Cats may are known for having nine lives, and scientific studies show that they have five personalities. So it's not surprising for someone who loves them so much to be wild and soft at the same time, cute but tough...and difficult to catch. She dresses in all white for yoga and all black for workouts...like yin and yang, she loves combining dual aspects of life in order to create a unique harmony.
As a Kundalini teacher, she exudes a certain softness and aura reserved for the mystical among us. At the same time, she is a consultant and a coach. Through her past in the fashion industry she has seen a lot; this keeps her down to earth, determined and strong. Desiree Pais is 27, and yet an old soul. Read on for the portrait of a woman who simultaneously references Guru Jagat and Jacquemus as current inspirations...
Inside/Out: Did you play sports when you were a kid?
Desiree Pais: I figured skated for 15 years competitively. It was my first love!
I/O: And how did you end up doing yoga?
D: I started doing Bikram yoga when I worked in fashion and then some Vinyasa at Yoga to the People because the studio was right across the street from the showroom I used to work at. It was literally just to keep in shape. I eventually did two teacher trainings in the Hatha yoga lineages and then Level One training for Kundalini Yoga. I got into the Kundalini Yoga because everyone I knew who did it looked so sparkly and happy and it was at a time when I was very, very, very much not that.
I/O: What did you first like about it?
D: The Kundalini yoga practice was so magical. Not in a hippie dippie way, but I literally felt like my life was hogwarts! I still do. It brings a lot of the mystical and magical aspects of the world into every day life.
I/O: Why did you decide to teach yoga and meditation?
D: Because it totally changed my life, Kundalini yoga in particular, and I just felt very drawn to teach it and share that with others.
I/O: How do you mix them and why?
D: It's part of the Kundalini yoga lineage to do both Yoga and Meditation.
I/O: Who and what inspires you?
D: Guru Jagat and Amanda Bacon are big ones for me in terms of business. It's funny because it's actually hard to answer this as I've been working really hard to kind of stop looking at what everyone else is doing and how they're doing it in terms of business and am kind of really just inspired by fashion and creative industry right now. I love Sophie Buhai, Jeanne Damas, Coyote Negro, Jacquemus, Unconditional Magazine...these all bring hearts out of my eyes! And of course, a lot of my friends as well who are very successful and just really making it happen.
I/O: Have you ever feel a surge of intense emotions during your mind/body workouts?
D: In very long Kundalini Yoga Kriyas or meditations, yes. It can be miserable! But I like to think of it as purification. Alchemizing all the negativity into gold. So I just let it hurt and let it burn so it can purify and release or empower me to move through extreme discomfort.
I/O: Is yoga a sport, a philosophy, a mind/body connection?
D: Yoga is definitely not a sport. At all. It's an opportunity to experience yourself as expanded rather than contracted, in every sense of the meaning.
I/O: Can you tell us why you decided to study Chinese medicine? What does it bring to your coaching?
D: Studying Chinese medicine has given me and incredibly deep and intricate understanding of how the body and mind works, how and why people develop disease, and how to use both (body and mind) to bring people back into balance.
I/O: A mantra or motto?
D: "Keep up and you will be kept up." - Yogi Bhajan
I/O: What's the style of your classes and consultations?
D: I'm very real. I don't have unrealistic expectations of people. I'm not dogmatic. I want people to find what they really love and not just fit some wellness mold of drinking green juice because they've been told happiness is at the bottom of that cup.
I/O: How do you make women absolutely powerful?
D: I give them Kundalini meditations that have worked for me. It's up to them to decide whether they want to do the work or not and I say that with love because I didn't want to do the work myself for a very long time. When I finally broke through so much changed and very fast. We also work together to see where they are leaking power and energy in their lives (maybe toxic jobs, relationships, emotions) and begin to reconstruct that.
I/O: What does female empowerment mean to you? Do you feel that women go further together?
D: This is a whole topic. I think female empowerment really begins within. Yes, it's very powerful for women to collaborate and build each other up rather than break each other down. But I'm not a feminist by any means. I like Yogi Bhajan's stance on it. He wanted women to collectively realize how powerful they are instead of believing they are powerless.
