Hello Blog Readers.
Today I have my second yoga teacher interview. The first one was Nancy Kim (here) and today I want to introduce you to Jennie Choi (here). Jennie has been my yoga teacher on and off for about two years.
Priorhouse Interview with Jennie Choi of Yogabilities
I have been teaching yoga since about 2013. Currently, I teach about two adult yoga classes each week. My favorite yoga class to teach is Gentle Yoga. I often prefer instructing at a slower, less hurried pace and I like to take the time to provide modifications and accommodations in each asana (pose). I have committed my life to serving others by sharing my practice in any way that is welcomed by my students and anyone in my life that wishes to learn more from me.
I received formal yoga instructor training with Muku Yoga, a studio that used to be located in Richmond, VA. The former owner, Juan Diossa, moved to Colorado and so the studio is now closed. I took the training for my own personal development and also to learn more about the philosophy and components of yogic living. I started my yoga-teaching journey by teaching children’s yoga classes and camp with the Yoga with Nitya program. I was encouraged by a few of my yoga instructor friends to consider teaching yoga to adults, and that led me to teaching Hot Vinyasa Yoga, which I have been doing since 2015. I still teach children’s classes as my schedule allows but raising two children and working as a full-time instructor at Spiritos School for Autism consumes most of my time.
I completed my RYT-200 Training (200-hour yoga teacher certification) in 2013 and look forward to eventually completing my RYT-500 (300-hour certification). I would love to have my own business in which I serve individuals and groups to provide customized yoga classes and programs such as yoga in schools. I have a long way to go with my journey, but every step I take is forward and I know I will make this happen in due time. I also aspire to become a yoga therapist one day; however, this will take some time to accomplish as certification requires 800-hours of training.
If you want to become a yoga teacher, developing a regular personal practice is absolutely critical. I had practiced actively since my 20’s and continued practicing throughout both of my pregnancies, which seasoned my perspective as a student. I believe that understanding the beginner’s mindset is really important because learning to teach is about meeting our students where they are at along any given point during their yoga journey.
If you were looking to become a yoga instructor, I would also advise you to research yoga schools in your area and take classes at different studios to get a feel for their yoga community. It is crucial to find a studio/school that feels intuitively “right” in terms of feeling connected and developing relationships within the studio/school. Also consider what style of yoga you want to teach (ashtanga, hatha, therapeutic, etc.).
Practicing Yoga Tips
- Meet yourself where you are, at this moment, on the mat (or wherever you find yourself).
- Release all expectations of what you think should “look” like and focus on the physical sensations within the body as you move from one pose into another.
- Take care of yourself in any way that makes sense, whether that means using props to make the shape of the pose more comfortable/accessible, or opting out of a pose that feels too challenging or brings discomfort to the body. Yoga should feel GOOD!
- And BREATHE!!! Breath is the foundation for all of the physical yoga practice. If you are breathing mindfully, you ARE doing YOGA! It’s not all about the asana practice! 🙂
Personal Yoga Practice
I practice yoga as often as I can. It varies, depending on my schedule. Typically, I might get to a yoga class at the gym 2-3 times a week. I attend different classes according to what is available. I have dealt with physical, mental, and emotional changes throughout the various phases of my life. Throughout my years of practicing and learning about yoga, I have been able to more effectively manage generalized anxiety disorder and I have been able to use yoga breathing techniques to offset panic attacks. I find that the yogic lifestyle, which includes dietary principles, ethical guidelines, and other components in addition to the physical practice, resonates deeply with my soul.
I love practicing yoga outdoors, although I don’t do it as much as I should! Being connected to nature while enjoying the breath and movement of the body is phenomenal! My personal practice includes gentle yoga, vinyasa flow, power vinyasa yoga (typically a longer, more vigorous practice), yin yoga (long-held passive stretches), and hot yoga. I like to change my practice according to my energy level, mood, and even the season. For example, yin is nice in the summer time and hot yoga is wonderful in the winter. I have a hard time choosing one favorite pose! But I’ve always enjoyed the challenges of backbends and inversions, and one pose that feels amazing when I can get into it is the scorpion pose, which is an arm balance with backbend.
