I love her classes because, on top of giving me arms of steel (well, it’s been at least a month since I’ve gone so the steel is starting to soften a little), she does amazing things for my head. I’m even trying to put together a private class just for me and my friends (Wouldn’t that be cool to do once a week?).
Yeah, a lot of my favorite yoga teachers have pretty great stories (Like did you know Tim, my friend and translator who has worked with me for 5 years, is a yoga teacher in Seattle now?), because it’s not the kind of job you get unless you really want it.
So here’s Bethany’s journey to becoming my favorite yoga teacher!
What exactly is your job?
I am first and foremost a yoga instructor. That’s my number one love and my passion.
I am also a coordinator for three different Crunch clubs in New York City. I manage the instructors, scheduling, anything fitness related. I also do hiring or help with some of the hiring, particularly the yoga instructors.
Then, I also work for SoulCycle. I am the only original standing instructor there.
You were a dancer before right? How did yoga come into the picture?
Yes, I was originally dancing with a ballet company in Philadelphia, in addition to working a couple of other jobs. I had a rehearsal that was cancelled but it was one of those days where I showed up and was really ready to go. The woman that worked at reception suggested a yoga studio around the corner.
The class instructor just totally kicked my ass and I thought, “Oh this is great!” After that, I was there almost daily.
When did you know you wanted to start teaching yoga?
About six months in, the owner of that studio asked me if I wanted to do a training program–it was one-on-one for three months. I thought it’d be a great complement to what I did and then I could teach classes on the side. But it just ended up becoming what I really loved.
I was working as a marketing director in New York and I would teach in the morning and I would teach during lunchtime, and I would teach after work. I had two full-time jobs because I wanted to teach so much and then eventually I became a coordinator.
There are so many types of yoga out there, I’ve tried a lot and yours is my favorite. It’s very physical, but not repetitive and pretty fun! What’s it called and why is it your favorite?
The Baptiste method is all about physicalness in practice, possibility–in your practice but also just in your life, as well as empowerment. It’s the combination of the driving force of the philosophy of it, the structure from which we go from; so there’s an outline but it’s not so strict.
For me I want some movement, I want to channel some energy and I need to move a little bit before I can be still. Also and the heat your body generates is just awesome–it’s awesome for your body. Concentration-wise, I can’t be anywhere else except in that room. There’s no option. So it really lets you dial in.
Yoga isn’t supposed to be about competition—but sometimes you can feel the competition in the room. How do you fight that in your classes? Do you yourself fight to not be competitive?
Competition is supposed to be a healthy thing. But it ends up bringing down people in a way that is not healthy. So it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you–we all have that thought. But in recognizing the fact that this is you and that’s just your ego and having a sense of humor about it. When you’re in it you can just kind of notice it, but as you notice it, you can step away from it.
What’s the process like to become a yoga teacher?
It depends on what kind of method you are going for. Most programs are two hundred or five hundred hours and they are structured very differently – some are all day long, in the summer and during the weekends.
What’s an average salary for a yoga teacher?
There is a huge variety and scale in what you get paid. Some people get paid per head, for example, if there’s a minimum in a studio, you’ll get $25 for showing up and you get $3 per head for everybody over a certain number.
And there are people that are paid a base rate. I would say that a starting rate in the city is between $40 and $50 in a studio or lower depending on where you are. But that’s just New York, other cities like LA, I think it’s 50 times harder there.
What do you think is unique to your teaching style?
I am not afraid to challenge people, but in a healthy way. You’re going to get a little boot camp with me but you are not going to get the sergeant yelling at you. You’re going to get the fire in your practice.
So what is an average day like for you?
There is no typical day, except I’m definitely sweating at some point.
I typically do yoga practice in the morning because if I don’t do something in the morning it gets lost in the shuffle. Then I’m usually teaching a yoga class, having a yoga private or heading to soul cycle.
In the middle of my day I come back home and am taking my dog out and working on the computer, whether it’s responding to e-mails or going through blogs or looking for music for classes.
I also have a lot of PR, there’s always something in the mix! Depending on the day, I may teach classes in the evening too.
What kind of music do you like for your classes?
