Elizabeth Gallo: TGBTS Featured Teacher

Teachers.

Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my series of teacher interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!

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Have you met Elizabeth yet? We are practically twins! We are both Curvy certified yoga teachers, former classroom teachers, mamas to extraordinary daughters and adorable brunettes!

featured teacher

Here’s my interview.

When did you start practicing?

I took some yoga in college (like everyone else) but really fell in love with it in my twenties while living in New York City.

 Why did you start?

Honestly, I don’t remember. Is that bad?  I think that might be bad.

I do remember feeling like New York could be very lonely.  Yoga provided not just a place to go, but a group dynamic that was about just being.  One of my poet friends and I would take classes together – it was a beautiful respite from the city, from our jobs, from the desire to write brilliant stuff.  In retrospect maybe it was a step in determining who I wanted to be as an adult.

Where did you practice?

My first yoga home was Integral Yoga Institute on 13th Street in New York City.  It was such an oasis for me.  It has an old-school feeling – the studios have sweet names like “Heaven” and there is a strong sense of lineage there.  Interestingly, as my own practice has deepened, that sense of lineage has grown more precious to me. I am a yoga mutt, for sure, but knowing where different elements of my practice originate is important to me. I want to honor my teachers through my practice and teaching.

How has your practice evolved over time?

My practice found new space and importance in my life when I got pregnant.  I had to have the yoga.  Yoga sustained me through a difficult first pregnancy and birth trauma and into another pregnancy just a few months later.  This was a more defining beginning in some ways, and I was lucky that my yoga found a home at Shakti Yoga & Living Arts, where I met my dear teacher Anna Winkler.

 My practice has become more strongly alignment-based, more therapeutic. More importantly, it has become more and more about creating a space for myself to be and breathe, outside of my main job of mothering my two girls.  It has become less changing to accept and more accepting to change.

mama wheel

 How long have you been a teacher?

I think I’ve always been a teacher.  I loved to play school when I was a little girl — as my girls do now – maybe all little kids do?  But when my original plans to go to an ivy-league-that-shall-not-be-named to become an academic didn’t come to fruition, I got sidetracked and went off to study music.  All along, I’ve always felt connected to my teachers – really loved them. I recall this so strongly with my voice teachers over many years: Richard Rosewall, Kathleen Kaun, Mary Davenport, Gary Race.

When I was studying music in graduate school, I got to teach again, and it my favorite thing about graduate school.  Working with younger singers to make their voices beautiful and healthy has so similarities with my teaching now — but I got sidetracked again.  After a second stint in graduate school (earning a degree in creative writing) and a few years working in publishing, I felt called to teach again.  I completed the New York City Teaching Fellows program and became a high school English teacher. I taught in the Bronx and in Newark, NJ before retiring to give birth to my own teachers.  My yoga practice was so crucial to me during and after my back-to-back pregnancies that when my teacher suggested I do the teacher training program, I agreed.   

I was just listening to one of Pema Chodron’s talks that was recommended to me by a friend who is also on the path. Speaking about dharma, she reminds us that it is “the total appreciation of impermanence and change.”  In some ways, this has described my teaching career to date – always changing but always so fulfilling regardless of the application.

Why did you start Me and Les Girls?

I started Me and Les Girls after my daughter was born and my life shifted so dramatically.   I wanted to write. I wanted to connect.  I was just starting to meet other yogis online, so it coincided with a whole new world opening to me – one that gave me a little connection while I was home with my two babies.

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As of December 2013, my blog will be available through my website as well, so it is be easier to find me.

What are your classes like?

My classes are eclectic, I think.  I don’t teach from a menu of sequences.  Mostly no music – I know, so shocking in this day and age.  My classes are about turning inward, but still about having a sense of humor.  They are about nurturing whatever body and mind you bring to the mat that day, that hour.  The classes are slow enough that you will have time to find some pleasing, beneficial alignment in the pose and then breathe there. I like people to ask questions, give feedback, think, work, and laugh.  And at the end, I want you to rest.   

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 Do you have a home practice? What is it like? How often? Where? How’d you start and how do you keep at it?

Practicing at home is very difficult in terms of time and space – for everyone, no matter how big their space is, no matter how much free time they have.  My home practice started out of necessity, when I would sneak in bits of practice during nap times.  But it stuck, which is the point. I do some sort of home practice most days, even if it is ten minutes.  This regularity is so key to really feeling the yoga.

When we moved to Evanston last year, I got lucky when my daughters decided that they wanted to continue sharing a bedroom!  I have the spare bedroom as my yoga room.  I went on a prop-buying spree this summer, and now I have lots of goodies to make my practice (or yours) feel good and work to heal what ails me (or you). But my next purchase will take it to the next level – ropes!

What’s your favorite pose? Why?

It’s hard to choose!  I like the strength and length in Trikonasana.  I like a meditation seat like sukhasana, which by the way, for many people is not an “easy” pose.  I love to backbend and stand on my head, too.

What’s your least favorite pose?

Tree pose.  Blech.

Do you have a meditation practice?   

Yes, and it is even harder to keep up with meditating than it is with asana.  But it is also more important.  As Erich Schiffman reminded me (and a bunch of other people) in a workshop last summer, meditation is the centerpiece of our practice.  And if you’re not meditating, you might not be practicing yoga. Worth considering.  Meditation makes me feel so good so quickly.  It is nice to practice asana first to make the body more supple and accepting of the sitting.  But even on its own, meditation is a magic-maker for me.  My breathing slows and lengthens. Afterwards the furrow in my brow is just a little less there.

What other blogs do your read?  

I read TGBTS (of course), and the blogs of many of my yoga teachers and yoga sisters:  Cora Wen/Yoga Bloom, Flying Yogini, Curvy Yoga, Sarahsana, Yoga Betty.  I also like reading Samantha Irby’s Bitches Gotta Eat and Ta-Nehisi Coates.  I enjoy Smitten Kitchen and 101 Cookbooks, too.  I keep up with my beloved Cubbies on Bleed Cubbie Blue and Chicago restaurants on Eater.  But I also love reading books!  (GASP!  So old-school!)  Especially yoga, buddhism, poetry and cookbooks.

Why?

Oh I love reading!  One of my frustrations as a mom is not having as much time to read as I would like.  But blogs are great because they are so portable: I can read them on my phone in the short moments I have waiting to pick up the kids and between classes.

 Who and what inspires you?

People who stick with things inspire me.  I’ve never felt like I was great at seeing things through, and in some ways this is why I like yoga.  Staying right in the moment in a pose or in a meditation or in an everyday chore is so freeing, but also so fulfilling.  Now the people who have stayed with their practice for decades inspire me:  my teachers Cora Wen, Gabriel Halpern, Anna Winkler, to name just a few.

My children inspire me. They are so creative and playful.  Because they are girls, I feel especially motivated to continue to study, learn and grow and demonstrate that I am curious and multifaceted. I want them to see that they have so many choices in life which can all be explored, each in their own time.

And of course teachers.  For where would we be without them.  I have been so lucky to study with so many incredible people in my life.   It reminds me of my favorite quote:

 “Education is not the filling of a pail, rather the igniting of a fire.”  Yeats.  

Jai!

headstand

Have any questions or comments for Elizabeth? Please leave them in the comment section below.

If you enjoyed this post, get email updates (it’s FREE).

Sarah Kohl of Mama Kohl: TGBTS Featured Teacher

Teachers.

Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my series of teacher interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!

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sarah kohl 1

Have you met Sarah yet? She’s pretty much the bee’s knees. Equal parts smarts, sass and ass-kicking with a side of mindful beauty. This one writes directly to the heart.

Here’s my interview.

When did you start practicing?

I think I started practicing at birth.  I think we all do.  If you look at babies, they are natural yogis.  We just forget as we get older.  As far as when I officially started, I was 18 years old.  I got “Yoga For Dummies” at a bookstore and learned very quickly that you can’t learn yoga exclusively from a book.  Can you imagine?  It was a hilarious start, looking back, but it was a start!

Why did you start?

Things in my life went totally haywire when I was about 17.  We all have sob stories and mine certainly isn’t unique, but I knew that I needed something to carry me through the mess, something for me to hold onto , something to believe in when everything else in my life had fallen to ash.  It was either that or drug addiction and yoga seemed a better choice (I’m only slightly kidding about that.) I knew I needed to move my body and move my mind and find a way for it to all come together.  I’ve never looked back.

Where did you practice?

At that time, I practiced in my living room, in my yard, at outdoor concerts, in parks, anywhere I could.  I got videos and more books and practiced with friends.  Believe it or not, I was in my late 20s before I actually took an official class, although by that time I had been “teaching” my friends for years.

 How has your practice evolved over time?

Have you ever put a rock into a rock tumbler?  You pick out a rock because it looks pretty cool as it is.  I mean, no one decides to polish up a gross rock.  So you take the rock and you put it in in the tumbler and for a long, long time, weeks maybe, this rock tumbles around making a racket in the machine and all you can hear is this rock.  It’s in your sleep.  It’s vibrating your teeth as you try to eat your dinner.  You’re certain that rock tumbler is following you down the interstate.  It’s EVERYWHERE and you can’t not see it, you can’t not hear the noise – until the day that you don’t. One day, you don’t hear it anymore.  It ceases to be something outside of your life, it is a part of your life, and it blends in.  At that moment, you can take the rock out and notice that it is polished, it is gleaming, it’s a beautiful gem that barely resembles it’s former self.  That’s what my yoga practice has been like.  I thought yoga was cool.  I started practicing and suddenly it was all I could talk and think about.  I banged around creating a huge racket while I tried to figure out what worked for me, what I liked, what I wanted, what I needed.  I tried all sorts of styles, all sorts of teachers, all sorts of everything, continuing to clang around like a rock.  Each trial polished me a little more and I kept hunting, searching, stumbling to create a yogic life until, little by little, over lots of time and lots of honing, I realized that I wasn’t searching anymore.  I wasn’t looking for something I didn’t have.  I wasn’t buzzing and crashing and clanging.  I was living it.  I had found my place, MY yoga, and I looked and found that it’s pretty polished.  Well, as polished as I need it to be for me most of the time, although I do still throw it in the tumbler for a quick buff now and again.

 How long have you been a teacher?

I started teaching my friends years ago.  We’d practice in our living rooms and then drink wine and watch Must See TV.  I officially took training and started teaching group and private classes in 2009.

 sarah kohl 2

Why did you start Sarahasana?

I’ve been a blogger for close to a decade.  My first blog was just a personal blog, dedicated to my brain droppings and stories about my kids and my life and my effort to find my place in it.  I took a break from blogging there and realized that I actually had something to say about something that people were interested in.  I didn’t need to just write to hear my own voice, I could write to evoke discussion, thoughts, ideas, and maybe spread a little inspiration around here and there.  It also became a public way for me to document my journey from just some chick who does yoga to a teacher.  Finally, I was sick and tired of reading almost nothing but flowery unrealistic yoga blogs that made it sound like life was always roses and rainbows and light and cupcakes.  Screw that – sometimes life sucks.  I wanted to speak the truth.  As the years have passed, Sarahsana has become much more than just a platform for discussing yoga.  It’s really a place for me to discuss my life.  My yoga on and OFF the mat, if you will.  Writing is all I know how to do with my feelings and thoughts.  I don’t play an instrument. I don’t paint.  I don’t do interpretive dance (although those who have seen me after a few cocktails might disagree.)  I write.  That’s all I know to do.  I discovered that my feelings and ideas don’t seem to “get out of me” if I’m just writing in a private journal.  For some reason, I have to hit “publish” before they stop the squirrel cage in my head.

Sarahsana is my own journey, my own practice, my own style of finding my way through this life.  It’s the seat of who I am.  The subtitle of Sarahsana is “n: the art of slip-sliding into Samadhi”  It’s not a clear journey.  I make a ton of mistakes.  Sometimes when I slip, I end up closer to bliss.  Sometimes when I slip, I end up in the other direction.  But I keep slipping and sliding, I don’t give up, I keep suiting up and showing up and practicing.

What are your classes like?

My classes are a little unconventional.  I used to teach 5 or 6 classes a week, but due to a family tragedy a little less than a year ago, I’m currently only teaching one class a week. It’s a rather advanced class full of arm balances and inversions, but EVERYONE is welcome to attend.  I’m not big on the final result – I don’t care if you never ever manage to “nail” Astavakrasana.  What I want is for people to try something new, to have fun, to play on the mat.  I want people to explore themselves and their boundaries.  We never know what we are capable of until we try and we likely won’t try unless someone says, “Try it!”  I’m big on safety and alignment, so I tell my students, “This is your practice, not mine.  It’s my job to open the door to you and keep you safe as you walk through as far as you feel comfortable going.”  I laugh a lot in class.  I make irreverent jokes.  I tell it like it is.  I play decidedly “un-yogic” music, whatever that means.  I do mix sutras, pranayama, philosophy, and meditation into my classes, but I want yoga to be accessible to everyone. Yoga doesn’t have to be so damn serious all the time.  I want people to enjoy it.  If it doesn’t feel good to you, it’s not yoga.  My goal is that everyone leaves my class feeling better than they did when they arrived. Come as you are: happy, angry, sad, sore, confused, hungover.  Just show up and I’ll help you leave it all on the mat.

{ed. note: This is why I would take a class with Sarah any day of the week.}

 sarah kohl 3

Do you have a home practice? What is it like? How often? Where? How’d you start and how do you keep at it?

I do have a home practice.  I think all teachers need to have one.  That said, it doesn’t have to be exclusively asana.  I used to roll out my mat and practice in my basement for an hour a day.  As I’ve gotten older and life has thrown me some curve balls, I do roll out my mat regularly at home, but not every day.  These days, my yoga at home is less asana than ever.  I meditate.  I breathe.  I try to find the balance in a shifting world. How do I keep at it?  I check in with myself.  When I find that my life is spinning out of control or that I’m in a funk, I realize that I’ve slipped out of my practice.  Chaos keeps me practicing.

 What’s your favorite pose? Why?

That depends on what day you ask!  Pigeon has always been a personal favorite because it allows me to let it all go and empty my emotional junk drawer.  If I’m confused or having a hard time understanding things in my life, headstands always bring me clarity.  If i’m needing to calm down and let the stress drain away, Supta Bhadokonasana or Savasana are key.

What’s your least favorite pose?

Galavasana, no question.  I teach arm balances and inversions and I love love love them, but for some reason, Galavasana makes me want to cuss like a sailor.  So, of course, I make myself do it often.

Do you have a meditation practice?

Yes!  Oh I would hate to think of how messed up I would be without it.  I’ve been “sitting” for many years now.  I think it’s crucial to our mental and emotional health to learn how to just sit and be with what is.

sarah kohl 4

What is your favorite blog post? Why?

That’s like asking me to pick my favorite strand of hair.  While it changes all the time, I think my favorite for the past few months has been “Sluts, Shaming, Strength, and Survival: In Which I Piss Off Everyone I Know.”

I wrote it 5 months ago and quite a lot has changed since then (I did meet someone I wanted a relationship with, I did fall in love, I have rethought some of my affectionate ways and motivations, etc.,) but the general ideas behind this post are still strong and true to me.  I will be damned if I’m going to let anyone else shame me or manipulate me so that my life looks the way they think it should look.  No one gets to make that decision for me or for anyone else but themselves.

What other blogs do your read? Why?

I don’t read a lot of blogs anymore.  I used to, but somehow I just drifted away from it.  I love Y is for Yogini, Flying Yogini, Curvy Yoga, your blog, of course, and as far as non-yogic blogs, I love The Bloggess, and Pintester.  If I’m going to take the time to read something, it needs to spark my mind and make me laugh.  All of these do this on a regular basis.

 Who and what inspires you?

Honesty.  Bold, ugly honesty.  You MUST be true to others and to yourself (being true to yourself is often the hardest.)  I’ve often said I’d rather have the ugly truth than a pretty lie.   For that reason, I love Louis CK.  Not only is he wet-your-pants hilarious, he just gets it.  He speaks the truth and says things that we’ve all thought but rarely say.  I find great inspiration in musicians and artists who refuse to be a part of the “machine,” who stay true to their vision and their passion even if it means they will never become hugely popular or incredibly famous.  Mostly, however, I’m wildly inspired by my sons.  They are the strongest people I have ever met.  They forgive so easily.  They love so completely.  They see art and beauty and grace in everything.  They can also speak their mind and fight for themselves in a way that is awe-inspiring.  When I grow up, I want to be just like them.

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Have any questions or comments for Sarah? Please leave them in the comment section below.

If you enjoyed this post, get email updates (it’s FREE).

Liz Vartanian of Yoga Betty and Yoga Mama: TGBTS Featured Teacher

Teachers.

Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my series of teacher interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!

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tgbts featured teacher liz vartanian

Have you met Liz yet? She’s been in my Twitter feed for years and we’ve become friends via social media. We both have babies and teach restorative yoga, so instant connection.

Here’s my interview.

When did you start practicing?

