Yoga Goes to University – An Interview with Ryan Fong

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!   

Ryan Fong is October’s Featured Teacher. I met Ryan at the studio and we went on a yoga retreat together this summer.

What and where do you teach?

I teach English literature and composition at UC Davis. 

This quarter, though, I’m a teaching assistant for a Women and Gender Studies course, which is a bit of a change.  It’s the introductory level course, so it’s a big 200 person lecture, but I have two 25-student discussion sections were we get to work through the history of feminism and think about the role of gender in our daily lives, especially as it intersects with other facets of our identity.

What is your teaching history?

I still feel relatively new to teaching, even though I’ve been doing it for quite a while now.  My first “official” teaching happened when I was a TA as an undergrad, where I assisted in both English and Sociology classes. 

As a graduate student at UC Davis, they start us out at TAs for literature classes for majors and then let us teach our own courses for the remainder of our time there.  That’s where I’ve taught both Introduction to Literature and freshman writing.

What brought you to teaching?

One of my big mentors growing up was my aunt, who was a high school English teacher and is now the Executive Director of the California Writing Project.  She was the one who would always buy me books for Christmas and birthdays growing up, and she really instilled a love of language and learning in me. 

My family is generally filled with teachers, so when I decided a long time ago in about 7th or 8th grade that I wanted to be a teacher, I got a lot of support.  My parents are both pretty avid readers, and would read to me when I was a kid. 

When I went to college, I decided I wanted to be an English professor, because I loved the freedom and intellectual rigor of the university classroom.  I went to a small liberal arts school where teacher-student interaction was and is really prized, and I decided that creating the kind of rich classroom environments I found there was what I wanted to do. 

Now that I am reaching the end of my graduate student career, I’m facing the realization that being a professor will ultimately not be up to me, based on how the economy is looking and the realities of an incredibly competitive academic job market.  Nevertheless, I know in one way or another, teaching (in the largest sense) is my calling.

Tell us about your blog

I actually have two blogs. 

The first—Two Of Us Riding Somewhere – – is a blog that I started recently to record my 30th birthday roadtrip to the Pacific Northwest with my partner.  It’s been so much fun, and I think it will be a regularly maintained blog that will record our experiences traveling, eating, and seeing natural and urban wonders!

My second blog Deep Homework.  

This is a much more personal blog that is focused on issues of spiritual growth and my quest for balance and well-being.

About a year ago now, I had a tarot reading with my uncle’s partner, Greg — a reading that was prompted by the changing of the seasons and the shift from fall into winter.  It was a cold day out in San Francisco, and I was feeling like I was on the cusp of a big change.  At the same time, I felt like I was incredibly stuck. 

What came out in the reading was that I could either slip into the quietude of sameness and continue to be stuck in my old patterns or I could embrace the process of engaging in what Greg called “deep homework.” 

The result of that homework, the reading portended, was nothing short of a radical rebirth and transformation.  I started the blog as one part of my effort to do that “deep homework.”  

Being a classic extrovert, I need to write and talk to actually know what I’m thinking and to give the endless circles of conversation in my head some direction and shape.  The blog has thus become a place to really work through my stuff in writing, while also exploring my new discoveries in yoga, meditation and Eastern spirituality.  

What other blogs do your read? Why?

I read your blog {awww…} and Michelle’s blog with regularity and occasionally I drift on to other people’s blogs from the studio.  {see the TGBTS Yoga Story links} Since my blog is so yoga based, I like reading other blogs that are using the sphere to explore those particular issues.

As a foodie, I’ll also come in and out of browsing food blogs like Bakerella, Pioneer Woman Cooks and Prudence Pennywise.  My two favorite local food blogs are Sac Food In the Hood and one by my cousin-in-law, Out of the Kitchen.

Who and what inspires you?

I have many people who inspire me. 

  • My partner, Eric, inspires me to see myself in the way that he sees me—with unconditional love and compassion. 
  • My uncle is an inspiration for a life lived well and very mindfully.  He’s a friend, mentor, and model in addition to being my blood relative. 
  • I’m inspired, as I think many of us at IAY are, by the way the community there supports us in experiencing the challenges and joys of really embracing it *all* as yoga. 
  • But mostly, I’m inspired by the universe’s generosity in giving us this present moment to do and be right.  Not right as in correct, but as in right here, right now and just right. 

Please leave any questions or comment love below:     

If you want to learn more about Ryan Deep Homework and Two of Us Riding Somewhere.

Stay tuned for Part 2 – Ryan is  a Yogi!

INTERVIEW ARCHIVES:

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

Saturday Senses

Saturday Senses is a way to capture the spirit of each week. 

tasting ::  delicious tamale lunch brought in by our new principal. totally unnecessary and yet, fully appreciated.

hearing :: blitzen trapper: furr. {bonus track for the yogis}

smelling ::   the faintest hints of fall before the summer like weather in the afternoon kicks in.

seeing :: every kid in my class working really hard to finish every assignment.

feeling ::  thrilled because it’s all yoga was voted “best yoga studio” in sacramento by the sacramento news and review. yay team!

wishing/hoping :: everyone has a restful, yet fun-filled weekend.

