Eliza’s Thoughts on Props Month: “This month is one of my favorites. O2 does a great job of regularly incorporating props even when they’re not the focus of the month. But this month gives ‘permission’ to experiment with props where normally you might not take advantage of them. As a teacher, it reminds me to be specific and clear about the purpose and positioning of any prop we’re using – what is it accomplishing? How does a student know if they might want to incorporate a prop?”
Eliza has her sister to thank for getting her into this “yoga thing.” It was back in 2013 and all Eliza really wanted to do was hang with her sibling and agreeing to meet up for a class turned out to be the most efficient way for that to happen. “I admit I was an initially skeptic recruit,” Eliza recalled. “I didn’t feel like a particularly graceful or flexible mover, I hated spandex…” But over time, she got hooked: the experience of being in the room with others there, like her, to breathe and just be, was humbling and connecting. “It fostered a sense of bodily awareness that I hadn’t even realized I’d been missing. I love that yoga shattered easy assumptions about our bodies and what is within reach. And it commanded my full attention, absorbing me completely in a way that few endeavors do,” Eliza said, adding, “I’ve even turned the corner on spandex — let’s face it, it’s really comfortable!”
Not long after she got into the swing of yoga, Eliza started seeking a home base for her practice, wanting something that would help her understand the logic behind the sequences being taught. “O2 immediately fit the bill with its progressive sequencing and informative specific cues,” she said. Not only did Eliza settle into O2 as her place to practice, she also got involved in our community by taking on a workstudy role, eventually managing the cleaning crew at our Cambridge location. She added a calm, steady, thoughtful voice to our team and we couldn’t have been more psyched when she said the words we always hope our regulars will say: “I’m thinking about doing Teacher Training…” To this day, Eliza’s application for TT is one of our favorites, offering poignant and inspiring reasons for wanting to take this transformative leap of faith. Namely, she expressed how teaching had once been a central part of her professional life in the healthcare field, but over time, her work shifted away from teaching and she realized how much she missed watching people grow and change, which helped her grow and change as a result. “I became increasingly convinced that the skills and awareness cultivated in the yoga studio could be powerfully applied within a healthcare setting, where staff have few opportunities to digest the hardship and loss that they witness on a daily basis,” Eliza said. “I embarked on teacher training with the immediate hopes of being back in a teaching role, but with a long-term ambition to incorporate this into my professional life in the healthcare world.”
So far, so good.
Eliza continues to bring that steady, calm, focused vision to our community and to her classes. Despite her hectic work-life where she spends a great deal of time traveling around the country meeting with folks from different health systems as a means to understand patient care in a proactive, longitudinal, and holistic manner, she is committed to her teaching, always striving to learn more about herself through the power of yoga. Thank you, Eliza, for being such a fantastic member of Team O2 — thank you for reminding us that there is always something beautiful to learn.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from Mimi?
“Community matters. It nourishes and sustains us.”
What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from teaching?
“Be vulnerable and real with your students. This is a lesson I took from a mentor at a past job, but I think it applies equally to yoga teaching. Yoga can have a high barrier to entry. It’s expensive. It can feel like an insiders club, meant for certain types of bodies but not others. It demands students do things with their minds, bodies and breath that we don’t cultivate in many other aspects of our day-to-day lives. I think students are making themselves vulnerable by walking in the door and deciding to take a class, and we can honor that by doing the same as teachers. Vulnerability as a teacher can manifest in many different ways – a willingness to teach something you’ve never taught before, having a sense of humor when class doesn’t go exactly the way you planned, or being able to allow space for each student to take something different away from the experience. In my mind, vulnerability is a precursor to being fully present in a class. We will all have days (or weeks or months) where we can’t open up like that. But I think it’s worth it to challenge ourselves to do so when we can, and make sure that as teachers, we’re offering up the same vulnerability that we’re asking of students.”
What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from your fellow O2 teachers?
“Generosity of spirit. The teachers at O2 show up for each other, offer each other thoughtful feedback and continued inspiration.”
What’s your favorite pose to teach?
“Crane. It’s a pose where you regularly get to see the joy of firsts – whether first time holding the balance, or first time jumping back from crane into chaturanga.”
What’s your favorite pose to do?
“Supported bridge toward the end of class. O2 is a pretty vigorous style of yoga, and I like the opportunity to be still and be supported. Another favorite is bharadvajasana with the cleansing feeling of a good twist.”
What’s your “dream pose”?
“Pressing up from crane into a handstand.”
Do you play music in class?
“Depends. I play music in Basics classes more often than I do in Intermediate. When I was a new yoga student, I found music to be helpful in quieting my mind. The steady drumbeat of ujjayi breath without music to soften it was initially intimidating and distracting. With time, as I became more comfortable and adept at attuning to my own body, I felt I had the mental bandwidth to begin focusing more on my breath without the aid of music. Everyone experiences this differently though, so I try to mix it up and give students the opportunity to experience classes with and without music.”