Source: Alicia D.
Rock Hill Public Library’s Community Spotlight series features outstanding people in our community. This month, get to know the library’s yoga teacher Alicia! Catch her on Zoom for Rise and Shine Yoga on the first Saturday of every month at 10 AM and for Wind Down Wednesday Yoga on the last Wednesday of every month at 8 PM. Visit our website at rockhillpubliclibrary.org to learn how to sign up–beginners are welcome to attend!
Question: What motivated you to start doing yoga and meditation?
Answer: Five years ago, I was a full-time grad student working three jobs and serving as a caretaker. I had become so used to the grind of academia and saying “yes,” that burnout was a usual occurrence for me. However, I lacked a true connection to my body, and didn’t realize the toll my lifestyle was taking on me until I was in the throes of another respiratory infection or headache cycle. My anxiety was off the charts, affecting my mood and my relationships. I felt sick and tired of being sick and tired all the time.
I decided to try a month of yoga as a New Year’s Resolution, and I went every single day. It changed my life because it changed my outlook. It helped me realize how disconnected I was from myself, how mindlessly I moved through life, and how much my beliefs about myself and my worthiness (or lack of it) influenced my behaviors and actions.
While I no longer practice an hour of yoga every single day like I did that January, I still live yoga every day. I breathe, I sit with anxious thoughts, I meditate, and find some movement throughout the day to help me reconnect to my body. It’s a constant process, but I can tell now when I need to step away from my work and have a mindfulness break, and I always feel a difference afterward.
My training and practice as a yoga teacher helps me connect with others who are also craving this type of peace and permission to step away from the way they’ve always done things. My approach is slow and steady: lots of guided breath and progressive relaxation techniques, rather than powerful, heat-building movement or poses that rely on physical strength.
Now more than ever, we are living in dangerous states of chronic stress, and yoga can be such a boon to help us reset and reestablish ourselves in this world.
Question: What would you say to someone who is interested in yoga but isn’t sure where to start?
Answer: T. Krishnamacharya, revered as the “grandfather” of yoga, is quoted as saying, “Anyone who can breathe can do yoga.” This I firmly believe. Folks who come to me as beginners often complain about not being flexible, not having the right gear to start yoga, or not having a “yoga body.” It saddens me to hear that so many people are put off of yoga because they believe it to be an elite activity or something only attained by starting from a certain place.
Yoga, unfortunately, has undergone a deep commercialization in the West, and the way we’ve commodified it pushes out certain restrictions to, stereotypes of, and misconceptions about the practice. Physical postures are only one part of a yoga practice, and that’s why my classes focus on so much more than movement.
The only way out of chronic stress and overwhelm is through a strong reconnection with oneself. Some people find this connection through movement, some with meditation and quiet, some with breathing–so we do all three in my classes. It’s also important to remember that much of the shift that happens through yoga occurs in the mind.
Once we believe that it’s okay to come as we are and do what we can with what we have, more of the magic of yoga can unfold.
Question: What do you do to stay positive?
Answer: As mentioned, yoga has really shifted and shaped the way I think, as well as how I focus my thoughts. A practice of gratitude, and meditating on the things that make me happy, are very important in helping me stay anchored to a more positive outlook, and able to go with the flow.
Question: What is the last book you read?
Answer: The last book I read was “Lost and Found” by Brooke Davis. I checked out the book on a whim in March just before the library closed because of the pandemic. I never even read the inside cover to see what it was about. Quarantine time led me to other hobbies, and I just never picked up the book.
Over the summer, my dad suddenly got sick and passed away from cancer. I finally decided to start reading the book after his death, and I discovered it was about a young girl’s journey of grief after losing her father to cancer too. It took me a few more months to finish it because of my emotional connection to the plot.
Ultimately, I’m so glad I happened to find the book when I did, and I recommend it often to friends who are living through grief too. Even if you’re not dealing with loss, it’s such an important perspective to read through. The characters are very quirky, and the author brings some lightheartedness to the subject as well.
Question: When was the last time you watched the sunset?
Answer: On a camping trip with my husband this past summer, across the lake and under the trees.
Question: We have some major foodies working here at the library, so we’re excited to know–what is your favorite food?
Answer: I’m vegetarian, so I love finding new ways to reimagine meat-focused dishes. Brazilian cuisine, ginger miso sweet potatoes, and sticky sesame cauliflower with rice and lots of green onions are some of my favorites!
Question: Who inspires you?
Answer: Teachers inspire me. I worked for several years as a tutor, swim coach, nanny, and classroom teacher before settling into teaching yoga. The thread of connection through all of these “jobs” has been teaching: sharing knowledge, co-creating, encouraging, challenging, and guiding others toward self-sufficiency and empowerment.
Some of my favorite teachers include Jane Goodall, Steve Irwin, David Attenborough, Mister Rogers, Joy Page, and every single one of my students.
Question: What are the rewards and challenges of doing yoga and meditation “Zoom style”?
Answer: Replicating the same atmosphere of an in-person class is tricky over Zoom! If people have their cameras turned off, it can be difficult to “teach to the room” and pick up non-verbal cues that help me design the class around how students are moving and experiencing the shapes. However, I’ve had many students tell me they love virtual yoga because they have the option to turn their cameras off.
More people are willing to try yoga because the virtual option leaves them feeling safe and confident, and they enjoy the convenience of trying the practice from home. This means I’ve had to adjust my teaching style somewhat, but it’s so worth it in order to reach more people!
Yoga doesn’t just happen in a studio (or a library!), and once you’ve done yoga from home, you’ll be more likely to pick up the practice or incorporate a few techniques throughout the day when you need it most.
Source: Alicia D.
Alicia is a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher with a passion for helping ordinary people experience their extraordinary selves through movement and mindfulness.