Yoga District Instructor Hayley Ann teaches a style of yoga that is all her own, and encourages others to also teach from an authentic place. As a Senior Teacher, she is an incredible leader in the YD community, hosting teacher gatherings, providing advice to other instructors, and sharing a myriad of insights—along with delicious, healthy recipes—on her blog The Wandering Yogini.
Read on to learn more about Hayley Ann.
What is your favorite style of class to teach, and why?
I love to teach my yoga. I say that not because I have a brand I am trying to establish, but because that is what I teach. I have studied under many great teachers. Many great schools. Many great styles. And from each I have taken what rings true to me. What really resonated with me. And that is what I teach. If I could describe my yoga I guess it would be Curious Yoga. Each week I come up with a theme to my classes. And I teach to that theme. The theme is always something that inspired me in my own life. Yoga for feet? Yoga for sleep? Yoga for the heart? Core yoga? Each week is something different. But always something that came from a place of curiosity. It keeps me feeling happy, free, and inspired to teach this way.
Describe your personal circumstances or experiences that made you want to share yoga.
Honestly the reason I started teaching yoga was not very traditional. I had been practicing on my own since about 5th grade. Yoga DVD’s, books, and just playing around. When I was in high school I managed to skip so many gym classes I was going to fail. This, at a school where we had calculator relay team but not a football team, was a big embarrassment. Less to me, and more to the amazing adults in my life. So, in hopes of ‘saving face’ I went to the director of the gym department and asked if I could teach yoga to the students for a semester. In turn I would pass gym, and all would be right in the world. The director agreed. And so my teaching journey began. I actually had the honor of returning to my school, and teaching yoga to some of the faculty and staff last year. Mrs. King, who gave me my ‘teaching start,’ approached me after the class. She told me that she could see I was going to be a great teacher back then, and that she was proud of me. It took my breath away a little. She saw my inner light, when even I couldn’t. And it is because of people like her that I am on the path of teaching yoga.
What advice do you have to others sharing or seeking to share yoga with others?
Share your yoga. If you teach or share from secondhand experience the information seems dull. It has a tinge of inauthenticity. Real recognize real for sure. So share your truths. Share your experiences. Share your journey. It will not speak to everyone. But it will speak to the people who you want in your life. It will help build a tribe you believe in. It will make the realist yoga you can imagine.
Please describe a challenging moment that you have experienced teaching, how you faced that challenge, and what you learned from it.
The most challenging thing for me, for a long time, was allowing myself to be vulnerable in a class setting. I would find myself holding back from some deeper truths because I felt they exposed me too much. With time I realized I was only doing myself a disservice. It was a burden to ‘put on the teacher pants’ and charge onward. With time I began to show up. Throw aside labels like teacher or student. And just be. When you hold back a part of yourself you lose an opportunity. An opportunity to share a piece of you that inevitably someone else can relate to. And when we finally get the courage to share these parts of ourselves we realize we are not alone. No one will ever walk your path through life. But they will understand how you feel about it. We all understand emotions.
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.
I like to teach students that yoga does not have to be one size fits all. And I see this in all my classes. Who says you have to step through under your body, when you can step your foot out to the side? Who says you have to lock out you elbow, when it clearly hurts you? Who says you have to look that direction if it makes your neck feel like it is on fire? When I look out into a class I see diversity. Old. Young. Fit. Soft. Anxious. Angry. Injured. Puerto Rican. Italian. People from all walks of life come to my class. And they come knowing that maybe they won’t look like the Google-search result of a pose, but they will make that pose their own!
Describe a yoga posture, breath or meditation practice for which your students taught you a practical application.
I have a student who has struggled with anxiety, and self-esteem issues. He was able to use the quote I close class with during the day to help with both of these issues. At the end of each class we sit. We join our hands in prayer. And once we are settled I speak, “Remember to preserve the light in you. So that it may shine brightly to all those around you.” Throughout his day, when he is feeling stressed, anxious, or sad he takes a moment to sit in silence. He repeats this quote several times. He gives himself a chance to breathe. To slow down. And then he moves forward with his day. This was one of the most beautiful practices that a student has taken up after practicing with me.
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?
A lot of my students love Goddess Pose! I have a student who shared with me how strong this pose has made him. He told me about a class where the teacher had him hold Goddess for only five breaths. He was like, “I could have been there for five minutes!” Just the pure joy, and happiness in his face made me laugh so much. It is wonderful seeing a student feel strong!
How has sharing yoga affected you?
Sharing yoga has opened me up to being the person that I am today. And that person is always changing. Learning, growing. Falling down. Getting up. Knowing it all. Knowing nothing. Being authentic. Discarding what does not serve me. Happy. Sad. Strong. Weak. It is all me. It is all you. Yoga has opened my eyes to life as I know it. It has given me so much. And I have given back. To say I ‘know’ how it has affected me is silly. For it is a never-ending process, that will unfold for the rest of my life.
Could you describe any best practices in sharing yoga that you apply regularly in your classes?
When I teach yoga, I am teaching my life story. My classes are a reflection of my life journey. Each class is personal. It is a part of me, reflected through those around me. I teach that we all bring ourselves onto the mat. Whether we realize it or not. We show up. And with time we learn to discard the extra stuff. We discard the need to ‘be some kind of way’ or ‘feel some kind of way.’ Then we start to grow. I share this. And in turn my students share with me their yoga. I am merely there to unlock a door. My students are the ones who open the door, and invite others in.
What is your favorite thing to do around town?
Hmmm. This is a funny one. I just love living my daily life around town. I enjoy, in the warmer months, riding around on my moped. Just running errands, catching classes, visiting with friends, getting pedicures, tea dates, and people watching. Usually I take a couple hikes through Archbold Park, or through the city with my pup LuLu. She smiles. And I really enjoy seeing people smile back at her.
What is your favorite thing about the DC yoga community?
I love how the DC yoga community has so many strong women pushing us forward! Whether they are studio owners, teachers, support team, or students. The incredible women in this city really lift this community up. Not only are they strong, but also supportive. In any community you can find people cutting each other down just to get ahead. And in the DC yoga community there is so much love and support. It truly makes makes me thankful for my yoga family.
If you had to describe your life in the form of a yoga pose, which pose would it be?
If I had to choose a pose that described my life it would have to be the call to Samastitihi. It is all call to stand tall. To be present. To start new. And be there completely as your authentic self. Strong without being domineering. Magical but not esoteric and hard to understand. It has an essence that words only cheapen, but firsthand experience explains on its own.
How long have you been in DC?
I have been living in DC for about three years now!
YD admires Hayley Ann’s down-to-earth attitude paired with her deep knowledge of yoga and life wisdom. Come to one of her classes to see how all of this translates to her truly transformative yoga classes.