How did you first come to end up in a yoga class? What brought you there, were you reluctant and how did you feel after your first class?
I was always interested in the concept of yoga. I had several books that I never read and eventually lent out to friends.
Well, after a very emotional time in my life; where I felt as if I had little control or stability; I found myself in a place where I was searching harder than ever for “something”. I was going through therapy for my emotional issues and I was searching for something to let go of the physical tension I felt in my body. I started with group fitness at a local gym. The classes were okay but I eventually found myself bored. I decided to bite the bullet and try the 6:00pm yoga class. Quickly I realized it was not easy yet I felt “okay” and “good” after.
That class led to my yoga craze. I was taking yoga at the local gym 2-3 times a week. I then turned to the web to search out more information. I found several Yoga studios (within 40 miles driving).
I tried about 4-5 different studios; really in search of a place/studio I could buckle down and truly practice with.
I was overweight and had a ton of physical and emotional issues; but I knew deep down that this was what I needed.
Tell me a little about your life before yoga. How is it different now you practice regularly.
Well, as I previously said, I had been through some very intense and emotional strains. My life consisted of a lifestyle that was self-centered and unhealthy. I was on a path that lead to guilt, misery and depression.
I am not saying my life was horrible by any stretch of the imagination, I mean I had purchased my own home by the age of 23. I had a new car, a brand new husband…..what else could a girl ask for?!! But, deep down there was this emotional imbalance I had suffered with my entire life. I was searching for internal Peace I suppose.
When I finally decided to try and work on my “issues” I began a whole new approach to life. Yoga has helped me in ways I do not think I can put into words. And unless you’ve experienced something similar anything I write or say will only seem like an infomercial for yoga. But, I truly believe and have seen the benefits of a daily yoga practice of not only asana but pranayama, meditation and study of spiritual texts. My life prior to devling into this yogic path was a maze and I had no map. (I think we all know what Flo is saying here! – Rachel)
Now that I have a groundedness beneath my feet, I feel as if the world has given me a compass.
What style of yoga do you find yourself drawn to practice (and teach if you are a teacher)? What teachers and other mentors have influenced you along your path?
When I first started practicing I found myself in love with Ashtanga Yoga as taught by Sri K Pattabhi Jois. I practiced Ashtanga for 2 years. In May of 2009 I took a 5 day Vinyasa Teacher training with Stephanie Keach at the Asheville Yoga Center. She inspired me in a different way to other teachers I’d practiced with. Late in 2009 I was enrolled in the Asheville Yoga Center 230hr teacher training program. This program was nondogmatic and brought in teachers from all styles including Anusara, Ashtanga, Viniyoga, Phoenix Rising, Kundalini, etc… I currently find myself drawn to the Vinyasa styles such as Flow, Ashtanga and from time to time I enjoy Yin. I feel that yoga changes with our bodies and our stages in life. It is important to step onto your mat and tune into what your body needs.
My most influential teachers that I am forever grateful to would have to be: Stephanie Keach my amazing teacher and inspiration forever and always. Shala Rain, an amazing and inspiring teacher who embodies grace and compassion. Nicole Hopman who I consider to be a beautiful Bhakti Yogini and my truest friend on this path (Hey, Nicole if you’re reading! – Rachel). Marsha McNeight is an amazing Ashtangi here in Atlanta, she is always encoraging me along the Ashtanga yoga path. I’ve also have the pleasure to learn from Manju Jois, Kino MacGregor, Tim Feldmann and Dharma Mittra.
However, my husband, Fur baby Chai and family are my daily teachers and I would not be on this path without their love and support.
(Flo and her teacher, Stephanie Keach)
Every yogi has one favourite and one least favourite asana. Tell me a bit about yours.
Oh Goodness! Recently for me my least favorite yoga asana has to be Kurmasana and Supta Kurmasana from the Asthanga yoga Primary Series. A friend reminded me that the poses we dislike the most are our current teachers. These two poses (which go hand in hand) are intense for me. I believe the intensity is built up around fear: fear I will break/crack my elbows, I will rip a hamstring, I can’t breath, etc… it is an extremly intense set of postures for me at the moment.
Hmmm, my favorite asana currently would have to be backbending. It is love/hate. Mainly because the feeling after backbending is like a rush. My body feels clean and renewed. However it is extremly intense and you tetter on the edge of uncertainty while doing dropbacks with your teacher. It is a point in my practice I do and do not look forward to all at the same time
How do you live your yoga off your mat, every day?
Yoga on the mat prepares me for off the mat. This is a part of my practice I still struggle with and work on daily. You can bend your body in the most beautiful asana and have stability and ease there. But how are you once you are off the mat face to face with uncertatinty or with someone or something you dislike?
That is the key to this practice. Letting the kindness, compassion, ease and grace flood over into our daily interactions with everyone and everything. My husband and I are vegetarians, and this is part of my yogic path as well. Ahimsa in my personal deifinition is non-harming. To people and animals.
This is just one aspect. Trying to live a yogic lifestyle is not easy (tell me about it! – Rachel). Trying to remember that judging others has no room in my life or my heart. Trying daily to plant the seeds of kindness and compassion in hopes of relieving past karmas.
Flo is a yogini, blogger, yoga teacher and dog lover. She teaches in Atlanta, Georgia where she lives with her husband and her bulldog, Chai. She blogs over at Southern Yogi