I started practicing in 1996, while I was in massage school, I did yoga from a Video Tape. I wore that tape out, but I learned so much! It wasn’t until I moved to Austin, TX in 2004 that I found a studio I loved and started going religiously.

Why did you start?

At first, it was a great way to get centered before doing a massage. Then it became more about a new way to learn how my body works. It really is amazing what our bodies can do.

Where did you practice?

My living room floor! Which was carpeted, but when you are watching a video there’s not a lot of options. Soon after I got comfortable with some of the poses, I practiced outside on my deck. Unfortunately, the little studio I eventually went to closed a few years ago.

How has your practice evolved over time?

I’ve gone from Hatha to Flow to vinyasa to prenatal. Now, I have found a balance of restorative (which I started while I was pregnant) and flow. I love the practice of moving with the breath, but I also know how much my body really needs to sit still and just be. Even when I flow or do vinyasa, I take a long savasana to make sure I let my body recuperate.

How long have you been a teacher?

I’ve been teaching almost 3 years now. Time really does fly when you are having fun!

liz

Why did you start Yoga Betty/Yoga Momma?

I started Yoga Betty as a way to learn more about yoga. It sounds silly, but there is an amazing amount of knowledge in experiencing life. And really yoga is as much off the mat as it is on.

Yoga Momma was started after the birth of my son. If Yoga Betty is about a laid back yogini, Yoga Momma is about how that laid back yogini handles life with a baby guru!! Of course, now that the sweet little baby guru is almost a year old, I’ve realized that I’m both Betty and Momma so I’ve decided to combine the two blogs. After all, no person is just ONE aspect of themselves. We all evolve and change, it’s just time for me to embrace I am Betty, momma, yogini, partner, woman, and so much more. Now if I can just get kiddo to nap longer again, so I can finish combining the two!!

What are your classes like?

Currently, I teach restorative, prenatal, and post-natal. My pre and post-natal classes are all about breathing, building strength, and finding peace within. After all as a new momma or as a momma to be, knowing how to find some inner peace can be a life saver!

Do you have a home practice? What is it like? How often? Where? How’d you start and how do you keep at it?

Yes!! Home practice is all I have these days. Sometimes it is 15 minutes, sometimes I can get an hour, although right now that isn’t as often since baby guru is almost walking.

I practice every day. Nap time is a my practice time. I usually get in some cat/cow, puppy pose, thread the needle, and 5 minutes of meditation. If I have the time or really need it, I start with this and add as feels good. There is a lot of shoulder openers, bridge pose to get my heart open, and core. I keep it up because frankly getting to take a class is tough. My daily practice keeps me same, so if I don’t do it, I feel all put of whack.

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What’s your favorite pose? Why?

My current favorite pose is a tie between puppy pose (because it is easier on my wrists while giving me the same feeling down dog does) and forearm plank (because hot-damn if it doesn’t stoke the internal fire and get my core working!).

What’s your least favorite pose?

Hm, there isn’t a pose I don’t like, I can say that the one I’m finding challenging right now is crow. Finding the right muscles to use along with some wrist aches seem to be what makes this pose sooo tough on me right now.

Do you have a meditation practice?

I started meditation right after Aiden was born. I used the time I spent nursing to breathe and clear my mind. Although, I usually only get 5-10 minutes of meditation in, that is better than none!

What is your blog/s about? When did you start? Why did you start? What is your purpose?

Currently, my blogging is more about finding practice OFF the mat, since I’m starting to realize my “free time” is valuable which can make it hard to commit to an hour long asana practice (especially when nap times are sometimes 45 minutes!!). Plus Aiden really has become my little baby guru, he keeps me present and mindful of all I do and soon enough what I say (I know the parroting phase is coming up). Not everyone has kids and some people may not want to have kids, but that doesn’t mean our life lessons are any different. Any practitioner of yoga is working towards peace, presence of mind and body, and ultimately living our yoga. I just happen to think having kids speeds up the process!!

What is your favorite post? Why?

I have TWO!! One titled “Hips don’t lie” which talks about my ability to cry EVERY TIME I’m in pigeon pose and the fact that what comes up when we do hip openers can really show us what we are clinging to, what emotions we are storing, and what stuff we can let go of, by crying or by breathing.

The other is a article I wrote for Mind Body Green about “Rediscovering Yoga After Having a Baby”. There is this thing about having a baby, you’re body isn’t “yours” for 9 months of pregnancy and then it’s not really yours after baby shows up. So the importance of coming back to the practice is SO important.

Both of these pieces I wrote are raw and I think remind people that it is ok when we cry or feel “betrayed” by our bodies. That yoga is there because we are there, our mats will hold us. They will be the mirror we need to see what is happening. And they will help us let go and rebuild.

cup of liz

What other blogs do your read? Why?

The two blogs I am really digging these days are: SahajaMomma & Cup of Jo.

Sahaja Momma is a Austin Yoga Goddess and new momma, she has fabulous recipes and often has some great share on self-care or helpful momma items.

A Cup of Jo is one of my guilty pleasures, I read this blog daily!! I love the fashion (in hopes I one day will be stylish again and not just prepared for feeding 24/7), the food, and this New Yorkers great shares.

Who and what inspires you?

This is probably the best question ever! My loves, my family, specifically the man because he supports me and is a great person to talk to about any thing. Even when it is yoga related (he is NOT a yogi), baby guru is of course right there with his daddy. Mother Nature has her spot too, the ocean inspires me even though I’m so far away. The trees, the sunrise, and the sunset all play a part in my practice, in my teaching, and in my day. Sometimes songs can be inspiring, written words, and those spoken all seem to brighten my day too. I can pretty much find inspiration in anything and everything!

If you enjoyed this post, get email updates (it’s FREE).

Rosie Molinary of The Healthy, Happy, Sane Teacher: TGBTS Featured Teacher

Teachers.

Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my series of teacher interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!

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Have you met Rosie yet? She’s the co-creator of The Healthy, Happy, Sane Teacher,  author, speaker and college professor- and a former high school teacher.

featured teacher rosie

1. I know you used to teach high school. What are you currently teaching?

For a long time, I had a very specific idea of what it meant to be a teacher (for me). When I went to graduate school for an MFA (specifically because I wanted to be a more powerful teacher and I felt using writing in the classroom as a tool for self-awareness and empowerment was a natural expression for me), I didn’t attend any of the optional publishing workshops because I had no interest in publishing. I wanted to teach my tail off.

Then, my final advisor confronted me about not attending publishing workshops. I told him that I wasn’t meant to publish, I was meant to teach and he responded that thinking of my teaching as just something that could exist within the four walls of a traditional high school classroom was limiting what I could teach and who I could impact. He encouraged me to think about my writing as a way of teaching and that idea was revolutionary for me.

So, now, when I think about my teaching, I think about the traditional classroom—I primarily teach Body Image for the Women’s and Gender Studies department and Honors College at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte (sometimes I also teach Women in the Media) and I am currently designing a course on Latinos in the US Education system for another local college. And I also think about my less traditional classrooms—I offer workshops for women on authentic, empowered, intentional, self-accepting living and try to write regular columns and blog posts as ways of being a teacher in and student of the world.

2. How did you make the move from high school teacher to self-care advocate/ body image expert? Workshop leader extraordinaire?

Well, they say that you teach what you most need to learn and, in the case of self-care this was absolutely true for me. I fell in love with writing and reading when I was young and really valued knowing how I felt about things. Being self-aware was what brought meaning and grounding to my world, and it still does.

And while that was a really positive experience for me, the other thing I was was incredibly self-sacrificing. I thought it was incredibly selfish to care for yourself and, as a young teacher, I felt that my students needed everything, deserved everything. Who was I to be having fun or taking a break when I had runaways and alcoholics in my classroom who I absolutely adored and felt needed more from me to help them make different choices that took them out of danger.

In my third year of teaching, I got incredibly sick and the doctor who treated me made a remark that I could keep landing myself in the emergency room if I wanted. I was so offended. I worked in a high school riddled with germs; I wasn’t landing myself here. But after a few days on bed rest, I came around to his point that I didn’t intervene on my own behalf- go to the doctor six weeks earlier when the infections were first starting, for example- and that had contributed to my sickness. And so I started very slowly, very self-consciously working on my self-care. But I knew that I couldn’t learn what I needed to learn fast enough to not do this to myself again- and soon- if I stayed in the same work environment and I also knew that I wanted to get an MFA (ultimately in non-fiction and poetry) because reading and writing had been my tools to boost my self-awareness and they were the tools that I wanted to use in helping others.

The book that I wrote during graduate school- a collection of non-fiction essays and linked poetry called Giving Up Beauty- focused on coming of age, ethnic identity, beauty perception, self-awareness, and self-acceptance. Though I never sought to publish it, it ignited a passion in me for empowering women to embrace their authentic selves so they can live their passion and purpose and give their gifts to the world.

I am still so compelled and inspired about being in space with people and so I love teaching workshops for groups that cover all these themes but I also love sitting alongside one person and really considering where she is and conceptualizing where she can and so I also love facilitating one on one retreats. I am just at the point where I am beginning to take these experiences and offer them in less conventional forms—away from four walls—whether on Skype, teleconference lines, or, maybe one day soon, e-books.

3. What kinds of stuff do you teach now? Who is your ideal client and what is your ideal work?

Every semester, I teach a course that I just adore on body image that focuses on the things that impact our sense of solves—from parents and peers to race, religion, and social class. This is a university, for credit course.

But away from the university, I facilitate several different workshop experiences from:

  • visionSPARK:  a beginning of the year workshop that guides participants in creating vision boards and choosing a word for the year)

  • Mission::Manifest:  a workshop where participants are guided in penning their own mission statements and manifestos

  • First, Love You:  a self- acceptance retreat for women

  • Beautiful You(th):  a body image workshop designed for moms so they can empower their daughters to have healthy body images

  • Unbridled Authenticity: an equine facilitated learning workshop that I do in partnership with Triple Play Farm and uses the intuition of horses to generate self-awareness and confidence

  • aware: a yoga and self-awareness workshop that I do in partnership with a friend who is an amazing yoga teacher

  • The Healthy, Happy, Sane Teacher: Sustainable Self-Care for a Successful School Year – teaching teachers how to take care of themselves.

I love doing work that inspires self-awareness, hones our vision, motivates us to be intentional, grounds us in our authenticity, and allows us to be vulnerable.

My ideal client is someone who isn’t afraid to do this work, in fact, hungers for this work and is receptive to journeying together.

4. What are your Top 5 self-care must do’s?

Self-Care Tip #1

Right now, I am really into the Magic Hour- an early morning hour to myself that unfolds as I wish in a space of quiet before my boys (the big one that is my partner and the little one that is my teacher) need my help in some way to acclimate to the day.

Self-Care Tip #2

I move my body in some meaningful way at least five times a week.

Self-Care Tip #3

I drink copious amounts of water.

Self-Care Tip #4

I plan with a great awareness of what I can fit into a day and don’t expect too much from myself.

Self-Care Tip #5

I do not ever criticize myself (this is different from giving myself feedback— which I do often, but when I look at the work that I do or the decisions that I made, I consider the challenges as growth opportunities and never a reflection of my worth. It is simply an assessment of how I did in that moment with that thing).

5. How do you manage working from home without driving yourself bonkers?

This is so dependent on what might drive you bonkers.

When I work, I very rarely do any house chores unless they are very brief chores- putting a load of laundry in the machine, for example. Chores are for off time.

I really treasure the time that I have in front of the computer and protect it because my work time is limited to when my son is at preschool or after he goes down at night.

Out of those five days that he is at preschool, one day is my teaching day at the university and then two other days I am usually working away from the home- either in meetings or facilitating a workshop or retreat. That gives me six hours a week to work at my computer.

Put that way, it is fairly easy for me to have a sense of urgency to get my bottom in my chair and get things done. I know some people might miss the interaction with coworkers on those two days where I am sitting in quiet (I don’t even play music or turn on a television), but I am a natural introvert and so my energy is restored by that quiet time. Protecting that quiet time to allow myself to distill ideas and do my work is another way that I practice self-care.

6. Do you have a yoga practice? What about meditation/quiet contemplation?

I do yoga at home during my Magic Hour, sometimes guided by Yogalosophy by Mandy Ingber. I really love being able to go to yoga classes but with, at most, six free hours a week, it is hard to find just the right yoga class for me during the time that I am free and so I have found a way to give myself what I need in that early morning quiet.

I most love journaling as a tool for quiet contemplation and do it whenever I need it—sometimes I get on a daily run and sometimes it might be a few weeks in between paper processing. I’m pretty aware now of when I need to return to the page and get myself there asap.

Aha—another aspect of my self-care practice!

Do you have any questions or comments for Rosie?

Are you a rock star teacher (or know one)? Would you like to be a TGBTS Featured Teacher? Send me a message or leave me comment here.

Melissa Camilleri of Compliment: TGBTS Featured Teacher

Teachers.

Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my series of teacher interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!

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Have you met Melissa? She’s the creator of Compliment - a handmade jewelry company with a big heart – and a former high school AVID teacher.

tgbts featured teacher melissa

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You taught English/AVID until really recently- tell me about your experience. What brought you to teaching and then what made you want to change professions?

I really didn’t know who I was or what I wanted to be when I was in college.  I changed my major to English at the suggestion of a professor who recognized my knack for writing.  But upon graduation, I went into PR.  It wasn’t very long before I realized I hated it.

My favorite day of the week was Monday, though, because after work, I met up with a friend and taught a teen youth group for 8th graders at our church.  I loved designing curriculum, but more, my passion was ignited for making a positive difference.  

Within a couple of months, I applied for my credential program.  Teaching was natural.  Working with kids was something I couldn’t believe I got paid to do.  I loved it.  I  knew I was making a difference.  I student taught under an AVID Coordinator, and quickly learned that AVID was exactly why I got into teaching, although I didn’t know that then.  

To be a mentor in a kid’s life, especially when they are in high school and starting to make big important decisions for their lives–it was a calling.  The community I intentionally built-in my classroom year after year was magical. I had students from all different groups on campus coming together, cheering each other on, and really caring for one another.  

My happiest moments of my life are the times in my classroom where my students showed unbelievable amounts of humanity toward one another– the time when one girl crumpled up her prepared speech and decided to really share her heart to the class, hands trembling, and the boy in the second row stood up mid-speech and walked up to her to stand by her side and give her the courage to keep talking.  When she finished, the whole classroom stood up and gave her a group hug.  Meanwhile, I’m in the back of the room weeping at the transformation happening before my eyes: gangly, awkward teenagers  turning into beautiful, loving, compassionate adults.

I believe in kids.  I believe in education as the key to changing the world and saving our democracy.  But I also believe in keeping your own love tank full.  I gave and gave and gave and gave and saw hundreds of kids succeed from the amount of love manifested in my classroom.  

But they system wore me out.  I’m not the first to declare that there’s a lot wrong with public education system and in very general terms, it was the system, not the kids, that eventually emptied my tank.  I dreamed big, did ALL OF THE THINGS, and still got told no A LOT.  When I finally decided to take a break from the classroom, it was after TONS and TONS of soul-searching and re-identifying myself.

I was in the midst of a perfect storm: a divorce, and the death of three family members within 90 days shook me so hard, I had to learn to be ok with still being a teacher at heart, just taking a breather from the classroom.  I know that if there’s not enough for me to give the amount I know is necessary to be the kind of teacher I want to be to affect the kinds of kids I want to affect, then I need to do something else for a second.   

How did you make the move from ass kicking high school teacher to jewelry maker/compliment giver?

I started my jewelry company in 2011 while I was still in the classroom.  I’ve always had the spiritual gift of encouragement and I think it’s one of the things that comes super naturally to me and allowed me to be as effective as I was in the classroom. It is very easy for me to zero in on the best aspects of someone and encourage those things.  I love holding that metaphorical mirror in front of someone until they see the beauty in themselves.  That’s really the concept behind the brand– providing the opportunity for others to recognize the beauty within themselves or the people closest to them.

The jewelry aspect of the brand is pretty simple. I’ve always been pretty crafty and have always loved making jewelry.  A few of my girlfrends and I started making the rings you see on the website, simply as a way to accessorize ourselves!  Pure vanity!  :)  I kept going back to the bead store to buy new materials to make a ring to match every outfit I wore to school.  Then one day, one of my cutie seniors asked me to make her one that matched her beautiful green Homecoming dress.  Once word got out, I had twenty orders by the end of the week.  Two months later, I launched the brand with the website and the philanthropic component of the Compliment Scholarship, which directly benefits young women with a high potential of success from non-traditional college-going backgrounds.

Where do you find your inspiration? Who is your ideal client and what is your ideal work?

I know it sounds super dorky and very English teacher-y of me, but I find inspiration in words.  Song lyrics, poetry, a beautiful turn of phrase in the books strewn about my apartment.  I am inspired by fonts and signage and quirky or witty advertisements. I’m inspired by blank pages and pens that write smoothly and old typewriters, and the clicking of computer keys. I love love love words.

