In the interview that follows below, we learn about this couple’s fascinating story, their teaching inspirations and advice, and their entrepreneurial adventure together.
Our class this morning was led by Christian Gentile and his partner Chloe Porter. In this unique class, we explored the five energies or elements that we are all part of (earth, water, fire, air, space) through a flow designed to help students feel if an element is imbalanced and then bring it back into balance through a specific yoga sequence.
Unlike any other class I have experienced, this particular session helped me have a deeper appreciation of the connection that my body has with the energy that surrounds me. Christian and Chloe took the class on a journey, showing us how the various energies can translate into different yoga postures. I left class in a contemplative mood—reflecting upon how the body is not just physical, but an integrated whole that is deeply connected with the different energies and elements that surrounds us.
An Interview with Chloe Porter and Christian Gentile:
AM: What first interested you in yoga and when did you start practicing?
Christian: I started practicing in 2006. For me it was a way to become more aware of my own energy. I was working at the time as a massage therapist transitioning from a hotelier career to a massage therapy. My teacher at the time told me I should take on yoga because it is good for your posture, so I started practicing and I really enjoyed it. I then took a teacher training course and began instructing part-time shortly thereafter.
Chloe: My mom is actually a teacher who is very rooted in the Iyengar tradition. She was always teaching me as a child and often took me to yoga classes with her when I was a child. I was 17 when I did my first teacher training, so I was very young. It wasn’t until I did my second training 4-5 years later in India that I really started to take on teaching as a big part of my life and started to run yoga retreats…it kind of went from there.
AM: What do you love most about teaching?
Christian: I think it is great to teach because it keeps me practicing consistently. I know if I have to teach yoga I must come from a true place. If I don’t practice consistently, my instruction will not be the same because what I teach comes from my own experience. What I teach is what I authentically experience when I practice. I love the fact that teaching keeps my practice alive and vibrant.
Chloe: What I love particularly about teaching yoga is that is not only does it keep me in touch with my own practice but it is also just so rewarding to work with students of all levels. It is extremely gratifying when you have a student come and practice and see them leave feeling great. I think this also goes hand in hand with what we do when we work with people on the retreats, many who are going through burnout, and it is incredibly rewarding when you see people leave and they are feeling so much better.
AM: I realize this question may be a bit more challenging to summarize a response to, but who (or what) has influenced your practice the most and why?
Christian: My teachers, of course. For example, what we did in class this morning was focus on the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, space) which are derived from Chinese medicine. Some might wonder what Chinese medicine has to do with yoga. It’s not about the Chinese medicine, but rather it is about understanding that we are a natural entity and we are part of everything that is going on around us.
This 5 element driven practice is from my knowledgeable teacher Jai of Swara Yoga School. He’s studied yoga in depth and developed his system for over 15 years before he began teaching it.
Chloe: For me, what has most influenced my practice has been my mom. Most of my training comes from the Krishnamacharya lineage; Krisnamacharya is frequently known as the founder of modern yoga in India who birthed the two teachers B.K.S. Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois (Ashtanga). My mom was very Iyengar based, so I naturally went for vinyasa—the other side. I initially wanted to practice flow and I wanted to do all of this crazy stuff and it was humbling to have my mother keep giving me the books and giving me the practice. I think Christian and I are pretty similar in the sense that we do like to train from the source in India, and, of course, we’ll do other workshops around and learn from other teachers. I think my fellow teachers have been a massive influence on my classes.
So for me, the greatest influencers have been my mom, Iyengar, and my fellow teachers—although there are so many other things I could mention as well.
AM: Would you mind telling me a little bit about your business and the journey that has been for both of you?
Christian: We organize yoga retreats in beautiful locations and that is our priority right now. It is more of a yoga holiday concept with high quality yoga and affordable pricing. Most of our clients are from metropolitan locations. The majority of our Yoga Healing Nature retreat locations are in Europe, but we are starting to expand little by little.
Chloe: Since Christian and I are moving teachers, we are working on establishing ourselves online, which includes the creation of online classes. I work as a holistic nutritionist and Christian is more focused on the yoga therapy aspect. We both work with clients who are looking to re-balance their life and we help them develop a plan and a practice to achieve their goals.
Although we are traveling yoga teachers, I think it is very important to not only rely on just your yoga but to also develop other ways to make a profit and spread good vibes. We both write for an online journal and have our own websites as well.
