Friday, August 6, 2010

Up Close and Personal with Michelle Myhre

Last weekend I attended two workshops conducted by Michelle Myhre at Be Yoga. I found Michelle a very sincere and inspiring teacher who is very passionate about her yoga practice and teaching. I took the opportunity to ask her some questions for my blog and below are her candid answers.

How long have you been practicing yoga and what made you take up yoga and become a yoga teacher?

When I was 19 years old my grandmother and I started taking yoga classes together. Unfortunately, around that time my mother was going through her ‘born-again Christian’ phase and she forbid me to continue studying yoga. Out of respect I stopped yoga for several years. But I was always drawn to the practices.

Then about 15 years ago I found yoga again, and it gave me so much joy and peace, I immediately started taking 2 classes a day, arranging my life around yoga. It was the Iyengar style, and that’s a great foundation.

Iyengar is alignment based, and the teachers I studied with had all been to India around a dozen times each. It was intimidating. I thought I could never be a yoga teacher, but a part of me loved it so much, it was all I wanted to do. Yoga was transforming me, my sense of self and relationships were getting healthier. I was completely addicted.

When I moved to Maui I started meditating a lot, and also found Bikram yoga, which is not meditative at all, but the two balanced each other out. There is also an amazing Ashtanga community on Maui, and what happened is I became a certified Bikram teacher, which was accessible. But my personal practice was with Ashtanga master Nancy Gilgoff or at Maya Yoga, which is a form of Vinyasa that is a fusion of Iyengar and Ashtanga.

Bikram was great at that time, but I needed more. In 2003 I traveled to Austria to study with Sharon Gannon & David Life. They certified me to teach Jivamukti Yoga. Since then I’ve completed three more trainings, and to be honest, I’m planning #6, I want to learn more about Yin Yoga. Each form of yoga is beautiful, and each has taught me essential things, but the learning and growth continue.

You have a blog named “The Devil Wears Prana”. How did you come up with the name and what do you blog about?

The name of the blog, Devil Wears Prana, came from a couple of cute boys who worked for me. They were teasing me… It’s just so witty, and playful, I loved it. Also, there is this notion that yoga teachers are perfect and calm all the time. Ha!

Devil Wears Prana is a place for me to learn and share all things yoga. Sometimes it’s about alignment, or a great quote I’m reading in class, a new sequence, or style of yoga, the definition of a chant, a beautiful photo, or a posture that I’m working on. I write a lot about the experience of teaching yoga too. Teaching tips, things that have helped me. The blog reflects my journey on this path. Like me, it’s a work in progress.

You just completed a 2-day workshop at Be Yoga and have been teaching in Malacca for about six months. What do you think of the Malaysian practitioners and how are they different from your students in the United States?

How are Malaysian yogis different from US students? Good question. First, people are more alike than different. Internally we go through the same things: struggle with challenge, feel joy when we make progress, and we all want to be happy. But people in the East do have more flexibility in their hips. Everyone can bind here. In the West, binding is for the intermediate/advanced yogi’s, but here, wow, everyone is in the bind. First time students can bind.

Malayaian students are also playful. I taught a workshop “Wild Thing! The Animals Of Yoga!” The students were growling and meowing, we jumped around, wagged our tails. It was awesome, there was so much laughter and freedom. I don’t know if I could get a room full of students in SF to cut-loose like that.

What advice would you give to a yoga practitioner on how to bring his or her practice to the next level?

To take your yoga practice to the next level practice every day. Just keep showing up and see what happens. Your body will let you know when it’s ready for more. But really, the definition of yoga is “stilling the fluctuations of the mind”, it’s a practice that helps us focus and quiet down our internal chatter.

Yoga just never ceases to amaze me. It uses the body to get inside, and once in it transforms everything. To access this, you have to step onto your mat and do the work. That’s where the magic happens.

Also, it’s helpful to take a couple workshops a year, or even a teacher training (If you’re in Vancouver late Sept through Oct 2010, train with me!). Work with master teachers when you can and use what you learn in your daily yoga class. Over time you’ll see your practice transform. The more embodied you become, the deeper your practice will be. The truth is, certain aspects of the practice take years to find. It’s all about the journey.

Michelle is currently teaching  @ European Spa Yoga in Malacca until 18 August 2010, after that she will be going back to San Francisco and will be conducting a 200 Hour Yoga Alliance Certified Teacher Training in Vancouver in September 2010.   If you would like to know Michelle's schedule, you can visit her blog and at the same time, read her inspiring posts.

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