Teacher Feature: An Interview with Founding Teacher Liz Shakti
How did you discover yoga?
I discovered yoga when I was teaching at my very first Montessori school, when I was 22 or 23, and someone came in and taught yoga to the kids and then offered it to us as adults. I would go to that teacher’s house with a couple of the other teachers. She did a mix of Kundalini and Hatha, which was unheard of at the time, and I just kind of fell in love with it.
What led you to begin teaching yoga?
When I first did my teacher training, it was a Hatha teacher training in 2006. I had been teaching some yoga in my classroom for a while, incorporating some of the things I had been learning from my yoga teacher. I didn't really think I would teach beyond incorporating the concepts with my Montessori kids (ages 3-6) and I didn’t think I would ever end up teaching adults. It was terrifying to me to teach adults. I kept learning about it and kept taking more and more trainings in order to better my own practice. I loved it so much that I eventually started my own company teaching yoga in schools, around 2008.
How long have you been teaching yoga? About 15 years, because I started teaching the kids in my classroom before my first teacher training.
How did you decide to start running your own yoga teacher trainings? When I started running teacher trainings, it was something I'd been wanting to do for a while. I felt like I could help grow kids yoga faster if I taught other adults how to teach kids. If I trained 20 teachers, then they could teach 20 times more classes than I could teach alone and kids yoga would grow exponentially! I found someone else teaching kids yoga and pitched the idea. She was interested and so we started doing our 95-hour training together. When we first started out, we did all our trainings in person over 5 long weekends.
What do you see as the teacher’s role in a yoga class setting?
I see the teacher in a yoga class as similar to a Montessori guide, as there to help guide, and almost exist in the background and allow people to have their own experiences. I feel like we're all our own best teachers and we alone know what's going on inside our bodies. By helping with different yogic principles, such as alignment and foundations, teachers can help share the philosophy of yoga and people can take what they learn on the mat and take it into their everyday lives as well.
How does your yoga practice influence other parts of your life?
It has influenced every aspect of my life, especially since I chose to become a teacher. It has helped me integrate everything I encounter in the world into my own psyche. It has helped me to get into my body. It has helped me to get a big picture overview versus getting stuck in the details. Because of my yoga practice, I can have a more compassionate outlook. My yoga practice has positively affected my relationships by allowing me to truly accept other people as they are and to love myself and help me find self worth. Practicing yoga has also helped me to understand what my gifts are and has allowed me to learn to express myself and use those gifts in my career and everything in my life.
You use the term “heart-centered” when talking about your business approach. Can you describe what that means to you?
Yoga and mindfulness and meditation have affected me personally in such a big way and I think almost anybody I've ever talked to who is a yoga practitioner has felt the same way. As a person running a yoga business here in this country, I feel as though a lot of people just in business in general it’s very structured and logical and it can be very male-dominated. A lot of women gravitate toward practicing and teaching yoga, especially children's yoga and I think it's the work of all of us to tap into our heart chakra energy (love, compassion for self and others). It's kind of a newer concept to find balance in business and to help facilitate a very personal experience for the practitioner and do it in a way that is both authentic and has integrity. That is what I mean by heart-centered, by finding balance between the feminine and masculine, the logical and emotional. The heart chakra is the center of being and serves to balance the upper and lower chakras, as above so below, sky and earth, and so forth. It is the balancing agent, and in business especially, we need to have that balance.
What are some of the things you will be talking about in your upcoming free zoom workshop?
I'll be talking a little bit about my experiences as a yoga teacher with no formal business background, learning how to connect with clients online through the pandemic and with everything that's been happening this year. I will be showing different ways that you can show up authentically through your online presence, so that people know who you are and how to find you. It can become an easier and more streamlined process than people realize!