Some Super heroes wear capes, others have fancy accessories (looking at you Batman). We would like to introduce you to a super hero IRL: The Real Flying Yogini, Nancy Alder. A mom, yoga teacher and writer based in Connecticut, she teaches yogis to find their wings with ease through anatomy, acceptance and humor whether instructing arm balances or Savasana.
Let’s get the basics covered first for our Metiza girls that are not familiar with all things Real Flying Yogini. When did you begin your practice and how were you initially drawn to it?
NA:I began practicing in my early thirties when I was trying to get pregnant with my first child. I had a very inexpensive purple sticky mat that my mom had gifted me which lived for years in my closet. I guess it was calling my name and so I brought it out, bought a few prenatal yoga DVDs and got started.
My mom definitely was a huge influence in doing yoga because she had done it for years and loved how it made her feel. I knew the minute I took a yoga class I wanted to teach. It took me years to find a good training program and frankly, time to do it. But I knew helping people feel better about themselves was I was meant to do.
It seems the yoga life path has grown in popularity over the last few years. Why do you think this is?
NA: Life is so busy and stimuli filled these days. I am not sure that anyone has had more going on in history than the people of 2016. Social media, electronics and the need to make more, to do more, has made pressures of getting things done so epic.
The amount of time we have for inner work, introspection, and for quiet is nil. I believe the yoga movement that has been catapulting into popularity, and the trend towards mindfulness, are because they are seen as tools for getting back to a softer and quieter way of living.
Long ago when electronics and societal pressures were less, we as a collective had time to settle into small moments like making dinner, writing a letter and being aware of our breath.
Yoga gives us a chance to return to the good old days of presence.
These days we race around worried that we’ll miss out, miss a great selfie opportunity, that someone else will beat us to the punch, etc. A luxurious cup of coffee or a gorgeously penned letter are time sucks we cannot afford. Yoga, under the auspices of making you look better physically at first for many people, gives us a chance to return to the good old days of presence.
What advice would you give someone that has never tried yoga that is interested in beginning their own practice?
NA: Find a studio or a gym that has several teachers and classes and start with that. Not every teacher or location is ideal for every person so be sure to test out many to find what works best for you. Some teachers do not resonate for every person, some are too quiet, too spiritual, too physical and some simply have voices that do not allow you inner peace.
Think about a yoga class and a yoga teacher like buying a car: you would drive several before putting money down on one, so do the same for yoga. I usually recommend people start with beginner or gentle classes and stay away from power, flow or Vinyasa which can be both too fast and/or too complex for beginners and cause some doubt and frustration. Oh, and if you are nervous, try it with a friend. Having a buddy starting too is a great way to keep on track with practicing.
Body image is such a struggle at this age, well, any age. How do you maintain a healthy approach to loving the body you have?
NA: I have a daughter who is 11 and I think about this topic nearly every day. For girls and women, society puts so much emphasis on perfection that even the most grounded of us can question our appearance. It is frustrating as a parent to see my daughter and the girls she is friends with experience this truth, but I remember going through it myself.
One of the bests gifts of my yoga practice has been showing me not only that I have strength in places I did not know existed, but also that acceptance is the name of the game. I come to the mat, and I teach my students to do the same, where I am that day.
Maybe I am feeling exhausted because I did not sleep enough so I need to back off and not do everything the class is doing. Perhaps the hip openers do not work in my anatomy. There are so many ways yoga reminds us that who we are as individuals: experience, anatomy and moments, are what is relevant.
Yoga reminds us that who we are as individuals: experience, anatomy and moments, are what is relevant.
The social media explosion of yoga has placed some challenges for yoga teachers though. If you are to scroll through the hashtag #yoga on Instagram or Facebook you will see hundreds of “perfect” yoga bodies doing very advanced poses, often in not very much clothing. For my yoga students, of whom 99.9% do not look like that, it can be disheartening.
As a teacher I find it frustrating because it is neither reality or for many people safe to assume they can look the same. So one of my life missions is to remind my students that your body and your mind are yours, but not every pose is. Oh, and if you can breathe you are doing yoga. No perfect body or bikini is required.
