Michelle is our expert Ashtanga yoga teacher and she’s got a workshop coming up this Saturday, January 16th on Bandhas (energy locks), Pranayama (breath), and Drishti (focal point). All these techniques are the foundation of a strong and mindful practice. Michelle is also taking part in our San Diego yoga teacher training by sharing this workshop module, as well as covering Ashtanga philosophy and the complete First Series. Get to know her a little through our interview below and be sure to check out her regularly scheduled Vinyasa and Ashtanga classes at Buddhi Yoga La Jolla.
How did you get into yoga and why?
I had never been flexible and wanted to become more limber. One day my tap dance instructor invited me to her yoga class, an Intro to Ashtanga class. I was surprised at how physically demanding it was and inspired by all the poses that I could not do. When it finally ended, it left me with a floaty feeling and the need to put my car seat upright in the car afterwards. It kept me coming back.
How has yoga changed your life?
Soon after discovering yoga I realized that the food I ate affected how I felt and also how I smelled. I slowly began eating cleaner, meaning greener and organic. I began “partying” less and less because I wanted the experience of a great practice rather than a “great” night.
What’s your favorite thing about teaching yoga for a living?
One of my favorite things about teaching for a living is helping people feel better and accomplish more than they thought they could. Seeing them glow after doing their first headstand or the looks of contentment and silence after a practice makes me smile. Getting paid to help people feel good is a blessing.
why is ashtanga your preferred style of yoga?
Ashtanga is how I was “raised” in yoga. It is a pattern that never changes but has magically changed me. As soon as I think I know what yoga is or what it means to me, it seems to change time and time again. It seems to make its way through layers I didn’t know I had. The pattern doesn’t change, but I’ve changed. What I feel, how I move into and out of poses is constantly evolving. I started to notice my very own patterns by attempting an external pattern. With that, I’ve learned so much about my own habits and mind. There was a time I began to get bored, doing the same sequence for years. Then I realized, it wasn’t the yoga that was boring, it was me. So I started focusing on parts of the practice I hadn’t before, and it changed. It also allows for me a different sort of meditative state when I don’t have to wonder what pose is coming next, I already know, so I don’t have to think.
Is there a pose you can’t do that you’re working on?
There are so many poses that I cannot do and I’m working on them all. I just try to make sure I feel everything I do. I’m a fan of “just feel it” rather than “just do it”.
Besides yoga, do you do any other forms of exercise?
I like to jump rope. That’s my favorite other exercise these days. I also love to hang off things; From my hands, knees or anything else I can manage. I hang.
What is your best piece of advice for anyone new to yoga?
I suppose my best piece of advice for anyone new to yoga, is to as soon as possible, focus on your ability to breathe in and breathe out deeply. If you want to become more flexible, this is the key. If you want to do party trick postures, this will protect you. If you want to deepen the quality of your life, this is literally giving you life. It only makes sense that by developing the quality of your breath, you are developing the quality of your life.
Ashtanga Yoga is a system of yoga started by master yogi, Pattabhi Jois from India. There are three “series” of dynamic sequences that never change. It is said to be that Ashtanga is one of the hardest styles to master due to to its physical nature. In Ashtanga you won’t find any music besides the breath. There are many vinyasas, and Sanskrit is the primary language. We love that Michelle teaches Ashtanga at our La Jolla Yoga studio. She brings so much knowledge, light and her beautiful spirit to every class she leads on our schedule.