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


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.



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

5 thoughts on “Yoga Goes to University – Part 2 – Ryan Fong, Yogi

  1. Pingback: Teacher Travels and Vows of Silence – An Interview with Alicia Herrera of Spirit House Designs {+ a giveaway} « Teacher Goes Back to School

  2. Thanks for the opportunity to share, Tams. Just answering the questions was an eye opening experience that cultivated a ton of awareness.

    It’s all yoga, indeed!

    <3 xo <3

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s