Summer of Intentionality Part 2: What I Want to Do

My Summer of Intentionality List continues.

What I Want to Do:

– Visit friends. Bay Area friends especially. So close and yet I don’t see them nearly as often as I’d like.

– Visit Portland friends too. Love them and the Pacific Northwest summer weather.

– Make daily writing a habit.

– Schedule the rest of 2011’s Featured Teachers Interviews. {Are you an amazing teacher? Do you know an amazing teacher? I’m looking for more to interview for the series.}

– Visit a different farmer’s market each week.

– Eat fruit and vegetables at every meal.

– Make and photograph a meal a week from the market.

– Go swimming. In a pool. In a river. In an ocean. Seems totally doable.

– Yoga classes. As a yoga teacher, I find it a) hard to get to class and b) incredibly inspiring when I do.

What do you want to do this summer? Would you like to have an Intentional Summer? You can! Leave your list in the comments or write a post of your own and link back.

Stay tuned for 2011’s Summer Reading List.

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

Teachers.

Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

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

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

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

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

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

In case you missed it, here’s PART 1.

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When did you start practicing yoga?

In 1999 or 2000.

Why did you start?

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

Where did you practice?

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


How has your practice evolved over time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your favorite pose? Why?

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

What’s your least favorite pose?

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

What other blogs do your read? Why?

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

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

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

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

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

Who or what inspires you?

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

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

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

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

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INTERVIEW ARCHIVES:

April 2010 Amy Estes, Just A Titch

March 2010 Anna Guest-Jelley, Founder Curvy Yoga

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

December 2010: Madeleine Lohman, Yoga Teacher/Massage Therapist

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

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

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

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

Teachers.

Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

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

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

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

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

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

Meet Jenna Francisco -May’s TGBTS Featured Teacher.

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What and where do you teach?

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

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

What is your teaching history?

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


What brought you to teaching?

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

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

 Tell us about your blog.

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

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

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

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

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

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INTERVIEW ARCHIVES:

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

March 2011 Anna Guest-Jelley Brilliant Mind behind Curvy Yoga

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

December 2010: Madeleine Lohman, Yoga Teacher/Massage Therapist

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

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

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

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

Teachers.

Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

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

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

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

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

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

In case you missed it, here’s PART 1.

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When did you start practicing yoga?

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

Why did you start?

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

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

Where did you practice?

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

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

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

How has your practice evolved over time?

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

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

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

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

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

[Ed.Note: Always].

What’s your favorite pose? Why?

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

What’s your least favorite pose?

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

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

What other blogs do your read? Why?

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

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

Who or what inspires you?

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

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

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

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INTERVIEW ARCHIVES:

March 2010 Anna Guest-Jelley, Founder Curvy Yoga

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

December 2010: Madeleine Lohman, Yoga Teacher/Massage Therapist

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

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

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

Just A Titch of Awesome: An Interview with Amy Estes

Teachers.

Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet Amy Estes -April’s TGBTS Featured Teacher.

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What and where do you teach?

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

What is your teaching history?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What brought you to teaching?

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

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

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

 Tell us about your blog.

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

So dramatic!

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

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

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

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

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

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INTERVIEW ARCHIVES:

March 2011 Anna Guest-Jelley Brilliant Mind behind Curvy Yoga

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

December 2010: Madeleine Lohman, Yoga Teacher/Massage Therapist

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

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

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

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.