Do you have words of wisdom for any of our Metiza Girls that may want to go into the yoga/wellness field?
NA: Go for it! No seriously, find a yoga teacher, meditation teacher or wellness leader who inspires you. Read their writing, take their courses and become part of their community. Do the work to make yourself skilled in the field that you wish to be part of and get trained in a way the field requires. Then trust that you have got what it takes and start small. Find a friend or two who are willing to be your students/guinea pigs.
Do not worry about filling classes/workshops, teaching only at the best places, etc. Know that every student/client is worthy of your time, make it about THEM and not you. If you are a yoga teacher, teach those in front of you, see your students. Be a space holder. Allow yourself time to find your own voice, and when you do your tribe will find you. Oh and be patient, Rome and a great following were not built in a day.
Our girls are headed back to school really soon, some already. How do you suggest keeping self-care as a priority in the challenging atmosphere of high school and college campuses? Stress is no joke, right?
NA: Holy Toledo it is hard to be a student these days! I do not envy girls in high school or college because there are so many pressures. But the great secret we so often forget is that we have a huge tool box of stress-management skills within each of us. My advice is this:
1.) Find some physical activity whether it be running, yoga, or some sport. Do it in moderation (a.k.a. not obsessively) and find someone to do it with you. Search out groups, studios, gyms and or clubs which foster community or make one yourself. Doing things with friends is not only a way to keep up with it, but also to find a support network.
2.) Try to remember that all of this school stuff is for YOU. It is not for your parents, your friends or your future family/children/bosses. You are there to learn, to grow and become incredible adults. Every single successful person out there failed in some way on their climb to the top. I did. Bill Gates did. Oprah did. We all do. Give yourself permission to fail occasionally and to see it as a wonderful opportunity to learn.
Remember that your breath is an incredibly valuable tool for stress management.
3.) Exhales trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, the “rest and digest” half of our “fight or flight” system. We are at our core animals so our bodies are living in a constant state of preparation to be chased by some psychological saber tooth tiger. When we are stressed it triggers chemicals in our body and signals it’s time to run away from danger. Our pulse quickens, our breath quickens and we physically get ready to run.
Today’s world is a 24/7 stress cycle so unlike our ancient relatives this “fight or flight” reaction can be triggered for long periods of time rather than minutes. Breathing deeply tells our body “no more saber tooth tiger threat” and reminds us it’s ok to be calm, cool, and collected. So you have the built in skills to ease your stress, how cool is that? Simply allow yourself deep exhales when the saber tooth tiger bubbles up. Try this technique: Inhale for a count of 3 or 4, Exhale for a count of 5 or 6. Do it for about 10 breaths. You CAN slay that saber tooth tiger and that is crazy powerful stuff!
4.) Get help if you need it. Go see a school psychologist, talk to your parents or have a pow-wow with your friends. There are times when one person alone cannot handle the stress. There is no shame in the talking game. Ever.If you could give your 16 year-old self some words of wisdom, what would they be?
NA: Live. Laugh. and Study hard. Work for good grades not because you have to go to Harvard or be an astrophysicist but because it gives you options. Options are essential. Do not stop writing. Do not worry about what someone else is wearing or says: they are also questioning themselves.
You are unique so do not try to be someone else. There will always be someone who wants to be you too. Trust your gut, it is usually right. Do not worry about falling in love, that person is out there. Love yourself before you love others. Nothing works out and everything works out. Somehow it all happens in a way it should. Oh and that meditation you learned for cross country team, do not stop doing it. That meditation stuff is the jam.
Here at Metiza we try to encourage an act of kindness a day. How do you #LoveUp and keep positive energy going in your world?
NA: Instagram and my classes are the number one ways I share positivity. I am super mindful about what I offer to people online and in class. I want them to see that they are capable of anything, that everyone is equal and that love is answer. I also am a big proponent of showing how I trip and fall a lot. It’s important for people to see that teachers and leaders struggle sometimes. Nobody is perfect so I emphasize presence rather than perfection. Oh and I buy coffee for strangers regularly!