nichola dunne

Instructor Profile: Nichola Dunne

nichola dunne

Urban Zen was created by fashion designer Donna Karan in response to her husband’s battle with cancer.  Integrating Western medicine with Eastern healing techniques, Urban Zen was born out of Karan’s desire to thank the over-worked nurses and doctors who had helped them.

Nichola Dunne taught Urban Zen twice-weekly at YogaWorks in Pacific Palisades and, in addition to three flow classes, currently teaches it at Goorus as well.  Nichola has always taken good care of herself: she exercises and eats right. But she discovered a lump in her left breast nearly three years ago, and has undergone a double mastectomy and subsequent other surgeries since then.

While the past three years have been a challenging time for Nichola, teaching and practicing yoga have helped her navigate this unchartered territory. “My personal practice has been more limited.  My doctor told me, for example, that I couldn’t do Down Dog for eight weeks after surgery. But I can still do standing poses, restorative poses and balancing poses.  Recently, I did my first forearm plank since March!”

Nichola grew up in the San Fernando Valley and went to CSUN, earning a degree in biology.  She also studied landscape design, and worked at a garden nursery for many years.  She eventually married and had two children, settling in the Palisades.

Nichola took her first yoga class in 1995 and recalls, “I was a real gym rat and even thought about becoming a personal trainer, but burned out. I started yoga because I wanted to do something spiritual. Yoga is the perfect blend of spirituality and exercise for me.”

Nichola enjoyed yoga so much that she wanted to deepen her knowledge, perfect her alignment, and practice safely.  She completed her teacher training with YogaWorks founders Maty Ezraty and Lisa Walford in 1997.  Says Nichola, “I just took the classes because I enjoyed them, but my friends kept asking me to teach them. I started out teaching yoga in my living room.”

Nichola worked around the Palisades from the Cyprus Center to Yoga Works to Spectrum/Bay Club.  Nicholas says about Goorus, “I like the independent studio environment. This location has been my home since the very first yoga studio (Jiva) opened here.”

When asked about her illness and if she could share advice with other patrons living with cancer, Nichola says, “Let people in, but have boundaries. I regret not telling more people about my illness. After my second surgery, I felt isolated. Now, I ask my family and friends to come around, but if I’m not feeling up to it, I let them know…I would also tell a person with cancer to continue their yoga practice--whatever they are capable of doing. Be as consistent as you can and stay connected to your yoga community. It makes a person feel better in body, mind, and spirit.”

Trouble Sleeping? Try Urban Zen with Nichola Dunne

Going to sleep...something so basic, yet so important. But for many people, sleep is complicated by insomnia.

Dorie, a regular at Goorus, put her knowledge of yoga’s calming powers to work when visiting her grandsons in Barcelona, Spain.  Her younger grandson, Matteo, never has trouble nodding off, but his older brother, Eli, has always struggled with getting into relaxation mode.  During her visits with her grandsons, she puts the boys to bed.  When it became clear that Eli wasn’t going to settle down easily, she brought out her essential oils.

Talking to Eli and Matteo in soothing tones, she used body scanning and visualization techniques while also touching on the chakras.  [In Indian thought, there are seven such energy centers, or chakras, throughout the body. It is important to keep the lines of energy flowing freely.]

“While this process might seem like it could take a long time, it actually doesn’t,” says Dorie.  “Within 10 minutes of using the essential oils and talking about the chakras, Eli was fast asleep!  Both of my grandsons loved the smell and the ritual so much that we did it the next night, with the exact same result.”

Dorie had “always practiced yoga,” but had taken some time away from it due to a neck injury.  A Groupon YogaWorks purchase re-ignited her curiosity, and a relaxation yoga class with Amy Rose Stabley sealed the deal.  Says Dorie, “I loved it because nobody’s looking at anybody else. Everybody’s there for pure relaxation...I think that everyone should begin and (especially!) end the day inhaling the aromas of pure essential oils.”

Even when not in class, Dorie gives herself an Urban Zen-like experience before going to sleep.  Dorie has continued attending Urban Zen classes with Nichola Dunne, who she describes as, “an angel who guides so many people. Nichola truly changed my life.  The universe is not fair, but Urban Zen class makes it okay.”

Says Dorie, “Even when I am home in California, my family often calls me from Spain and asks me to talk the boys to sleep over the phone.  Urban Zen has been a source of joy for me, and I love sharing it with my grandsons.  Hopefully, more folks in the Palisades will discover Goorus Yoga and have a similar joyful experience.”