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.

In Case You Missed It Edition, Volume 24

{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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Another crazy week of adoption paperwork: finger prints, health screening, notaries, police station visits and more notarizing. We are almost finished and can’t wait to have some news.

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My Best Of…

How To Really Take a Day Off – from Be More with Less {must schedule one soon}

Academic Chic teaches us how to mix patterns. I absolutely love this teacher fashion blog – what are your favorite teacher blogs? Fashion or otherwise?

Armchair travel? Fantasy trip planning AND shopping for cute kitchen stuff? Chic and Green does it all in Farmhouse Thoughts.

Madeleine talks about Surviving Adolescence in this post. It brought tears to my eyes. Are we still doing this to girls?

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Curvy yogis Photoshoot Update:

Friends, let me tell you there are some beautiful curvy yogis in Sacramento: Ann, Madeleine, Leili and Ryan.

Vanessa brought cookies and her comforting presence and lots and lots of pictures were taken. Stay tuned for the big reveal.

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

{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.


Curvy Yogis Photo Shoot Sacramento Style

Who: Curvy yogis

What: Photo shoot for Yoga Journal Talent Search and Curvy Yoga’s Gallery of Curves

When: Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! {Said in your best announcer voice}

Time: Noon

Place: It’s All Yoga

Photographer: VVVanessa

Bring your lovely smile, two or three form-fitting yoga outfits, pose ideas and your confidence.

A flash drive and/or CD to deliver your photos will be greatly appreciated too.

Please contact me at TGBTSblog at gmail (dot) com with questions.

See you there!

In Case You Missed It Edition, Volume 23

{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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Life has been pretty intense lately to say the least. When we’re more through the storm of it all, I’ll share our news. Hopefully you’ll find something in these links to help you find some ease and peacefulness in your world. I know I did.

Seriously, click them all.

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My Best Of…

A Simple Guide to Overcoming Obstacles from Rowdy Kittens

Hurry Up and Feel Busy from Marissa Bracke

Dreaming of Copenhagenfrom Charlotte’s Fancy

You Don’t Have to Quit Your Job – from Be More with Less

The Yoga of Self Talk – Curvy Yoga

Kind of a Big Deal – The Art of Non Conformity
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Curvy yogis Photoshoot Update:

Sunday, March 27th – noon. Location to be determined by the weather.

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

{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.


In Case You Missed It Edition, Volume 19

{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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My Best Of…

Public workers’ rights are under attack in Wisconsin. Mrs. Ripp -one of my favorite teacher bloggers – lives in Wisconsin.

Here’s an excerpt from her post “I Am a Teacher” –

Teachers are not made in college, they become them in the classroom.  Teachers reach out to anyone that enters their worlds, and they impact every single aspect of this American life.  Support them, cherish them, and right now, fight for them and their rights. We are here to help America succeed and grow, not to take the blame.

What can we do?

‘We Are One’ – Candlelight Vigil In Solidarity with Wisconsin Workers – Tuesday, February 22nd -West Steps of the State Capitol in Sacramento, CA – 5:30-7:30pm.

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Do you find yourself sitting at your desk jaws clenched, wondering where your concentration has gone? Or is it just me?

Sarah from Pink of Perfection invites readers to share ideas on How To Find Calm In the Work Day. Do you have anything to add?

Doing one thing at a time is one of Sarah’s calming tips and one I struggle to follow – especially online.

Recently, I’ve been spending much less time on social media (Facebook and Twitter) – I’ve been on a sort of accidental Social Media Diet as Tammy from Rowdy Kittens calls it. Check out her video for tips on how to ease yourself away from the online.

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Curvy Yogis UPDATE!

Photo shoot number one took place this week and the results are amazing!

Here’s a little sample.

photo credit: vanessa vichit vadakan

I’ve got a photographer for a second photo shoot (thanks Vanessa!). It is looking like the end of March – right before the deadline. Details will follow (like the exact date and location) – please leave me a comment if you are interested.

The Flying Yogini has been writing about the Curvy Yoga Revolution.

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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.

Saturday Senses

tasting :: pulled pork sandwich (sans bread) at magpie

hearing :: student work in author’s chair/writing seminar

smelling :: rain

seeing :: curvy yogis in photographs

feeling :: grateful for generous, talented friends

wishing/hoping :: everyone has a fun three-day weekend.

What about you?

What are your senses this Saturday?

Looking back, how was your week?

Leave a comment and tell me all about it.

This weekly tradition inspired by Pink of Perfection’s Five Sense Friday.

Don’t forget to click the links!