When Amy showed up for her photo shoot, I knew we were going to have a bunch of fun. We began in my studio and then drove to Redwood City and Stanford’s campus in Palo Alto where Amy had found several beautiful spots for us to work in. If the variety of moods in this photo shoot tell you anything, it’s that Amy has huge range to explore the soulful depths to the ecstatic playful heights. She’s an incredibly bright light with boundless energy, a heart of gold, and an adventurous and highly expressive spirit. Since I met her a few years ago she’s been through a major transition (who hasn’t, I know, but really she has) and it’s been awesome to see her yoga practice and teaching develop and grow into the blooming full-time operation that it has… but I’ll let her tell you about her teaching and practice herself so you can get to know a bit about the thoughtful woman behind these gorgeous images.
What does being a yoga teacher mean to you? What role has it played in your life so far and where would you like to take it?
Yoga/teaching yoga is a practice of getting to know one’s self, accepting yourself as you are, living an inspired life, and extending your practice to help others help themselves. I was drawn to yoga after a terrifying period of anxiety and panic attacks. As I delved into the practice, I learned many valuable lessons that have shaped me into who I am today. Yoga isn’t just a workout, it’s a mindful practice that involves the WHOLE you. You learn how to merge your body-mind-soul and intertwine them into a beautiful balance. Yoga has helped me break down my walls that have held me prisoner, taught me to be ok with imperfection and the unknown, and it has allowed me to embrace myself fully – just as I am.
I currently teach 12 classes a week so yoga keeps me pretty busy! It takes a lot of energy to give all week long – so it can be challenging energetically. I plan on keeping yoga as a personal practice and perhaps teaching fewer classes a week so I can dive into my deepest passion: acting. While yoga stands as a focal point in my life now, I am creating workshops for greater healing, insight, and self-acceptance. I would also love to lead some overseas retreats one day!
What are you personally learning from being a yoga teacher?
Yoga is the best job I’ve had thus far. It’s fulfilling and rewarding. It has pulled me out of my insecurities and people pleasing habits. It has taught me to be confident in who I am – quirks and all. It has allowed me to release expectations and embrace moment to moment creativity. And at the end of the day, I cannot please everyone so it has taught me to be OK with people who don’t prefer my classes or my personality. I’ve stopped taking things so dang personally! Being a yoga teacher has also helped me with my acting believe it or not. I’m in front of many people everyday, holding space and creating a presence. Teaching also puts you in the present moment… I am so thankful for that practice! The most important thing I’m becoming more aware of is energetic balance. When my cup is empty, I need to learn how to refill it….aka SLOW DOWN.
What’s your practice like?
I teach basic to challenging Vinyasa classes. My flow is faster paced with concentration on constant movement to build heat and body opening. I also work a lot with the core – it is the root of all our power. My music also matches me sequencing. Slower beats help warm and cool the body – faster beats play during the heat sequence. I try to incorporate a little of everything in a class – plenty of strengthening and heat building then time for stretching and self-introspection. I always open and close class with meditation, Tibetan bowl playing, and an inspirational quote.
Another thing I try to do in my classes is to make everyone feel at ease. I encourage falling, because it’s how we learn! I also tell my students not to compare themselves to others in the room. I emphasize feeling not thinking, practice not performance, heart not head, and looking inside not outside. It’s important to release self-judgement and go with the moment – just as it is. I always say “listen to your body…don’t force, but challenge yourself.” I find that with these guidelines, my students are more likely to step out of the box and feel confident in themselves, taking ownership of their choices.
What other parts of your life/lifestyle support you to teach and-or do your practice?
Practicing yoga has taught me to be mindful of my being as a whole – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, etc. I try to meditate everyday in nature, eat healthy food, and make time for personal practice. I’m also realizing that sleep is SO important and do not feel guilty if I sneak in an afternoon nap 😉 I also am in the process of making a beginners yoga DVD that will hopefully be out early next year. Yoga blogging is also part of my bi-weekly routine… while I write about the things I already know, it has also been a great opportunity for me to research and dig deeper into other aspects of the practice. Last year I created a wellness website, Wholistify.com – it offers yoga services but also inspiration to others following a similar journey. My favorite page is the inspiration section… I list my favorite books to read, inspirational quotes, and recommend documentaries/films.
Your pictures really blend artistry, beauty, and yoga. What role does art/creativity play in your life and in your teaching?
I am a creator at heart. I guess I’m hard on myself when it comes to creating yoga sequences. I’m not a fan of overly repeating the same flow over and over again. I’m also the same way with music. My creativity comes in when I get to prep new yoga sequences and playlists for the week. I pick music with motivational beats and melodies ranging from mellow electronica to acoustic guitar. While I teach all the common asanas, I also add my own flare, creating movements inspired by dance, plyometrics, and body awareness. I’ve also had the opportunity to teach themed classes like hip hop yoga…soul train at the end…so fun 🙂
If there is a main message you want your work/teaching to convey, what is it?
I could go on and on about this one. But I’ll sum it up with this quote:
“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”