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This month, Yoga is our Class of the Month! This month, we chatted with five of our Balance yoga instructors to learn why they love yoga, what their classes are like, and why you should try them out!

What’s your name, where do you teach yoga, and how long have you been teaching?

SF: Shayna Frankel, Balance Gym Capitol Hill. I’ve been teaching yoga for 4 years.

AH: Alexandria Hall, Balance Gym Thomas Circle and Foggy Bottom. I’ve been teaching yoga for 4 years.

RH: Rebecca Holland, Balance Gym Glover Park. I’ve been teaching yoga for almost 4 years.

AW: Amanda Wilson. I’ve been teaching yoga for three years.

BH: Betsy Huffman, Balance Gym Glover Park. I’ve been teaching yoga since 2005.

Tell us about your background – how did you discover yoga, and why did you decide to start teaching?

SF: : I first discovered yoga during a previous career in a very fast paced, stressful setting. After many practices, I realized my true calling was moving away from my current job and towards something more fulfilling. I immediately jumped into teacher training, the practice spoke to me more than anything ever had and I knew that this was the path for me. I started teaching as soon as possible and life has forever changed for the better.

AH: I took yoga in college as an elective and found it exactly what I needed to stay grounded. Then I went to a yoga retreat 5 years later in Costa Rica and realized my purpose in life was to share yoga. I ended up my corporate life cold turkey and here we are. With lots of faith, tears, struggle and joy I’m living my purpose.

RH: I truly discovered yoga at Balance Gym actually, taking Betsy’s classes on Tuesday and Wednesday every week. I started to expand and take more teachers at the gym. I eventually pushed myself to do yoga teacher training just to learn more. I had no intention of teaching when I started on the journey; however, it turns out I did enjoy it. When I was offered a class at the gym I jumped at the chance and have been teaching it ever since.

AW: As a lifelong dancer, I have always connected to movement as a way to manage stress and express myself. In college, a friend introduced me to yoga and it soon became a staple of my daily routine. I decided to start teaching yoga to deepen my practice and increase my understanding of yoga philosophy and anatomy.

BH: I was a competitive swimmer throughout my college career and have worked out ever since. I discovered yoga in the late 1990’s as a perfect way for me to maintain strength and length in addition to working out in the gym, and let go of a little bit of my competitive nature to find balance on and off my yoga mat. I learned so much from that early yoga practice that it led me to want to share the benefits of yoga with as many as I could.

Why do you love yoga?

SF: : I love yoga because it is one of the few places in life where theres no competition, no ego, just a chance to search deep inside learn more about the person you are.

RH: I love yoga because it is moving meditation. You can push yourself or you can take it easier on your body. There is no competition to be the best, just do what is best for you. I was doing Crossfit when I started, so it helped me move on off days and feel like I did something, without it having to be all my energy.

AW: I love yoga because it helps me find peace and balance in a chaotic world. The skills I have learned on my mat, have been immensely transferable to the rest of my life. From the mat, anything is possible.

BH: I love yoga because the work we do on our yoga mats is a perfect metaphor for the work we do in our lives. We put our bodies into difficult and challenging yoga poses and learn to use our breath and our minds to find trust in ourselves and find personal power through them.

Why should people add yoga to their workout routine?

SF: : Yoga is an amazing opportunity for the mind to take a break. Constant thoughts and stress puts a lot of pressure on the mind and body, give yourself time to relax, explore and breath.

RH: I added it as a way to de-stress. Sometimes I would do heavy lifting before and consider it my warm down. And sometimes all I did was yoga and learned a new arm balance or better alignment. It is great, because depending on what you want to get out of the class, usually you just need to adjust your mindset and tell yourself “Today I will just breathe” or set a goal and say “today I will try the challenge pose”. There are always so many options you can take to challenge yourself or to take an active rest that it was perfect for me, and probably perfect for others as well.

AW: Yoga is a great way to compliment other exercise routines. Many rigorous forms of exercise can be taxing on the body; yoga helps recover and restore the body, specifically by focusing on ligaments and connective tissue. Additionally, breath work is one of the most transferable skills fromyoga to other forms of exercise. For example, many runners find that yoga helps them control their breathing better while running and makes their strides longer.

BH: Power yoga is the perfect companion to a lifting regimen because it offers strength, flexibility, balance and most important, strength in length – holding muscle strength at the fullest extension of movement. In a lifting program, muscles tend to get tight with limited range so a good yoga practice gives them room to find a fluid range of power.

What are your yoga classes at Balance like? Why should people come and try it out?

SF: : I teach the Monday night Vinyasa yoga class @ 7:30pm. We work through our practice to link breath and movement and to bridge the gap between the mind and body. My classes are all levels so even if you are a beginner, I welcome you to join us a learn how yoga can positively affect your life.

AH: I teach Soulful Yoga classes. I ask you to open your hearts to change via movement, breathe, Meditation and self awareness.

RH: My classes start out a little slow, but usually I try to have a creative standing sequence in there somewhere. I try to keep it similar enough week to week so everyone can see when their strength or flexibility increases. I cue breath a lot, because I know when I started I held mine a lot, and one of the most important parts of yoga is breathing. I love sequencing, so if students have requests I try to prepare a new sequence to help them open hips or get deeper into the poses they enjoy.

AW: I teach an all levels Vinyasa flow class that emphasizes alignment and breath work. I offer variations of poses so that students can increase or decrease the intensity of their practice. Students can expect to work hard and feel great.

BH: My classes are a blend of strength, balance, and an aerobic challenge. Oh, and they’re fun too! We have an amazing group of Balance yogis.

What’s your number one tip for someone who’s new to yoga, or someone looking to make their practice more challenging?

SF: I would say, “let it go”. Theres no need to compare your ability to others as yoga is not a “one size fits all” type of practice. For someone looking to make the practice more challenging, I offer tons of intermediate and advanced modification options in my classes.

RH: For someone just starting I would say to find a pose that you are comfortable in and pause there whenever you need to. There are no goals. Once you make it to your mat you’ve done all you need to do. For someone looking to challenge themselves, I would tell them to listen as the teacher cues. You can always go deeper into a pose just by small adjustments. We also love to offer our students options, so you can always let your instructor know what you are working on and we will usually try to incorporate it into the class to give you the opportunity to practice.

AW: Continually pause throughout your class to take internal assessments. I recommend that students check in and ask, “How does my breath feel? How does my body feel? How does practice change the way my breath and body feel?” Periodically checking in with yourself during class allows students to cultivate not only a practice of strength, flexibility, and balance, but also one of awareness.

Anything else you think people should know about yoga?

SF: : Yoga is a spiritual journey, in order to get the most out of the practice, approach it with an open mind and an open heart.

AH: Every teacher is different every style is different you will only find the one for you when you start exploring! And when the student is ready, the teacher arrives.

AW: Don’t take yourself or the practice too seriously! Don’t be afraid to push your limits and try something new, yoga is all about self exploration.

BH: Check your ego at the door and be willing to experience yoga as a personal journey. Yogis will learn new poses, breathing techniques and their personal power through challenging poses and great work. We might not get into crow post on the first day of practice but yoga is exactly that, practice!