Gina Caputo, "Simple Is The New Advanced" At Hanuman Festival
Cover Photo By DJ Pierce, Hanuman Festival 2017, Boulder, Colorado
By Megan Warren-Henderson
“As in nature, your roots determine how much you grow.”
Gina Caputo is a popular Boulder yogini and every year at Hanuman Festival her classes are packed! I signed up for Caputo’s class on Friday morning at 8:30 titled “Simple is the new advanced." I couldn’t wait to begin the weekend and find out exactly what she meant! I was pleasantly surprised, of course, as always the case with Gina. She has a humorous and passionate approach. She has a way of reaching everyone in the room, no matter their current level of understanding of yoga. We spent the beginning of class exploring the polarities of Hatha yoga. The sun and the moon, in breath and out breath and grounding to rise. We also focused on the space between and tracking our movements during the transitions. I felt centered and ready for the rest of the day at the end of the class! So I caught up to her and asked her a few questions.
We are constantly striving for more or better rather than relishing or being grateful for what is already here or what is already inside of us. How do you convey this, especially in a giant room full of varying abilities and mindsets at a yoga festival like Hanuman?
I call this the “when/then syndrome." As in "When I can hold handstand without a wall, then I’ll feel like a real yogi." There are endless variations here. We postpone contentment in pursuit of a goal. To convey this I’ll often use some yogic context, like the Niyama (ethical observance) Santosha, which is translated as contentment or satisfaction. My initial understanding was that Santosha was simply an acceptance of one’s circumstances. And it is, but I don’t think it precludes curiosity. In other words, I believe that we can practice Santosha AND still be curious about what’s possible. The difference is that we aren’t attached to things being different or averse to things being as they are and yet still explore and are curious.
Favorite "simple" (define however you like) pose that offers a depth or opening that is not necessarily perceived as profound yet it can have profound results in practice.
One of my favorite simple poses is bhujangasana or cobra. It is a pose we often do on day 1 and yet after 2 decades, I still find some subtlety and insight that is new. You can explore the integration of your legs into the pose, all the way down to the action of your feet and toes. Then, it has so many variations! Unlike its favored sibling Upward Dog which is essentially a hinge backbend, cobra can happen across several vertebrae and has so many levels of height. And then, there are so many actions with your arms, hands and shoulders. I feel that every single pose, from the simplest to the most complex can have a lot of gravitas when we explore the subtleties of sensation, breath and impermanence and the interplay of the three. In my opinion, this is how our practice becomes a moving meditation. There are still so many layers of the simple poses we can discover with awareness and concentration or Dharana.
In class we focused on slowing down, inner focus, patience and persistence, and less is more. How does this pertain to your own journey?
Since I’m a human who lives in the world, I am acutely aware of the physical and energetic state of humanity these days. We are constantly stimulated, being pulled in several directions at once, often overwhelmed, regularly feel disillusioned and frustrated and are suffering from diseases rooted in stress. So, as one of these humans with some resources to work with all of this, I feel like it’s my obligation to teach these tools. For me, the key is always awareness. It feels like the root practice. I love the physical yoga practice and I am SO grateful for its existence since asking your average human to go from stress to subtle feels like a tall order. I’m grateful that the Nath yogis had a sense to use our physical bodies as part of a spiritual practice. Where I think we went astray is in limiting ourselves to a physical practice and a lot of cool slogans like “love and light." I’d love to see more connecting of the dots between the postures we do and how the practice shows up in our lives. And not just in vague terms of “it makes me feel good,” but precisely, how does it translate into feeling good? Endorphins alone? Or a developing awareness and sense that what arises in life is workable as a result of the patience, persistence and inner focus a physical yoga practice requires?
I see that you are on hiatus from teaching public classes after moving out of your last space due to problems with the building and are regrouping before beginning again. How does this feel? Liberating? Exciting?
At this moment I just feel deeply exhausted. The reasons extend far beyond the scope of this interview for sure but I haven’t quite gotten to the point that I feel liberated or excited. Right now, just tired. And that’s the truth. I also know this is impermanent.
Is change sometimes exactly what we need in order to grow even if we are happy and coasting along at an enjoyable pace?
ABSOLUTELY. Change is inevitable and I feel it should be embraced, even when it hurts. Life feels like pinball to me. You can keep banging against the same bumper and keep racking up points or you can get flung somewhere new and learn something you never knew, become aware of something you knew little about. It’s hard but I love it.
You, Gina Caputo, have a very likable, easy going, laugh-at-myself, lighthearted personality. Your yoga knowledge is vast but yet you remain humble and grounded. You have a gift of sharing yoga while not elevating yourself above the students. Did you find that you blossomed because of yoga and it's philosophy OR were you drawn to yoga because it aligned with your lightness of being in this world?
First, let me say thank you for such a complementary characterization of me. I have all my digits crossed that it’s all true :)
I don’t think my personality has changed much since I started practicing yoga actually. The very kind things you said about me have generally been in place all my life. I’ve never been competitive and I have never felt a lack of confidence that would make me likely to need to elevate myself above others. Humor has always been a part of my life. Yoga has simply reinforced those things in me. The practices have taught me the extraordinary value of a sense of humor because what we discover about ourselves when we practice can be a shock, or even terrifying, and if we can’t relax around that process, learn from it and still laugh at our own naivete or blindness. The other thing yoga, or more precisely, my yoga community has done for me is encouraged me to fully embrace myself just as I am. I remember once feeling that my usual photos weren’t “yogi” enough so when I made a flyer I used a truly lovely photo of me in a more stereotypical yoga flyer posture (think ethereal, looking to the sky, etc). And I remember posting it and my beloved students seeing it and saying “What’s up with the photo??” and cracking up. Over the years I’ve gotten more and more comfortable in my own skin and with my regular, authentic voice, largely due to the fact that my students wouldn’t have it any other way and I’m deeply grateful for that. I may never be the mega-star or cover girl but I’ll always know I’ve been true to my original spirit and that’s worth everything.