Asheville Community Yoga Teacher of the Month – October 2015 [INTERVIEW]

I am incredibly honored to be featured as this month's Teacher of the Month at Asheville Community Yoga

asheville community yoga logo circleAsheville Community Yoga is a 501(c)3 nonprofit yoga center offering donation-based yoga classes, workshops, and trainings here in Asheville, NC. Their yoga community is supportive and strong and so inspiring! The donation-based structure of the weekly classes makes yoga accessible to anyone who wants it and the welcoming and inclusive atmosphere at ACY has made it one of Asheville's favorite places to practice yoga. I am grateful to be a part of the goodness that is Asheville Community Yoga.

BIG thanks and hugs to ACY staff, students, fellow teachers, and volunteers for everything you do to make the studio so awesome. Thanks for coming to my classes and sharing in this beautiful practice week after week. 

Below is an interview I did for the occasion. Hope you all enjoy reading a little bit about my yoga journey!

Love,

Lindsay 

Lindsay Fields has been with us from the beginning, teaching one of our most longstanding and loved classes, Tuesdays night’s “hot core” practice. Her classes are definitely challenging, but Lindsay’s demeanor is so authentically kind and her instructions so clear and intelligent, that even the toughest sequences seem accessible. If that wasn’t a reason enough to come to her class, the music might lure you in! Lindsay has great taste in music and her playlists are energizing and inspiring. Not only that, but Lindsay herself is an accomplished musician, and her students receive the soothing gift of her sweet chanting voice and ukelele songs at the start and finish of every class. We asked Lindsay some questions about her practice, and here’s what she had to say:

What was the experience with yoga that got you hooked?

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When I was 20 years old, I was very unhappy and depressed. I somehow intuitively knew that yoga was something that I needed. I don’t even remember where I first heard about yoga but it obviously intrigued me. So, I sought it out. In 1999 yoga classes were not as abundant as they are now (especially here in Asheville!). I would go to any free meditation lectures I heard about. I bought a yoga book and a DVD and started practicing at home. And then one day, I opened the phone book and found the closest yoga studio to my house and went to a class. It was a hot yoga class and I was hooked from that very first class. It was tough. It was hot. Most of all, it was DIFFERENT. I have always said that the experience of that first class felt like coming home. I think the missing piece, something that yoga offers that was lacking in other areas for me, is bhakti. Through the asana practice alone, I learned to move in prayer and in service, not even knowing to what at first – maybe to myself, to call my spirit back, to remember my wholeness. The practice is so rich and so deep. It’s the way yoga makes me feel about myself and my role in the world. Yoga is more than just physical exercise. For me, simply exercising my body left me feeling incomplete, and even “less-than,” because I always felt like I didn’t fit the mold, you know? Yoga has taught me that the mold is much bigger and I am so much more than my body or my successes/failures.

What inspires you to continue yoga?

I have been practicing for 16 years now and I am still learning. And the yoga tradition is still evolving. I heard someone say once that yoga is a “living practice.” I love that. The practice is always changing and growing as more and more people are coming to their mats. I think that’s exciting to think about and I definitely want to be a part of it.

What is your favorite pose?

Probably plank or crow. I spent a good portion of my early life being sick and feeling like I was at war with my body. Arm balances are something I never imagined I would be able to do. They have helped me feel strong in my body and make friends with it again.

What is your most challenging pose?

Handstand. I broke my toe falling out of handstand when I was first learning it. It is still scary for me.

What is your favorite time/place to practice?

Whenever and wherever I can! I am so busy these days and I am super grateful for any opportunity to sit, slow down, and reconnect. I love practicing outside.

How has yoga changed your life?

I tend to be anxious. Yoga has taught me that I am more than my anxiety and that within me is divinity and unconditional love. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, it was with me all along. And that no matter what is going on in my life, no matter how much my outer world spins, I am ok. I am love. That is so comforting to me. I am less afraid as a result of my yoga practice. I am less anxious. This has had a huge impact on how I live my life and the choices I make.

Do you have a favorite yoga book or video?