I’m also inspired by colors and good food and vintage fashions from the 40s-60s.

My ideal client is a woman who is on the spiritual journey of learning how to better love herself and others. She understands that my brand is equal parts fashion and affirmation and loves showering the women close to her with love.  She’s a little quirky, very positive, compassionate, and hungry to make the world a prettier place to be.

What are your Top 5 self-care must do’s?

Great question!  When the perfect storm I mentioned above went down, I needed so much inspiration to learn how to better take care of myself, so I started a series on my own blog called the Compliment Soul Care Series where I ask women I admire who are doing awesome things in this world to share with me their tips with me! So some of the things I list are things these beautiful women have taught me and also some that I’ve learned along the way.

Self-care Tip #1 – Forgive.

Self-care Tip #2 - Meditate,

Self-care Tip #3 - Eat healthy.

Self-care Tip #4 - Dance.

Self-care Tip #5 - Read.

How do you manage working from home without driving yourself bonkers?

I’m still learning, but I’ve adjusted by creating systems and schedules for things.  I put alarms in my phones on busy days to help remind me to move from one task to the next.  Since my work requires me to use a lot of space to make my creations, I’ve had to get accustomed to a constant amount of disarray, but I try to keep it to one localized surface, instead of a little bit in every room (which is my normal tendency).

I make work dates with other entrepreneurs I’ve met.  We brainstorm and bounce ideas off one another, meet up for lunch or a coffee and collaborate and plan.  I’m no where near perfect with all this, and in fact, I’d like to put it out into the universe that I’d love to open up my own studio/retail space in town (preferably within walking distance of my place) just so I don’t have to use a dresser in my hall closet for my shipping supplies or my dining room table for my own personal sweat shop.   So, do you hear that, Universe?  STUDIO SPACE!  WOO HOO!

Do you have a yoga practice? What about meditation/quiet contemplation?

I wish I could say yes to the first one. I used to.  I used to be awesome at keeping the commitment to myself to practice yoga four times a week. I’ve fallen away from that in the last few months and know I need to get back to it because it made me feel so good.  I really have no excuse as to why I haven’t gone to a new studio since I moved into my current living situation.  I just need to start again.

I do have a meditation practice.  I’m new to it, so again, it’s not as consistent as I want it to be, but it’s getting there.  I use the guided meditation recordings from Brother Camillus Chavez who is a Christian Brother at my alma mater (Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California).  I’ve done a couple of his meditation retreats and I leave feeling renewed and clear and connected to God.

You write a lot. How do you produce so much engaging content? What’s your writing secret?

Nothing fancy here.  I have an editorial calendar that I keep in a binder.  I try to stick to it.

I often have writing dates with other bloggers where we just sit together and churn out content, so we don’t feel so isolated behind our computers.  It fulfills a social need while doing something kind of anti-social, plus gives me a scheduled time carved into my calendar so I know I have to write.

I got my MFA in Creative Writing a few years ago and had to get used to turning out tons and tons and tons of content quickly.  That was great training.  I’d love to say that with practice it gets easier, but for me it doesn’t.  I never FEEL like writing.  I just have to do it.  I sit down and start click-clacking the keys and pray that what ends up on the screen isn’t total junk.

How do you manage stress of running a successful small business, teaching teachers/professional development and an active social/travel life?

To be honest, because I’m making my own schedule now, I feel SO much less stressed than I used to.  I am able to work super early in the mornings, in spurts when I’m waiting to get my oil changed, late at night after dinner with the girls, or whenever I can fit it in. I write a lot on airplanes and in hotel rooms.

My friend Caroline at Milou and Olin and HelloXOXO introduced me to Basecamp, a program that helps me organize all my to-do’s for all my different projects.  I have a really cute calendar with little dividers for my ongoing list people I need to email or call back or projects I’m working on.

I’m lucky, because my business, for the most part, is fairly portable.  So if I’m gone on a professional development gig and I have to get an order out, I can pack my jewelry making stuff and bring it with me.

How do you handle self-doubt?

I see an awesome counselor. :)  I write affirmations to myself and hang them in prominent places around my work-space. I pray.  I meditate. I practice gratitude.  I turn up Beyonce or Kelly Clarkson in my car, open my sun roof and sing really loud.

How do you maintain your optimistic outlook?

I read A LOT about people who have broken out of their status quo and succeeded. I love a good come-up story.  I tell myself over and over “There’s no reason that can’t be me.”  I try to surround myself with people who are positive and supportive.  Again, I practice gratitude.  I believe in abundance.

Do you have any questions or comments for Melissa?

Are you a rock star teacher (or know one)? Would you like to be a TGBTS Featured Teacher? Send me a message or leave me comment here.

Sarah Von Bargen of Yes and Yes: TGBTS Featured Teacher

Teachers.

Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my series of interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!

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Have you met Sarah? She’s the writer of one of my favorite blogs Yes and Yes as well as her small business blog SarahVonBargen.com.

tgbts featured teacher sarah von bargen of yes and yes

1. You used to teach English – tell me about your experience. What brought you to teaching and what made you want to change professions?

My first experience was teaching English in Brazil through my university’s ELTAP program. I loved it, but when I got back to America I accepted a job as an event planner at a Super Fancy event planning firm. I burned out, had a quarter life crisis, moved to Taiwan to teach ESL, and then spent the next six years teaching ESL and earning my MA in Applied Linguistics.

Why did I change careers from teaching to blogging? There were a lot of reasons. The non-profit where I taught ran classes 50 weeks a year, so I never got a real break. My salary was less-than-inspiring. Also, I’ve always been the personality type to show up early, stay late, and give 120%. When you’re a teacher, you’re never, ever financially rewarded for hard work or creative ideas (though obviously, none of us get into teaching for the money) and I wanted to make more money if I was working harder and helping my students get better test scores than others.

2. How did you make the move from world-traveling ESL teacher to small business internet awesomer?

Slowly but surely! I blogged and freelanced for 2.5 years before I quit my teaching job. I should also point out that I’ve been getting paid to write since I was 20 and I have a background in marketing/pr/advertising so I came to blogging (and teaching) with that skill set. I didn’t have to learn those things from scratch :)

3. What kinds of stuff do you teach now? Who is your ideal client and what is your ideal work?

I teach small businesses and entrepreneurs how to make a name for themselves on the internet. Whether that’s through blogging, social media, creating e-books, or pitching bloggers who will then promote their products, I teach all things internet-related.

My ideal client is a small, lifestyle business that has built social responsibility into their business model. I particularly love helping my clients create blogging editorial plans, brainstorming clever promotion ideas, and nailing down their social media.

4. What are your Top 5 self-care must do’s?

Self Care Must Do #1. Step away from your screen!

After 7 pm, close your laptop, stop answering emails, and get off of social media. Go live your life, forpetessake!

Self Care Must Do #2. Know your limits

I have a suuuuuper active social life, but I top out after about four hours of conversation/mingling/partying. If I stay much longer than that I can feel the light inside me turn off. So I take myself home! Know when you’re ready to stop – whether it’s eating, drinking, socializing, exercising, know when you’re done.

Self Care Must Do #3. Edit your friends

Take note of how you feel after you hang out with someone. If they’re constantly complaining and waxing negative, maybe you should limit your time together.

Self Care Must Do #4. Stop feeling guilty about your ‘guilty pleasures’

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures – I just like what I like. And if my self-care is eating popcorn for dinner while watching MTV’s True Life, I’m not going to apologize for that.

Self Care Must Do #5. If you want something in your life, make it part of your life

If you want a more active social life, plan a party. If you need more alone time, turn down some of those invitations. If you need more energy, go to bed earlier, eat more vegetables, get more exercise. You’re the only one who can take care of you!

5. How do you manage working from home without driving yourself bonkers?

Honestly, it’s not a problem! Even though I’m super friendly and outgoing, I’m actually an introvert. Also: my apartment is gorgeous. And as previously mentioned, I have a really, really active social life, so I have lunch or dinner with someone or go out almost every day – sometimes twice a day!

6. Do you have a yoga practice? Are you still transitioning from work to home with legs-up-the-wall? What about meditation/quiet contemplation?

I don’t really. When I remember, I transition with legs-up-the-wall. My most yogi-esque activity is probably going for long walks in the morning through quiet neighborhoods and writing in my gratitude journal before I go to sleep. I’m not really sure if my personality lends itself to yoga – I’m more of a hip hop dance class type of person ;)

7. You write a lot. How do you produce so much engaging content? What’s your writing secret? I’d love to shadow you for a week to see your processes, so any and all tips/tricks for editorial calendar, idea generating and/or actually writing excellent content will be greatly appreciated.

Oh thanks so much! I’m not really sure that I have any secrets! I’ve been writing for a long time (and writing with deadlines) so it comes relatively easily to me. I rarely do more than one draft and a proof read, so I’m sure that makes me a faster writer than some.

Most of my ideas come from conversations with friends or reading other stuff or my everyday life. I have a lot of notes in my phone and drafted posts on my dashboard of posts I’d like to write. Also, if you look at Yes and Yes, you’ll see that I do True Story and Real Life Style Icon interviews, Mini Travel Guides, and I have two contributors who help with food-related posts. On my small business blog, I host guest posts once a month. So all of that is content I don’t write myself. I’m not an expert at everything but I wanted my blog to cover lots of topics, so I brought in some help ;)

8. How do you manage stress of running a successful small business, wildly popular blog and active social/travel life?

This is a deeply unhelpful answer, but I’m not a particularly stressed out person. I love 95% of the work I do, so it simply doesn’t stress me out. When I do get stressed out, I have a 4-part foolproof (for me) plan:

1. Work out for an hour
2. Take a shower or go swimming
3. Take a nap
4. Drink some coffee

Everything seems brighter when you’re clean, rested, and caffeinated!

9. How do you handle self-doubt?

While I have demons just like anyone else (I self-medicate through cleaning, dancing, and eating cheese) self-doubt isn’t really something I struggle with. When I’m worried about something, I usually make a list of the things I’m worried about and write down all the possible ways I can deal with it. Maybe those aren’t things I actually want to do (‘move back in my with family’ ‘get a roommate’ ‘incur $15,000 credit card debt’) but they are things I could do if need be. Just seeing all those options makes me feel better.

10. How do you maintain your optimistic Yes and Yes outlook on life?

I pretty firmly believe that nothing has any meaning other than the one that you assign to it. So when I lose a big client, I choose to believe that loss is making space for an even bigger, better project. When I break up with someone, I choose to believe that relationship served a purpose and I’ll meet someone who’s a better fit for me. I make a very active effort to find the silver lining in just about everything.

Do you have any questions or comments for Sarah?

Are you a rock star teacher (or know one)? Would you like to be a TGBTS Featured Teacher? Send me a message or leave me comment here.

The Curvy Seven

TamiCurvy7

Today’s post is The Curvy Seven on Curvy Yoga. I’m honored to be included in this amazing group of Curvy Yogis.

Click over to find out more about my yoga history, my favorite and least favorite poses and who is my Curvy Icon.

I also revealed my favorite quotes.

What is your favorite quotes or words to live by?

Classroom Teachers Who Inspire

i heart teachersOne of the best parts of being a classroom teacher is being inspired and awed by your co-workers – the big ones and the little ones.

Classroom teachers are freaking amazing, multi-talented people. And these teachers are truly inspirational. They not only spend their days in the classroom, they also spend time on a yoga mat.

Find out who and what inspires them:

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Jenna Francisco of This is My Happiness:

People who are kind, simple, and interested in the betterment of all humans.  People, especially quirky or creative ones, who are 100% comfortable being themselves.  Societies that value slowness, simplicity, and equality.

I’m inspired to be in the moment every day, whether it’s just relaxing, spending time with my sons, or even going to work.  I’m inspired by history and art, and I won’t lie—I love to travel and want to live overseas, (both very outside-of-the-moment!), so I’m inspired to see as much of this world as I can in my short life.

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Amy Estes (formerly of Just a Titch) and now Coffee and Sunshine

I think working in a profession where I’m forced to be creative is good for inspiration—teenagers see the world so differently than I do, and also, kids are brutally honest about how they’re feeling, which definitely inspires thoughts. Otherwise, I find inspiration in a good book, a song that makes me want to dance or cry, conversations with my closest friends, a long drive on a sunny day, in cooking or baking, during a long bath or shower and the things that I write off-line, in my paper journal.

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Jed Brewer of Lather Records

I’m drawn to people that are smart, creative, and weird.  Occasionally, I need some boring down time to recover from everything, but I like watching, hearing, and talking to people that let it all hang out.  People that risk embarrassment or being misunderstood to do something that’s a little different.  Not the Jackass people, but creative or even political people.

I also get off on stuff from the natural world.  I’m fascinated by topography – land shapes, gorges, mountains, rivers, etc.  And animals, of course.  The Amazing Yans inspires me just about every day.

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Ryan Fong of Deep Homework

I have many people who inspire me. 

  • My partner, Eric, inspires me to see myself in the way that he sees me—with unconditional love and compassion. 
  • My uncle is an inspiration for a life lived well and very mindfully.  He’s a friend, mentor, and model in addition to being my blood relative. 
  • I’m inspired, as I think many of us at IAY are, by the way the community there supports us in experiencing the challenges and joys of really embracing it *all* as yoga. 
  • But mostly, I’m inspired by the universe’s generosity in giving us this present moment to do and be right.  Not right as in correct, but as in right here, right now and just right.

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Who or what inspires you?

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Want to learn more about the Teacher Goes Back to School Featured Teachers? Here’s the full archive.

Do you know a kick ass yoga practicing classroom teacher? Is that you? Please let me know!

Image source: Abstract light photography pink heart bokeh photography … by mylittlepixels on Etsy

Yoga Teachers Who Inspire

yoga teacher interviews

Over the years I’ve interviewed some of my favorite yoga teachers.

Here are the highlights:

You’ve said yoga will “ruin” your life as you know it… What did you mean by that? And how has it ruined yours?

It’s completely ruined mine! I think you’re never off the hook. Once you know about the philosophy and “the path,” you know when you’re off it.  

Recently I went to a party and some friends were talking about another person who was not there. The talk was not kind (*not* ahimsa) and probably not entirely true (*not* satya).  

I didn’t get up and leave the conversation and it’s really heavy on me this morning. My body told me to get up—I felt a little nauseas (another way you’re *ruined*—you’re more aware of your physical and emotional feelings). I even had dreams about it last night.  

But I didn’t say anything or excuse myself, and I can’t change it, and there’s no sense in berating myself (back to ahimsa). So I take this experience and set the intention to do it differently next time.

For more with Michelle Marlahan proprietress of It’s All Yoga (Sacramento) – my primary teacher - excerpt from Part 2.

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Madeleine Lohman describing her first yoga class.

It was a beginner’s class, but an accelerated one intended for folks who were already “in shape.” I don’t know what led me to believe that described me. I’ll never forget the teacher kneeling beside me trying to encourage me to roll back into plough pose. All my efforts produced almost no movement, only grunting.

I do remember that I did my first handstand in that class. I actually cried out: “Jeezus!!!”

The teacher didn’t find it funny.

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Speaking of laughing and yoga….here’s how Anna Guest-Jelley describes her yoga classes.

I like to describe my classes as a choose-your-own-adventure book.  Remember those? I give lots of different options during class.  I always talk with my students before class to check in and see what’s going on with them so I have an idea of what modifications to offer.  The classes themselves are usually quiet with some bursts of laughter.

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Who or what inspires you? Who are your favorite yoga teachers?

Interested in learning more about our Featured Teachers? Here’s the full archive.

Are you interested in being a Teacher Goes Back to School Featured Teacher? Contact me at TGBTS blog AT g mail dot com – subject line: Featured Teacher

Image: sudheer and son mayan riviera by lululemon athletica on Flickr (cc)

Catching Up with Alicia Herrera of Spirit House Designs + a GIVEAWAY!

Last November I interviewed my fellow public school teacher, adoptive mom (to be), and owner of Spirit House Designs, Alicia Herreraas part of my Featured Teacher Series.

Here’s a snap shot of our conversation recently.

What is happening in your adoption?

We are now 27 months into our adoption pregnancy.  After the initial flurry of paperwork, classes, and home study, we have been more or less waiting.  And, because all of the legal documents tent to be valid only for a year, we have renewed all of our paperwork once, too.

We are pretty much at the “top” of the list for getting an important phone call- the one where we are matched with our child.  After we are matched, it will be another 4-8 months while we go through the court system. We hope to have a toddler at home this time next year!

What’s changed since last year?

One big change has happened since this time last year.

The program that we were in (Thailand) basically slowed to a stop. International adoption is dicey in that the process can take so long that policy changes happen mid-process.  We were advised by our adoption agency to switch countries if we were wishing to complete an adoption in the next couple of years (yes!).

Adoptive parent requirements vary from country to country and, initially, we had not been married long enough to consider a few other options.  Those options were suddenly open to us, including a very good program with a small children’s home in Taiwan.

