“I believe that you convey your ideas by the authenticity of your being. Not by glibly telling someone what to do or how to do it… Good teaching is merely having an encounter with someone who has an idea of what life is that you admire and want to emulate.” -Milton Glaser
I first stumbled into one of Stephanie’s classes years ago—unaware that this moment on the mat with her would change my life. If authenticity of being is the backbone of being a great teacher, Stephanie stands taller than the sky. Her yoga practice reflects her life practice, with rigorous thoughtful sequences, grace, and humor, and gritty dharma talk. Classes are designed to get movers so sweaty that they’re ready to let go and available to drop into a grounded internal space. This space changes everything.
Having spent many hours sweating with Stephanie, it is clear that what she teaches is who she is. There is something completely transformative about learning from a teacher who fully embodies her craft and values. The ripple effect of Stephanie’s teaching goes well beyond the mat and deep into the soul.
That first class with Stephanie lead me down a path towards Yoga Teacher Training, teaching and starting a pop-up yoga company, and ultimately on this incredible journey of co-founding MoveWith.
The MoveWith team was lucky enough to sit down with her before the holidays to learn more about who she is and what teaching means to her.
What’s the first thing you ate this morning?
I haven’t eaten – I’m juicing right now. I try to juice one or two days a week, but usually it’s partial, for instance I’ll juice all day and then I’ll have dinner. I can’t go completely without food. Juicing gives my body a nice rest. I travel a lot, so it’s a good reset for my system.
Do you have a spirit animal?
Oh, I wish my spirit animal were an elephant, but I cannot confirm that. However I did have a run in with a giant mountain lion. I was in a car, but it was such a specific kind of encounter that it seemed like a spirit animal situation. But when I researched it – I wasn’t that stoked, ha. They’re very fiery and quick-tempered, so I wasn’t that thrilled about it. Either it’s not my spirit animal or maybe the yoga is just working.
Elephant is my favorite animal. They mate for life, they stay close to family, they take care of each other as a community. They’re so giant but so gentle, they’re very very smart, they remember faces…there’s nothing about an elephant that I don’t love. And Ganesha is the elephant deity in yoga philosophy. He is the remover of obstacles. He helps keep you on the path, and he has a sweet tooth- so it’s a win/win.
What was your path into teaching?
I spent a lot of my life not connected to anything real or meaningful, and I hit a big turning point where I had a waking up moment. I was starting to get really into yoga as a practitioner, but I had no intention of teaching yoga. I went to a teacher training just to do more yoga. As soon as I graduated from the program someone said, “Oh my friend has a studio, they need a teacher, they don’t care if you’re new,” and I thought, “Okay, as long as they don’t care that I don’t really know what I’m doing.” And then it happened again and again, and then people started to come and I started to think, “I better know what I’m talking about here.” So I went to get more training and more training. The more I learned about the practice the happier I became – and then next thing you know, here we are. That was almost twenty years ago. I’m indebted to those students who came back to my class when I was a new teacher. They pushed me to be better.
What was your job before?
It was a sales job, and it was okay, but I think once I had that waking up moment where I really valued my life and the short time that I have here I really felt compelled to do something significant with it.
Why do you love to teach?
At this point the teaching is as much of my spiritual practice as me getting on my mat myself. As a teacher I always feel kind of guilty when people come up and they thank me for class because I wonder how they could ever have possibly gotten more out of the experience than I did. Teaching really fills my cup. It took me a long time to get there, though. In the beginning when you’re a new teacher you’re really trying so hard to do the right thing and say the right thing and it can be exhausting. I feel grateful I’ve been able to do it long enough that I can really just reap the benefits of giving. I don’t get that same sort of hit doing anything else, except maybe being with my kids.
What is your MoveWith word and why?
My MoveWith word is reverence. Before yoga I had this illusion that I could control everything and that sort of false notion caused me a lot of suffering. One of the benefits of the practice for me in particular as sort of a Type A, neurotic person is I got to learn how to be still and be quiet and turn in, and instead of trying to influence the outer world so much, I was able to become an observer and a listener and a witness. It was through that practice that I was able to realize that there’s something greater than myself, and that gave me trust in life. It gave me faith that life is generous and giving, and that softened me into a place of awe and wonder and reverence for the beauty that’s all around. Now I can actually soften into whatever is in a way that really carries me in the right direction.
What advice do you have for a new teacher?
I think the best advice I would give to other teachers would be to stay connected to the aspect that you fell in love with first. And always be a student first of this thing that you love. As a yoga practitioner I would say you have to stay connected to your own personal practice and to a teacher. That way, the flow continues. You can’t keep giving if there’s nothing coming in, so there has to be some kind of balance there. And also, just have fun, don’t take yourself too seriously. That’s a really big part of it. Share what you love for the love of it and the rest will come.
Who is your favorite teacher?
I have lots of teachers. I’ve always been very closely connected to a teacher and for the last decade Dharma Mittra has been my heart teacher. I think he’s the one who broke the practice open for me in an emotional way and in a devotional way. I also work very closely with Tias Little, a friend and a brilliant teacher. I study a lot of Iyengar yoga even though I teach Vinyasa. I also study philosophy with Nicolai Bachman and Douglas Brooks. And I do a lot of self study, too. Every single day I contemplate something from the sacred texts whether I’m teaching or not because it informs my life in a positive way.
How are you active outside of yoga?
I love chanting and Kirtan so I’m always down for that. Singing is a big part of my practice. I have been doing other exercise lately, actually, which I’ve enjoyed. I really like Bodyrok, which is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s on a modified Pilates reformer machine but it’s really fast moving for 30 seconds at a time. It’s based on muscle exhaustion. It’s so hard but it’s only 45 minutes and you’re done, which I like because I have kids.
Most of what I do outside of yoga has to do with just being with my kids and being at parks and going to their school functions and lots of sports in our lives, so I’m always at a sports event with my kids. I have two boys, they’re four and eight. The eight year old plays soccer, ice hockey and baseball. So it’s a lot of that.
Do your kids do yoga?
The older one really enjoys the philosophy. He knows all the deities and all the stories. He’ll correct you if you say something incorrect – he’s super into it and he’s the meditator. My younger one really likes the Asana. He just really took to it right away. I never push it – they’ll find it on their own. It’s part of our lifestyle; it’s around.
What song is your guilty pleasure?
Anything by Queen. Queen is my all time favorite band ever. And of course Rancid. My husband is one of the lead singers for Rancid, so I love that. Adele. Her new album is ridiculous. It’s so haunting. I love her.
What are you excited about for the new year?
I don’t set goals. I’m just not a goal person. But I have visions and they’re just generally for greatness all around. That’s it. Always just plan for great amazing things to happen. This is the year that we’re just going to go big as a community, and more than ever I feel like there’s no reason to hold anything back. Let’s go there all the way, all together, and that’s my mood for 2016.