Light on Yoga by BK.S. Iyengar and The Heart of Yoga by T.K.V. Desikachar are my 2 all-time favorite yoga books. I also love The Secret Power of Yoga Nischala Joy Devi for a women’s perspective on the yoga sutras.

What is your mantra?

Aham Prema – I am Divine Love

Do you have a passion other than yoga you’d like to share about?

Music! I began playing music again about 1 1/2 years ago when I picked up a little ukulele at a local music store. I was obsessed at first and now my ukulele and singing and mantra are like food for me – something I do every day because it is so nourishing. I really want to be playing music more. In addition to playing for my weekly yoga classes, I’d love to be playing for other people’s yoga classes, collaborating for a bhakti vinyasa workshop or kirtan, writing songs and playing with a band, and teaching people to play music. I have lots of ideas and big plans for the future for sure.

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Meditation For New Yoga Teachers

FINDING YOUR CONFIDENCE

In the matter of dealing with yoga teacher jitters, confidence doesn’t always reveal itself as expected.

Certainties: You love yoga.  You know this from a deep place inside your being.  Everything about yoga practice screams a loud, ethereal “YES!”  You’ve dished out the big bucks and completed a rigorous and intensive yoga teacher training that involved some pretty deep, soul-searching work on your part.  You’ve emerged as not only a committed, lifetime student of yoga, but now a certified teacher with a vast world of possibilities before you.

But, darn it, what’s with all the nerves and anxiety? Surely, your training and passion is sufficient for the role of teacher.  Your heart is in the right place.  You truly want to share and help others because, let’s face it, we yoga teachers don’t do it for the money.  We are driven like the prototypical “starving artist”, by what seems to be a force much larger than our physical bodies, something older, wiser — the voice, the calling.  Who cares if we have to eat pinto beans and rice for a year? You’re happy doing it because it feels right and it is groovy, man.

Not-So-Certainties: Can I be successful as a yoga teacher or will I meet that dreaded f-word (yes, I am referring to failure)? Can I run a business? Will studios hire me? What if I mess up or offend someone or, lordy-heavens-almighty-in-the highest, hurt somebody? What if students hate my class?  Hate me?  What if studio finally hires me and then (the other dreaded f-word) fires me? What kind of teacher am I?

Exhausting, isn't it?

To this, I will simply say: Teaching is another form of yoga, really a practice in itself.  Not all of these questions will be answered right away just as you weren’t able to do every yoga posture in your first class (perhaps a bit presumptuous, but in regards to people that do not struggle with asanas, well, I will restrict my comments to my own mind space).  In other words, you will never “get it done.”  It’s the journey, not the destination and other such whimsical metaphors … you get it.

So, yep — been there, done that.  Here is something that helped me when I first began teaching and feeling, at times, as though I might not be successful.  A meditation of sorts, to be read before you teach a class:

Meditation for New Yoga Teachers

It is not about me.
It is not about whether they like me
or whether they are going to come back to my class.

It is not about my performance.

It is about helping people to have the best experience possible,  
helping them explore their bodies safely.
It is about empowering others to seek their potential.
It is about sharing, giving, and offering myself completely.  
And by opening up in this way,
giving others permission to do the same —
fearlessly, joyfully.

It is not about me.

So, you see, your confidence comes not from validating yourself and your credentials, or even from trying really hard to be the best teacher ever, both of which the outcomes are an intense focus on yourself (you selfish son-of-a …).  It comes from letting go and allowing your focus to be in the present moment, which when you are teaching a yoga class, is on instructing others in their postures.  When you are present and fully engaged in the moment, you are genuine.  You are not focused selfishly on your performance.  Confidence comes from that deep, intrinsic place, that voice that speaks so loudly to you, “YES!”  Let go of the chatter, the questions and insecurity.  Be honest, be genuine.  Here you will find success that really means something.

Fortunately, from experience in yoga classes, you already have the tools to make this all possible.  You have practiced letting go and being present and without judgement.  Time to practice what you teach.  Incidentally, we teach what we most need to learn.

So go on, you know you've got this.

Lindsay

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Photo courtesy of Anna Ferguson.