It's time for another Staff Spotlight! This week I sat down with Angela to learn more about her, her practice, and her teaching. Angela's one of the first teachers to come on board at The Yoga Room - we go way back - but even still I learned some new things about her in this extended interview.
When did you start practicing yoga?
In college. I was intrigued by it. I started reading about Kundalini Yoga. What I read was that you have to be really careful practicing Kundalini, because if you don’t know what you're doing, you could drive yourself mad. And I thought, “Oooh! What is this!?” But I didn’t practice it. Hatha has always been my path.
My main practice was through reading and on my own because there were no yoga classes around. Later on there was a meditation group that I attended. I didn’t learn until later that we practice āsana to prepare our bodies for meditation.
Why do you practice yoga?
When I started practicing consistently, it was because I was teaching elementary school, so I practiced for stress relief and relaxation. I found it very effective.
When I lived in Hawaii there were just a few classes around. The class would be in somebody’s living room, then the next thing you knew, they weren’t doing it anymore. One lady taught yoga at the Y for awhile, then when attendance became low they dropped the class. Finding a yoga class was hit or miss. Only when we went to India in 1996 and spent 7 months there, the puzzle pieces of yoga and meditation started fitting together. It became more than just for relaxation.
When we came back from India I started looking for classes, and they were still few and far between, so I’d use yoga videos. My first video was given to me by my good friend Toni and it was Buns of Steel Yoga with Marguerite Baca, on VHS, and I still have it to this day! I would do that one daily, and when I could find classes I’d go to those too.
I’d bought books when we were traveling in India, and so I’d make my own little practices.
And then we moved here, and you know, yoga’s everywhere. I’d go to classes, and then I took a beginners series, just to make sure I was doing things right. And then when I sold my business, that’s when I realized I wanted to teach yoga. That was 8 years ago.
I practice now because it still makes me feel good. I feel alive, I feel life flowing through me. I feel yoga helps me take care of myself as I get older. That’s why my practice and my teaching are directed toward adults, and people my age and older, because we’re all aging, we’re all going through growing pains, we never stop, until we’re dead. Life is always unfolding and I think it’s a wonderful thing. And if I can assist people in their path and keep myself healthy, it’s a win-win for everybody!
What does your practice consist of?
Some days it’s gentle, some days it’s a little more amped up. And I have to be honest, I don’t practice āsana every day. I’ll do a little something every day, whether it’s a breathing practice, a meditation, or chanting.
I primarily do gentle movements, taking my spine through its range of motion, because I know what I have going on (in my body) and what I need to do to alleviate any tightness or tension.
I incorporate different things into my practice, but not all in one day. If time permits, I might do a few things or all the things. And that’s the yoga, listening to what you need, rather than “have to,” “need to,” “should do,” “ought to.” When we think like that we get into trouble because it causes too much stress!
How do you maintain your motivation for your practice?
The way yoga makes me feel is motivation enough. Because if I don’t do it, if i don’t take care of myself, how is that going to affect (my husband) Raymond? How’s that going to affect the people around me? Because if I feel good and I’m happy, then other people will feel good and happy. If I’m grouchy and irritable and I take it out on the people I’m closest to, that’s no good. It happens, but yoga is my tool for maintaining the peace!
To me, happy means centered, joyful. We all have a certain level of happiness within us. But stress can put a lid on it and push it down within us. But when we open up and release the stress and tension, the happiness bubbles up, you can’t help it.
What part of your practice do you gain the most from?
Meditation. It gets my head right! It’s centering, it’s calming, it’s soothing. And I have to be honest with you, some days it’s really short and difficult, and some days it’s longer, but I welcome the stillness and the peace of mind. I like to go on my back porch, when weather permits, and sit outside and meditate. I feel connected and grounded.
In my meditation practice I focus on my breath and just observe what comes up and let it go. Not pushing it away, but just observing what comes up. Just bringing my awareness back to the breath.
And there are also days that I like a guided meditation. I use the Insight Timer app. You can search for whatever kind of meditation you need, by topic and duration, or you can use the sound of the singing bowl.
I also love chanting, I use a mala, and that’s a meditation as well. My go-to chant is the Ganesh mantra: Om gam Ganapataye namaha.
And another one I use, but I haven’t done in a while, is to release fear: Shante prashante sarva bhaya upasha mani swaha.
What made you want to become a yoga teacher?
I love to teach, I’m a teacher, that’s what I do. I was an elementary school teacher, a high school teacher, an elementary school teacher again, then I owned a business that was teaching. Somewhere in between all of that I worked in a doctor’s office. I really liked that - it was good. When we left Hawaii and moved back to Texas, I was interviewed to a manage a medical office. During the interview I was talking about teaching and that lightbulb moment when the kids gets it, and the lady interviewing me was like, “Wow, it’s good that you’re so on fire about that...” Her comment gave me pause, and that's when I realized my passion for teaching and knew that's where I needed to be.
I knew I wanted to get out of school teaching, and yoga was making me happy and I wanted to share that with others.
When people recommend my yoga classes, they often say that my classes are uplifting. I do let a sense of pleasure be the guide, not that we’re cracking up, well, we do laugh, we do laugh!
The other day a student brought in an inspirational story about “zeal” and “enthusiasm” and the students said that these words describe my classes perfectly. I agree they suit my teaching. I want people to feel great!
One day I received a sweet note from a lady who had been through some tough stuff. She took the time to let me know that she’d felt very comfortable and very supported in my class, that her spirits were lifted for the first time in a long time. That right there is what it’s all about. If we at The Yoga Room can help people feel comfortable and welcome, can make them smile and feel happy and content, mission accomplished!
When did you start teaching?
In 2010, right after I finished yoga teacher training. Then I started teaching at The Yoga Room in early 2011.
What are your main objectives in your teaching?
I want for people to learn more about themselves. At the beginning of every class, I encourage people to check in with how they’re feeling. In my mind, I envision that each person is like a snow globe that’s been shaken. We take time to let everything settle, then we check in physically, then we check in with the breath, and then check in with the mind. You don’t need to change anything, but just notice where you are, because we begin where we are. Then we go through the practice, and then we check in again at the end. And that’s when people notice that they DO feel different, better, than at the beginning of class.
What are you currently working on in your practice or as a teacher?
After Hurricane Harvey, I was so depleted. I felt like I needed to fill my vessel. Self care. I felt that I’d lost my joy. I made a social media challenge for myself and I received so much feedback from that, that people were feeling the same way and that the challenge really helped them. It was good. It was good! Five days into it, I was like, there’s my joy! But I continued on for 30, actually 45 days.
As yoga teachers, we’re not always floating around in a state of bliss. We don’t always have it all together. Nobody’s got it all together. We’re all a work in progress. Yoga is constant maintenance so we don’t get off kilter.
I’m going through a lot of change because of perimenopause. My yoga practice helps me keep an even keel and helps me get back on track. Self-care is what I’m working on in my practice.
Angela is such an asset to our team. Her long-standing practice informs her teaching, and when the stars align and we find time to get together, we have great discussions about each of our unique experiences practicing and teaching yoga. She helps me learn and grow.
Every teacher brings her own style to the studio, and Angela's style is definitely happiness and joy. Come see her at one of the many classes she teaches at The Yoga Room every week:
- Mondays: 10:30 a.m. Gentle and 5:30 p.m. Gentle
- Tuesdays: 9:15 a.m. Moderate
- Wednesdays: 10:30 a.m. Gentle and 5:30 p.m. Gentle
- Thursdays: 9:15 a.m. Moderate
- Fridays: 10:30 a.m. Gentle
We hope to see you soon!