October 19, 2011

How’s A Grrrl Supposed to Start Teaching Yoga? ~Jennifer Vafakos

Have you ever wanted something so badly it didn’t matter how heavily life was stacked against you? You were determined to make it happen, no matter what the odds, even if you didn’t know how to start, or where your little pet project was going to take you?

Well, that’s how my teacher training started. Though I had been practicing yoga for years and living in the NYC metro area, I had no delusions about leaving a career that I love and making a living off a “way of life” – as yoga has turned out to be for me. All I knew for certain was that I wanted to teach, share my practice and have more yoga in my life.

It seemed simple. The life I had was clear – I work 40 to 50 hours a week in the demanding fashion industry. I can’t teach on a studio’s schedule. I barely made it conscious through the yoga teacher-training certification test with a 102 degree temperature and bronchitis. Who would hire me with no teaching experience and limited time? What’s my resume supposed to look like? It could have been quite stressful, but here is what I figured: my time available is exactly like a lot of others (read: those that need yoga just as much as I do) after work and weekends.

I rented a room, and people showed up, and kept showing up. That always amazed me. With little or no publicity, marketing or campaigning, my little Hoboken community has supported me, despite serious hurdles. Some friends started a website because they realized how computer, Facebook, Twitter and blog-backwards I am. I soon learned.

The room I used was, admittedly, a little run-down. There’s no electricity, there are holes in the floors and no paint on the walls, but that’s not a problem. We did candlelight and sunrise yoga. The bathroom was locked sometimes, but I never leave home without a Phillips flat head (don’t ask why this is always with me). Heck, I even used the “bumps” in a few of my class dharma talk (opening intent monologue.)

Some of the best classes I ever took were at a run-down lower east side studio. It was the energy of the people in the room not how pretty the studio was.

So, what now? I am thinking of embarking on a 500-hour teacher training. Where does it all go? Not sure, but the space and time between is the energy that sustains and has brought nothing but love into my life! Time to move on.



Jennifer is the co-creator of Yoga Shakti. Through fortuitous events, she stepped into her first yoga class on the Lower East Side of Manhattan at Bhava Community Center almost 10 years ago and fell in love with the sweaty and energetic vibe (not her mother’s yoga or her classical ballet background but much more). After a painful and prolonged diagnosis and treatment for endometriosis, she learned how yoga could help to heal ongoing physical pain. She looks to inject healing, laughter, playfulness and fun as well as dance, dance dance into her practice and classes. Jennifer’s philosophy is: yoga is a practice, but it is also a way of life. She is blessed by the many fabulous teachers around NYC and continues to learn from them. Read more about her endeavors at: www.yogashaktipower.org

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