Ashley is a long-time YD veteran! She has held a multitude of roles in the community ecosystem: student, intern, studio administrator, 200 hour teacher trainee, and now, a much loved yoga teacher. She teaches an array of Ashtanga, Rocket, and Power inspired classes at Bloomingdale and 14th Street studios. Her classes emphasize prep poses and advanced variations of arm balances and inversions. Each class closes with restorative postures and a mindful pranayama to shift the mind to a meditative state. Read on to know more about Ashley’s personal history, philosophy, and how her classes are an offering to the larger DC community.
What is your favorite style of class to teach, and why?
Mixed levels, definitely. These are the classes where community thrives. Regulars welcome first-timers. Beginners are inspired to try something new. Everybody laughs and learns as one.
Describe your personal circumstances or experiences that made you want to share yoga.
Before I started practicing yoga, I was stuck in a pattern of working hard in the office on weekdays and partying hard on the weekends for release. Yoga taught me to stop and think about my thought and behavior patterns. My internal focus of control grew, I changed my actions and became happier. I want to make yoga available to others like it was available to me.
What advice do you have to others sharing or seeking to share yoga with others?
Start with volunteer teaching. I did this at a women’s shelter for a couple years with a Yoga Outreach Certification from Yoga Activist before I seriously considered the 200-hour certification. It’s a great way to gauge your interest in teaching while sharing yoga with underserved populations.
Please describe a challenging moment that you have experienced teaching, how you faced that challenge, and what you learned from it.
The entire first three months were hard for me. There was a little voice inside my head saying “who am I to teach yoga?”. I even wrote my sequences on my hand so I’d make sure to remember every pose. Eventually, I learned that the more I let go of trying to control the class, the easier it was to communicate with the students. Now when we set an intention at the start of class, I remind myself that I am there to love and create space for the students to practice. I stay tapped into that place the entire class, and the best part is, it’s easier than looking at my hand!
What pose or practice do you like to teach to help students feel empowered? To relieve stress? Please describe how you saw this practice work with an individual or group.
Anyone who has taken my class would probably agree that it’s power lunge. We usually hold it for at least eight breaths. I love this pose because all of the major muscle groups are engaged and it brings a lot of heat into the body. Since we quickly find our edge in this one, I always remind students to breath and smile to prevent the mind from getting reactive.
Describe a yoga posture, breath or meditation practice for which your students taught you a practical application.
Counting breaths. It is something that you can do anywhere, anytime to center yourself. Usually, I will have students count five breaths and then repeat. It’s a lot more difficult than it sounds, however, it improves your mind’s ability to stay in a meditative state over time.
Please describe a yoga posture, breath or meditation practice that any of your students connect with and why. Have they taught you a practical application for this or any other pose?
I teach a core-focused flow class that emphasizes awareness of the core in a variety of postures so that we have easy access to core engagement. Thus, once we are trying that new tricky arm balance or inversion, the core engagement is second nature and we have increased control of our movement. My students have mentioned that having more movement control with their core has taken some of the fear out of trying new postures.
How has sharing yoga affected you?
Sharing yoga has changed my entire career path. My first experiences teaching yoga were at a DC women’s shelter. When I saw the impact that yoga had on the physical and mental state of these women, I knew it was time to shift my professional endeavors towards a career in health and wellness. In early 2014, I left my job in renewable energy and started nursing school. Ultimately, my goal is to become a nurse practitioner and marry my two passions of yoga and health care in a private practice.
Could you describe any best practices in sharing yoga that you apply regularly in your classes?
Laugh and smile in every class. In DC especially, students can bring an unusually high level of seriousness and intensity to their practice. This is a beautiful thing, but it’s important to remember that these are just poses! We practice yoga to be happy and I try to remind my students of that.
What is your favorite thing to do around town?
Other than yoga, I love to bike around the city. There is no better way to get around DC than on a bike!
What is your favorite thing about the DC yoga community?
Definitely the diversity. Widely different languages, ages, ethnicities, careers, I could go on…. Despite our differences, we laugh together, encourage, and inspire each other.
If you had to describe your life in the form of a yoga pose, which pose would it be?
Handstand! Seriously, sometimes my balance is better when I am upside down. I’ve learned that it often takes a precarious situation for me to tap into my full potential.
How long have you been in DC?
I have lived in DC for almost 6 years. I moved here from Florida in 2009 when I was going through a quarter-life crisis.
We are happy to support Ashely as she continues sharing the lightness and laughter of yoga with the community. Check out Ashley’s classes at Bloomingdale and 14th Street.
Take it lightly. It’s all perfect.