Having to change countries is a big fear for adoptive parents because of time and money lost. It can be heartbreaking to essentially “start over”.   We had to face that fear this year and it was hard for us.   More waiting, more money, still no guarantees.  We took a deep breath, crossed our fingers, and reapplied in Taiwan.

Are are you still raising money to fund your adoption through Spirit House Designs? 

 Reapplying meant redoing a lot of paperwork (again!) and repaying fees.  In addition, the program in Taiwan is also about $7,000 more, by design, than Thailand. We expect to spend about $35,000 by the time we are finished, which is roughly a teacher’s take-home salary for one year.  It is amazing to consider!

What’s new at Spirit House Designs?

Oooh. The thing that I am loving the most this year are the silk art scarves.  They have been individually painted, dyed, and then shaped by hand.  I added little specks of light and color to make each one unique.  They look great and feel luxurious.  I put up a tutorial on the blog that shows my favorite way to wear them as scarves, but they are versatile enough to be worn as a shawl, too.

They are such a pleasure to make. Working with silk is filled with meditative moments.  Mixing color, paying attention to the fiber’s response, moving slowly, being open to what each piece wants to become… all of these things are done with intention and love.  I believe that this attitude is what makes each item beautiful and what pleases the wearer. There is no substitution for heart.

I also have the next batch of nuno felted scarves, flowers, huipil cushions, as well as some gifty felted soap, all of which can be seen first at the open studio at the house on November 19th.

Where is your work available?

I will be showing at the Davis Art Center Holiday Sale and the Davis Gift Mart the first weekend in December.  This should be a fun holiday season of sharing both textiles and adoption excitement updates with everybody.

I will also be having a Spirit House studio presale on November 19th, for those who are unable to make the Davis Art Center Sale.  From 10 AM-2 PM, the studio will be open and items will be available for purchase.

The studio sale is by invitation only, but all are very welcome.

{For an invitation, simply submit a comment of interest}.

All of the profits from the presale go directly toward our adoption fund.

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Alicia has generously donated a silk scarf to the readers of Teacher Goes Back To School.

To enter to win – please leave a comment about what color palette interests you most: warm tones or cool tones.

 Options for Extra Entries:

Subscribe to Teacher Goes Back to School via Email & Confirm Subscription (upper right hand corner) and then leave a blog comment telling me you subscribed. If you already are a subscriber, leave a comment letting us know.

Subscribe to Spirit House Designs via Email & Confirm Subscription (upper right hand corner) and then leave a blog comment telling Alicia you subscribed. If you already are a subscriber, leave a comment letting us know.

“Like” Teacher Goes Back to School on Facebook and then leave a blog comment to confirm. If you already like TGBTS, leave a comment letting us know.

“Like” Spirit House Designs on Facebook and then leave a blog comment to confirm.If you already like Spirit House Designs, leave a comment letting us know.

Tweet this post or share it on Facebook and then leave a blog comment to confirm.

Who is eligible to win?

Anyone with a valid e-mail and a U.S. mailing address is eligible.

When do I find out if I am the winner?

The contest is open from November 13, 2011 until midnight PST on Friday, November 18, 2011. The winner will be announced on November 19th at the Presale. {Need not be present to win.}

You will have 2 weeks to e-mail us back with your home address so we can mail the prize.

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THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.

Thank you to all who entered.

ABC’s of Me

A bit about me which I hope inspires a bit about you.

Thanks to Frugal Babe for the idea!

The Teacher Gets Alphabetized

A – Age: 41

B – Bed Size: Queen

C – Chore I Dislike:

Work – grading homework, so I don’t. Check it and chuck it is my motto.

Home – dishes.

D – Dog: – I really, really like other people’s dogs.

E – Essential start to my day: Social media

F – Favorite color: – All shades of blue.

G – Gold or Silver? White Gold or silver.

H – Height: 5’4″

I – Instruments played: violin, flute and recorder – all in elementary school with limited success. Daily practice? Hahahaha.

J – Job Title: Elementary school teacher (on parental leave), yoga teacher, desk diva, special projects make-happener.

K – Kids: Very, very soon The Ru will be living in our house.

L – Live: In Midtown Sacramento.

M – Money tip I like best: Always have enough money in the bank so you don’t need your next paycheck.

N – Never plan to… sky dive, bungee jump or any other totally optional activity where I may die.

O – Overnight hospital stays: None I can remember.

P – Pet peeves:

Yoga class – a list just for you. Do you do any of these?

Work/school – inconsistency with messages to kids.

Home – hearing someone floss their teeth or hitting their teeth on the silverware.

Q – Quote from a movie: “No Dan, we were bowling partners.” Demi Moore’s character Debbie in About Last Night.

R – Righty or Lefty? Righty.

S – Siblings: Brothers – all older.

T – Time I wake up: Earlier than I would like most of the time. I’ve heard a rumor babies totally help with sleep.

U – Underwear: Yes.

V – Vegetables I don’t like: radishes, green bell peppers (let those things ripen people!), lettuce. Ok, lettuce is more of a ‘why bother’ than a dislike, but it bugs me. I totally eat it when I go out, but not at home.

W – What makes me run late:  the internet (no online mobile to go for me), unexpected traffic jams.

X – X-rays I’ve had: teeth, shoulder, feet.

Y – Yummy food I make: Recipes!

Z – Zoo animals I like: The big cats – lions, tigers, panthers, oh my! Don’t get me wrong, zoos are less animal prison-ish than in the past, but still weird.

What are the ABCs of you?

If you have a blog, please post and link back here.

If not, leave them in the comments.

This Is My Happiness: On the Yoga Mat – My Interview with Jenna Francisco Part 2

Teachers.

Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my new series of interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!

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Have you met Jenna yet? She’s May’s Featured Teacher, professor, blogger and momma.

In case you missed it, here’s PART 1.

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When did you start practicing yoga?

In 1999 or 2000.

Why did you start?

I was curious.  I also had loved ballet as a child and took dance classes in college, and I wanted to get back in touch with something similar, something body-related and calming.

Where did you practice?

I enrolled in an 8-week series at an Iyengar studio in Iowa City,Iowa.  Then I enrolled in another and another.  I moved to Ohio shortly after that and continued with another Iyengar instructor.  Both of them were amazing, strong women in their fifties who could do crazy stuff with their bodies.  They inspired me to get more active and take care of myself.  At the time I had no idea I was learning a particular style of yoga, but I loved the Iyengar focus on body alignment and progression of poses, and I think it gave me a great foundation.


How has your practice evolved over time?

After I moved to Sacramento in 2002, I obviously was exposed to a lot more than just the Iyengar classes I’d been in.  I tried other styles and started practicing a lot at home.  My practice went through phases—sometimes very physical and other times less, depending on how I was feeling or who was teaching my regular classes.

In the 3+ years since I became a mom, it’s been all about enjoying myself and being in the moment.  During my last pregnancy, I had to honor the space I needed to deal with some challenges, so I haven’t been practicing much for the past year but will be reuniting with yoga soon.

Do you have a home practice? What is it like? How often? Where? How’d you start and how do you keep at it?

Before I had kids, I had a pretty regular home practice, sometimes all from me, sometimes from books, and sometimes from videos.  A home practice had 2 big advantages for me: it was free and I could do whatever I wanted.

After It’s All Yoga opened, I started going there for the Saturday and Sunday classes and fell in love with the studio.  The focus of my home practice shifted to restorative and regular meditation, but that has been very up and down.  I include yoga readings and related stuff, which have actually made me a much calmer and more focused person the last few years.  For example, Judith Lasater’s Living Your Yoga changed my outlook and made me happier.  Really.

I hope to get some of that back but will have to redefine it since I have no time to myself in my house now.

What’s your favorite pose? Why?

I have a few.  Triangle and Half-Moon are my favorite standing poses.  I practiced Half-Moon all through my other pregnancy despite the constant changes in the front of my body, so I associate that pose with strength and balance.  I love Pigeon and the feeling of backbends and forward bends.  Yummy.

What’s your least favorite pose?

Anything that requires arm or upper-body strength since I don’t have much.  Say Crow or Headstand, and I get nervous!  That has always been my weakness, so I used to work on it and made good progress, but that has all been lost the last few years.  I’d love to get it back someday soon.

What other blogs do your read? Why?

I mix friends’ blogs and other blogs that I feel pulled to.  For instance, I read yours—we have so much in common, so it’s really fun for me, and I love your recipes.  I read Michelle’s (Blogasana) because I love the way she writes and am inspired by her messages.

As far as other blogs, I read Raamdev.com regularly because he is a genuine, beautiful, special person on a real journey.  He always inspires me and makes me want to be a better human.

For fun, I love this San Francisco photographer’s sites: blog.adampaul.com and adampaulphotography.com.

And for food, which is a passion of mine, I read food52.com and Markbittman.com.  He’s a food genius.

My favorite travel blog is uncornernedmarket.com, written by an inspiring, witty, intelligent couple.  I am constantly wowed by their writing and photography.

Who or what inspires you?

That’s a really hard question!  People who are kind, simple, and interested in the betterment of all humans.  People, especially quirky or creative ones, who are 100% comfortable being themselves.  Societies that value slowness, simplicity, and equality.

I’m inspired to be in the moment every day, whether it’s just relaxing, spending time with my sons, or even going to work.  I’m inspired by history and art, and I won’t lie—I love to travel and want to live overseas, (both very outside-of-the-moment!), so I’m inspired to see as much of this world as I can in my short life.

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If you’d like to learn more about Jenna and her travels check out her blog, This Is My Happiness.

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Please leave any questions or comment love below – we’d love to hear from you.

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INTERVIEW ARCHIVES:

April 2010 Amy Estes, Just A Titch

March 2010 Anna Guest-Jelley, Founder Curvy Yoga

February 2011: Jed Brewer, Public School Teacher/Music Executive

December 2010: Madeleine Lohman, Yoga Teacher/Massage Therapist

November 2010: Alicia Herrera - 4th grade teacher/Textile Artist - Spirit House Designs.

October 2010: Ryan Fong - Teaching Assistant/PhD Candidate in English at UC Davis.

September 2010: Michelle Marlahan- Proprietress/Fairy Queen of It’s All Yoga in Sacramento, California.

Teaching All Over the World: An Interview with Jenna Francisco of This Is My Happiness

Teachers.

Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my series of interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!

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Have you met Jenna? She’s the writer of the inspiring This Is My Happiness: Reflections on Travels and Day-to-Day Joys, college instructor, yogi and momma.

Meet Jenna Francisco -May’s TGBTS Featured Teacher.

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What and where do you teach?

I teach ESL (English as a Second Language) at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento, California.  I teach all levels, from false-beginners to very advanced, and all skills (writing, reading, pronunciation, grammar, etc.).  I love the variety of all the levels of our program, but I prefer teaching the most advanced students because we work with literature, research, and other academic subject matter.

The student population is extremely diverse, from all over the world with different religions, languages, cultures, and ages.  All the students have a story of some kind, from being imprisoned in re-education camps or barely surviving as one of the “boat people” from Vietnam, to being the victim of domestic violence or escaping religious persecution.  I love working with them, and it all makes for a job that never gets boring.

What is your teaching history?

I started teaching rather spontaneously in 1996 in the Czech Republic, but I had no idea what I was doing and basically no support (very few books, no computer), so planning lessons was really hard.  In 1997, I returned to the U.S. and went to graduate school to study linguistics.  I was fortunate to get a full-time teaching position when I graduated in 2000.  I’ve been at CRC since 2002 and have learned how to teach mostly through experience.


What brought you to teaching?

I got a B.A. in art history and planned to go to grad school, but I had a year to kill, so I traveled in Europe for 3 months and visited my best friend from college, who was living in the Czech Republic with the Peace Corps.

I was totally entranced by the idea of living abroad for an extended period of time, so I asked her if I could move in with her.  I started teaching English there because that’s the easiest job for Americans living abroad to find.  I had always loved languages, grammar, and writing, and I ended up realizing I could really love doing it if I could just get trained, which is why I went back to school in 1997.

 Tell us about your blog.

My blog, This Is My Happiness, is something I started for fun more than a year ago.  I originally wanted to write about my travel experiences because traveling is one of my great loves in life, and after I had my first child, I felt a strong desire to travel more, I guess because I felt like life was getting shorter.

My blog has evolved into a place where I have fun expressing myself and occasionally write about other life stuff, too.  An unexpected benefit of it is connecting with others; I love reading and responding to people’s comments and now have on-line friends!

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If you’d like to learn more about Jenna and her travels check out her blog, This Is My Happiness, and be sure to stick around for part 2 – coming soon!

For up to the minute news, you can also follow Jenna on Twitter and you can “like” her blog on Facebook.

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Please leave any questions or comment love below – we’d love to hear from you.

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INTERVIEW ARCHIVES:

April 2011 Amy Estes, High School English Teacher and writer of Just A Titch

March 2011 Anna Guest-Jelley Brilliant Mind behind Curvy Yoga

February 2011 Jed Brewer Teacher/Musician/Music Executive/Yogi

December 2010: Madeleine Lohman, Yoga Teacher/Massage Therapist

November 2010: Alicia Herrera - 4th grade teacher/Textile Artist - Spirit House Designs.

October 2010: Ryan Fong - Teaching Assistant/PhD Candidate in English at UC Davis.

September 2010: Michelle Marlahan- Proprietress/Fairy Queen of It’s All Yoga in Sacramento, California.

Just A Titch: On the Mat – An Interview with Amy Estes, Part 2

Teachers.

Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my new series of interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!

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Have you met Amy yet? She’s April’s Featured Teacher and kick ass high school teacher.

In case you missed it, here’s PART 1.

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When did you start practicing yoga?

My first yoga class was in 2004. It was a Bikram class and even though it was hot and scary, I loved it.

Why did you start?

True confessions: a girl I worked with told me she knew someone who lost 20 lbs in two months doing Bikram. Since I’d have given my left arm to do that, I thought a yoga class seemed pretty reasonable.

I went a few times and on my third session, I found myself laying in corpse pose crying (and not just from the heat!) [Ed. note: What is up with all the crying in yoga?] and realized that it wasn’t just a physical thing happening. I was hooked and used to get up at 5 AM every single day to go to hot yoga before work.

Where did you practice?

I initially started at Bikram Yoga Granite Bay because I was living in Rocklin. When I moved to Midtown in 2004, I moved to Yoga Loka, where I practiced for nearly two years. I tried out It’s All Yoga because I wanted a break from Bikram and then for a variety of reasons, I stopped coming to IAY and/or doing yoga at all.

I found you and Michelle via Twitter, and decided to come back. I’ve slowly gotten more into it and am trying desperately to make it a weekly, regular thing. I think that yoga is hard for me to commit to, because it’s not just a physical workout, all the emotional stuff comes out, too and that can be a little intense for a Wednesday afternoon, you know?

[Ed.note: Yoga can ruin your life as you know it. - as per Michelle].

How has your practice evolved over time?

I love Bikram, and still go occasionally, but I think that often times, the emphasis in that class is about pushing really hard and finding your max. I often feel insecure in those classes because I’m a curvy girl and I can’t do some of the poses.

I prefer to be a lot more gentle with myself. Yoga isn’t just a “workout” — it’s a time when I feel really connected to my body and all of those feelings I have around it, both positive and negative. Also, my practice has changed — positively — since attending Michelle’s classes because I really do feel safe there to bring all my “stuff” because she’s incredibly nurturing, and also a friend.

The older I get, the more okay I am with myself and my particular body and feelings, and that makes yoga more of a joy and less of a competition or place to push myself.

Do you have a home practice? What is it like? How often? Where? How’d you start and how do you keep at it?

My home practice has increased since I started going to CrossFit, simply because I need to stretch all the time. It’s usually a few poses at night, in my living room, with terrible reality TV on in the background. I know, not very yogi-like, but it’s better than nothing, no?

[Ed.Note: Always].

What’s your favorite pose? Why?

Tree and Warrior make me feel really strong and grounded. I love Pigeon because my hips and low back are always tight. I also look forward to a long Savasana after a good practice.

What’s your least favorite pose?

Downward facing dog is my least favorite. Actually, anything inverted at all. It makes the blood rush to my head and I hate that feeling. This probably means I need to do them more, right?

[Ed. note: Or you could kill the dog and NEVER do it again].

What other blogs do your read? Why?

I read well over 100 blogs, so listing them all would take forever. My absolute favorite blogs are Yes and Yes (because she’s smart, funny, and insightful), Mimi Smartypants (because she makes me laugh out loud) and Caffeinate Me (because the author is one of my best friends, and I think she’s an insanely talented writer). I tend to read blogs that I find inspiring but also real.

I love lifestyle blogs, but I also need to feel like I could have the author over for dinner and they wouldn’t judge my pile of laundry. I like blogs that are funny, well-written and helpful in some way, or blogs that belong to people I hold dear (and usually fall into one of those categories anyways!).

Who or what inspires you?