What about you? What are your senses this Saturday?  Looking back, how was your week?    

{comments are inspired by Havi at The Fluent Self – Friday Chicken – go see for yourself. it’s like free therapy! }

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

{click image for source}

Free YogaNap Friday!

photo credit: ashlee gadd

 

Who: You       

What: YogaNap – a little restorative yoga class taught by me.       

When: The resting is Friday, September 17th      

The class begins at 4:30 {register online to reserve your place – space is limited}       

Please come early to start the resting before class.      

Where: It’s All Yoga – Sacramento, CA       

Why: Wouldn’t it be nice to just rest?        

What are you doing to take care of yourself this week?

It’s All Yoga. {Seriously} – An Interview with Michelle Marlahan – PART 2 – Getting Down to Business

 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!     

First up, my primary yoga teacher, Michelle Marlahan– Proprietress/Fairy Queen of It’s All Yoga in Sacramento, California.      

In case you missed it, here is Part One – Yoga Basics.  

+++++   

 
 
 
 

   

  

photo credit: ashlee gadd

 

  

 Your studio called It’s All Yoga.  

What does that mean?   

It means pretty much what it sounds like. Everything can be seen as yoga (with the big y). It isn’t the shapes we make on our mats. It isn’t taking your cute mat bag and new pants to class because it’s hip right now. It isn’t using the lingo and om-ing and having a “namaste” sticker on your car.  

I would say the less obvious it is, the more authentic it is… The idea that “holiness is a mysterious thing: the greater it is, the less it is noticed” (unknown author).  

“it’s all yoga” is:  

  •  being stopped in your tracks at the beauty of the sunset
  • it’s being still and quiet for a moment
  • it’s looking someone in the eyes during a conversation
  • it’s living with the intention of the tenets of yoga (which are incredibly similar across spiritual disciplines) rather than just talking or reading about them.

To consider and live from the idea of non-harming, for example, would probably mean a pretty big shift in most of our lives: gossip, environmental impact, actual violence.  

It can seem overwhelming or unrealistic, and while changes like that take an incredible amount of awareness, I think it’s actually quite possible to live in this modern world by these principles.  

Middle path, baby.  

Do you have a meditation practice?   

Yes, and… It too changes. Sometimes it’s more reflective, as in the process of journaling. Sometimes it’s just 5 minutes of sitting.  

I would say, though, that this is the single most important and powerful thing we can do: to sit with the ever-changing flow of ourselves… Thought, feeling, sensation… Without being swept away and impressed/depressed by it all. Just to be with.  

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.  

{Click here to read about MM’s No-Talking-About-People-Experiment 

What is your blog – Blogasana: Daring Self-Care Through Yoga and Other Wacky Practices – about?  

Life.  

Self care.  

My struggles.  

What other blogs do your read? Why do you read what you read?  

 I read the blogs of friends, mostly to stay in touch and relate to their lives.  

I’ve stopped reading people I don’t have some kind of connection with. It can get so overwhelming. I was having the feeling of constantly “catching up” and feeling like I would miss the secret of my life if I didn’t read them all!  

Who and what inspires you?  

 Nature.  

Animals.  

My hubby.  

My friends and family.  

Little things. When we leave a restaurant, Ron will take our leftovers to a homeless person. When he hands it to them, he calls them “brother.” it gets me every time.  

Please leave any questions or comment love below:     

If you want to learn more about Michelle or 13 Things We Believe at It’s All Yoga:     

She’s on Twitter at @michelmarlahan     

Subscribe to her blog and all the goodness comes directly to your email – Blogasana:  Daring Self Care Through Yoga (and Other Wacky Practices)     

{Michelle’s photo credit: Ashlee Gadd}     

{click images for source} 

Saturday Senses

Saturday Senses is a way to capture the spirit of each week.  

  

tasting ::  perfect farmer’s market strawberries in august.

hearing ::  lots of great feedback on the michelle from it’s all yoga interview. {stay tuned for part 2!}

smelling ::  a mid-week spa day: sauna and hot tub. 

seeing :: students working for preferred activity time! fred jones is a secret genius.

feeling ::  tired. the first few weeks of school keep me up too late and wake me up too early. can’t.turn.off.my.brain.

wishing/hoping ::  everyone has a safe and restful holiday weekend.

What are your senses this Saturday?  Looking back, how was your week?    

Leave me a comment to tell me made your week memorable.    

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

{click image for source}

It’s All Yoga, People… An Interview With Michelle Marlahan – Yoga Basics

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!

 First up, my primary yoga teacher, Michelle Marlahan– Proprietress/Fairy Queen of It’s All Yoga in Sacramento, California.

When did you start practicing yoga?

I started practicing yoga in the mid 90s. There was a wellness program at my job (UC Davis Medical Center) and they started offering yoga.

This really sweet woman, who, I now know, did mostly calisthenics, taught the classes for about a year. It was easy lovely stretching. Then she left and a new teacher came in who took it up a notch. It was more physical. In one class she did a modified side plank on the knee, which I’d done before, and she added the “if you want to make this more challenging…” and took her bottom leg back into full side plank.

