Yogi Profile: Emily
It's only fitting that we start our Hot26 Yogi Profiles with our fearless leader, Emily! After a super busy opening week, Emily sat down on her mat with her breakfast of banana bread and answered some questions about herself and her personal yoga journey.
When did you discover yoga?
It was 1997 and I was 19. I hurt my back in a car accident and my doctor sent me to "back school"- which was really just physical therapy. During one of my sessions, my physical therapist suggested that I try yoga to help strengthen my core. Yoga at my local gym was my first experience because that's all we had in our little town in southern Utah. I liked it. I was a gymnast and a dancer growing up and that's what I normally used for my workout- so I enjoyed yoga because it reminded me of both. But it was just another fun workout- and that's really all it was to me at the time. I used yoga and pilates to lose weight after each of my pregnancies.
Has it always been Bikram?
No. It was just Vinyasa and Yin yoga in the beginning. We didn't have a yoga studio in my small town back then, so for a long time, I just used my mom's Rodney Yee dvd's (there was no you-tube at the time) and practiced from home. I discovered Bikram Yoga in 2014. I had been having really bad anxiety. I'd tried tapping and meditation, which helped, but didn't relieve it completely. One day I walked by a hot yoga studio in Sunrise Village and decided I wanted to try it- but I didn't go for a long time because I was too afraid. I was a lot heavier and had not been working out at all for a few years. I had gotten busy homeschooling my 4 kids and had lost myself in motherhood. When I'd gone back to visit my hometown a few years before, I noticed they had a hot yoga studio there- and so it had kind of been in the back of my mind for a while. I'd mentioned that I wanted to try it to my parents- and then a few weeks later my mom and dad told me they went to a class and really enjoyed it. After they told me how much they loved it, I was like, if my parents can do hot yoga and make it through, then I can go...so I just went.
The first class I only made it through 20 minutes.
I made it to Eagle pose and I left.
The first class I only made it through 20 minutes. I made it to Eagle pose and I left. I hated it- and I swore I'd never go back. It was hard. It was really hard. I couldn't breathe. The heat was so intense I felt like I was suffocating... and I couldn't understand my teacher's instructions because she had a really thick accent. So, I grabbed my mat and got out of there. As I was walking out the door, Paula, she was one of the teachers there, said to me, "Be sure to come back within 24 hours or it will be like starting all over again!" I was like, whatever- I'm never coming back to this place, and I went home. That night I slept better than I could remember, since before I had children, and my anxiety was gone. So I decided I had to go back! So I went back... every day for two years! I never missed a day of practice because I was afraid of having to start all over again. And I didn't want to suffer again like I did in that first class! If I missed a day of doing it it in the hot room, I did it at home.
Do you remember the first time you got through the whole routine in the hot room?
Oooh... ummm... I did my second day. Yeah, the second time I did it I paced myself a little better, but three weeks later I signed up for teacher training. (laughing) So... that was it!
How long have you wanted to own your own studio?
Since my teacher training. I instantly fell in love with teaching yoga- like it was what I was born to do.
So since 2014. You've been very patient! Have other opportunities come up?
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah...
But this was the one.
Yup! Last February I had actually signed a contract for a place in southern Utah to open a studio there. That's when I designed my logo, and then when we went to work out the details for the house that we were gonna move into there it just didn't feel right, and so I just kinda backed away from everything and I said, it's not, it's not right. My husband was like, again? And I was like, sorry honey, I'll know when it's right. So we stayed and that's when I turned to my husband and said, I don't know what I'm going to do now. I'd already quit my job. And there was no way I was going back. So he said, well, let's start with what we have. We'll do it here at the house. And I was like, nobody's gonna want to come to my house and do teacher training or yoga, you're nuts! And he said, yes they will. They will. They'll come. You've got enough people that know who you are and what you have to offer. They'll come. So we just went for it and they just showed up! Like you. (laughter) They just showed up.
How is your yoga teacher training different from what else is available?
Well there isn't any other teacher training available in Puyallup or surrounding areas. The closest one is Covington. The difference I think that I really have to offer in my teacher training is that my teachers graduate and are ready to teach. In my first teacher training that I attended, um, well actually it was my second training. My first training was online before I actually went to my first in-person teacher training. At the time I thought I could pull it off because I'd been doing yoga for long enough that I knew the postures- so I thought I could learn what I needed to be able to teach a class through an online course. But I came out of that and I didn't understand anything about teaching yoga. Although I learned a lot about yoga philosophy, it didn't prepare me at all to teach a class. So I decided to do an in-person training. I only made it through 6 weeks of that training because my dad passed away, and I had to leave and go back to southern Utah. After that training I didn't know how to teach either. I had almost completed the training- and only had three weekends left, but at that point we hadn't done any teaching, it was all just posture clinic and information. The most common feedback I heard from graduates of teacher trainings was that they did not know how to teach a class upon completion of their teacher training. They spent thousands of dollars on teacher training and had no clue how to teach.
