Nikki Stern: TGBTS Featured Teacher

Dear Friend,

Today I am sharing this month’s Featured Teacher, Nikki Stern. She is a holistic health coach who works to help people see how the food they eat contributes to their mood. On a personal note, working with Nikki helped me see how my daughter’s two year old temper tantrums usually tasted a lot like potato chips. Now they are what they are. In other words, her work is life-changing.

I would love to hear about who inspires your life and practice. Please send me a message.

With lots of self-kindness and love,

 Tami

+++++

 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!

+++++

Have you met Nikki yet? We met a gazillion years ago practicing next to each other at It’s All Yoga, reconnected after she returned to Sacramento after a brief stint in the Pacific Northwest and now she helps women all over connect how they eat with how they feel – in other words, she’s changing lives every day!

Here’s my interview.

When did you start practicing?

Hmmm, probably back in 2006

Why did you start?

Because I wanted a ‘yoga body’ What is that? I was in my early 20s and I believed that in order to be accepted I needed to look a very specific, skinny way.  A way that a girl with hips really can’t look.

Where did you practice?

Studios. Briefly at Healthy Habits and then I moved to It’s All Yoga – that’s when it “clicked” and I was hooked.

How has your practice evolved over time?

So much.  I’m no longer searching for a body type.  I let go of lots of comparisons, judgments and expectations!  They creep back in but I’m better at recognizing them. I still show up, learn and let go every time I get on the mat.

How long have you been a ‘food and mood’ teacher?

I’ve been teaching women how to connect with their bodies and discover how food and mood are connected for a little over a year now as a Holistic Health + Lifestyle Coach.

food mood

Why did you start blogging?

I decided to blog to weed through the massive amounts of often conflicting information about diets and what it means to be healthy.  I wanted people to understand that educating themselves about their bodies and how food affects them is important but that it is a small piece of the puzzle.  How we live our lives and whether we act with love or punishment – through careers, in relationships, in how we connect to the world and to ourselves – is where ultimate health is achieved.

What are your classes like?

I have just launched a group cleanse, MindBodyBliss (click here to see if you need this cleanse)and it’s all about cleansing what is not serving us and taking a few weeks to be with ourselves and discover balance and clarity.  Cleaning up our diet makes room for more nourishing foods, positive thoughts and allows old emotions to dislodge and take a hike.

This came from my own experience with cleansing, which was always more about food and losing weight and less about building up the good things in my life and addressing the emotions that came up when I wasn’t dousing them with sugar.  I wanted something more loving, less punishing for myself and my clients.  I hope some of our perceptions of ourselves and our bodies will shift during our 2 weeks and we can create a ripple effect of understanding true health and happiness, which has nothing to do with numbers.

Do you have a home yoga practice? What is it like? How often? Where?

My home practice is very loose.  I’ve accepted it for where it’s at instead of getting too judg-y with myself.  Honestly, a lot of it lives around a kid’s yoga book.  In the morning and evening my 3 year old flips through it and chooses 3 poses and we do them together.  It was mostly his idea and building it into our routine has helped tremendously with 3 1/2 year old drama (tantrums).

How’d you start and how do you keep at it?

I started long before I even did yoga, really.  I’ve always felt compelled to get down on the floor in the evenings while watching TV and stretch.  I used to be a personal trainer so I was tight and sore all of the time and it felt so great to stretch at the end of the day.  Now I’m not into that (less punishment, remember!) but still love to get down and mess around.  By doing that most of the time and not having too many expectations or parameters around it I feel more inclined to keep it up.

What’s your favorite pose? Why?

All of the pigeons.  Half, full, left, right.  My first experiences were all about escaping, but there was also something l loved about it.  I get such a deep release and feel so much tension leave my body when I hold those deep hip openers for a longtime.  I’m not a hoarder, I like letting things go.

What’s your least favorite pose?

Camel.  I took a yoga class in college and I would get nauseous and almost pass out every time we did camel pose.  For years I didn’t do it and thought there was some strange issue with camels and me.  Knowing more now, it probably had more to do with the vulnerability of it, of opening my heart and throat – or I’m just not cool with camels.  I can do it without all the drama now, but I’m traumatized and would rather not.

Do you have a meditation practice?

Yes!  I used to be a crisis meditator.  I only did it when things were really about to tank, a last ditch effort to keep my feet on the ground.  I constantly said, “I should do this more.”   Finally I did.  It was this year.  I’ve been at it for about 4 months straight.  I sometimes do it multiple times a day and that feels amazing.  I finally got past the “am I doing it right” obsession and eased into it, whatever it looks like.  I’m still struggling with how to get it done in the morning because my son will only leave me alone for about 5 minutes.  I might have to wake up earlier – if you have tips send them my way, please!

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

My blog is about connecting food and mood.  It’s about listening to your body, learning about the body, about how we treat it, what we feed it, what we say to it.  I started it when I started my coaching practice because I had information and experiences to share.  I lived a good part of my life feeling not enough (sound familiar?), hating my body, abusing my body and saw everything around me suffering.  All of my relationships, school, jobs, direction, it was crappy.  My purpose is to show women that there is another way.  We can simply shift our perspective, see who we are and not apologize, love our bodies and enjoy love, success and community.

What is your favorite post? Why?

Well, it’s probably the one I wrote VERY last minute about my husband and why I don’t want to forget how important the little things are.  Appreciation is one thing, vocalizing it can be another and when we do it can transform relationships and connections.

What other blogs do your read? Why?

TGBTS because it’s wise and funny and I am so inspired by your vulnerability and also that you tell people to lay the f*** down.  I love a good sailor mouth.

Honestly, my business is still a baby so I’m bummed to say I don’t read more blogs because there are some awesome ones.

Who and what inspires you?

Women inspire me.  Those that came before us and those among us.  There is so much wisdom, courage, compassion, fire, devotion, unity, resiliency.  I could go on, but my point is that I don’t think I’ve met a woman that doesn’t inspire me with what she is doing whether it’s staying at home to raise babies or build a business or volunteer her time to something she loves or going to school or starting a blog.  We are so hungry for purpose and wired for connection, I’m inspired when I see all of the ways we go after it.  Getting shit done.  I think we’re ready for a female president, don’t you?

++++++
Are you interested in the MindBodyBliss cleanse and want to learn more? Click here to see Nikki’s video about how the body already does a lot of the detox work.

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!

+++++

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.

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!

+++++

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.

sarah kohl 5

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).

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!

+++++

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!

+++++

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

+++++

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!

+++++

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.

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.

+++++

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.

+++++

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.

+++++

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)