Yoga comes up time and time again as something people find wholly rewarding to add to their lives but another thing that so many of us get around to, this week we reached out to Michelle Garcia to tell us what she’s gained from being a yoga teacher and tell us a bit about her journey in the world of yoga, this is what she said:
- Who was Michelle before she became a Yoga and Meditation teacher?
I was a police officer for 20 years in Arizona.
- When did you get into Yoga and why?
I originally started doing yoga while I was training for a marathon, I read an article that said yoga helps to increase your VO2 Max and I was looking for any advantage possible, so I started going to yoga at my gym. I can’t say I fell in love with it at that time, but I liked the practice and how I felt.
It wasn’t until a few years later after a difficult divorce that I found myself wanting to try hot yoga. I gathered enough courage and went to a hot yoga class. I could run a marathon but I couldn’t get through a 90 minutes hot yoga class without feeling like I had been run over by a truck. That first class was horrible, but I kept going back, and fell in love with it. It took some time for me to say I “love going to yoga” but eventually I can say that I found my self-esteem and “found myself” by going to yoga.
- What’s been one of the hardest things about getting into yoga and meditation?
One of the hardest has been that yoga is not a religion. I’m not a Buddhist. I’ve studied Buddhism and the philosophy behind yoga, but yoga in and of itself is not religion based. That’s the biggest hurdle I feel for non-yogis to understand. Also that I’m not in a “zen” state 24/7. I have bad days, get mad, yell, have an occasional meltdown; I’m human. I’m not some perfect zen’d out person just because I teach yoga and meditation.
- Have you had any major practitioners or mentors that have helped nurture your career and how have they helped you?
My instructors where I received my yoga certification, Michelle Dante, Jeff Martens, Maredith Estrada-Schroeder, Donna Martens, Aaron Goldberg and Josh Rothman. They created a safe space for me to learn yoga and also learn about myself during my 500-hour teacher training. They all selflessly gave of themselves to make me a better teacher.
Richard Miller taught me how meditation is accessible to all people and how to teach from your heart.
- What are the biggest rewards for you in regards to yoga and meditation?
The biggest rewards for me is bringing yoga to people who might have been sceptical about yoga or those that think they’re not flexible so they can’t do yoga. I have taught yoga to people in alcohol and drug recovery, veterans groups, prisoners at San Quentin prison, the Army National Guard, police officers and firefighters.
When people hear “yoga,” they think of soccer mums who do yoga and that there’s isn’t more to yoga than just trying to get into some crazy pretzel like shape. I love when I teach a sceptical group of people and at the end, I hear them say that yoga was a lot harder than they expected and that they actually enjoyed the class. Yoga is accessible to all people and for me, that’s the greatest reward is winning over the sceptic who thinks yoga is not for them and they find that they like it.
- What are the 3 biggest things you’ve learned since teaching yoga and meditation?
What I’ve learned since teaching yoga and meditation is that during times when a person feels broken, self-esteem is in the toilet and you basically feel like hell, there can be healing that can happen through the practice of yoga and meditation. I remember the first time I heard the phrase, “you can find healing on your mat.” I had no idea what that meant and that sounded all “woo-woo”. But the more I practised yoga and went to class even when I didn’t want to, I found myself on my mat. Police work is a difficult job and I had suppressed so much emotion and difficulties that I started having problems sleeping and having anxiety attacks. I didn’t know what was happening, but luckily I found a good therapist and yoga. I can literally say that I found myself again on my yoga mat.
The other thing I learned about yoga and meditation that deep inside all of us is a safe place. This place that feels like home. During difficult and stressful times we can all tap into ourselves this place of safety. We can get so caught up in what is happening around us, and let stress and anxiety run our lives that we need to learn to find this place of feeling whole and complete. If you think about what makes you feel safe; is it a place, a person, your pet, a place where you feel most at home. Picture that during times when life gets overwhelming. My “safe place” has changed over the years, depending on what is happening in my life, but when I can imagine the ocean, sun on my skin, feet in the sand and listening to the sound of the ocean, I feel I’m at home.
The third biggest lesson I’ve learned since teaching is that if we can let our ego go, and forget what we look like for a brief moment and allow our body to move and breathe we can find this amazing place within ourselves. Both men and women limit themselves because we’re afraid we will look dumb or that we can’t do everything the little Gumby 20-year-old next to us can do in a yoga class. We compare ourselves too much to other people and in turn, we limit ourselves. We are powerful and strong and we have to stop comparing ourselves to others to find true power and love for ourselves.
What’s next on your Bucket List?
To travel around Europe, visit Greece and Ireland. I’m not much of an adventure girl. I was a police officer, I’ve seen and done a lot and now want to continue to teach, be there for my parents and those that I love and care about and live a life that has meaning and purpose.
If this interview has sparked your interest in Michelle’s life or getting into Yoga head over to her website: www.livewithmeaning.net to read more.
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