So, when I decided to open my school, I decided my main focus was going to be getting them studio ready so that they would be able to teach the day they graduated. So that's really the difference between my training and other trainings. Most other trainings, if you're lucky, you're able to teach maybe 1 or 2 postures a few times throughout the whole training. So from the first day of my training they are up and teaching an entire class. I'm there with them every step of the way- guiding them and helping them and coaching them with their dialogue and with their presentation so that they can gradate and get a job, because that's what I wanted from my training, but didn't get. It's a very personal approach that I've taken, kind of like a personal coaching process so that my students are ready to get a job and start a new career at graduation.
I feel like I'm on a path where if I'm right here where I'm at in 20 years I'll be totally happy. It's a good place to be.
Favorite yoga position?
I could eat cheese all day. All day. Cheese is my favorite
Anastasia from the Ringing Cedars series.
Rise Up by Andra Day is my favorite one right now.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years I see myself teaching yoga and raising my kids, just like I am right now.
And you plan on being this hands on all the way through?
I do. I want to be hands on. I feel like I can only be a good teacher if I'm teaching. I can only teach other teachers to teach if I'm teaching. And taking. I feel like I'm on a path where if I'm right here where I'm at in 20 years I'll be totally happy. It's a good place to be.
There's a ton of people I talk to about yoga who say, "Oh. I've always wanted to try yoga!" but they haven't gotten their butts into the studio yet, mostly because they're afraid or intimidated. What do you want to say to those people?
You just have to start. I was afraid. I was intimidated. If my 70 year old dad can get his butt into a hot studio and get through a class then anyone can. I have a student in her 70's in Olympia that comes faithfully. She looks really young and youthful because she's been doing yoga. Being afraid of something is never an excuse to not do it. There are so many things in my life that I haven't done because I've gotten in my own way, so I just say get out of your own way. Get out of your way and just let yourself try it. What's the worst thing that could happen? You're going to take the class, you're going to hate it, maybe, and you're never going to do it again. But you tried it. And I think a lot of people think that they already have to be good at something before they do it for the first time. To me I feel like the people that start something and discipline themselves enough to do it every day are the ones that get the greatest rewards.
Besides my anxiety, the other reason I started yoga was because one day I went to go pick up my 6 year old son and threw my back, my core was so weak at the time, and I was in bed for a week. I couldn't move I was in so much pain. When I finally, literally, just crawled into the chiropractor's office and got adjusted so I could stand up again I said to myself, "I'm 34. I don't want this to be the rest of my life." I was a dancer and a gymnast, and I'd always been extremely mobile. When I was little I cartwheeled everywhere, I didn't walk anywhere! So being that young and thinking there was a possibility that this was it for me- that I was just going to get older and more out of shape- was not a pleasant thought. I thought, am I never going to be as mobile as I was when I was younger? I can't imagine not being able to do cartwheels when I'm 34 or not be able to pick my kids up without being in pain. At that moment, I remember thinking, nobody in this world cares more about my health than I do, and nobody is more responsible for my health than I am. I don't want to be a burden to my children. I don't want to be that person. I want to be able to play with my grandkids. I want to be able to enjoy my life, so I have to do something right now.
My advice to people would be take it one breath at a time, one step at a time.
So I started with committing to myself that every time I thought something negative about myself, like "I'm too out of shape, or too busy, or I can't afford a gym membership, or I can't do it" that I would do something right then. Every time I thought, "Oh, I'm fat or Oh, I'm out of shape" I would stop and hold plank. For 10 seconds or however long I could hold it for. Or go against a wall and hold chair pose or do squats. So it kind of became a thing where when I was doing dishes I was doing squats in my kitchen. Or after I'd brush my teeth I would do plank. From those little tiny efforts, I lost 30 lbs, and I started feeling better about myself. And it's not like I was doing an hour workout. It was just throughout the day I was stopping to take care of myself for just a second, even if it was just a minute, and it changed my life because I realized yes, I can do it. It's just going to take one step at a time.
And then after I started my yoga practice it turned into, I can do life one posture at a time, one breath at a time, and so it didn't seem so overwhelming anymore. My advice to people would be take it one breath at a time, one step at a time. Even if you can't make it into a full yoga class, do something for yourself that's going to be beneficial to your future instead of just having those negative thoughts about what you can't do.
Interview and Photography by: Michelle Buck Photography