBE WE ALL COME TO THAT POINT, FOR ME MAYBE IT WAS MORE WITH AGE BUT YOU REALLY DO START TO QUESTION - WHAT CAN I DO THAT SUSTAINS ME A LIVING BUT DOESN’T COMPROMISE WHO I AM AS A PERSON, WHAT I ENJOY AND THINGS THAT I BELIEVE IN? IT’S A DIFFICULT TASK BECAUSE WE'RE MOST OFTEN MADE TO BELIEVE THE OPPORTUNITY DOESN’T EXIST. SO YOU SPOKE ABOUT THE BIG ROLE DANCE HAD IN YOUR LIFE - WHAT DREW YOU TO STAY AND FURTHER EXPLORE THE YOGA PRACTICE?

I think it was a little bit of the exotic-ness to it, yoga having been totally foreign to me and all it’s terminology and language that I had no idea about at the time. Obviously there was also a difference in what I experienced energetically through yoga to what I experienced in dance. The creative expression and free form that dance allows will always be a meditation for me - an opportunity and a place where I can flush through ideas and where I feel like I can express myself creatively. In having said that there is also a place for parameters and boundaries within movement and creating shapes and moving with a sense of practicality and not just purely for self expression. In yoga, you do this to relieve this and you do that to support that and that made a lot of sense to me. To have a physical practice that could be tailored too and cornered in what I might really need in a moment.

I found my main mentor Nevine who founded Katonah yoga after I finished my 200hr training and was already well into teaching. I heard her teachings and her material and found there was so much practicality to how they were using meditation, pranayama and the asana practice. It just made sense to me and gave me the hook that I really needed at that point in my life when I was starting to feel a little removed from my career as a yoga teacher and my path in yoga. I had been going to all these classes across the board and was hearing all the stories about the gods, goddesses and deities - which all made sense and didn’t feel obsolete - but personally were things that just didn’t feel right for me as a teacher to speak and preach about. I felt very separate and a bit phony as a young 20 year old trying to talk to people about their moral issues and giving examples of a monkey god. All of that has a place and is so full of flavor and color but I somehow felt like I was taking on someone else’s culture and history in a way that I wasn’t sure I could or necessarily felt like I wanted too.

With Nevine’s work I found such a blend - she takes traditional Chinese medicine and Taoist theory and brings in sacred geometry and references so many religions just to show how everyone is saying similar things just in different vocabularies. In India they will talk about this in this way and in the Middle East they’ve developed this concept and in the Americas the ideas came through this way and everyone is finding the same kind of material, it’s just embedded in different systems. To say for me, yoga became a bigger practice than it’s roots and origins and of course honoring where it comes from is still so important - but the universality of consciousness as something bigger than all of these things is what started to make more sense to me for what I wanted to teach and how I wanted to teach things. 

 
WOULD YOU SAY THERE ARE NOTICEABLE SHIFTS IN YOUR HEALTH FROM WHEN YOU’RE PRACTICING YOGA OR DANCING REGULARLY TO SAY WHEN YOU’RE NOT?

I mean for me it’s a matter of being functional to feeling dysfunctional and if I haven’t really been engaging in embodiment practices, I always catch myself in these moments of feeling really foreign in my own body. There’s a connection with myself I have to upkeep and always make sure it’s fresh otherwise I just start to feel really funky. It’s a mix of both the need for the physical activity but also the need for self expression and for me, self expression was always through movement more so than any other modality of creation or art.

With yoga because it is so intertwined in my career, my well being and my support systems - I find if I’m practicing too much, I start to feel a sense of vacancy and that’s where I need dance and choreography to feel more balanced in my physical wellbeing. With yoga there is obviously room for creativity and form but for me it also does hold down these ideas of discipline and boundaries, which is all my own story that I have to work through but dance gives me the counter to all of that. It gives me space to have a free sense of self and to not have to hit a certain shape quote on quote or a sequence but to just be able to move how I want too and explore all these different styles of movement that give me different energies. For me it’s such a fun but important journey.

 
 
I THINK OF THE BODY SIMILARLY TO A POND AND YOU KNOW WHEN THE WATER GETS STAGNANT, THE POND GETS ALL MURKY? I ALWAYS THINK OF OUR BODIES LIKE THAT. I LOVE TALKING ABOUT MOVEMENT BECAUSE I SEE IT AS WHEN WE MOVE OUR BODIES, WE GET TO MOVE AND SHIFT ENERGY. HAVING SAID THAT, IS IT NICE FOR YOU TO HAVE THE TWO MODALITIES TO HOP BETWEEN? WHEN YOU’RE PRACTICING YOGA OR DANCING REGULARLY TO SAY WHEN YOU’RE NOT?

For sure, it’s how I figured out how to exist on planet earth.

 
 
DO YOU HAVE ANY PRACTICES OR RITUALS YOU ALWAYS FIND YOURSELF RETURNING TO?

I actually really love singing. I sing a lot, I was actually taking singing lessons last year but my teacher was a bit expensive and she was all the way up town so now I just love singing at home, it sparks a lot of joy in me and lifts my spirits. Karaoke is fun too and even if all of this is just by myself, it all helps.

 
 
I GUESS LIVING IN NEW YORK AND THE WAY IT IS HERE, HOW DO YOU PROCESS ALL THOSE VERY HUMAN (NORMAL) THINGS SUCH AS FEELING DOWN, RESTLESS OR ANXIOUS? WHAT HAVE YOU CONSIDERED TO BE SAVIORS DURING TIMES THAT FEEL A LITTLE DARKER?

It will be my 15 years in New York this August and it’s so crazy! I’ve been really lucky enough with work to support leaving the city on a regular basis and I would say that has been one of the ways I’ve been able to sustain living in New York in the last few years. I’ve been in a love/hate relationship with this city and you know just finally registering how taxing it is on my nervous system and openly admitting it instead of being the usual - oh no I’m fine this city gives me life! I find leaving the city really helps and going to the water always saves me. I grew up on a tiny island and to me the ocean will always be life and everything.

In the winter time I go to the baths a lot - creating these own little self care practices that I can incorporate. I’m always really appreciative of our city and our art scene and getting to see dance on a regular basis and theatre really helps also. Getting to see museum’s and gallery spaces and all of those things but actually doing them because I feel like in New York, we talk about it a lot but we don’t actually give ourselves the time to go and experience those things. And I mean friends, a network of people that I love and want to be around on a regular basis. I think all those things really save me.

Words & Photos by Angel
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