In that moment, for some reason, it clicked for me that there was a lot more to this “yoga” than I’d been experiencing. I set out to discover what that was.

Why did you start practicing yoga?

Honestly, I started because it was there. It was convenient, someone else in my department was going, it was easy. And then, of course, I got hooked.

It also brought part of myself that had been separated or compartmentalized together. I grew up going to church and had continued here in Sacramento through college. I loved the ritual, the reverence and the discipline of going every week. But over time I stopped participating in all the responses (I was catholic) because they didn’t feel right. I didn’t believe it, so I sectioned off what was useful.

When I started learning about the philosophy of yoga, it brought that separated part back into the whole, back into me. It, or I, felt like a complete, vibrant, living thing.

Where did you practice back when you started?

After the classes at the Med Center I started going to Healthy Habits, which offered yoga as well as other fitness-y things. I supplemented that with reading and study.

How has your yoga practice evolved over time?

Oh my gosh, how hasn’t it changed? I started soft and stretchy (even though I was neither — at that time I was a runner), then became interested in the physical aspects (I was in my mid 20s, after all…) And liked doing challenging classes, then I got more “serious” and started going to a bona fide yoga studio (the only one in town).

It was heated practice (85 degrees). I got a little addicted to the heat — it was definitely an ego rush to be so much more flexible. I injured myself several times by over-stretching and being over stimulated by the heat (not able to feel my appropriate boundaries).

Thankfully my practice evolved from that phase and subsequently became a lot more grounded, less adrenalized.

In just the last few years I’ve softened and matured — in my own practice and in my teaching. I’m a completely different teacher than I was even 3 years ago… And 3 years before that. If you’re not changing and evolving as a teacher (or  person/mother/partner/friend/etc), you’re not paying attention.

How long have you been a yoga teacher?

I took my first teacher training in 2001

Why did you open your studio – It’s All Yoga?

I had a full-time job, taught for the people I worked with during lunch twice a week, and taught at another studio once a week. It was *fine*.

Even though financially I had a “great job,” I didn’t like it and there was a disparity between how I was living and how I wanted to live.

The dream of the studio probably came from seeing a gap in what was available. I longed for a space and community where *I* would want to practice.

My husband is actually the reason It’s All Yoga opened. He went into the business that was closing (at our first location) and got the landlord’s info… Called him and inquired… And nudged me. He’s been incredibly supportive and encouraging.

You do a lot of readings in class. What’s the deal with the poetry?

I’ve loved poetry since childhood and, particularly at certain times in my life, reading/writing poetry has been an outlet, a touchstone, a place to ground and grow and explore new ideas.

Pretty early on in my teaching I would read a passage of some kind — maybe a yoga-related thing. Eventually I started reading poems that I loved. About 5 years ago I met my teacher Mary (Paffard) who also reads poetry, which was wonderful because I was able to enjoy it as a student. It adds so much to the practice for me. As a teacher, poems and writings support the theme of the class so much more effectively and beautifully than I could with my own words.

{For more of Michelle’s thought on poetry, check out her post}

A multipart question!

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

You can’t teach yoga if you don’t have a home practice (in my opinion=). You also have to have practice time that is separate from your prep time, which is often the hardest part.

My home practice varies day-to-day, week to week and is dependent on so many things: my energy level, how I’ve slept, if I teach that day, time of the month, season of the year, how my body is, and what I’m interested in. My time on my mat has always been very instinctively guided — I don’t like to follow sequences or DVDs. Admittedly, I don’t work as hard as I used to!

Currently, I practice in the living room or outside on my yoga deck (my favorite). At times I’ve had a designated room and it’s been lovely… But when it comes down to it, so little is needed to practice, let alone take a stretch or a mindful breath. We can get caught in the endless story of “I’ll do it when everything is just so… Just right… “

As for the “what,” often I’ll do some breath practice and stretching after a morning walk, and then have a more formal practice in the afternoon. Sometimes it’s nothing more than a few poses in bed in the morning {FREE VIDEO ALERT!} Or before I go to sleep. And some days I don’t do any formal asana at all {gasp!}.

What’s your favorite pose? Why?

Don’t make me pick just one! It changes by the day. Right now I’m really into shoulders (FREE VIDEO ALERT!) and there’s a hip sequence I do almost everyday.

What’s your least favorite pose?

I’ve made friends with so many poses that at one time were my least favorite. I used to dread Virabhadrasana I (Warrior 1) and now I love, love, love it.

We usually don’t like things we aren’t good at. I have really tight hamstrings, so forward folds are challenging on lots of levels. I can’t stand frog pose. But actually, constructive rest is the worst (crazy, I know) because it presses on a nerve issue in my sacrum.

Stay tuned for PART 2 with Michelle!

Please leave any questions or comment love below:

If you want to learn more about Michelle or 13 Things that We Believe at It’s All Yoga:

She’s on Twitter at @michelmarlahan

Blogasana:  Daring Self Care Through Yoga (and Other Wacky Practices

{Michelle’s photo credit: Ashlee Gadd}

{click images for source}