I think working in a profession where I’m forced to be creative is good for inspiration—teenagers see the world so differently than I do, and also, kids are brutally honest about how they’re feeling, which definitely inspires thoughts. Otherwise, I find inspiration in a good book, a song that makes me want to dance or cry, conversations with my closest friends, a long drive on a sunny day, in cooking or baking, during a long bath or shower and the things that I write off-line, in my paper journal.

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If you’d like to learn more about Amy check out her blog, Just A Titch.

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Please leave any questions or comment love below – we’d love to hear from you.

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INTERVIEW ARCHIVES:

March 2010 Anna Guest-Jelley, Founder Curvy Yoga

February 2011: Jed Brewer, Public School Teacher/Music Executive

December 2010: Madeleine Lohman, Yoga Teacher/Massage Therapist

November 2010: Alicia Herrera - 4th grade teacher/Textile Artist - Spirit House Designs.

October 2010: Ryan Fong - Teaching Assistant/PhD Candidate in English at UC Davis.

September 2010: Michelle Marlahan- Proprietress/Fairy Queen of It’s All Yoga in Sacramento, California.

Just A Titch of Awesome: An Interview with Amy Estes

Teachers.

Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my series of interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!

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Have you met Amy? She’s the sassy writer for Just A Titch and a high school English teacher.

She kills me. So, so funny. I wish she would have been my teacher.

Meet Amy Estes -April’s TGBTS Featured Teacher.

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What and where do you teach?

I currently teach 9th grade English and 9-12 grade Speech in Stockton, CA.

What is your teaching history?

I had always thought I wanted to teach English, but as the end of college approached, I felt unsure and decided to work for awhile before getting a credential. I tutored students aged kindergarten to adult in reading when I was first out of college and really enjoyed it.

My first job doing any sort of “real” teaching was working at an art center for developmentally disabled adults. I taught Life Skills, like health and budgeting, and eventually, some creative writing. My time there ended unexpectedly, and I went into massage therapy because the idea of nurturing others and building my own business was really appealing to me. I had a successful practice for a year while sharing a space with two other therapists, but when my studio situation changed, I started feeling unhappy and realized that I missed teaching.

Finally, I got a job working in a classroom at a group home for emotionally disturbed girls ages 12-17. It was by far the most challenging job I’ve ever held but it also confirmed that teaching was where I belonged.

I enrolled in a credential program that gave me two weeks of training and then threw me in a 7th grade classroom to teach while earning my credential. It was awesome and scary, but I loved what I was doing, despite crying nearly everyday from fear and exhaustion.

I taught middle school for three years before being laid off due to budget. Over last summer, I found a job working for a local online newspaper, writing and doing social media. Since those are my hobbies, I thought I’d love a job doing them.

When my district started school last year, I found myself feeling incredibly sad. I had a hard time seeing my teacher friends and hearing about school because I missed it so much. After a few months of feeling sad and a lot of soul-searching, I decided to see if I could go back to teaching. I called my former district and they had an open position teaching high school English. It literally took me 15 minutes to get set up with the job and I came back to the classroom in November 2010. I don’t plan on leaving ever again. Every time I’ve tried to deviate, I’ve come right back so I’ll consider it a lesson learned. I feel fortunate to know what my passion is and to have a chance to do it.

What brought you to teaching?

My third grade teacher was a really incredible woman. She really “got me” as a person (we’re still close to this day!) and encouraged me in reading, writing and generally just being myself. I loved watching her and I thought as a little girl that I wanted to do that, too. As I got older, I continued to love English so teaching it seemed like a natural fit.

As an educator, I like teaching grammar and reading and writing, but I actually live for those other moments. Teaching adolescents means there is a lot of room to impact their journey in some crucial times. I really love it when I get to talk about life with students, and as a young teacher, I think I have a bit of an “in.” I can totally quote Lil Wayne and Ke$ha, we all watch the same TV shows and it’s easy to relate.

I think that teenagers are remarkable people—really smart and funny, and the time I have with them is a gift. I come to work everyday because I love nurturing them and seeing these awkward, gangly, pre-people turn into intelligent, caring, competent young adults. It’s a joy when they trust you enough to ask your opinion and (sometimes) listen. It’s a demanding job, emotionally and time-wise, but I find it so fulfilling.

 Tell us about your blog.

I write over at Just A Titch. I started a blog when I was 22 and it existed solely on MySpace. I got my first Blogger account shortly there after, where I wrote as Coffee and Sunshine for years before switching into several more anonymous accounts. I’d die a thousand deaths before letting anyone read my accounts of my early 20′s because GOOD LORD.

So dramatic!

I quit blogging all together for awhile before friends starting asking me if I was still writing and encouraging me to get back to it. I purchased my own domain in March 2009 and started posting there for my friends to read. I got hooked up with a group called 20-Something Bloggers and found a lot of blogs to read through that, and suddenly, it seemed like a lot of people enjoyed reading my blog, too!

Just A Titch is my mom’s phrase for “a little bit” so I think of it as my place to write about all the little bits and pieces of my life. My content is pretty varied because I write about my life and my thoughts, and god knows there’s no real “niche” there.

I try to write really honestly and be vulnerable about what I’m *actually* thinking about. I’ve met some of the best people in my life via the Internet (is that weird?) and had some crazy experiences as a result of my little corner of the blog world.

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If you’d like to learn more about Amy check out her blog, Just a Titch, and be sure to stick around for part 2 – coming soon!

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Please leave any questions or comment love below – we’d love to hear from you.

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INTERVIEW ARCHIVES:

March 2011 Anna Guest-Jelley Brilliant Mind behind Curvy Yoga

February 2011 Jed Brewer Teacher/Musician/Music Executive/Yogi

December 2010: Madeleine Lohman, Yoga Teacher/Massage Therapist

November 2010: Alicia Herrera - 4th grade teacher/Textile Artist - Spirit House Designs.

October 2010: Ryan Fong - Teaching Assistant/PhD Candidate in English at UC Davis.

September 2010: Michelle Marlahan- Proprietress/Fairy Queen of It’s All Yoga in Sacramento, California.

In Case You Missed It Edition! Volume 28

{via}

Each week I’ll give you links to posts that made me laugh, cry, think or at least raise an eyebrow. Please click the links and check out the posts. You may find something that rocks your world too.

Leave me some feedback in the form of comments below on what you liked, what you hated and what you’d like to see more of. I’m here to help you find the best of what is online.

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What’s the best way to have your Spring Break fly by? Invite a friend in from out-of-town and have your husband go out-of-town. Chick Chat 24/7. So happy to have had the time, yet so sad for it to be over.

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My Best Of…

Anna from Curvy Yoga interviewed me and the It’s All Yoga Curvy Crew: Part 1  and Part 2 . The title includes one of my favorite words of all time: subversiveness. Check it out! The photos rock, thanks to Vanessa.

While I am no longer living gluten-free, I still enjoy Gluten Free Girl’s posts. This one caught my eye – How to Cook and Bake Without Dairy (score!)

Love some of these ideas from Peace and Projects: 5 Drug-Free Ways to Manage Anxiety - I probably could have used this earlier in the month when dealing with all the adoption paperwork nuttiness. I’d probably add do some restorative yoga or call a friend.

Good Enough Is the New Perfect is now a real book! I’ve read it and I loved it. I think you will too. Check it out.

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Curvy yogis Photoshoot/ Yoga Journal Talent Search Update:

Want to see the finalists? Not to take away the surprise, but I didn’t make it into the finals.

Here’s Madeleine’s excellent response to the big reveal – a post about Redefining Winning.

The Curvy Yogi Gallery is up! Check out the lovelies.

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That is the In Case You Missed It Edition for this week, folks.

Remember to click the links and leave some comments. This is a conversation, you know.

In Case You Missed Edition Archives -click it to see them all.


In Case You Missed It Edition! Volume 27

{via}

Each week I’ll give you links to posts that made me laugh, cry, think or at least raise an eyebrow. Please click the links and check out the posts. You may find something that rocks your world too.

Leave me some feedback in the form of comments below on what you liked, what you hated and what you’d like to see more of. I’m here to help you find the best of what is online.

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2 words: SPRING. BREAK.

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My Best Of…

An interview with the It’s All Yoga Curvy Crew over at Curvy Yoga. Part 1 today and Part 2 later this week. So.Much.Love.

Good Enough Is the New Perfect is now a real book! I’ve read it and I loved it.

Yes and Yes makes me happy. If you aren’t reading it yet, please stop what you’re doing (ok, after you’ve finished reading TGBTS!) and get yourself over there.  Sarah has created a Post College Survival Kit I wish had existed when I was graduating. Some sound enticing now as a grown up. Do you think she’d notice if a 41-year-old signed up?

Loved this post from Seth Godin. Turning The Habit of Self-Criticism Upside Down

Have you checked in with your 3rd Chakra lately? Michelle’s exploration of this feisty one and her questions got me thinking.

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Curvy yogis Photoshoot/ Yoga Journal Talent Search Update:

Thank you all who five-starred our photos over at Yoga Journal’s Talent Search! A strange experience seemed to be had by all.

I’m still shaking my head about that rating business.

In any case you’ll be able to see the finalists on April 21st.

The Curvy Yogi Gallery is up! Check out the lovelies. One of them appears to be sleeping…

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Speaking of curvy (and not) Northern California/Sacramento friends – are you coming to the nextSwapAsana?

{THIS SATURDAY – April 23rd- start saving your swapables now.}

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That is the In Case You Missed It Edition for this week, folks.

Remember to click the links and leave some comments. This is a conversation, you know.

In Case You Missed Edition Archives -click it to see them all.


Grabbing Life By the Curves: An Interview with Curvy Yoga’s Anna Guest-Jelley, Part 2

Teachers.

Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my new series of interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!

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Have you met Anna yet? She’s March’s Featured Teacher and yogi revolutionary.

In case you missed it, here’s PART 1.

Do you have a home practice? What is it like? How often? Where? How’d you start and how do you keep at it?

Since my yoga practice started off as a home practice, I’ve always valued practicing at home.  It, like everything else, is a work in progress and ebbs and flows!  I’d say I probably practice at home at least a couple times per week.  I keep my mat rolled out as inspiration.  When I practice at home, I do a lot of different things; sometimes I use a DVD or online sequence, but probably even more often I just start and see what happens.  That’s what I love most about practicing at home; it’s really where I learned to figure out what my body wants.

What’s your favorite pose? Why?

Tough question!  My favorite yoga treat is Supta Baddha Konasana–all propped up, of course.  I just feel so spoiled when I’m in that pose!  I also love some good hip openers, like Pigeon.

What’s your least favorite pose?

Eek–that’s also hard to choose!  Gomukhasana is one of my nemesis poses because my shoulders are perpetually tight.  They’re actually better than they used to be, but that’s not saying too much.

Why is your business called Curvy Yoga? What does it mean?

I chose the name Curvy Yoga because I wanted to honor both the curves of our bodies and our lives.  To me, life is a curvy road, so I used that in the name of my business to reflect the fact that it’s about more than just yoga modifications for curvy folks.  It’s also about fat acceptance, body positivity and meeting yourself where you are.

Language is very important to me; I chose the word curvy because I hoped it would be welcoming.  I’ve been very intentional about using the words curvy and fat in my writing and speaking as a way of claiming space for bigger bodies in a positive way in the yoga community.  While I know that both the words curvy and fat have their detractors, this is what makes the most sense to me as a way of supporting and advocating for the goals of Curvy Yoga in a broader way.  I believe that by reclaiming fat as an adjective and not a moral judgment, we can continue working for celebration of the diversity of bodies practicing yoga.

Do you have a meditation practice?

Yes; I’m working on making my meditation practice more consistent, but in the spirit of it being a practice, I’ll go ahead and say yes.  I found meditation the same time I found yoga, and I’ve been working with it ever since.  I’d say that my yoga practice has been a more constant companion in my life, but I very much want to continue with meditation.

What prompted you to write your now famous letter to Yoga Journal?

I love reading Yoga Journal. I’ve always been a reader, and I just totally geek out when it comes in the mail.  I set aside a special time and cuddle up with it.

When I opened that particular issue of the magazine and came to that article, I about fell out when it opened with a reference to Linda Bacon (a fat acceptance and anti-dieting heroine) and Health at Every Size.  I can’t even tell you how excited I was!  I was just like “yes–finally!  I’ve so been waiting for this!!”  So then when I read the article and it was promoting what I read as a conflicting message, I was really disappointed.

I just sat with it for awhile because I didn’t know what to do with it, but I just kept thinking about it.  I kept feeling like I should write about it, but I thought of a million reasons why it wasn’t a good idea.  Finally, though, I just knew I had to do it because it was a great example of what I talk about quite a bit on my blog–how insidious weight loss messages are and how easy they are to overlook, especially when they’re couched as “health” or hiding in magazines that we don’t always think of when we think of magazines contributing to negative body image.  I think if we don’t call out things like this, it becomes harder and harder to create welcoming space for people to try yoga who wouldn’t normally think it’s for them.

What is your blog about? When did you start? Why did you start? What is your purpose?

I started my blog a year ago because I kept looking for what I wanted to read and not finding it.  Over time and as interest grew, it’s evolved into what it is now.  My intention for the blog is for it to be a place where people can explore yoga and their relationships to their bodies and selves in an open way.  As you pointed out in one of your posts (which I loved!), yoga isn’t all f*cking sunshine and rainbows.  I find that the same is very much true of the journey to accepting and loving the body you have today.

What other blogs do your read? Why?

Oh, my.  I recently discovered Google Reader, which has been both a blessing and a curse.  I have about 150 blogs in my reader and do my best to keep up with them (thankfully they don’t all post all the time, so it’s usually not too overwhelming).  Because I have so many fabulous blogging friends, I won’t list names so I won’t leave anyone out (except for Teacher Goes Back to School, obviously! Ed: awww, shucks!).  I will say that the majority of what I read is a mix of yoga, fat acceptance and body image blogs.

Who and what inspires you?

Wow–so much!  I feel like I’ve missed quite a bit in my life by always being really focused on doing and achieving more and more and more.  As I’m gradually letting that go and narrowing in on what’s most important to me, I’m inspired by lots of things–big and small.  I’m endlessly inspired by my yoga students; they’re such incredibly warm, thoughtful and talented badasses.  I often can’t believe my luck that they choose to be in my classes!  I’m also hugely inspired by the yoga community I’ve found online.  I’ve made some dear friends and wonderful connections there; these people are doing so much toward a more inclusive yoga community, and I so appreciate their passion and dedication.

I’m also really fortunate to be surrounded by my brilliant, loving, and hilarious husband, sister, best friend and parents.

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If you’d like to learn more about Anna check out her blog.

You can also “like” Anna’s blog on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

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Please leave any questions or comment love below – we’d love to hear from you.

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INTERVIEW ARCHIVES:

February 2011: Jed Brewer, Public School Teacher/Music Executive

December 2010: Madeleine Lohman, Yoga Teacher/Massage Therapist

November 2010: Alicia Herrera – 4th grade teacher/Textile Artist - Spirit House Designs.

October 2010: Ryan Fong – Teaching Assistant/PhD Candidate in English at UC Davis.

September 2010: Michelle Marlahan- Proprietress/Fairy Queen of It’s All Yoga in Sacramento, California.

Curves Ahead! An Interview with Anna Guest-Jelley, Founder of Curvy Yoga

Teachers.

Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my new series of interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!

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Have you met Anna?

Anna Guest-Jelley is March’s TGBTS Featured Teacher. She is the Founder of Curvy Yoga, a yoga teacher in Nashville and all around inspiration for us yogis with curves.

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When did you start practicing yoga?

I first started practicing in 1999.

Why did you start?

I found yoga by ways of learning about biofeedback for migraines.  I’d had chronic migraines for a couple years by then, and medication wasn’t doing the trick, so I was looking for other options when I stumbled onto yoga.  For my migraines and at least a thousand other things, I’m so glad I did!

Where did you practice?

I started practicing in my college dorm room.  My room was galley-style with a dresser, closet, bed and desk down the left and right sides of the room for myself and my roommate.  We had a narrow patch of carpet in between with just enough space for a mat and a little extra room on either side for moving around.  It wasn’t glamorous by any means, but I’m grateful that my practice started as a home practice.  It gave me time to get comfortable with the poses, terminology and, more importantly, moving my body and being with myself.

How has your practice evolved over time?

Over the past twelve years, my practice has really been all over the map.  I’ve practiced a variety of different styles, I’ve had times where I went to classes five times/week, and I’ve had months pass where I didn’t practice at all.  So while I definitely don’t have a linear trajectory, I’d say the overarching growth I see in my practice is more and more reliance on and trust in myself.

By that I mean that for so long I looked to teachers, whether on DVDs (or VHS!) or in real life, to give me feedback.  If they didn’t, I assumed my practice was going along swimmingly.  As the years pass, though, I see how much I’ve cultivated a body knowledge about my practice–what’s working for me on any given day and what isn’t.  Of course, working with skilled teachers is still very important to me, but I don’t give my practice over to them; that feels like an important distinction to me.

