This week I had the pleasure of chatting with Bridgid about her practice and her teaching. I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did!
When did you start practicing yoga?
In 2005 when I lived in Boston. At that time I was a public school orchestra teacher and I had no time for myself. I’d gotten out of shape and had low energy, and I really wanted to get into shape and create a routine of taking care of myself, but I didn’t want to join a gym.
There was a power yoga studio near where I lived in Boston. And at that time i didn’t realize that there are different styles of yoga, so I just went and they were 90 minute, 95 degree classes. And they were sweaty and crazy and hot.
When I first started I looked around and asked myself, “Why are these people doing this to themselves?” And after the first couple of weeks I noticed physical changes and changes in the way I felt and the choices I was making in terms of what I was putting into my body, and I just got addicted.
How did your practice evolve from there?
Well, I only did these power yoga 90 minute classes at this studio, which I loved, and I did work study, because I couldn’t afford to do a regular class pass. I was going 4-5 times per week, and that was until 2007, when I moved to New York.
While I was still living in Boston I had seen (New York-based yoga teacher) Tara Stiles in magazines and such, and when I realized that she had a studio that was a 10 minute train ride from my apartment, I wanted to go and check her out because I liked what she stood for.
I had never even really heard of a yogalebrity before and I thought it would be neat to go and try her classes, and that was where yoga really clicked for me. I realized that yoga didn’t need to be quite so rigid. I had a new-found freedom and I realized that yoga could simultaneously be a really strong practice and at the same time I could learn how to soften and find that balance between the ease and the effort - the sthira and sukha - and that was where the magic happened for me. Then I was hooked.
My practice, like most people’s, has ebbed and flowed a lot. I’ve been through some pretty hard times where I got away from yoga, then when I got back to yoga it helped me find my way out of those difficulties. [Strala] has been my style of yoga since 2007.
Why do you practice yoga?
I just can’t not practice yoga. (laughs). It is who I am and it helps me be a better person, on so many different levels. It helps me be more connected to the community around me, and to the earth, and to myself, and… yeah. I just can’t not do it. I can’t imagine not having yoga in my life.
Yoga is not just my hour on the mat every day, or a few times a week; I feel like I LIVE my yoga. I practice yoga when I’m brushing my teeth, I practice yoga when I’m playing with my dog. Everything I do. I practice yoga when I’m doing the dishes and moving around the kitchen with ease and mindfulness and using my whole self.
I find that after having practiced so long, I almost can’t remember how I was before. And I have a hard time putting my finger on exactly what the benefits are that I’ve experienced, because they’ve fully integrated by now. Is your experience the same?
Yes, the benefits are integrated. But I do remember the transition. I remember when all of a sudden I didn’t crave junk food. I craved kale. I craved healthy foods. And that was sooo new for me, because before that I ate junk. I was not a healthy eater. I ate whatever was convenient and fast and packaged. And as someone who has struggled with eating disorders, that was huge for me, that I could make healthy choices with my food and not feel bad about what I had just put into my body. And communication and relationships and practicing the pause and being kinder to myself so that I could be kinder with other people.
What does your practice consist of now?
I really, really love practicing in studios because I love the connection to other human beings. I do travel a fair amount and I love to go to studios in other cities to see what they’re doing and what the culture and community is like there.
My practice has a holistic approach - it’s my breath, it’s my meditation, it’s the movement, it’s moving in harmony with myself and practicing that kindness and connection. But there are days or even weeks that I don’t get on my mat, and that’s ok. I don’t feel like I haven’t practiced yoga just because I haven’t done a certain prescribed number of down dogs in any particular week (laughs). I LIVE yoga - all eight limbs and a whole person approach.
How do you maintain your motivation for your practice?
Everybody has had days, and I talk to people who come in to my classes about this too - some days it’s really hard, like if it’s rainy or if you didn’t sleep well the night before, or it’s too cold, or it’s too hot, and you just don’t want to get off your couch and go to the studio to practice. You NEVER regret going to yoga. You NEVER regret going to practice. And I still have those days where I’m just ugh, I just can’t.
And there have been days when I go into a friend’s class feeling really tired and exhausted, and I’ll get moving with whoever is guiding the class and I’ll feel fantastic and I’ll do everything and then some, not realizing that I had it in me. And then conversely, there are days where I thought I was feeling really high energy and pumped to go to class, then 10 minutes into it I’m done and I’ll just lie in savasana for the rest of the class and just breathe. But I always feel better afterward.
So that’s my motivation, that no matter how I’m feeling beforehand, I know I’m going to get what I need from my practice by tuning into myself and tuning out the rest of world for an hour or 15 minutes or 20 minutes or whatever it is.
What part of your practice do you gain the most from?
Can I say savasana? (laughs)
Actually, it’s the same thing in my own practice as what I guide in my classes. The centering and the three breaths that I lead (or practice) at the beginning and the end. It’s the softening and the tuning out and tapping into myself. It doesn’t matter what kind of movements happen in between the beginning and the end. It’s those three breaths. And sometimes that’s my yoga practice for the day, taking those three breaths and becoming softer and more in-tune and connected.
What made you want to become a yoga teacher?
I knew pretty much from the beginning. That first week when I began practicing yoga I would look around and wonder why these people were torturing themselves like that, but then it clicked I was like, “Oh, this is amazing and I have to share it with the world!” And I started recruiting friends and boyfriends and anybody I knew to come do yoga. I was a yoga evangelist and I really knew that I wanted to share it.
But when I moved to New York there was no time to commit to yoga teacher training. I was always either on tour or otherwise had too much going on and I couldn’t guarantee or carve out however much time it was going to take to do the training, and I didn’t have the money to do the training.
So finally, 10 years after I started practicing, everything came together so that I could. And I’m actually really glad that it took that long. Because I think I needed that 10 years of life experience and yoga practice to feel like I could actually feel confident sharing it with people in that way.
I think that things fall into place the way they’re meant to. I rode the waves until they put me where I needed to be. And I’m really glad that it worked out that way.
But to get back to why I wanted to become a yoga teacher, I knew how I felt after practice, especially if it was a class with a super inspiring teacher, or somebody who gave me the space to really be free, and I wanted to give other people that same experience, that same feeling.
When did you start teaching?
In 2015. August 2 will be my 3rd anniversary.
What are your main objectives in your teaching?
My only objective is to help people feel free and easy to move in their own body, to move in their own body the way it feels good to move. Because I think that in every other aspect of our lives we’re so boxed in (well, for the most part - some people are really fortunate not to be - but for the most part we’re boxed in) with rules and regulations and “this is the only way” to do this particular thing. And to give people the space to be creative and really connect with themselves and move how it feels good on any given day is really important to me.
When the body feels free, how does that link to the mind?
It unblocks neural pathways. When you get out of your own head and you’re just moving with your breath and your body you become more primal in a way. It’s more animal and less mechanical. That fires up new connections that had been blocked off before. Because the mind closes off doors that it doesn’t see as possibilities.
It creates a stronger connection to self. That is Strala, connecting with yourself, and not being tied to somebody else’s idea of what yoga should be. I don’t know what it’s like to be in your body, so who am I to tell you to roll your hip this way? That might not be the way it’s working for you today. Everything is connected and fluid and that allows you to connect with yourself. Through yoga, you realize that you’re in charge of what your body is doing.
What are you currently working on in your practice or as a teacher?
In general, cutting out superfluous, unnecessary stuff. Cutting out poses that are just fancy party tricks. Cutting out language from my teaching that doesn’t benefit the people in my class. Sometimes it’s hard for me not to make jokes (chuckles) but even that, it’s not my place to do that in a class because it might not serve everybody in the class. BUT I also just have to be who I am, and true to that. I’m finding that balance, because I’m not there to entertain.
Finding the cleanest, clearest language is super important, so I’ve been working on doing that and cutting out unnecessary words, and in my practice, cutting out any stuff that doesn’t serve.
A friend of mine posted a pretty picture of something yesterday and her caption was, “If it doesn’t serve the flow, it’s got to go.” And I thought that was really great and it’s true. And it sort of sums up what I’ve been thinking in my practice and in my teaching, just getting rid of stuff that’s not necessary. And actually, in life, too.
Practice with Bridgid!
Join Bridgid for a Strala-inspired Strong practice at The Yoga Room:
- Mondays 9: 15 a.m. Strong
- Tuesdays 6:45 a.m. Strong
- Thursdays 6:45 a.m. Strong
- Fridays 9: 15 a.m. Strong
All the best!