Marci is a senior teacher at Yoga District who never expected to teach. She says that she “came to yoga backwards.” Marci connected first to meditation and the philosophical side of yoga, but only later began to appreciate its physical component.

Our students praise Marci’s ability to impart her multifaceted knowledge of yoga. One student says, “Yoga in general has helped me become a more mindful person, but again Marci took this to a whole new level for me. Since starting to take her class, I’ve become calmer, happier, and far more adept at dealing with both the little and big challenges life throws at you. Marci is a brilliant teacher and I feel so incredibly grateful to have an opportunity to learn from her.”

Read on to learn more about Marci’s journey towards teaching yoga, and how yoga has taught her to learn to like living her life upside down.

What is your favorite style of class to teach, and why?

For yoga, it is hands down Dharma Yoga. And for meditation it is hands down mindfulness (also known as insight) meditation. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the practices shared by Sri Dharma Mittra and mindfulness meditation changed my life. I connect strongly with the full challenging yet meditative nature of Sri Dharma Mittra’s practice. It taught me to fall in love with chanting and a yoga practice that includes philosophy, pranayama breathing techniques, meditation, chanting, and asana poses. Mindfulness meditation changed how I understood reality, myself, reduced my stress, and connected me with deep peace for the first time in my life. I am passionate about sharing these practices precisely because they have changed my own life. I share what brought me joy so others can experience joy for themselves.

Describe your personal circumstances or experiences that made you want to share yoga.

I often tell people that I came to yoga backwards. After spending many years on a winding road studying with teachers of different philosophical and spiritual traditions, my teacher at the time had me start practicing yoga while I was on retreat with him. While I had practiced it as a form of exercise on and off in the past, I never felt connected to the practice. When he kept having me practice I asked him why he was making me exercise! I wanted to spend my days meditating and reflecting on deep philosophical questions, not exercising. He told me to keep practicing so I did. Over time I started noticing a significant difference in the quality of my meditations, how busy my mind was, my energy levels, my health, my perspective. Basically, practicing yoga changed everything. It was the final piece in a puzzle of moving pieces that had been missing for so many years. Once I started practicing over time I was hooked and showed up at Yoga District looking to practice in community rather than with DVD’s at home in my living room. This is when I got connected to Dharma Yoga. The next thing I knew I was taking classes every day and making trips up to New York City to take classes with Sri Dharma Mittra.

I never expected to teach. I had an idea for the longest time that I needed to practice for thirty years before I could ever imagine to teach anything. The same teacher that had me start practicing yoga on retreat suggested I consider Yoga Teacher Training. I enrolled in the training thinking I would just deepen my own personal practice. When the opportunity to teach came, I took it upon his urging despite feeling reluctant and a bit like a fish out of water! The next thing I knew, I was taking on more classes, and teaching was as much a part of my own personal spiritual practice as my personal daily yoga and meditation practices.

Today I share yoga because it changed my life and helped me uncover the person I never knew I could become. Teaching helped me see that the wisdom we seek is already inside us when we open ourselves to it. I believe yoga has a powerful way of helping us discover the unthinkable beauty and wisdom that is inside of each and every one of us.

What advice do you have to others sharing or seeking to share yoga with others?

The best advice I can give to anyone sharing or seeking to share yoga with others is to be yourself, share what you know, and to know that you are just a conduit for something greater than yourself. I think a lot of people sharing yoga have an idea of what they “should” be doing and teach that as opposed to what sings to their own hearts. No one person is like another. This is the gift of so many teaches sharing yoga. Each has gifts to share that are 100% unique to them. Knowing this reduces the idea of competition, should’s and should not’s, to dust for me.

Please describe a challenging moment that you have experienced teaching, how you faced that challenge, and what you learned from it.

I’ll never forget early on when I started teaching I quickly learned that people’s expressions in class when they practice have nothing to do with me. In fact, it is the realization that the whole entire class is not about me! It’s about them! Sometimes students would show up to class and appear to be completely miserable. My mind would tell me this story about how much they were hating class and were going to tell the studio I was a horrible teacher. Inevitably those students would come up to me after class and tell me how much they enjoyed class. This taught me that my students were not judging me, I was judging myself! I learned to recognize the judgement in my mind for what it was…just a silly story and laugh at myself. And I learned that my role in a classroom was more humble and less “center stage” than I originally thought. All of which was relieving and has made teaching such a joy.

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.

The most empowering practice I share with students is cultivating love and compassion for themselves, and then others. Mindfulness is infused into every single class I teach whether it is a yoga or meditation class or a workshop. The ability to objectively without judgement observe your mind is a challenging, yet powerful practice. However, this practice often is lacking the most important element: love and compassion for ourselves. I have seen students that start to practice more love and compassion for themselves experience less stress, more joy, and ultimately feel more whole! This enables them to love others in their life more fully because they actually have learned to love themselves. A practice that while seems simple, is quite challenging for us in a culture where we are so self-critical.

