Marissa- Yoga District Teacher

Meet Marissa one of our lovely teachers! She shares encouraging advice for those days when you are not feeling motivated to practice or you are too hard on yourself. She reminds to be caring to both body and mind.

Be kind to yourself, you are human, and every peak and valley is present to teach you something about yourself (in yoga and in life).

Feel feel to attend one of her classes and read on to learn more about Marissa.

Marissa’s Class Schedule:

  • Mondays 7:45 PM, Rocket Flow Yoga 3 @ 14th Street
  • Tuesdays 8:00 PM, Rocket Inspired Flow Yoga 2-3 @ 14th Street
  • Saturdays 10:00 AM, Ashtanga: Modified Primary Series (All Levels) @ Bloomingdale
  • Sunday 10:00 AM, Flow Yoga 1-2 + Restorative @ Columbia Heights
  • Sunday 11:30 AM,  Rocket Flow Yoga 2  @ Columbia Heights

Teaching & Practicing Rocket Yoga

My own personal passion lies in teaching Rocket yoga. Rocket is a fun and accessible sequence no matter where you are with your practice.

It is a fast-paced vinyasa flow based on the more rigid and traditional Ashtanga sequences.

This sequence is an inspiring practice which truly does hit on strengthening and stretching nearly all parts of the body—back bending, forward folding, inversions, heart opening, arm balances and more.

While Rocket is a set sequence, as a teacher, I am able to add “play” into it. I highlight or concentrate on what each class of students needs or voiced desires. I particularly enjoy Rocket’s origin story. If I have not yet shared it with you, please ask the next time I see you!

Introduction to Yoga

I was diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 10. Thankfully through high school it did not cause much pain due to my involvement in swimming, track and dance. However in college, the lack of those activities caused back pain from the scoliosis. Yoga was recommended as means to help alleviate it.

Hanumanasana (full split)

Hanumanasana (full split)

A little intimidated but excited, I started attending a bikram-inspired vinyasa studio. The energy of the room and community of yogis attracted me, yet I kept coming back for how I felt from the practice. I was strong, empowered, challenged, calm, seen and loved.

Yoga Teacher Training Experience

My yoga practice went through its ups and downs through the following years. In 2015, I decided to complete my 200-hour teacher training. I knew it was time to commit to my practice and open myself up to share yoga with others. I was in love with yoga, but I found out quickly there was so much more to learn. Trust me – I am still learning every time I step onto my mat!

Shortly after graduating from Yoga District’s 200-hour training, I was exposed to the Rocket sequence. I immediately enrolled in my first Rocket teacher training with David Kyle at Progressive Ashtanga Yoga Puerto Rico.

Since then, I have completed 100 hours of designated Rocket Teacher Training and a 300-hour training in Progressive Ashtanga Yoga (in Rocket and Ashtanga yoga). Rocket yoga opened up my eyes to Ashtanga yoga, which now is my most consistent personal practice.   

3 Lessons Learned from Yoga

  1.  To Experiment     

Yoga and it’s lessons learned through the practice are highly specific to the individual. As a teacher, I can attempt to share my personal experience with my students. However, I do not want them to take my word for it. Honestly, my desire is for them to doubt me.  

And then, I want them to go back to their mat, to their meditation pillow, (to wherever they need to be) and experiment for themselves.

We must look at yoga as a science. With a scientist’s perspective: test a meditation, a posture, a consistent practice, a breathing practice (whatever it may be) and then take note of what happens.

Observe what occurs within the body, the breath and the mind. Draw conclusions for yourself; perhaps they are the same conclusions you have heard from others. Yet maybe they are different, and that is also perfect.

  1. To Breathe

I would love to rewind and be a fly on the wall in my first yoga class. I am sure I was thinking about everything but the breath:

  • “these poses are crazy,”
  • “omg this girl is standing on her hands,”
  • “ok, they want me to put my foot here, arms here, belly in, relax shoulders,”
  • “you want me to do WHAT?!”

The steady, rhythmic ujjayi breath gives the mind something to focus on. It allows any other thoughts from outside the studio to melt away. For me to come closer to dropping into a meditative state.

My practice on the mat has been helped immensely by focusing on my deep inhales and exhales . Countless times focusing on my breath has helped me get through sticky situations both on and off the mat

  1. To Listen

As a former athlete, my thoughts on the mat can tend to be along these lines:

  • “push harder,”
  • “stretch deeper,”
  • “come on, you can do better,”
  • “look, she can do it; why can’t you?”

 I found it difficult to let myself off the hook to skip a pose. Even if my body was just too tired or in pain. There were times I was able to listen (awesome) but actively chose to ignore it and avoided honoring my body (not so awesome).

A shoulder injury kept me off my mat for weeks. I then realized the value of sacred communication from the body. To not only to listen to it, but to listen mindfully for an understanding to guide your practice. So listen to what your body is telling you and honor whatever it said. After all, this body is the only one we have—for life!

Advice on How to Stay Motivated

Intentionally build your community. Find a yoga friend(s) or asking someone to be your mentor. Then begin to cultivate your community and filled it with built-in buddies to hold you accountable for your practice.

It can be as simple as sending a picture of my toes on the mat each morning to my mentor. Maybe I make plans to attend a class with my favorite yogi friend. Or I tell my teacher I will be there (knowing full well they will check in if I do not show up). Over time, you will figure out what works best for you to keep you motivated with your personal practice!

Ashtanga Pose

Ashtanga Pose

Be Kind to Yourself

It has been over 11 years since I first stepped on the mat. I am the first to admit my practice has not been consistent that entire time. Sometimes a missed day would turn into weeks, or weeks would turn into months. I would be angry and disappointed with myself. How could I call myself a yogi?

Over the years, I have been able to step back and look at the larger picture of my practice. I observed and acknowledged the cycle of it. Sometimes I have peaks and sometimes I have valleys.

If there is a week I cannot get out of bed for Mysore practice, that is okay. I observe, acknowledge, and accept I am in a valley. In time my motivation will come back to that peak with my desire to practice just as strong as ever.

Another tactic is to start small—there is no need to go from 1 to 100 in an instant (i.e. practice full Primary series every single day for a month). Perhaps start with 2 times a week and build up to more consistency from there.

Or allow yourself days in which all you do is a short meditation or 5 Sun As and 5 Sun B’s. Be kind to yourself because you are human. Remember every peak and valley is present to teach you something about yourself (in yoga and in life).


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