Teacher Sian Gordon Shares Her Self-Actualization Story & Devotion to Katonah

Love Yoga studios owner Sian Gordon opens up to Yoga Journal about growing up at Yoga Zone, values, and discovering the Katonah practice.

My dad woke up every day at 5 a.m. to meditate, pump his breath, and chant to Shiva. When I was very young, he brought me to my godfather Alan Finger’s classes at Yoga Zone in Los Angeles (the original YogaWorks). When Alan moved to New York City, he opened a yoga studio above my dad’s salon. I’d go there after school and take yoga while I waited for my dad. Yoga was such a normal part of my upbringing that it became analogous to brushing my teeth. There’s still a part of me that feels surprised when people tell me that they don’t do yoga.

I took a Landmark course after college that had a profound effect on me. I felt awakened; I wanted my life to be about helping others. But I needed to help myself first. I moved into an ashram in the Bahamas, doing all I could to help cook, clean, and more. It was intense. After six months, I was like, “God, I just want to kiss a boy.” So I left and went to grad school to be a therapist.

Grad school didn’t give me what I was looking for, but it did teach me discipline. I was searching for a way to be of service, but it didn’t teach me how to connect to myself or other people. I’d learned more about that on the playground at elementary school. I came to realize that you can spend the rest of your life trying to fix yourself.

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It’s hard for me not to get caught up in the business side of things and the way social media can make everything a big contest, but the most important thing I can do for myself every day is ask, “Who do I want to be?” and “How do I want to help the world?” I keep my values simple in that I say what I do and I do what I say. To me, that is having integrity.

The first time I took a Katonah Yoga class, with founder Nevine Michaan, I was completely mindblown. I had severe lower back issues, and Nevine took one look at me and said my right kidney wasn’t getting enough air. She moved me around a bit, and then I didn’t have pain for months. I hadn’t told her anything, but she seemed to see everything. So, Nevine became my teacher.

Katonah Yoga is unlike anything else. Instead of being based on an Indian lineage, it is based on Chinese medicine and Taoism. It incorporates a lot of sacred geometry and metaphor. There is no iconography. No Savasana (Corpse Pose). No Namaste. Nevine says that everyone’s physical body is going to break down, so the real reason to do this practice is so your mind doesn’t break down too. And of course, the psychology is connected to physiology; we use the body to access the mind and vice versa. Katonah aims to give you a spherical perspective, allowing you to see all possibilities, and in every possible direction. Then Taoism is all about polarity and the seasons. My practice is different in the summer, when I want to move outward into the world, than in the winter, when I want to turn my attention inward and gather insight.

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