AM: You both have fascinating stories and I’m curious to hear about some of the obstacles or challenges that you’ve had to overcome to get where you are today.
Chloe: When you choose to veer off a conventional life path, it can feel nerve wracking not only for you, but also for everyone in your life. I was fortunate to have strong support from my family. From the beginning one of the most powerful things I read was from Iyengar’s book where he talks about no one showing up to his first class, so he stayed and practiced for himself. Constantly showing up and understanding that time will pass and things will evolve. Learning how to relax into the uncertainty is also important.
Christian: I think it is about understanding what your purpose is. Keep pursuing, have patience and things will come. Constantly remind yourself that this is what you want to do and continue to go after it. And that when it doesn’t work the first (or second, or third) time, keep going.
AM: What advice would you give to someone who is looking to deepen their practice and take it to the next level?
Christian: Take it slowly. It is not about achieving a specific posture or a final goal but about enjoying the process. Many times if you relax and keep practicing steadily and with patience, things will happen. If you keep chasing something and you put too much stress into it, it has the opposite effect.
Chloe: I know it sounds cliché but it is very true–enjoying each moment and taking the time to respect each moment and each part of the practice. If you want to advance, the biggest thing you can do for yourself is be focused and present in each moment. That is when you will begin to really start listening to and understanding your body, and then the practice will grow from that.
I think you see many people these days going through an Instagram phase where they want to just get that one photo forced into one pose and then they just are either completely out of alignment (and get lucky they don’t hurt themselves) or they do hurt themselves and then have a bad experience and/or a bad taste in their mouth. There can be this glorification of yoga asana and needing to get to all the “milestone poses” but really there are many other important aspects before perfecting some of these poses that are even more enjoyable to get to…not as ego-fulfilling, perhaps, but extremely important nonetheless.
Christian: By practicing regularly your body changes and different poses become more available and you become more able to do different things—that is how you feel you are growing into the practice and not forcing yourself into doing something that may hurt you.
Chloe: I would say that there is no simple recipe or easy way to have a very advanced practice, the only way is to have a daily practice. You will see that the people who can do these beautiful poses get up and practice consistently, because it is only by training their body every day to do something that they can truly advance their practice to those higher levels.
AM: Why would you recommend for someone to come and check out Nicaragua?
Christian: I think this place is very unique in that it is so in tune with nature and the animals. It is very special to be having breakfast and to see a monkey passing though the branches or to be practicing yoga and look up and see the birds passing by. Also, the enclosed bay at Aqua creates a private space that you really “own” while you are here. It feels so private and the boundaries of the resort are truly defined by nature.
Chloe: It is very rare that you have such a beautiful resort that stays so in tune with nature. There are animals and an abundance of wildlife everywhere. I also think that Nicaragua is going to change very quickly and this is still a little slice of heaven. You really come here for the experience of the place, it is so raw here and I absolutely love it. It is about practicing in nature and adapting yourself to whatever is going on in that space…it goes far past just doing some stretches.
Chloe was introduced to yoga as a child by her mother Veronique and has had a steady practice ever since. The natural draw and peace she found in yoga led her to complete her first teacher training shortly after graduating high school with her teacher Philippe Bruneau in Nice. Chloe has spent extensive time travelling and studying yoga and holistic therapies throughout Nepal and India tying these teachings in with her more scientific university background. Chloe practices many forms of yoga and meditation but is highly influenced by the teachings of B. K. S. Iyengar along with several other teachers. Chloe has a dynamic style creating a beautiful diversion to channel a busy mind into moving meditation. Her classes range from vinyasa flows to more restorative hatha yoga classes.
Christian is a Yoga Teacher, Thai massage teacher, Yoga therapist. Originally from Italy, Christian has been travelling and living across Europe, Asia and Africa for several years. Now he splits his time between India and Italy teaching yoga and Thai massage. Christian has dedicated his life to alternative therapies and yoga, blending Hatha Yoga, Thai Massage and 5 Elements as well as Vedic principles, creating a therapeutic Yoga experience using Asana (postures) Pranayama (breathing) and meditation to support his students in a safe and light-hearted environment.
You can connect with Chloe and Christian on their websites: www.yoga-healing-nature.com or http://avecchloe.com/. Follow them on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/yogahealingnature/ or Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AvecChloe/.