“Yoga, an ancient but perfect science, deals with the evolution of humanity. This evolution includes all aspects of one’s being, from bodily health to self-realization. Yoga means union – the union of body with consciousness and consciousness with the soul. Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day to day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions.” – B.K.S. Iyengar
Q: How long have you been practicing yoga? Teaching yoga?
A: I’ve been practicing yoga for 15 years, and teaching for 8 years.
Q: What brought you to your very first yoga class?
A: I came to yoga with chronic neck and shoulder issues from my career at a desk in accounting and technology. It offered me a great deal of physical relief.
Q: What keeps you coming back to the mat?
A: Yoga offers me more than physical benefits: through yoga, I found myself. Yoga changed my life.
A: In the beginning it was the physical aspects or the outer strength and flexibility for a healthy body that changed. As my dedicated practice unfolded, I found my inner strength through meditation and breathwork. I felt more focused and at peace. Many of my colleagues and friends have commented on the changes in me—such as being more calm and grounded—over the years.
Q: Why do you believe yoga, meditation and breathwork are such powerful tools for achieving life balance?
A: While there are no magic formulas, the practice of yoga does offer us all a solid 3-legged stool to support us in our journey through life. First, the physical practice, the asana on the mat, is amazing. It’s what got me hooked to stay committed: the healthy benefits. Then I experienced how finding stillness in meditation and breathwork brought my mind and body together. It takes courage to be still and allow things to come up, and then to work through them, but that is just what makes life off the mat more alive.
Q: How does your time on the mat spill into your everyday life mindset?
A: Being on the mat gives me that time to just “be” shedding my to-do list and to stop my racing thoughts. This allows me to help manage my demanding work schedule and other life responsibilities.
Q: In other words, are there lessons or benefits from your physical practice that positively affect your mental and emotional outlook?
A: Absolutely – I think anyone that has taken a few yoga classes has felt different after class – calm, relaxed, grounded, focused –and who wouldn’t find that useful in a life that is moving so fast with family/work demands, inundation of information and so on?
Q: You recently lost your mother unexpectedly. How has your yoga practice help you deal with this difficult life event?
A: With the emotions, decisions, sadness and grief that a life event like that brings with it, I can say that my yoga practice helped me immensely. It allowed me to sit, breath and stay present and focused – even if it was 5 minutes in a quiet hallway at the hospital. That was helpful for my mother too. I was grateful to find my strength in a time a uncertainty, when she and I both needed an anchor.
Q: As a teacher, you inspire students to be more mindful on the mat. Does the process of teaching give back any gifts of insight or inspiration? If so, what are they?
A: I love teaching yoga, because it allows me to honor and share something that is part of my daily life. Gratitude for the community (Sangha) at YFTH is infinite. Each student who walks through the studio door gives me a gift: inspiration to stay fresh in my studies and learning; respect for their dedication when they have an injury or a restriction and they come every week regardless. My intention is to give back to them in equal measure, in each and every class, with an open heart.
Q: What is the one thing you would say to a colleague or friend who wanted to try yoga for stress release and greater emotional balance?
A: What are you waiting for? You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. Take the time for you. You’re worth it!
Well said! Thanks to Michelle for taking the time to share her words with us today. If you want to experience her teaching gifts firsthand, Michelle teaches at 10 a.m. on Mondays and 4 p.m. on Sundays at Yoga from the Heart. For more information about all the yoga instruction available at studio, go to www.yogafromtheheart.com.
Writer: Dianne Ochiltree is a graduate of Yoga from the Heart’s Teacher Training Program, a 200-hour RYT with the Yoga Alliance, and has happily served as Lynn Burgess’s teaching assistant at weekly gentle yoga classes for Parkinson’s disease students. She is also a children’s author and freelance editor (www.dianneochiltree.com).