I’ve also nurtured an ability to approach asana with kindness.  I rarely force myself to do certain poses anymore, which is a considerable change from the beginning of my practice.  This isn’t to say I don’t invite challenge into my practice, because that’s not true; it’s more like I just try to ask myself why I’m trying to muscle into a pose, if I am, and then decide whether or not I want to back off.  This is something that has translated into the rest of my life, too, since I’m a recovering perfectionist.

How long have you been a teacher?

I’ve been teaching yoga for two years.  I’ve been a teacher of non-yoga subjects for eight years.  I taught English for several years at the high school and college level.  I also taught about healthy relationships and dating violence for several years at the middle school, high school and college levels.

Why did you start Curvy Yoga?

Curvy Yoga started as a bit of an experiment for my own practice and teaching.  I wanted to think more intentionally about, not only what modifications work for curvy bodies, but how to create a welcoming environment for curvy folks who have never considered yoga.

Since then it’s really grown into something that addresses yoga on and off the mat, in the sense that it’s a space to really dig into issues of body image and knowledge; self-acceptance and body positivity.  I find it fascinating how rarely we discuss, or even just create space for on the mat, all the baggage many of us have about our bodies.  This is what I’m really interested in exploring and growing.

In my own experience, I used to use yoga to check out.  I would just get on the mat and zone.  And when I left class, I usually felt like I’d gotten a good “work-out” (whatever that means), but I rarely felt any differently about my body.  It was only later, not only as my practice grew but also as I started addressing my body issues off the mat (via journaling and therapy, primarily) that I began thinking about how this could be different.  Yoga could be a place to learn more about my body, and not just about anatomy or what poses I could do, but also about my sense of self and what it feels like to live in and appreciate this body that I have today.

What are your classes like?

I like to describe my classes as a choose-your-own-adventure book.  Remember those? I give lots of different options during class.  I always talk with my students before class to check in and see what’s going on with them so I have an idea of what modifications to offer.  The classes themselves are usually quiet with some bursts of laughter.

I try my best to cultivate a safe space where people can tune into their bodies but also feel comfortable asking questions.  One thing that some people find unusual is that I encourage my students to ask me questions during class.  So sometimes you’ll find people raising their hands or tossing out questions.  I guess the impetus for this probably comes from my other teaching background, but accessibility is very important to me, and I think access to information is part of that.  It’s not rowdy, and I do encourage my students to rely on the information they’re getting from their bodies, but I also want them to know that we’re not in a library; it’s okay for them to ask questions when needed.  I rarely use music in my classes so that everyone can hear better and so we all have the opportunity to tune in a little more.

I’ve been teaching some free classes at a local community center recently, and I’ve been delighted at the positive feedback and turnout; I’ve had up to 45 students in a class.  When I see all these lovely people practicing yoga together, many for the first time, it’s really overwhelming.  It’s just so wonderful!

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If you’d like to learn more about Anna check out her website and be sure to stick around for part 2 – coming soon!

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Please leave any questions or comment love below – we’d love to hear from you.

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Don’t forget! Today is the last day to enter your photo for Yoga Journal’s Talent Search {and be sure to send your curvy yoga photos to anna@curvyyoga dot com to be featured in the Gallery}

INTERVIEW ARCHIVES:

February 2011 Jed Brewer Teacher/Musician/Music Executive/Yogi

December 2010: Madeleine Lohman, Yoga Teacher/Massage Therapist

November 2010: Alicia Herrera – 4th grade teacher/Textile Artist - Spirit House Designs.

October 2010: Ryan Fong – Teaching Assistant/PhD Candidate in English at UC Davis.

September 2010: Michelle Marlahan- Proprietress/Fairy Queen of It’s All Yoga in Sacramento, California.

Teacher, Music Executive and Yogi: An Interview with Jed Brewer Part 2

Teachers.

Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my new series of interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!

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Have you met Jed? He’s February’s Featured Teacher. Public school teacher by day and musician/executive by night. Oh and a yogi too!

And let’s not forget my husband.

Here’s Part 1.

When did you start practicing yoga?

I started yoga about 10 years ago.

Why did you start?

My wife {that’s me!} and a good friend wanted to attend a yoga class, so I went along.  I was dealing with stress from work and pains from playing baseball, so it seemed like a good idea.

Where did you practice?

The first few years I practiced at Midtown Athletic Club and my first instructor was Patricia.  She was a great first teacher from me, because she was really supportive and let you work within your abilities, while also correcting things that could be better.  I’ve also practiced at the YMCA, Pipeworks, and now It’s All Yoga.

How has your practice evolved over time?

There have been three main “yoga eras” for me.

The first few years were predominately Hatha.

The middle years were “California Flow,” with a lot of the pilates core elements going on.

The recent years have been more of a nuanced practice.  Part of that is because of elbow tendonitis and some especially stressful years at my previous school site.  You can’t do a lot of plank and push-ups when your elbow is screaming.  I’ve done enough of the Hatha Flow stuff to be able to do it on my own.  The things someone like Michelle Marlahan brings to the table, or yoga mat, are way more methodical and beneficial than your average American yoga class.

Do you have a home practice? What is it like? How often? Where? How’d you start and how do you keep at it?

My home practice ebbs and flows.  I tend to practice at home when I’ve had a scheduling conflict with whatever regular class I’m taking.  I tend to do favorite poses or poses that aren’t coming up much in my classes.

I usually practice in the kitchen.  It’s just the right size and the linoleum feels ok.  I usually turn off the lights and put on some drone music.  Sometimes I practice in front of the TV if the Giants are in the postseason and I don’t want to miss a pitch.  Obviously, I’m not really clearing my head this way, but I’m still getting the stretching.

I’ll occasionally bust out a knees to chest in the classroom if my back is hurting.  The students think it’s weird, but then one of them will have a sore back and I’ll be coaching them through the same pose.

What’s your favorite pose? Why?

I really like knees to chest.  It’s the one pose I do almost every day.  It’s been a real life saver.  I also like down dog.  When I first started, Patricia said that down dog was a resting pose and I thought she was absolutely mad, because it hurt my shoulders so much.  Now I get it though, and it doesn’t hurt.

What’s your least favorite pose?

That’s easy – head stand.  I just feel so vulnerable in the neck.  Patricia always used to say that you had your whole life to get a pose, so I actually like that there is something like head stand that I can chip away at.

What other blogs do your read? Why?

I don’t read a whole lot of blogs.  I read Heckasac because it tends to cover the culture stuff around midtown that interests me.  A few friends have blogs that I like such as Art For Spastics, Rabbits Against Magic, The Daily Jar, and of course, Teacher Goes Back to School.

I also like End Hits and Midtown Monthly.   In recent years I’ve sent my San Kazakgascar CDs to music blogs.  It took me awhile to even realize that is how most music is covered now.

Who and what inspires you?

I’m drawn to people that are smart, creative, and weird.  Occasionally, I need some boring down time to recover from everything, but I like watching, hearing, and talking to people that let it all hang out.  People that risk embarrassment or being misunderstood to do something that’s a little different.  Not the Jackass people, but creative or even political people.

I also get off on stuff from the natural world.  I’m fascinated by topography – land shapes, gorges, mountains, rivers, etc.  And animals, of course.  The Amazing Yans inspires me just about every day.

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If you’d like to learn more about Jed check out his new blog!

Would you like a FREE DOWNLOAD from Jed’s solo EP?

You can also “like” Jed’s bands on Facebook: San Kazakgascar and Harvester

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Please leave any questions or comment love below – we’d love to hear from you.

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INTERVIEW ARCHIVES:

December 2010: Madeleine Lohman, Yoga Teacher/Massage Therapist

November 2010: Alicia Herrera – 4th grade teacher/Textile Artist - Spirit House Designs.

October 2010: Ryan Fong – Teaching Assistant/PhD Candidate in English at UC Davis.

September 2010: Michelle Marlahan- Proprietress/Fairy Queen of It’s All Yoga in Sacramento, California.

BONUS MUSIC VIDEO!

Teacher/President of Lather Records: An Interview with Jed Brewer

Teachers.

Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my new series of interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!

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Jed Brewer is February’s Featured Teacher. Public school teacher by day and musician/executive by night. Oh and a yogi too!

Did I mention he totally rocks?

Lucky guy, he’s my husband too!

{Happy Valentine’s Day!}

What and where do you teach?

I teach 2nd grade at Theodore Judah in Sacramento by McKinley Park.

What is your teaching history?

My previous 11 years of full-time teaching was at Oak Ridge in Oak Park, Sacramento.  I taught mostly 4th grade, but also a little 3rd grade.  I also worked as a substitute for over 6 years during my “starving artist” period.  I subbed K-12.

Originally, I was going to sub for one year, but I was having such a good time with music that it lasted longer.  I learned a lot from subbing because you really have to have your classroom management together.  It’s never “your class.”  You also get to see how hundreds of teachers set up their classroom and what different grade levels are like – from elaborate 3rd grade rooms to lazy football coaches who “teach history.”

I discovered early on that I really like teaching diverse student populations.  You learn a lot from the kids and it’s great to see them take off and do great things once they have the opportunity and tools to do it.  I also like the feeling of contributing to the country/world.

What brought you to teaching?

It’s kind of cliché, but the excitement of learning is a big part of it.  There’s also the ego-feeding part of it.  You get to be up on stage and explain things.  Plus, all the opportunities to tell jokes and be a dork.  It’s such a hard job, if you’re not going to enjoy the fun parts, why even do it?  Kids are usually the best comedians, even when they’re not trying to be funny.

I hate the expression, “Those who can’t, teach.”  That said, I have met a few teachers that fall into that category.  I think some of us just wouldn’t feel right doing something corporate and being driven by the need to make more dough than the next guy.  It’s too bad that there is a corporate element to the current reform movement in education.  Some people just don’t get it.  They think teaching kids is the same as selling flat screen televisions.

Tell us about your blog -

I just started the Lather Records blog a couple of months ago.  It’s mainly an easier way to update the news portion of Lather Records.  It’s not meant to be an everyday posting factory.  So far it’s been fun.  I just did my first non-Lather post about the Jandek show I went to.  I’ve been running my little coop label for around 20 years, and occasionally I do something like this to catch up with the times.

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If you’d like to learn more about Jed check out his new blog!

Would you like a FREE DOWNLOAD from Jed’s solo EP?

You can also “like” Jed’s bands on Facebook: San Kazakgascar and Harvester

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Stay tuned for Part 2 – Teacher, Music Executive, Yogi

Please leave any questions or comment love below – we’d love to hear from you.

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INTERVIEW ARCHIVES:

December 2010: Madeleine Lohman, Yoga Teacher/Massage Therapist

November 2010: Alicia Herrera – 4th grade teacher/Textile Artist - Spirit House Designs.

October 2010: Ryan Fong – Teaching Assistant/PhD Candidate in English at UC Davis.

September 2010: Michelle Marlahan- Proprietress/Fairy Queen of It’s All Yoga in Sacramento, California.

Meet The Teacher

Brief school teacher bio:

By day, I teach third graders wacky stuff like multiplication, the love of reading, the art of being polite and how to write awesome blog posts. At night, I try to convince teachers to take care of themselves by blogging about my self-care journey and teaching them to lie down and rest awhile by taking a yoga nap.

I am a recovering Type-A political workaholic who used to smoke too much, drink too much and work way too many hours. The good news is I hated every minute of it and got out of it at the end of 2002 when I finally realized my teacher- husband’s schedule was way more fun than mine.

Becoming a teacher changed my life in every way. I’m happier, healthier and generally more fun to be around.

And now for the Q&A:

Q: What would you be doing if you weren’t a teacher?

A:   I’d be a financially independent yoga teacher/studio manager/world traveler/writer.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A:   Practicing and teaching yoga, meeting new friends via social media and the old-fashioned way, reading blogs and BOOKS, cooking, traveling, blogging and obsessing about old 97′s. And let’s not forget waiting. {In 2011, we became parents and our wait was over}.

Q: When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A: In 6th grade I gave a career day speech about wanting to be a lawyer to help people and a dancer because it would be fun. Even then, I couldn’t just pick one thing.

When I was 20, my college entrance essay talked about being a teacher after a life in politics. I guess, I was on to something.

Q: What are your guilty pleasures?

A: Pajama days, hot baths just because I’m cold, reading magazines at the library, pop music.

Q: What is your biggest fear?!

A: Parents yelling at me. I freaking hate that.

Q: When you’re on vacation, where do you like to go?

A: I like to vacation with friends, so wherever they are, I like to be. I am a huge fan of going bye-bye. Strange, because I am also a huge homebody.

Trips include (fake British) Spain, Munich, the South of France, Thailand, Laos. (See Teacher Travels for photos)

Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

A: Don’t live above your means, being desperate for money makes smart people do dumb things. Like go to jail. (Definitely more applicable in my last career).

Best teaching advice: Don’t take it personally.

Q: What do you value most in others?

A: Integrity. And a seriously dry sense of humor.

Q: If you could choose one of your personality traits to pass down to your kids, what would it be?

A: My seriously dry sense of humor.

Q: If you could have lunch with anyone in the world….living or dead…who would it be?

A: Without a doubt, Rhett Miller.

Adorbes, right?

Back in the olden days of me pretending to be someone cool or smart, I would have said J F Kennedy to try to earn some smartypants points. These days, I’m keeping my dorky, super fan girl cred by telling you the truth.

One random thing about me:

I read my very first blog in 2009 – AFTER I pressed the publish button on my first post. Until then, I was blissfully (ha!) unaware of all the genius out there just waiting to be discovered.

Want to play? Click on the First Grade Parade link button below.


MadYoga Goes Online! Part 2 – Madeleine Lohman Interview

Teachers.

Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my new series of interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!

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Have you met Madeleine Lohman yet? Click here for Part 1.

When did you start blogging? Why?

I started blogging really recently, and I did it because you told me to.

This is only a slight exaggeration.

I have lots of these smart friends who write consistently amazing and inspiring blogs and I have been incredibly reluctant to get on board.

Even though I have a lot of extrovert skills, I am at heart an introvert, and had a complex network of reasons why blogging would Not Be A Good Idea. But, through the gentle, persistent reassurance of people like you who insisted they would like to hear what I had to say, I got it over with, and I now love it.

In fact, I’ve signed on for #reverb10, pledging to write every day in December based on prompts regarding the year past and the year to come. Baptism with fire.

What is your blog about?

I call it the yoga of the day-to-day. Making a habit of taking the lessons from your mat and bringing them regularly into your daily life. And not just into the quiet moments of your life, but the hard and loud and uncomfortable ones. What Pema Chodron refers to as the “squeeze” – when you’re least likely to think of yoga, that’s when you need it.

Didn’t you recently guest post over at Bows and Sparrows?

I did.

Here’s the link to the Holiday Gift Guide for the Yogi.

What blogs do you read?

Well, besides yours, duh…

Kim at www.yogaquest.wordpress.com – yoga!

Havi at www.thefluentself.com – mindful biggification!

Michelle at www.blogasana.wordpress.com – although I hear this is changing…

Who and what inspires you?

People who handle adversity with grace.

My incredible students.

The change of the seasons.

My dog when he realizes we are, in fact, going for a walk.

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If you’d like to learn more about Madeleine check out her new website and blog!

Please leave any questions or comment love below – we’d love to hear from you.

INTERVIEW ARCHIVES:

November 2010: Alicia Herrera – 4th grade teacher/Textile Artist - Spirit House Designs.

October 2010: Ryan Fong – Teaching Assistant/PhD Candidate in English at UC Davis.

September 2010: Michelle Marlahan- Proprietress/Fairy Queen of It’s All Yoga in Sacramento, California.

MadYoga Debuts: An Interview with Madeleine Lohman

Teachers.

Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my new series of interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!

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I’m so excited for this month’s interview!

Have you met Madeleine yet?

Love her.

Madeleine Lohman is December’s Featured Teacher. She teaches Yoga Basics, Gentle and Level 1-2 yoga at It’s All Yoga and she is also part of the IAY Teacher Training faculty. Plus she does massage and private yoga sessions/parties.

Did I mention she also totally rocks?

When did you start practicing yoga? Why?

Sometime in the late-mid nineties, I returned to Seattle after going to school in Montreal. I had my degree in English Literature which naturally led me to work at a toy store. (The coolest toy store ever, Archie Mcphee, but that’s another story…)

I had free time and brain space on my hands, and needed something new to think about. My friend was taking classes at a community center, so I went along.

It was a beginner’s class, but an accelerated one intended for folks who were already “in shape.” I don’t know what led me to believe that described me. I’ll never forget the teacher kneeling beside me trying to encourage me to roll back into plough pose. All my efforts produced almost no movement, only grunting.

I do remember that I did my first handstand in that class. I actually cried out: “Jeezus!!!”

The teacher didn’t find it funny.

How has your yoga practice evolved over time?

It has definitely moved out of the realm of competition and into the realm of kindness. It took a long time. It’s still happening.

