Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Getting to Know You: Alissa Kossar

We are so excited to have added five brand new teachers to our regular schedule this spring, so we wanted to take a moment to introduce you to each of them.
Today, meet the bright and bubbly Alissa Kossar.  Alissa had been doing yoga for about five or six years without great regularity, before her sister brought her to her favorite yoga studio, O2.  “At first I was hesitant and secretly hoping I wouldn’t like it, as I sometimes like to be Alissa_supta badha konasanacontrarian with things my sister likes, but I quickly found that was impossible,” Alissa admitted.  Thanks to what she recalls as “the warmth and skill of the teachers, the unique and challenging style, and the kind, encouraging community,” she quickly felt very at home — and became part of our family, joining our workstudy team in Cambridge and emerging as one of our favorite smiling faces in class.
So imagine our delight when Alissa casually mentioned one day that she was thinking about doing Mimi’s 200-Hour Teacher Training program.  We got pretty excited.  Our program is a very intense and practical undertaking that is ideal for students who are already very involved at the studio.  It’s a deep dive into the how’s and why’s of the O2 style, so being familiar with our classes and really loving them is a key element in getting the most out of TT.  So for a student like Alissa, we were thrilled to see she wanted to take her practice to that next level. As she puts it, “I wanted to experience my practice in multiple ways and see it through more lenses in order to deepen my personal understanding and practice of yoga in an environment of care and warmth.”  She came into the training with a dream to one day own a children and family yoga studio — a place where families could find a community to help center and ground themselves — and obtaining her 200-hour certification was a big first step towards that goal.
What surprised her, though, was how much she enjoyed creating and teaching O2-style sequences to adults.  “I realized that one of the reasons I enjoyed practicing at O2 so much is because of the way the teachers here have helped me deepen my practice within a regular class, and I hope through my teaching I’m able to connect with my students and spread that community, kindness, and feeling of accomplishment within themselves.  So I continue to teach!” she said.
As a new instructor, Alissa’s benefited from some great advice and gotten some helpful feedback, including a gentle reminder that everyone’s practice is an individualized experience — which helped her relax when she got in front of the room to teach. “I would get nervous that I would forget something and it would ruin the class, or that the students were listening and watching and maybe judging everything I said or every choice I made. But they really aren’t. People show up for themselves, just as I do when I practice. This advice helped me step outside myself a little and remove that bit of self-centeredness that made me so nervous when I taught, and I think made me a better guide to those who show up for themselves,” she said.  As long as she’s teaching a thoughtful sequence, the rest will work itself out.  This reassures her when she steps to the front of the room to start class and helps her enjoy the time spent with her students — and it’s a lesson that she can apply to life outside of teaching yoga, too.
In related fashion, Mimi also gave Alissa some advice that has made a big difference:  “She told me that if nothing else, try to give as much kindness and love as possible. There is so much dirt in the world, and one of our roles as a yoga teacher (and person, one could argue!), is to try to balance that out and bring positivity to the students that come to class, be a source of encouragement and support for them, and make sure you help set up an environment to make sure they feel better after class than they did before it. I love this simple and accessible philosophy for teaching and living, and I think it’s one of my favorite pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten!”  Setting the stage for an uplifting, empowering, and peaceful experience invites anyone entering the space to absorb those vibes and intentions and hopefully reciprocate and honor the inherent compassion therein.Alissa_vashystasana
Clearly, Alissa got a lot out of our Teacher Training program and her transition onto the regular O2 schedule.  As a fresh graduate, what advice does she have to offer anyone considering making the leap to enroll in TT? Besides, yes, it’s wonderful, go do it, Alissa has this very practical take on that decision-making process:  “Think about why they want to do it. Do you want to learn how to teach a creative and balanced yoga class? Do teacher training. Do you want to deepen your understanding of what yoga is, what it is built on, what it encompasses, and so much more? Do teacher training. Do you want to challenge yourself and take your asana practice further? Do teacher training. Do you want to yoga nerd out with other yoga nerds? Do teacher training.”  While it can seem like a nerve-wrecking, daunting undertaking, it’s a fantastic opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and see how, as the weekends of training go by, you acclimate more and more to the challenges presented in TT until they feel like the incredibly fun adventure that they are.
When Alissa isn’t at the studio, she’s working at an early childhood education center on her path to becoming a pediatric occupational therapist — just like her TT Class of 2017 cohort, Sarah Coombs — and is in the process of writing some children’s books.  She also loves communing with nature, having hiked the entire 2,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail, and is currently planning to hike Long Trail in Vermont. And, of course, she adores playtime with her cat.
Welcome to the team, Alissa!  We are so looking forward to watching you grow as a teacher and practioner.  Students, you can join Alissa for 8:30am Basics in Somerville every Friday morning.  For her full teaching schedule this week, click here.

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