Describe a yoga posture, breath or meditation practice for which your students taught you a practical application.

Gratitude plays a huge role in my personal practice and teaching. I believe meditating on gratitude is a transformative practice. Whether it is connecting with something you are grateful for in that moment, or remembering a moment you felt immense gratitude, it can be powerful to pull that feeling up into your entire being and re-experience it. So often we take for granted that which we can be grateful. Every morning, the first thing I do is a gratitude meditation. I invite others to start their morning with gratitude and see how it changes the rest of their day.

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?

Another practice that has been profound for me and my students is practicing “nothing.” In a city where we are always doing “something” the invitation to do “nothing” is quite scary. When one of my teachers first invited me to practice “nothing” time I thought it was one of the craziest ideas I had ever heard of. Now, I make it a point to schedule regular “nothing” time. At which point all I do is simply sit in silence. I allow my thoughts to float by without engaging them. I sit down with no goal, no task list, not objective other than to sit. This practice teaches one the importance of slowing down and the power of silence. The powerful insights that can happen from just sitting with yourself without the need to do anything. This is true for so many poses. The most difficult poses that I finally was able to practice came after I gave up the goal of needing to do them. I just kept showing up to practice them and with time when I could simply sit with them like my nothing time, my body opened up to them.

How has sharing yoga affected you?

Sharing yoga has taught me the joy of life. Teaching deepened my experiences of child-like wonder, playful spirit, healthy self humor, self care, infinite love, deep empathy, and understanding. Teaching is the best unexpected gift that Life has given me. Now I wake up every day genuinely grateful to be alive. For one more day to share and practice yoga.

Could you describe any best practices in sharing yoga that you apply regularly in your classes?

I’ll share three best practices that always guide me:
1) The best gift you can give is 100% yourself.
2) Everyone is a teacher.
3) And if you are receptive, insight can be born of all experiences.

Students do not realize the gift that they give me in every class that I teach. The practice of teaching has taught me without a doubt that the best gift I can give is myself. To be 100% Marci in each classroom and to share the experience of my human life and to invite my students to share the same with me and each other.

I show up to each class just as much a teacher as I do a student. Inevitably I learn something about myself, the practice, or the human experience from the experience of teaching every single class. I learned early on that if I was receptive, I could see how we all serve as mirrors for each other helping to show the beautiful and challenging qualities we each harness inside of ourselves. One of the most important things I have come to realize through teaching is how connecting with “strangers” through a practice like yoga, meditation, or mindfulness can unearth a deep sense of love for each other. It is the reason that I start each class with students introducing themselves to the students around them.

What is your favorite thing to do around town?

My favorite thing to do around town is walking and being present! This city is full of some of the most fascinating people, places, and sites I have seen on this planet. And I have traveled a lot! I love to get lost in a museum, sip a cup of tea at a local coffee shop, or get lost walking the streets on a warm spring day. As strange as it sounds, I actually enjoy riding the metro. This experience, while ordinary, has taught me a lot and been one of the best classrooms for me about the human experience. I love connecting with complete strangers or watching strangers meet and smile at each other in a city that is otherwise pretty serious about itself. Those moments of connections between strangers while walking on the street, in a cafe, or on the metro are some of the best moments in life. I love the simple things.

What is your favorite thing about the DC yoga community?

My favorite thing about the DC yoga community is its vibrancy and diversity of traditions, teachers, classes, and studios. I think there is a yoga for everyone in this city and I find that to be one of the most special qualities of the DC yoga community. If you look enough, you’ll always find the right teacher, the right class, the right studio for you. There is a yoga “home” for everyone here and I think that is pretty unique.

If you had to describe your life in the form of a yoga pose, which pose would it be?

Headstand. I always say in classes that one of the things I’ve learned most about life is that everything is backwards! Everything as I thought is not as I thought. All of my expectations, ideas, conceptions on how things should be have been challenged over and over again. Life keeps me on my toes and always learning. I love the challenge of it, the grace of going upside down, and the practice of bringing the heart to rule over the mind. After spending a good portion of my life driven by an analytical mind, mindfulness, meditation, and yoga changed everything for me. Now I like to live my life upside down. Just as I love to both play and find stillness in headstand, I like to connect with the child like spirit and silent reflector in myself.

How long have you been in DC?

I have been living in the Washington, DC area for the last nine years. I first moved to DC for work to begin pursuing my career in international development. DC first had me at hello back in 2002 when I first lived in the city and eventually made my way back in 2006.

YD loves having Marci’s unique perspective in our community — and encourages you to experience her teaching through one of her classes or workshops.

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