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.

girls

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.   

ahhhh

 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.

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