Kat's Teacher Feature Pic

Meet Dahlia, one of our beloved instructors, as she shares a little about her journey leaving her traditional 9-5 job and “coming home” to teaching yoga. Dahlia shares her passions and encourages students to “show up consistently, imperfectly, and just as they are”. Get to know Dahlia.

 

What is your name and how long have you been a part of the Yoga District community?
Dahlia here 🙂 I’ve been a part of the Yoga District community for four and half years now. Phew!

How did you come to Yoga District?
Well… quite simply. I rode the winds of fruition to arrive here in a place of uncertainty and transition. Two years before coming to YD and four years after my teacher training, I finally made the leap – leaving the security of my 9-5 job at a think tank working on the Iraq war. I was hopping from gig to gig at yoga studios, gyms, and corporate sites about the District, trying to find ground in a community and in the evolution of my practice as a teacher connected with community.

You see, grounding has always been challenge for me. But I was also finding ground personally. I was getting out of an abusive marriage and struggling to reclaim my power, my voice, my security.

I had been teaching at the International Monetary Fund for several years just around the corner from YD’s I Street location, when they had to close their facilities long-term for renovation. I needed a space to continue practicing with my regular IMF students.
I reached out to Jasmine to see what was possible. We met for tea and a walking date and she not only offered space for me and regular students to continue in our practice, but invited me into the YD community at large.

It felt like coming home.

What do you try to convey to your students in your classes?
It’s all in rhythm. The practice of showing up consistently, imperfectly. A lot of folks can be intimidated to step into a yoga studio. I understand that. One of the nice things about YD is the accessibility, not only financial, but in ethos. Unpretentious, authentic yoga instruction to meet you where you are.

Just keep showing up. Be prepared to explore the edges of your practice with humility and humor. Laugh at yourself, and often. It helps you create space for true connection with the practice, with your inner strength, with your community. Don’t get attached to to the image of yoga. The bougie yoga pants. The acrobatic postures… It has taken me a long time to learn that lesson personally. Find your breath. Tend to the rhythm, and all is coming.

What do you like about teaching the DC community?
A local comic once told me that DC doesn’t know how good they have it until you show them. Ain’t that the truth. It can be easy to get jaded. I know from experience. Many folks who’ve come to DC with an idealist agenda, their own ‘Save the World’ story, have moved on. Perhaps to the thrills of the ex-pat life abroad. Or to throw down roots in their hometowns and start families with 2.5 kids. Or grad school. Or whatever. Many friends and students, come and gone.
From a cynical place, what remains at the surface is a transient town consumed with status and power, of drunk dudes in bad suits at happy hour. At the surface that is… but that’s not my DC.

We’re a incredibly cosmopolitan city that feels like a small town. We have an incredible homegrown cultural and arts scene. And an increasingly formidable foodie scene. And green space. Lots of it. The District attracts some of the most fascinating people in the world. And those native to the District, perhaps hailing from historical communities that have been here for generations, continue to have tremendous impact on our city. Their evolving legacies make DC as interesting, exciting, and accessible as it is. DC is a town of movers and shakers and mystics and misfits. And I have the opportunity to teach them. How cool is that?

What would your advice be to someone who thinks yoga isn’t for them or that they aren’t “flexible enough” for it?
Psssshht. Don’t get stuck on or intimidated by the image of things. Sometimes that flexibility gets you in trouble anyway… Ask anyone with lower back pain or hyper-extending knees. I’m one of those people who first came to yoga managing running injuries that come with over-flexibility and poor core strength. Yoga helped me cultivate strength and balance to reign in that over-flexibility to stand taller, stronger. It helped me stabilize and find ground.Yoga increases flexibility yes, but it’s certainly not a pre-requisite. Often the most ‘inflexible’ folks in class are those who can pop up into fancy arm balances and inversions at first try. Yoga brings awareness and balance into the body. Into the mind. And connects you with greater wisdom outside of yourself. Astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson would call it cosmic perspective.

Yoga meets you wherever you are. Don’t let the images of yoga Instagram culture keep you at bay. Come on in. The water is fine.

Where do your sentiments lie on the “yoga as spiritual practice” versus “yoga as body shaper” spectrum?
You know… yoga will meet you wherever you are and like the people who practice it, it will take on all shapes. And evolve. When we think of yoga as an $80 billion industry, it’s not the practice itself that reaps the profit but the packaging of it for consumers.The luxury yoga pants and accessories, bougie retreats, so on and so forth. Instagram culture. The image of things. It’s very easy for studios and gyms to cater to the modern consumer’s obsession with body image. To teach turbo-charged aerobic classes for the girls in the short shorts trying to get the yoga booty. And that’s fine. There’s a place for that. I used to teach those classes back in the day. As I personally get deeper into my own personal practice, I get deeper into meditation and the spiritual elements. Tapping into energetic shifts of consciousness and awareness. Of patience and manifestation. And my teaching practice has evolved accordingly. I am much more interested in guiding students through to breath more deeply, more fully. Everything in our conditioning – especially for women – teaches us to shrink into ourselves.

I like to think of yoga as a practice in reprogramming that conditioning. To unabashedly take up space in our bodies. On our mats. And in the communities of our intentional creation. It starts with breath. With inspiration in the most literal sense of the word. It is said that yoga is not a religion, but the science of religion. The practice of inviting in the experience of the divine. And I think that’s why yoga has more staying power than say Jazzercise as a fitness trend and cultural phenomenon.

What is your favorite style of class to teach and to practice, and why?
My personal and teaching practice is an amalgam of all my teachers and traditions I have encountered for almost a dozen years now. From vinyasa, to prana flow, to power yoga, to gentle and restorative, to Kundalini, to Iyengar, and various forms of meditation and beyond.

As I get deeper into my own practice, I am much more interested in meditation and breath-work. While I teach more dynamic vinyasa classes, my home practice is mostly sitting still in mediation, kriyas (simple, repetitive sequence of breath and movement designed to ignite dormant energy in the body) and perhaps an inversion. It’s the practice of cultivating energy as one yoga teacher friend explained instead of expending it. That meditation and breath-work has crept in more and more into my classes.”You used to teach a harder class!” I’ve had some students complain. I’ll respond by holding them in longer meditation and intense breath-work. The practice, the process of opening the body through breath, to prepare them for intense arm balances, inversions, and backbends. And those students will find they can stay in those postures more sustainably, without relying on momentum and brute force to carry them through.

I’m grateful that YD has provided the space to evolve as a teacher. And allow students to meet me there.

Practice with Dahlia.

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