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When I became a yoga teacher 13 years ago, I was keenly interested in introducing yoga into hospitals and mental health centers. I began my own practice right after my father died, and experienced such grounding within my grief that I longed to share the benefits of yoga with people who’d experienced illness or trauma. I taught in hospitals, but it was five years later, in county drug court, that I found my true niche working with teens.
Although choosing the style of yoga that works best for you is important, locating an instructor you resonate with is crucial.
My first experience with yoga was through an after-work exercise program at the school district where I worked. The instructor gave initial instructions, but didn’t explain how to modify a pose if you were unable to do one in the way she described. The lady next to me mastered all the poses in their original form and between her and the teacher, I felt lost, confused and most of all, uncomfortable. That encounter caused me to stay away from any yoga class for several years.
After hearing rave reviews about a local studio and needing to alleviate my joint pain from arthritis, I tried a gentle yoga class. From the moment I walked into the studio and was greeted by Jeni, the instructor, I knew I’d found a perfect place to develop a yoga practice. Jeni exuded friendliness and warmth, she explained everything, and she had one of the most soothing voices on the planet. If you mention an ache or pain you have, she incorporates moves into the class that help alleviate it, she gives lots of individual attention and she also takes other yoga classes. I’ve taken this same gentle yoga class from Jeni, every Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. now, for about seven years. And I’m never leaving.
How can you find your own version of Jeni?
Beginning a yoga practice can feel frustrating, stressful — maybe even boring! But stick with it. Coming back to your mat again and again will improve your body, mind and spirit beyond levels that you even dreamed imaginable.
Find a blissful yoga practice by following these simple steps:
Yogi Darren Main asks yoga teachers to reflect on the ethics of being a yoga teacher. Main views ethics as a foundational necessity for any yoga teacher so that they can create a safe space for students to flourish and grow. He believes teachers must root themselves in the Yamas and the Niyamas in order to be a good example for students both on and off the mat.
Any yoga pose can be done in an inspired way. In fact, the more inspiration you put into it, the better the pose. (This goes for Savasana too, yo.) Be present, breathe, look inward, breathe … be inspired. This is yoga!
Nevertheless, most of us yogis aspire toward the more advanced asanas, and one that usually comes right to mind is Handstand: Adho Mukha Vrksasana. Downward-Facing Tree. In which your hands and fingers are the branches reaching down into the ground, and your feet and toes the roots reaching for the sky. There’s nothing like it for a new perspective — on yourself and on life in general.
Jill Miller met fellow yogi Elena Brower this past October when they both presented at the Ojai Yoga Crib, and the two immediately struck up a friendship. When Jill found out Elena was about to publish a yoga workbook called Art of Attention (co-authored by Erica Jago), she knew she wanted to have a heart-to-heart interview: teacher-to-teacher, innovator-to-innovator and woman-to-woman. Here is Part Two of her interview. To read Part One, click here.
I first met Elena Brower this October when we both presented at the Ojai Yoga Crib, although we’d been acquainted through email for about a year prior. Elena walked into the faculty dinner and seemed to carry a piece of the sun in her essence.
Now I know that might sound a bit “woo-woo,” and if you’ve been reading my blog for the past five years, you know that I am a straight shooter and tend to refrain from sharing heavy doses of mystical or esoteric phenomenon with my readers. But I tell you, I can also recognize a galvanizer when I see one, and I was immediately drawn to Elena’s intense stare, clarity of tone and poetic spirit. She’s awesome! And I am happy to now call her my friend.
So when I found out she was about to publish her very first book Art of Attention, a yoga workbook designed to inspire your yoga practice, contemplation and creativity, which she wrote with co-author Erica Jago, I wanted to have a heart-to-heart interview: teacher-to-teacher, innovator-to-innovator and woman-to-woman. Here is the result of that conversation: