I'm An Inflexible Yoga Teacher - Aleena Raza
I am not flexible. I don’t have a particularly calming presence. My diet is borderline appalling. I am almost the antithesis of what most people think of when they think ‘yoga teacher’ but I am a yoga teacher 4 years running now and nobody could be more surprised than me.
My yoga practice started off in a college required physical education class. A few years later, I maybe took 4 yoga classes a year at the gym I was a member at. I started to go with my best friend to her home studio a few times a month and started to get a taste of what the fuss was about. Like everyone, I knew yoga was supposed to be “good for you” but had no idea what that meant. I rationalized exploring my slight interest in yoga by the cute pants that made your butt look good and because Jennifer Aniston swore by it. So eventually a Groupon (remember those?) for a studio by new apartment brought me to a little space in Deep Ellum.
The room wasn’t very big and didn’t have much to it. The front of the room was mirrored, a few props, and a pink and yellow mural on the back wall of a palace that looked magical. I had no idea that the little room would change my body, mind, and life.
I started to go to Super Yoga Palace because I had a deal for an unlimited month. I kept going because I finally didn’t feel intimidated or self-conscious about not being able to touch my toes much less get into one of those down dog things. The teachers, the students, the music, the vibe-it just made me want to keep at it. My practice went from non existent to decently consistent. I would see a friendly face no matter what time I took a class and my teachers knew my name. I wasn’t a yoga girl but I was a girl going to yoga.
I started doing yoga for the exercise and that was always provided to me. Who knows when the shift started but eventually, I started to get more out of my practice. I am not going to lie and say I became a vegan and was meditating every morning before the sun came up. I did however feel like my body was getting stronger and my mind was more open to ideas I didn’t have any interest in. I wasn’t doing crazy inversions in class but I was able to get into a plank…sort of.
I started to tinker with the notion of becoming a yoga teacher. Jessica and the other instructors made it seem like it wasn’t that crazy of an idea. I wasn’t the best student but I was a student. The kind of student that didn’t do yoga because they didn’t think they they were flexible enough. But I had found a place with folks that made me keep coming back in spite of those limitations I had put on myself. I met other yogis who were making small strides on the mat next to me. The yogis that were in the front of the class straight out of a yoga magazine didn’t scoff when you couldn’t get into wheel, they scooted to your mat and tried to help you into it. I decided I wanted to be a part of that so in 2013, I signed up for teacher training.
I started my teacher training with a program that fit my schedule and budget while continuing to practice at SYP. Teacher training is not 8 hours of yoga a day. There is reading of ancient texts, anatomy, tons of self evaluation with a sprinkle of asana practice. I learned a lot about myself which wasn’t always comfortable and even made a somewhat whole hearted attempt at vegetarianism for a few weeks. My practice at SYP was my lab. I was applying what I learned in the classroom on the mat and my teachers and fellow yogis were overwhelmingly supportive.
I completed my 200 Hour RYT and was offered a teaching position in 2013. I was fortunate enough to be given opportunities to guide classes at several different studios in Dallas and at one point was working full time and teaching 6 classes a week.
When Super Yoga Palace announced that it was reopening in East Dallas, I knew I had try and be a part of it again in some way. I remembered how good it felt to learn there and wanted to see if I could help recreate some of that Deep Ellum magic by the lake. I was fortunate enough to receive a slot on the schedule and every Wednesday, it’s like I am coming hOMe.
In the four years I have been teaching yoga, I have become a much better student. I feel like I am physically stronger than I have ever been. My green juice to cheeseburger ratio is still highly disproportionate (in favor of the cheeseburger because- duh.) but I can touch my toes now. I am still petrified to go upside down but I know walls are your bffs. I learned that you don’t have to practice to Enya because Kanye and LCD Soundsystem are invited to the party too. I learned that not everyone is going to like you or your class but that is ok. I also learned that you’re some people’s favorite and that’s ok too. I still get nervous and talk too fast.
I started teacher training because I wanted to be the kind of yoga teacher for people who didn’t think they could do yoga. I want to the be the teacher that is still learning with you. I want to be the teacher that is ok with saying just because I can’t do it, doesn’t mean you can’t. I want to be the teacher you show up before class for to tell me a funny story or show me a picture of a cute dog.
I don’t take myself or yoga too seriously but I do not take the privilege of being a part of someone’s day lightly. I always end my classes by saying “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do something I love today” because guiding a yoga class is something I truly love doing.
If you haven’t had a chance to come hang out with me and the Wednesday 6pm crew, I hope you do soon! See you on the mat!