I mean, I was never going to be a super-power-vinyasa yogi, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t mistake yoga as just another way to “improve” my body.

Old habits die hard.

When you spend your teen years dieting and exercising in a punishing way, yoga can quite neatly fit into that regimen. Yoga can either change your bad habits or just give you another tool to cement them with.

Now, the asanas (poses) are a way to lavish attention on this body just as it is. And to make meditation, breathing, and just generally living a little easier.

How long have you been a yoga teacher?

Since 2003 or so. My first certification, ironically enough, was through “YogaFit.” They do trainings which take place over one weekend, which certainly opens them up to a lot of criticism in the yoga community.

And no, you can’t learn to be a yoga teacher in a weekend.

But it’s a very useful starting point for students like me, who were being nudged in the direction of teaching by a lot of sources, but were afraid of the full, Yoga Alliance approved, hundreds of hours type of commitment. It lets you know if you’re moving in the right direction.

And then I felt ready to jump in to the hundreds of hours of training I’ve done since then, knowing I liked what I was experiencing.

Truly, though, the only thing that prepares you for teaching is teaching.

Lots of it. As much as you can. Especially, when you’re starting out, offering your teaching freely to groups that might not ordinarily have access to the practice.

Do you have a home practice? What’s it like?

I believe if you don’t have a consistent home practice, you got nothing to teach.

My home practice finally started because it had to, it was a requirement of my second teacher training. There’s nothing like having to turn in a report that makes you get your practice in gear.

Since then, it’s faltered now and then, but for the most part, that’s how I teach, by making sure I practice and then teaching what I’ve found.

After confidently telling students for years that it’s more beneficial to have a shorter home practice that’s more frequent, I’ve completely changed my mind.

I do practice every morning, but by that I mean a sitting meditation and some very simple stretching.

In terms of the whiz-bang, full-on, get-down-on-it asana practice, I do that Monday/Wednesday/Friday, because I’m regimented like that. I discovered that shorter asana practices every day made me feel like I was reading a bunch of short stories, when what I wanted was to read a novel.

For me, taking a class definitely does not take the place of a home practice. Home practice is the work, class is the vacation. And as anyone who’s read my blog knows, I have a little trouble taking enough vacations.

Favorite pose?

Everyone gets a free pass or two in yoga, the poses and body parts that generally give you no complaints and are a lot of fun to wallow in. For me, that’s hips and hamstrings. So, give me a forward fold or a pigeon and I’m happy. The one pose I do every day, though, is downward dog.

Least favorite pose?

I’m not sure what you would call the opposite of your “free pass” – but for me it’s anything that requires upper body flexibility or strength. Chaturanga is the first that comes to mind, but any pose where you bind your arms (clasping hands together in a complicated way behind your torso) will find me cursing and looking for a strap.

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If you’d like to learn more about Madeleine check out her new website and blog!

Stay tuned for Part 2 – MadYoga Goes Online!

Please leave any questions or comment love below – we’d love to hear from you.

INTERVIEW ARCHIVES:

November 2010: Alicia Herrera – 4th grade teacher/Textile Artist – Spirit House Designs.

October 2010: Ryan Fong – Teaching Assistant/PhD Candidate in English at UC Davis.

September 2010: Michelle Marlahan- Proprietress/Fairy Queen of It’s All Yoga in Sacramento, California.


And The Winner Is…..

We’ve been all waiting on pins and needles to find out who won the handmade nuno felted scarf by Alicia Herrera of Spirit House Designs.

We gathered everyone’s entries: comments, tweets, likes and subscriptions and put them all in a hat.

We shook up the hat, reached in an pulled out….

Congratulations, Mona!

Thank you to everyone for supporting Teacher Goes Back to School and Spirit House Designs.

Teacher by Day, Textile Artist by Night – An Interview – with Alicia Herrera from Spirit House Designs

Teachers.

Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my new series of interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!

Alicia Herrera is November’s Featured Teacher. Alicia and I know each other because we are both Thailand-adoption-waiting- mamas-to-be.   

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

Alicia of Spirit House Designs

Did you miss Part 1? – Teacher Travels and Vows of Silence.

How did you first start working with textiles?

 

My mother was trained as a home economics teacher and my father collected textiles when he traveled in Latin America, they were framed all over his house.  He introduced me to the molas of the Kuna people of Panama when I was very young.  He took me to Nicaragua when I was a young adult to work as an interpreter for a group called Medical Training Worldwide.

The sweltering markets of Nicaragua ignited my love of folk fabric and the stories that go along with them.  My relationship with textiles has developed steadily, bit by bit, over the years.

Who and what inspire you?

A close friend’s mother sealed the deal.  Karen Tan (Chang) was a textile artist and I was able to absorb quite a bit of Textiles 101 by being in her home, seeing her work, and by reading the books in her library.  She did her graduate work in Indonesian ikat and is still my hero.

I am always inspired my travel and colors and texture found in the natural world.  The smells, sounds, and feeling of being in open-air markets always send me to the moon.

Where have you traveled?

I am have traveled many places, but have spent the most time in Southeast Asia (Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Burma, Indonesia), Japan, the subcontinent (Nepal , India) and Central America (Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama).  I spent nearly half of my 20’s living in these places.  

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

Traveling Teacher

 

How do you get your fabrics?

Well, in the case of the world textiles, I usually go to the country of origin, meet the makers, listen to the stories associated with the pieces and the people who make them, and bring them back myself.  Every pieces of cloth has had a history and a story, both regional and personal.

I also collect vintage scraps from the US, gathered from various sources, and then repurpose them into their next lives. Handbags and pillows once were tablecloths and curtains from half a century ago, all loved-up but not worn out.

I also work with raw fibers, specifically wool and silk, which I also source locally, dye, and then use in my own textiles.

What do you make?

Right now I am enjoying designing pillows and purses from vintage and world fabrics. I recently traveled to Guatemala and went from town to town gathering huipiles (blouses) and cortes (skirts) that were hand-woven and then embroidered.  Some are quite old and distinguished.  Guatemalan work is fascinating because it is so regional.  Every village has its own designs and patterns and the items can initially take up to 9 months to complete because it is all handwork.  Huipiles are often worn for a decade.  By the time I come into the picture, they have served their purpose as clothing and are ready to be reborn and repurposed.

I also work with fiber though spinning yarn, dyeing, weaving, and felting raw merino wool and silk.  I am currently enjoying a process called” nuno felting”, sometimes refered to as “laminated silk.”  Nuno means “fabric” in Japanese and the tradition involved felting wool fibers through pieces of silk fabric to make very lightweight, organic pieces.  I make scarves that are art to wear.

Many of the purses are made from vintage fabrics from the US.  Curtain samples from the 60’s, mumus, handkerchiefs, tablecloths, and whatnots are the raw materials that I gently guide into a new life.  All of the purses are made with care and fully lined, with all sorts of little touches that make them unique.  You can see samples of current pieces on the blog.

{Want to see MORE? Click HERE}

Where can people buy your goods?

I will be at the Davis Art Center’s Holiday Sale on December 3, 4, and 5th .   You will find a selection of felted and woven scarves, as well as handbags and pillows from vintage and world fabrics on display.  Each item comes with a tiny card giving some of the history behind the creative process involved.  I will be happy to tell you the long story of any particular piece on the spot!

15% of all sales go towards supporting the Davis Art Center and its fine work in the community. 

I will also be having a Spirit House studio presale on November 20th, for those who are unable to make the Davis Art Center Sale.  From 10 AM-2 PM, the studio will be open and items will be available for purchase.

The studio sale is by invitation only, but all are very welcome.

{For an invitation, simply submit a comment of interest}.

I would love to see you there and prices will reflect a 10% discount off the DAC Holiday Sale.

All of the profits from the presale go directly toward our adoption fund.

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Alicia has generously donated a scarf to the readers of Teacher Goes Back To School.

Here’s how enter to win.

For One Entry:

Leave a comment about what color palette interests you most: warm tones or cool tones.

 Options for Extra Entries:

Subscribe to Teacher Goes Back to School via Email & Confirm Subscription (upper right hand corner) and then leave a blog comment telling me you subscribed.

Subscribe to Spirit House Designs via Email & Confirm Subscription (upper right hand corner) and then leave a blog comment telling Alicia you subscribed.

“Like” Teacher Goes Back to School on Facebook and then leave a blog comment to confirm.

Tweet this post or share it on Facebook and then leave a blog comment to confirm.

Who is eligible to win?

Anyone with a valid e-mail and a U.S. mailing address is eligible.

When do I find out if I am the winner?

The contest is open from November 1, 2010 until midnight PST on Friday, November 19, 2010. The winner will be announced on November 20th at the Presale. {Need not be present to win.}

You will have 2 weeks to e-mail us back with your home address so we can mail the prize.

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This contest is now CLOSED.

 

Teacher Travels and Vows of Silence – An Interview with Alicia Herrera of Spirit House Designs {+ a giveaway}

Teachers.   

Don’t you just love them?   

I know I do.   

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.   

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.   

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my new series of interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.   

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!   

Alicia Herrera is November’s Featured Teacher. Alicia and I know each other because we are both Thailand-adoption-waiting- mamas-to-be.     

 

Alicia of Spirit House Designs in her studio

 

What and where do you teach?

 I teach in a 4th grade classroom in Davis, California by day.  I am a textile artist by night. 

What is your teaching history?

I began my teaching career in the Bay Area while earning a teaching credential and MA through UC Berkeley’s Developmental Teacher Education program.  I focused my energy on urban education while writing my thesis about bridging the cultural and linguistic gap found in the urban classroom.

I spent two years studying and working in Oakland at a school that consisted of 100% students of color, most of which were second language learners from all over the world.  Learning about teaching and the socio-economic concerns that students brought to the classroom each day was humbling.  Through the students and their families, I grew to love the exploration of culture and language more deeply.

I took my show on the road.  I have taught in Costa Rica, Sacramento, Japan, and now Davis.  I was a contributor to a blog in Japan and you can see some of the entries here {don’t forget to click the links!} and here.  My curiosity about culture, art, and the learning process has propelled me to live and teach in a variety of settings.    

 

Alicia travels.

What brought you to teaching?

The three overreaching themes of my life to date have been art, spirituality, and positive intent. Teaching is helping others learn and grow.

Of course, what I bring to the profession is always influenced by my spiritual well-being and my artistic sensibility.  I have always wanted to nurture.  

And boss people around.  I was a bossy older sister. 

When did you start traveling /practicing sitting meditation?

In 1999, I was working in one particular classroom in Oakland filled with many immigrants from Southeast Asia.  Around Cambodian New Year, my master teacher organized a walking field trip to small neighborhood Buddhist temple a block away from our school.  The monks there gave a tour of their homespun community center and shared with our class about how people celebrate the New Year in Cambodia.  I was captivated.

I had a begun vipassana sitting meditation practice earlier that year and, of course, along with that had been reading many books on Buddhist culture.  Thich Nat Hahn (a Vietnamese monk once nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by MLK Jr.) had recently come to Oakland to lead a “Day of Mindfulness” retreat at Lake Merritt and a friend and I attended.  Combined with my impending graduation and my deep exhaustion from teaching in the public school system, I was ready for a shift.  Meditation was becoming vehicle through which I began noticing my emotional storylines and would have the occasional metacognitive bits of self reflection about how I worked.  I wanted to continue exploring.

I had a radical, scary, exciting urge.  I wanted to clear out entirely when I finished my final term and then attempt to live in a monastic setting somewhere in Southeast Asia and perhaps take vows. I was transitioning from one stage of life to the next and I had the time and space to try this out.   I had the notion that some place might just feel right and I could live wakefully and experience what came next as it happened.  I was open to the possibility of becoming a Buddhist nun for a time. Accepting vows in this tradition is not necessarily a lifelong commitment.   I was also open to just finding a new home for the next stage of my life.

And that is what I did.

So, what happened?

A lot happened!  I did stay in monasteries in Thailand, Burma, and India.  I was there for about a year.  I took the precepts and vows of silence.  The meditation helped me to understand more about interdependence, impermanence, and most unexpectedly, being awake to experience beauty as a process.  Buddhist practice has a clear place for the arts as a vehicle for the process of awakening.

I realized as I traveled from place to place that my backpack was growing heavier and heavier with textile samples.  With each sample there was a story attached and I felt as if the fabric held secrets in the stitches and the spaces in between those stitches. 

Eventually, the scraps and samples that I had gathered were too heavy and I began sending boxes back to California.  I knew that something was starting for me, but it was still unclear.  I kept notebooks and I would fill them with pictures of traditional dress and textile traditions, along with quotes, notes, and stories. 

Every place I visited I saw through the lens of that region’s textile traditions and I began to stay primarily in places where I could learn something new about culture and fiber.  My book selection shifted to selections about art and culture.   In the end, I feel that I had an informal post-graduate year of study in textiles and Buddhist culture in Southeast Asia.  Not exactly what I had initially anticipated but very meaningful all the same.

Recharged, I found I was ready again to teach, as well as live in places where I could balance my love of textiles with work in a way that actually felt sustainable.  Although teaching is emotionally taxing by design, I do get closer to finding a comfortable balance with each passing year.

Tell us about your blog

I started Spirit House Designs  around the time my husband and I decided to become parents through international adoption.  The blog is basically about textiles, adoption, art, and making things rather than buying them new.  We are practicing creative frugality in order to afford adoption. 

Adoption is expensive.  The total cost of bringing a child home from Thailand is around $25,000, which is comparable to a hospital birth, except that with adoption, nothing is covered by health insurance. 

Adoption costs prove to be a real challenge for teachers, as the expenses are often more than their take-home salaries!  The blog shares a slice of a creatively frugal lifestyle.  It is a life that is simple, fun, and sometimes irreverent.

The thing is, as we wait patiently to become parents, we are living fully during the wait. 

We chose this path. 

People have wanted to join us in our waiting and blogging is a great way to do that.  Thailand is weighing on our minds, driving my creativity, and in our daily thoughts as we prepare.

{WANT TO WIN A SPIRIT HOUSE DESIGNS SCARF? - Click the Spirit House Designs links to find out how… open to US Addresses only}

THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.

 

    

 

Please leave any questions or comment love below:     

If you want to learn more about Alicia Spirit House Designs

Stay tuned for Part 2 – Alicia the {Textile} Artist

INTERVIEW ARCHIVES:

October 2010: Ryan Fong – Teaching Assistant/PhD Candidate in English at UC Davis.

September 2010: Michelle Marlahan- Proprietress/Fairy Queen of It’s All Yoga in Sacramento, California.

 

Yoga Goes to University – Part 2 – Ryan Fong, Yogi

Teachers.   

Don’t you just love them?   

I know I do.   

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.   

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.   

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my new series of interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.   

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!   

In case you missed PART ONE with Ryan Fong.

When did you start practicing yoga?

My first yoga class was probably 8-10 years ago now, when I took an intro series at the now-closed Free Spirit Studio.  In the years since, I have wandered on and off the mat at various points.  But in this last round, I’ve been practicing at It’s All Yoga since June of 2009.

Why did you start practicing yoga?

I initially started coming to yoga in search of an exercise program that would work for me.  I wanted something that would help cultivate both flexibility and strength, and I was also looking for a form of exercise that didn’t feel like punishment. 

As a very overweight person, traditional gyms have been an incredibly toxic environment for me because I find their overall philosophy to be about beating your body in to submission in order to achieve a supposed physical ideal.  Whenever I walked into one, I always felt incredibly self-conscious about my body and weight, and always felt like I didn’t belong. 

As I became more familiar with yoga, I was intrigued by the way that it encouraged you to inhabit and honor your body–and the importance of attending to your mind and spirit as a crucial part of self-care.

For me, yoga brings the right balance: a strength building discipline that is also about getting your body, mind and soul all in better “shape.”

Where did you practice?

I’ve practiced at Free Spirit Studio and Shanti Studio, both of which are now closed.  My yoga home is now It’s All Yoga.

How has your practice evolved over time?

In reading over my answer to question six, I’m realizing that I probably wouldn’t have even been able to think of yoga in those terms when I first started, or more accurately, to really believe them. 

Throughout my practice, I’ve struggled with feelings of competitiveness and with releasing the negative thoughts of “You need to sweat and work harder and hold this pose because you’re a bad person for eating those cookies and getting so fat.” 

There was a time when I couldn’t practice in the same room as my partner because I would get so steaming mad when he could do a pose that I had mentally deemed “impossible” and “only for the super bendy.” 

Much of shifting away from that mindset has been in learning about the facets of yoga that go beyond the poses.  It has also been about finding a yoga home where I’ve learned how to not necessarily silence the committee of howling negativity monkeys in my head, but at least to not give them so much power.  I’m slowly getting more comfortable in my own skin (which probably has a lot to do with being 30 instead of 20!), and I’ve come to see the place of yoga in my life as less of an activity and more as a way of being.

Do you have a home practice? What is it like? How often? Where? How’d you start and how do you keep at it?

I wish I had a regular home practice.  I’m still struggling with that. 