I rarely play music in yoga, only towards the end. My favorite composer to use for savasana is Danny Wright, an amazing pianist.
For SoulCycle: everything! Electroinic, pop, remixes, mashups, rap, rock and more…
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
To have such a tangible effect, a positive effect on my students’ lives, for me is a really beautiful thing.
And what do you find the most challenging?
There’s two things: one is that I am always on call, there’s never a day off. So I constantly have my Blackberry and that I don’t find that to be very healthy.
And the second thing is because I’m teaching classes and 60 people might be waiting on me, I have to be everywhere on time. So I have to really plan out my schedule. I try to stay as Zen about it as possible, but when I take a few days off I really try to schedule absolutely nothing.
Do you have a funny story about something that’s happened in class?
I’ve had a massive fire alarm going off in the middle of a class. I just told everyone, “Okay, we are going to go into child’s pose with hands around our ears,” and we were all meditating!
I’ve read that yoga can actually slow your metabolism and make it more difficult to burn calories. What’s your opinion on this?
I think that’s crazy talk. You are stretching your whole body out. I mean, yes, if you are sitting on a mountaintop and just meditated all the time. But I don’t really know anyone who does that…
Would you recommend doing yoga alone or combined with another form of exercise?
The type of yoga that I do is very well rounded and can provide a lot. I do think that it’s nice to have some cardio, whether you love to run, or you love to cycle, you want to dance. Whatever that is for you. But it depends on the style of yoga you practice.
How do you know what type of workout is right for you?
You really have to try it out. I tell people to give it three tries; three tries with different people and see what speaks to you.
You’re also involved with SoulCycle. Can you tell me about how that began?
I was headhunted. I was teaching a class and some students had crossover with another instructor–one of the original instructors. There weren’t a lot of spin teachers that were teaching yoga on the bike, it was more straightforward spinning. And for me, I see the bike as a mat, and there’s a great soundtrack.
So what’s your typical workout?
The more I can do yoga, the better. I ride in my own classes so I don’t need any more cardio. And then I may dance sometimes.
Do you have any tips for staying healthy?
I don’t think that people drink enough water in general.
And then listening to what your body actually requires. I think your body really tells you most of the time when you’re hungry. When you’re not hungry and you are searching for food, that’s just boredom. And then, also, what you need to eat, your body craves. If you get into a good cycle that’s great, but if you get in a bad cycle it just continues to feed itself.
Also, a healthy tip is making yourself a priority.
You also travel a good bit. What do you recommend for exercising on the road?
There are so many podcasts out there now, and most of them are great, and all of us have either a computer or an iPod or an iPad where you can just download something.
Do you have any books on fitness or healthy living you would recommend?
Yes! Journey into Power by Baron Baptiste, 40 Days to a Personal Revolution by Baron Baptiste, and The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, not to be confused with Art of War!
What about your yoga essentials?
· I need a yoga block. I don’t have a specific brand of block but it has to be a wide enough block because, otherwise, I will go a little deeper than I need to.
· For mats, I really like sticky mats. I love JADE’s mats. And then with sticky mats I need Yogitoes which is an overlay that you can just throw right in the wash.
· Ultima electrolyte powder.
· I have to have a bandana when I practice because I sweat.
· Lululemon makes incredible stuff. I love their shorts and their y tank and y bra. I also like the Nike Pro Combat pants—they come right below the knee and they’re very thin.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My mom told me girls can do anything.
Lots of people say that yoga has changed their lives. How spiritual are you? Do you think spirituality is necessary to do yoga?
I am very spiritual. I think that everybody has energy that is present and beautiful in a lot of ways.
And I think it’s incredibly important in practice. However, there is a difference between bringing spirituality to the practice and preaching to people. I don’t preach. I don’t force like that. I am just asking a question.
Any advice for aspiring yogis?
Listen to your students’ voice. Because when you stop doing that, you are not a teacher.
What’s your dream for the future? Have you ever dreamed of creating your own type of yoga?
I don’t feel any need to reinvent yoga. But I am making yoga an even bigger part of my world and ensuring that what I do will reach the greatest number of people that it possibly can.
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