After years of practicing yoga, I have become less attached to the idea of having to practice on my mat in a class or at home with a certain frequency; instead, I have become more in tune with the natural rhythms of my life to guide me to my personal yoga needs. I can breathe mindfully while driving in the car or standing in the grocery line. I can use mindfulness to help me with stressful moments and life challenges. I can practice asana while lying in my bedroom or living room floor. An individual yoga practice does not and should not have to conform to someone else’s ideals, and that is what is most beautiful to me.
I’ve always loved this quote by Marianne Williamson and find it very empowering both as a reminder to myself as well as to others:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” -Marianne Williamson
Thank you for allowing me to share with you a bit about myself.
It was an honor.
Here are a few tidbits about why I asked Jennie for an interview.
My spouse loves Jennie’s yoga classes – he says that she is so hospitable. I agree. We both used to go to her Sunday class back in 2016. It was nice for a while. We have also had the chance to get to know Jennie outside of yoga classes. And here is a photo that was taken after we went to yoga and then dinner for Jennie’s b-day in 2016:
The most memorable part of that night was the torrential downpour as we were on the way from yoga to dinner. ugh.
What I love about Jennie’s yoga instruction has to do with the well-roundedness. She changes things up, but is also consistent – if that makes sense. She is consistent to give us a full body workout. I know there are times to have a heavy hip day or a certain focus, but I think she is noted for the overall body thoroughness. I think she typically includes some version of Cat Cow pose and she might even be noted for usually winding down a class with options for boat pose (Paripurna Navasana). I also think that she almost always offers us the option of some version of a Warrior pose.
Earlier this year I decided to come up with one single word to describe various teachers. I guess this is what we do when some of the “yoga time” moves slow. You know…. thoughts come and go, especially during some Yin classes.
Anyhow, with Jennie, the word balance came to my mind. When I told her that “balance” was the word I had for her, I think she thought I chose that word because she does a lot of balance poses. That was partly right. I do love the balance poses she leads us through and I have really been stretched at times (pun?? – lol) . I also like how she always reminds students that we will all look different – how our balance will not always be the same on both sides of the body – how we will also have better days than others – and then she sometimes gives multiple options for pose levels. However, I also sense balance in the energy of her class – with the flow and pacing. Not rushed and not too long in various poses. A nice pace. Further, she offers counterbalances for poses that seem to need it. (And trust me, when teachers don’t offer the counterbalancing your body starts to feel it – so that was a strength of hers I realized later.) I also like Jennie’s balanced voice and when I drop in for one of her classes after not having seen her for a while – I remember how soothing her voice is….
Jennie sometimes uses nautical analogies. She mentioned that she used to teach children’s yoga and sometimes she tells her class what terms she would use with the children. For example, as a way to remind us to open our fingers and press our palms down during downward dog – she referred to how she would tell the children to make starfish with their hands. This resonates nicely with the many beach lovers. Or occasionally she might suggest that while we are walking our dog, we can move our feet side to side- like swishing them in the sand. Ahhhhh…..
I am also grateful to Jennie because I have met some nice friends in her class. For example – I met Magnesium Mike (that is what my husband calls him). One day, Mike and I were waiting in line to talk to Jennie and we discovered that we both were giving her magnesium. She had shared with the class a little about her adrenaline fatigue and whatnot – and so on the same day – – there we were — lined up to give her magnesium to try. Side note – this year my favorite mineral has been Trader Joe’s calcium citrate and their calcium/zinc (with daily enzymes to help those minerals out) – but in 2015/2016ish, magnesium was so helpful. So I had some CALM to give her and Mike had this bag of mag chloride flakes. We started talking and laughed that we both had magnesium – and we have been friends ever since. He also gave me a huge sample of his magnesium, which I shared with many folks and I still use the flakes for many things – like foot soaks or I make a skin butter (here).
Oh, and lastly, my favorite memory from Jennie’s class was around Christmastime 2015 – when she played Sarah McLachlan’s Wintersong album (here) for the duration of the class. It was such a treat and gave us something to talk about later (because as many of us know, music is the great conversation catalyst). A short while after that, I shared a snack with Jennie and on the tag I wrote “867-5309” – (for those that don’t know – it was the song 8675 – 3 0 9…../Jenny by Tommy Tutone- here).
Thanks so much for reading. And many thanks to Jennie Choi for allowing me to interview her for this blog series.