Meet Toni, one of our teachers at Yoga District. Find out how her practice as a yogi emphasizes welcoming, accessibility, and connection. Learn what motivated her to become an instructor and how she shares yoga with the community.
“I consider the students in my class to be friends, including the ones who come for the first time.’”
Check out Toni’s current class offerings below and sign up here.
- Saturday, 12:30PM: Talking Pilates: Pilates and Conversation @ Online
Talking Pilates: Mixing Conversation with Practice
I have taught Talking Pilates for over seven years and rarely had a substitute teacher (1). For the unique dynamic of this class, it is crucial that I and the students show up for one another. The concept behind Talking Pilates is to democratize the practice of teaching by encouraging students in the class to converse with the teacher and each other. The conversation is free-flowing, organic, enjoyable, and casual.
My favorite yoga teachers embody an ethos of levity and mirth. Pilates is very similar to yoga in that it can be quite meditative, but it can also go great with conversation! Difficult exercises like the hundred fly by when people chat with each other (2). One of my students put it so well: “What other class can I go to get the latest news, movie, music, and film reviews, and food recommendations?”
I think we spend so much time avoiding interacting with others. We tell ourselves that we are at a class just for exercise or to have the teacher instruct us while we stay quiet. That is certainly a valid experience. I think folks might also be surprised how much they enjoy meeting others and conversing in a yoga space. I consider the students in my class to be friends, including the ones who come for the first time.
Welcoming Students to the Mat
Students are welcome to my classes as equals. I hope to learn from them as much as they may learn from me. I do not focus on guiding or teaching people, since we are all figuring out our practices together as we go along. When it comes to yoga, I always think of this great Prince quote: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to get through this thing called life.” In the space of Yoga District, we are all gathered here to find whatever connections make sense. I am tired of feeling obligated to always work on the self. Sometimes, it is best to just show up!
I struggle with anxiety and find that physical activity is the best method for me to manage it. I am quite shy, so teaching was a way to challenge that. My relationship with my voice has really strengthened from teaching! It takes a lot to stand in front of a group of people and speak. Teaching has become an essential part of my life. Yoga and Pilates help me to build a space for other to speak and be listened to and respected and seen.
Advice for New Yogis & Maintaining Motivation
I advise that newcomers try not to focus on the public discourse about yoga and try not to compare yourself to other yogis. I invite new yogis to not make judgments about themselves ahead of time. There is no need to worry about your degree of flexibility or whether you have the right equipment for a physical practice. Yoga does not require flexibility, nor is it essential for you to contort yourself like a Cirque Du Soleil performer. I readily admit to folks that I cannot stand on my head nor do I have any desire to do that. Yoga is for anyone who is interested in practicing, and there is no single yoga body or yoga experience. It is different for all.
I also recommend that yogis of all experience levels set very modest goals of time commitment, such as doing a practice once a week. If you end up doing it more often than the goal, it will feel like a real bonus.
The way to make yoga accessible to everyone is to remove obstacles to attending group yoga practice. I think the yoga community should provide free and donation-based classes to interested students. Yoga District is committed to making classes more accessible, which is one of the things I value immensely about our organization (3).
There is an interest in sharing the practice not just with those who can afford it, or those who already know the benefits of it, but with everyone who would like to participate, learn, and share. I try to make my classes as welcoming as possible. That means understanding that there are all sorts of power relationships embedded in the space. This includes those between teacher and student or between students who are experienced and those who feel new. I hope if we keep these considerations in mind, then we can work to improve relationships dynamics in the studio space.
- Pilates, https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/what-is-pilates
- The Hundred, https://www.verywellfit.com/how-to-do-the-pilates-hundred-2704677
- Sliding Scale Yoga classes, https://www.yogadistrict.com/the-fees/sliding-scale-application/