I/O: In the city that never sleeps where does mind/body training fit into your life?
D: It's an absolute must. To be healthy and strong is the only way to survive in this city.
I/O: How do you strive to find balance between different areas of your life?
D: I don't think I look at them as different. I try to integrate everything and if something is not flowing it means one is off in one area and affecting the others.
I/O: Does challenging yourself physically take you out of your comfort zone in other areas of your life?
D: Yes. You cannot separate the two. It's all practice of building a muscle.
I/O: Do your wellness practices give you a sense of community? Is this a motivating factor or a secondary effect?
D: I really love attending MediClub or the Big Quiet. I feel a huge sense of support and community within that group. What Jesse and Lauren (Editor's note: Lauren's interview will be published here in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned!) are doing is absolutely incredible.
I/O: Are mind/body practices and self care the new nightlife?
D: I hope not. We need a mix of both!!!
I/O: How did yoga and meditation impact your eating habits?
D: I struggled with eating disorders for many years. To be honest the wellness world made it worse at first. I became severely orthorexic. I had to work very hard to bring myself out of that. I never read health or wellness blogs anymore. I know enough about what's good for my body and what's not that I don't need to be reading about more things to be afraid of. The body is very strong. We need to stop putting fear into people's minds and remind them of the profound machine our bodies are.
I/O: What is your ideal performance garment or product?
D: Black! It makes me feel like a ninja babe to workout out head to toe black.
I/O: Your favorite activewear brands?
D: Outdoor Voices fits me so well!
I/O: What about beauty: the perfect hairstyle for training?
D: I like to wear my hair down or in a half top knot. Anything to feel like a samurai Is the way to go. It makes me want to work out harder.
I/O: From street to studio, define your style.
D: I'm really inspired by French women and how they dress.
I/O: What active/wellness/lifestyle trends do see happening?
D: I just go to my gym in Williamsburg or take boxing classes at Shadowbox or yoga at Sky Ting.
I/O: What activities have you recently discovered or want to try?
D: Boxing is a new one for me. I absolutely love shadowbox. I really want to get into martial arts but I haven't found the right place yet.
I/O: Favorite studio and class?
D: Krissy and Chloe's classes at Sky Ting are to die for.
I/O: Have you ever traveled for wellness?
D: I went on a retreat with Taylor Eyewalker in Tulum in 2015. It was absolutely life changing.
I/O: What role does music play in your practice(s)?
D: I love Simrit's news album. Ad Such is a favorite and it's a powerful mantra to move through blocks. And everyone knows my love for rap music. Kendrick Lamar's new album has been growing more and more on me. Saba, Saint Jhn, Kodak Black... I can't get enough. It can take you from feeling negative to powerful in a very quick period of time.
I/O: What role does social play in your practice(s)?
D: It's funny that social media has gotten me to where I am. I never planned it or looked at it as a business tool. Way before Instagram I had tumblr and posted pictures I loved with quotes. I just started doing that on Instagram, too, and it's what I keep doing. It's really for me and my eyes, what makes me excited to look at and inspired to read and share with others.
I/O: What are your new plans?
D: This year is a big shift for me. I began consulting for Herbivore Botanicals which I LOVE. Ra Ma New York is opening up and that will be a big opportunity for me to teach and help Guru Jagat with this AMAZING studio so I'll be focusing a lot of energy there come Fall. And my priority is finishing my Masters Degree in Chinese Medicine! I am insatiably curious. Creativity is the most healing medicine on the planet. It's the number one remedy I give to clients and students. It heals you in ways that medicine and food absolutely cannot.
TIPS & ADDRESSES
1 tip for mindfulness / reset: 5 minutes left nostril breathing
1 trainer: Taryn Toomey
1 playlist or power song: "Humble" by Kendrick Lamar
1 app: I don't use apps they drain my battery!
1 podcast: School of Greatness
1 blog/site: Free and Native
1 food address: Loosie Rouge
1 beverage: unsweetened almond lattes from Butchers Daughter
1 inspiration: Jeanne Damas
1 woman we should interview: Taylr Anne