Right now, I’m focusing on a regular home meditation practice that I do every morning.  I got a Zafu for my birthday, and I think it’s really going to help facilitate that.  Finding a good space has been a bit of a challenge, as the living room is the only place in the house that works but at the same time, it doesn’t feel quite right.  I’m trying to just let it be and not wait for things to be “perfect” to start on it thought. 

My intention right now and for the near future is to just sit my butt on my Zafu and meditate for 10-15 minutes each morning.  That, in and of itself, is a challenging edge for me to work with.

What’s your favorite pose? Why?

Because I’ve really come to see Nataraja as a personal icon and spiritual avatar, I love Lord of the Dance. {You can read more about that on my blog}

I also have really tight hips, so going into Figure 4 at the wall and pigeon are some of the most opening poses for me.  A prop laden Savasana after a more active practice is heaven. 

Pretty much anything involving props is a good thing. {I couldn’t agree more!}

What’s your least favorite pose?

I hate Happy Baby.  In my head, I call it Angry Baby. 

My ample stomach doesn’t allow me to grip my feet or even my shins, and so the howler monkey committee can really get going when everyone else is blissing out.  (Of course, that in itself a big fat story of negative self-talk: thinking I am the only one in the whole room who is experiencing challenge in a pose.) 

Plus, holding my legs up like that just fatigues my ab muscles and puts a lot of tension and strain into my upper shoulders.

How do you bring your yoga practice into your teaching practice?
 
How does your teaching practice influence your yoga practice?

Both of these questions are a little difficult to answer, because I’ve tended not to think of them together.  I’ve thought a lot about the relationship between my yoga practice and the process of writing my dissertation.  They truly represent the yin and the yang in my life and my quest for balance.  A lot of my stuff shows up when I’m on the mat and when I’m writing at my computer, and so there’s a lot of interplay between both spaces of work. 

In graduate school, we are encouraged to think of teaching a the compartmentalized thing we do to get paid.  It’s the thing that we have to do in order to do the thing that’s actually valuable (meaning, our research, which will allegedly be the thing were most judged on in the academy). 

I’ve tried to cultivate a greater sense of investment in my teaching than that–by teaching things that I’m interested in and pieces of literature I’m passionate about–but it’s hard to think about teaching being as central to my life as either writing or yoga.  That’s more than a little ironic given that I’m in this to eventually get a teaching position at a college or university. 

I hadn’t realized how much I had absorbed the research-centric focus of the university until just now.  It’s a bit embarrassing to be honest.  I can say though that this answer certainly has cultivated a greater awareness of the way I categorize and create boundaries around different parts of my life and work.

Please leave any questions or comment love below:     

If you want to learn more about Ryan Deep Homework and Two of Us Riding Somewhere.

 

INTERVIEW ARCHIVES:

September 2010: Michelle Marlahan- Proprietress/Fairy Queen of It’s All Yoga in Sacramento, California.

Yoga Goes to University – An Interview with Ryan Fong

Teachers.   

Don’t you just love them?   

I know I do.   

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.   

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.   

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my new series of interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.   

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!   

Ryan Fong is October’s Featured Teacher. I met Ryan at the studio and we went on a yoga retreat together this summer.

What and where do you teach?

I teach English literature and composition at UC Davis. 

This quarter, though, I’m a teaching assistant for a Women and Gender Studies course, which is a bit of a change.  It’s the introductory level course, so it’s a big 200 person lecture, but I have two 25-student discussion sections were we get to work through the history of feminism and think about the role of gender in our daily lives, especially as it intersects with other facets of our identity.

What is your teaching history?

I still feel relatively new to teaching, even though I’ve been doing it for quite a while now.  My first “official” teaching happened when I was a TA as an undergrad, where I assisted in both English and Sociology classes. 

As a graduate student at UC Davis, they start us out at TAs for literature classes for majors and then let us teach our own courses for the remainder of our time there.  That’s where I’ve taught both Introduction to Literature and freshman writing.

What brought you to teaching?

One of my big mentors growing up was my aunt, who was a high school English teacher and is now the Executive Director of the California Writing Project.  She was the one who would always buy me books for Christmas and birthdays growing up, and she really instilled a love of language and learning in me. 

My family is generally filled with teachers, so when I decided a long time ago in about 7th or 8th grade that I wanted to be a teacher, I got a lot of support.  My parents are both pretty avid readers, and would read to me when I was a kid. 

When I went to college, I decided I wanted to be an English professor, because I loved the freedom and intellectual rigor of the university classroom.  I went to a small liberal arts school where teacher-student interaction was and is really prized, and I decided that creating the kind of rich classroom environments I found there was what I wanted to do. 

Now that I am reaching the end of my graduate student career, I’m facing the realization that being a professor will ultimately not be up to me, based on how the economy is looking and the realities of an incredibly competitive academic job market.  Nevertheless, I know in one way or another, teaching (in the largest sense) is my calling.

Tell us about your blog

I actually have two blogs. 

The first—Two Of Us Riding Somewhere - – is a blog that I started recently to record my 30th birthday roadtrip to the Pacific Northwest with my partner.  It’s been so much fun, and I think it will be a regularly maintained blog that will record our experiences traveling, eating, and seeing natural and urban wonders!

My second blog Deep Homework.  

This is a much more personal blog that is focused on issues of spiritual growth and my quest for balance and well-being.

About a year ago now, I had a tarot reading with my uncle’s partner, Greg — a reading that was prompted by the changing of the seasons and the shift from fall into winter.  It was a cold day out in San Francisco, and I was feeling like I was on the cusp of a big change.  At the same time, I felt like I was incredibly stuck. 

What came out in the reading was that I could either slip into the quietude of sameness and continue to be stuck in my old patterns or I could embrace the process of engaging in what Greg called “deep homework.” 

The result of that homework, the reading portended, was nothing short of a radical rebirth and transformation.  I started the blog as one part of my effort to do that “deep homework.”  

Being a classic extrovert, I need to write and talk to actually know what I’m thinking and to give the endless circles of conversation in my head some direction and shape.  The blog has thus become a place to really work through my stuff in writing, while also exploring my new discoveries in yoga, meditation and Eastern spirituality.  

What other blogs do your read? Why?

I read your blog {awww…} and Michelle’s blog with regularity and occasionally I drift on to other people’s blogs from the studio.  {see the TGBTS Yoga Story links} Since my blog is so yoga based, I like reading other blogs that are using the sphere to explore those particular issues.

As a foodie, I’ll also come in and out of browsing food blogs like Bakerella, Pioneer Woman Cooks and Prudence Pennywise.  My two favorite local food blogs are Sac Food In the Hood and one by my cousin-in-law, Out of the Kitchen.

Who and what inspires you?

I have many people who inspire me. 

  • My partner, Eric, inspires me to see myself in the way that he sees me—with unconditional love and compassion. 
  • My uncle is an inspiration for a life lived well and very mindfully.  He’s a friend, mentor, and model in addition to being my blood relative. 
  • I’m inspired, as I think many of us at IAY are, by the way the community there supports us in experiencing the challenges and joys of really embracing it *all* as yoga. 
  • But mostly, I’m inspired by the universe’s generosity in giving us this present moment to do and be right.  Not right as in correct, but as in right here, right now and just right. 

Please leave any questions or comment love below:     

If you want to learn more about Ryan Deep Homework and Two of Us Riding Somewhere.

Stay tuned for Part 2 – Ryan is  a Yogi!

INTERVIEW ARCHIVES:

September 2010: Michelle Marlahan- Proprietress/Fairy Queen of It’s All Yoga in Sacramento, California.

It’s All Yoga. {Seriously} – An Interview with Michelle Marlahan – PART 2 – Getting Down to Business

 Teachers.

 Don’t you just love them?     

I know I do.     

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.     

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.     

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my new series of interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.     

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!     

First up, my primary yoga teacher, Michelle Marlahan- Proprietress/Fairy Queen of It’s All Yoga in Sacramento, California.      

In case you missed it, here is Part One – Yoga Basics.  

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photo credit: ashlee gadd

 

  

 Your studio called It’s All Yoga.  

What does that mean?   

It means pretty much what it sounds like. Everything can be seen as yoga (with the big y). It isn’t the shapes we make on our mats. It isn’t taking your cute mat bag and new pants to class because it’s hip right now. It isn’t using the lingo and om-ing and having a “namaste” sticker on your car.  

I would say the less obvious it is, the more authentic it is… The idea that “holiness is a mysterious thing: the greater it is, the less it is noticed” (unknown author).  

“it’s all yoga” is:  

  •  being stopped in your tracks at the beauty of the sunset
  • it’s being still and quiet for a moment
  • it’s looking someone in the eyes during a conversation
  • it’s living with the intention of the tenets of yoga (which are incredibly similar across spiritual disciplines) rather than just talking or reading about them.

To consider and live from the idea of non-harming, for example, would probably mean a pretty big shift in most of our lives: gossip, environmental impact, actual violence.  

It can seem overwhelming or unrealistic, and while changes like that take an incredible amount of awareness, I think it’s actually quite possible to live in this modern world by these principles.  

Middle path, baby.  

Do you have a meditation practice?   

Yes, and… It too changes. Sometimes it’s more reflective, as in the process of journaling. Sometimes it’s just 5 minutes of sitting.  

I would say, though, that this is the single most important and powerful thing we can do: to sit with the ever-changing flow of ourselves… Thought, feeling, sensation… Without being swept away and impressed/depressed by it all. Just to be with.  

You’ve said yoga will “ruin” your life as you know it… What did you mean by that? And how has it ruined yours?  

It’s completely ruined mine! I think you’re never off the hook. Once you know about the philosophy and “the path,” you know when you’re off it.  

Recently I went to a party and some friends were talking about another person who was not there. The talk was not kind (*not* ahimsa) and probably not entirely true (*not* satya).  

I didn’t get up and leave the conversation and it’s really heavy on me this morning. My body told me to get up—I felt a little nauseas (another way you’re *ruined*—you’re more aware of your physical and emotional feelings). I even had dreams about it last night.  

But I didn’t say anything or excuse myself, and I can’t change it, and there’s no sense in berating myself (back to ahimsa). So I take this experience and set the intention to do it differently next time.  

{Click here to read about MM’s No-Talking-About-People-Experiment 

What is your blog – Blogasana: Daring Self-Care Through Yoga and Other Wacky Practices – about?  

Life.  

Self care.  

My struggles.  

What other blogs do your read? Why do you read what you read?  

 I read the blogs of friends, mostly to stay in touch and relate to their lives.  

I’ve stopped reading people I don’t have some kind of connection with. It can get so overwhelming. I was having the feeling of constantly “catching up” and feeling like I would miss the secret of my life if I didn’t read them all!  

Who and what inspires you?  

 Nature.  

Animals.  

My hubby.  

My friends and family.  

Little things. When we leave a restaurant, Ron will take our leftovers to a homeless person. When he hands it to them, he calls them “brother.” it gets me every time.  

Please leave any questions or comment love below:     

If you want to learn more about Michelle or 13 Things We Believe at It’s All Yoga:     

She’s on Twitter at @michelmarlahan     

Subscribe to her blog and all the goodness comes directly to your email – Blogasana:  Daring Self Care Through Yoga (and Other Wacky Practices)     

{Michelle’s photo credit: Ashlee Gadd}     

{click images for source} 

It’s All Yoga, People… An Interview With Michelle Marlahan – Yoga Basics

Teachers.

Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my new series of interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!

 First up, my primary yoga teacher, Michelle Marlahan- Proprietress/Fairy Queen of It’s All Yoga in Sacramento, California.

When did you start practicing yoga?

I started practicing yoga in the mid 90s. There was a wellness program at my job (UC Davis Medical Center) and they started offering yoga.

This really sweet woman, who, I now know, did mostly calisthenics, taught the classes for about a year. It was easy lovely stretching. Then she left and a new teacher came in who took it up a notch. It was more physical. In one class she did a modified side plank on the knee, which I’d done before, and she added the “if you want to make this more challenging…” and took her bottom leg back into full side plank.

In that moment, for some reason, it clicked for me that there was a lot more to this “yoga” than I’d been experiencing. I set out to discover what that was.

Why did you start practicing yoga?

Honestly, I started because it was there. It was convenient, someone else in my department was going, it was easy. And then, of course, I got hooked.

It also brought part of myself that had been separated or compartmentalized together. I grew up going to church and had continued here in Sacramento through college. I loved the ritual, the reverence and the discipline of going every week. But over time I stopped participating in all the responses (I was catholic) because they didn’t feel right. I didn’t believe it, so I sectioned off what was useful.

When I started learning about the philosophy of yoga, it brought that separated part back into the whole, back into me. It, or I, felt like a complete, vibrant, living thing.

Where did you practice back when you started?

After the classes at the Med Center I started going to Healthy Habits, which offered yoga as well as other fitness-y things. I supplemented that with reading and study.

How has your yoga practice evolved over time?

Oh my gosh, how hasn’t it changed? I started soft and stretchy (even though I was neither — at that time I was a runner), then became interested in the physical aspects (I was in my mid 20s, after all…) And liked doing challenging classes, then I got more “serious” and started going to a bona fide yoga studio (the only one in town).

It was heated practice (85 degrees). I got a little addicted to the heat — it was definitely an ego rush to be so much more flexible. I injured myself several times by over-stretching and being over stimulated by the heat (not able to feel my appropriate boundaries).

Thankfully my practice evolved from that phase and subsequently became a lot more grounded, less adrenalized.

In just the last few years I’ve softened and matured — in my own practice and in my teaching. I’m a completely different teacher than I was even 3 years ago… And 3 years before that. If you’re not changing and evolving as a teacher (or  person/mother/partner/friend/etc), you’re not paying attention.

How long have you been a yoga teacher?

I took my first teacher training in 2001

Why did you open your studio - It’s All Yoga?

I had a full-time job, taught for the people I worked with during lunch twice a week, and taught at another studio once a week. It was *fine*.

Even though financially I had a “great job,” I didn’t like it and there was a disparity between how I was living and how I wanted to live.

The dream of the studio probably came from seeing a gap in what was available. I longed for a space and community where *I* would want to practice.

My husband is actually the reason It’s All Yoga opened. He went into the business that was closing (at our first location) and got the landlord’s info… Called him and inquired… And nudged me. He’s been incredibly supportive and encouraging.

You do a lot of readings in class. What’s the deal with the poetry?

I’ve loved poetry since childhood and, particularly at certain times in my life, reading/writing poetry has been an outlet, a touchstone, a place to ground and grow and explore new ideas.

Pretty early on in my teaching I would read a passage of some kind — maybe a yoga-related thing. Eventually I started reading poems that I loved. About 5 years ago I met my teacher Mary (Paffard) who also reads poetry, which was wonderful because I was able to enjoy it as a student. It adds so much to the practice for me. As a teacher, poems and writings support the theme of the class so much more effectively and beautifully than I could with my own words.

{For more of Michelle’s thought on poetry, check out her post}

A multipart question!

Do you have a home practice? What is it like? How often? Where? How did you start and how do you keep at it?

You can’t teach yoga if you don’t have a home practice (in my opinion=). You also have to have practice time that is separate from your prep time, which is often the hardest part.

My home practice varies day-to-day, week to week and is dependent on so many things: my energy level, how I’ve slept, if I teach that day, time of the month, season of the year, how my body is, and what I’m interested in. My time on my mat has always been very instinctively guided — I don’t like to follow sequences or DVDs. Admittedly, I don’t work as hard as I used to!

Currently, I practice in the living room or outside on my yoga deck (my favorite). At times I’ve had a designated room and it’s been lovely… But when it comes down to it, so little is needed to practice, let alone take a stretch or a mindful breath. We can get caught in the endless story of “I’ll do it when everything is just so… Just right… “

As for the “what,” often I’ll do some breath practice and stretching after a morning walk, and then have a more formal practice in the afternoon. Sometimes it’s nothing more than a few poses in bed in the morning {FREE VIDEO ALERT!} Or before I go to sleep. And some days I don’t do any formal asana at all {gasp!}.

What’s your favorite pose? Why?

Don’t make me pick just one! It changes by the day. Right now I’m really into shoulders (FREE VIDEO ALERT!) and there’s a hip sequence I do almost everyday.

What’s your least favorite pose?

I’ve made friends with so many poses that at one time were my least favorite. I used to dread Virabhadrasana I (Warrior 1) and now I love, love, love it.

We usually don’t like things we aren’t good at. I have really tight hamstrings, so forward folds are challenging on lots of levels. I can’t stand frog pose. But actually, constructive rest is the worst (crazy, I know) because it presses on a nerve issue in my sacrum.

Stay tuned for PART 2 with Michelle!

Please leave any questions or comment love below:

If you want to learn more about Michelle or 13 Things that We Believe at It’s All Yoga:

She’s on Twitter at @michelmarlahan

Blogasana:  Daring Self Care Through Yoga (and Other Wacky Practices

{Michelle’s photo credit: Ashlee Gadd}

{click images for source}