My Journey to Becoming a Yoga Teacher
Hello and welcome! I am truly excited to connect with all of you through this space.
For my first ever blog post I will answer the questions I seem to receive the most - How did you get here? How did you decide to teach yoga? Perhaps sharing my journey with ya’ll can give a bit more insight into who I am and what I’m here for.
I grew up in Knoxville, TN - a place where (at the time) yoga was only offered as a once or twice a week class in a mega corporate gym located in a mall. My mom actually started taking a power yoga class in this “mall gym” when I was in high school and loved it immediately, encouraging me to try it.
Of course, I had some resistance. First off, I was a teenager and embarrassed about living, let alone putting my body in “awkward” positions around other people. Secondly, I had what was later diagnosed as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and depression.. so getting motivated to do much of anything (especially in public, with strangers) was difficult and overwhelming enough.
Mostly, I had no idea what yoga was really about - the way it and the people who practice it was portrayed in popular media at the time was pretty confusing. Is this a workout? Is this a spiritual practice? Is this just the newest fad that famous people in Los Angeles are raving about?
My first class was a lot of things, but it was certainly not a beginner class. I was overwhelmed by the fast pace, my lack of knowledge of these postures and not having time to really learn them. However; the teacher was kind and engaging - she truly made me feel safe to be confused and lost.
As I kept coming back to class with this same teacher and became familiar with the postures and the breathing practices, yoga became a refuge for me. By focusing on my breath for this one hour of my day, I could leave feeling relaxed and at ease. I already knew that physical movement was very tied to my own mental health, but this was next level because I was subconsciously learning tools to relax outside of class.
Through my college years, my practice was sporadic, but I kept going to classes and started reading about yogic philosophies on my own. After college, I left town and moved to Ft Lauderdale, Florida to work as a stewardess in the yachting industry. I had the opportunity to travel the world, pay off my student loans and save money for the future. However, I quickly lost myself in this work. My whole life became my work and about serving other people’s needs, neglecting my own. I spiraled into a state of chronic stress and burnout.
During this dark period, I started going to yoga classes in Ft Lauderdale. Again, I found my refuge. I started going to classes during any free time I had and would leave feeling like I had truly done something for myself. I was digging deeper, reading a lot about things that interest me, and integrating mindfulness practices into my routine - no matter where the job might take me.
After months of regular yoga practice and dedicating time to myself, my passions, and my own healing, I started to notice tangible differences in all of the layers of my being. Physically, I felt strong and capable. On the emotional/mental level, my stress response was much less reactive and I was learning to regulate myself. I could look outside of work or interpersonal situations that would normally stress me out/ give me anxiety and calmly deal with them. And on a deeper level, I was feeling joy again. I was reconnected to my true nature, to the things that bring me joy, to feeling whole and content no matter what may happen.
Naturally, I felt compelled to go even deeper and share this possibility with others. I decided to save money to go take a yoga teacher training and I asked my mom to please join me - not only did she introduce me to yoga, she was also burned out from work and needed something to shake up her life a little bit. Eventually she agreed and we ended up taking an immersive 200 hour ashtanga vinyasa YTT in Thailand together. It was truly beautiful, challenging on all levels, and transformative for both of us. I’m forever thankful that I got to share that experience with her. Now, my mom is teaching community yoga classes in her basement as well as a yoga class for teenagers at the high school she works at.
As for myself, I continued working on super yachts offering yoga classes to clients, employers, and fellow yacht crew for the past few years. I have loved the ability to teach yoga in intimate settings with small groups and individuals, tailoring each class to suit their own needs. The more I taught in that environment, the more interested I became in the therapeutic aspect of yoga. This is what lead me to seek out education in therapeutic yoga/ integrative yoga therapy at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.
Having finished my 300 Hour advanced teacher training of therapeutic yoga (and still working on my 800 hour yoga therapist training) I feel even more inspired to share the tools and practices of yoga, resilience and self-love. I believe in this work. I aspire to hold a safe space for all people, to meet them where they are in each moment without judgment, and to give them the tools to self-heal and make day to day life easier.
In a busy/stress fueled society that emphasizes productivity and always doing more, it even takes effort to take time for ourselves and to make that an important part of our routine. We are all worth it! We all deserve to be happy, to feel connected ourselves, those around us, and to our environment.
So, that’s me! Feel free to reach out to me via email with any thoughts or questions.
Much love, Jess.