A Student to Yoga Teacher Journey By Jenn Ayotte

I still remember the day I first walked into In Fine Feather Yoga. I didn’t really have any prior experience with yoga, so I didn’t know what to expect. I had taken a couple of classes at a community center before but that was years ago, and the only thing I could remember was being asked to flop like a fish on the community room floor and feeling rather uncomfortable.

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So here I was walking into another yoga class, years later, and so many things were going through my head.

Am I wearing the right clothes for this? How many people are going to be in there? Are we going to flop like a fish? (In case you were wondering, there was no flopping of any kind, I was relieved.) I don’t remember much about what we did in class that day but I do remember nervously moving through the poses and then feeling wonderful about it while lying in the dark at the end of class. I walked out of the studio that day in the best mood and I knew right then I was already hooked. On eclass was all it took. Just so we’re clear I am not an athletic person. I grew up hating gym class (I was one hundred percent that girl that purposely forgot their gym clothes), I definitely do not enjoy playing sports (I am convinced my face in a ball magnet), and I avoid any situation where I might have to run. So, when I found yoga, I was shocked by how much my body could do. The more I showed up on my mat the stronger I got. Over time, I found myself being able to do poses that at first, I thought I’d never be able to do. For the first time in my life, I was feeling good inside my body and this confidence I found on my mat started to show up in other parts of my life as well. I started to notice that somewhere through my practice I stopped doubting myself and my body’s abilities and that was such a big thing for me. Suddenly all these things I would normally be too afraid to do weren’t so scary anymore.

So, it’s not surprising that only a few months after signing up for my first yoga class, I quickly became a regular at the studio.

Months turned into years and somewhere along the way I notice I had become a part of this little community. In Fine Feather is such a warm and welcoming place, it was one of the things that made it so easy for me to find comfort on my mat. The teachers not only guide you through practice but they bring you in, get to know you, and make you feel like you are practicing with a friend. The place just attracts good people. Whether it’s something as simple as moving your mat to make space for another person, or sharing a laugh with the person next to you during class, there seems to be an unspoken agreement to be kind and respectful to each other. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what size you might be, or how experienced you are, In Fine Feather has a way of making you feel as though you belong there. This sense of community is what made it so easy for me to stay committed to my practice.

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When I first heard that In Fine Feather had a Yoga Teacher Training program, I wasn’t really sure if it was for me.

I wanted to learn everything I could about yoga but the idea of teaching was terrifying to me. Growing up I always feared having to talk in front of other people and in high school I would even skip class just to avoid doing an oral presentation. So, you can see why the idea of becoming a Yoga Teacher seemed impossible to me but I was still finding myself drawn to the idea enrolling. I was looking for a way to deepen my own practice and there was so much about yoga I didn’t know and wanted to learn. After a little bit of encouragement from my family and teachers at the studio, I finally decided to take the leap and enrolled.

The weeks before Teacher Training started, I’m not going to lie, I was terrified!

I kept wondering what I had got myself into, I had no idea what to expect. When the first day came around and I made it through only mildly uncomfortable, I started to think maybe I can actually do this. Throughout the course there so many moments that I was pushed out of my comfort zone but as the course went on those moments got less hard, and the more I got to know the people in training with me the less alone I felt in these moments. We were all interested in the same thing and we all had our own fears we were trying to overcome. Having this connection with the other people in my group was one of the things I loved the most about Teacher Training, we all had each other to lean on for support.

A few months into Training, I was about to run into my biggest challenge.

I had just found out I was pregnant! My husband and I had been trying to get pregnant so this wasn’t a surprise, but it definitely happened a lot faster than I was ready for. At first being pregnant didn’t really change much but as my belly grew things got a lot tougher. I remember demoing at yoga in the park while I was 5 months pregnant on a hot summer day and spending the entire hour with the worst heart burn of my life. I was sweating, I was shaking, and every time I went to fold over my legs, I was sure I was about to lose my breakfast. That was the moment I realized how much more of a challenge it was going to be to get through the rest of training with a growing belly. I was tired, I was sore, I was nauseous, but as hard as it got, this growing life inside of me was my daughter and that was more motivation than it was a challenge. There was no way I was going to tell my daughter I quit when things got hard.

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Finally, the moment I had been dreading had arrived.

I was going to have to stand in front of my peers and guide them through a sequence I came up with myself. Not only had a I never planned my own sequence but now I was going to have to come up with something I could actually demo while 8 months pregnant. Let’s be real, I was so nervous the entire time I was teaching but I was surprised to find that the nerves started to melt away the longer I was up there. Even more surprising was how good I felt when I finished, this was nothing like standing at the front of a class to do an oral presentation, yoga was something I loved, and being able to share that with others was so exciting. I wasn’t expecting it to happen but as nervous as teaching made me, I was still falling in love with it.

Graduation day arrived and I was overwhelmed with the pride, I had made it all the way through to the end.

Not even 3 whole weeks later I gave birth to my baby girl. The first few months after my daughter was born were tough. There was very little sleep and lots of tears (both mine and baby’s). Six months into becoming a new mom, I saw the posting to sub classes at In Fine Feather. The first thing I felt when I saw this was excitement, teaching in the very place where I found yoga and became a teacher was a dream to me but I was hesitant. While everyone else in my Teacher Training had spent the last six months getting out there and teaching, I was at home adjusting to life as a new parent. I got right back to the studio and on my mat the moment I got the okay from my doctor but I still hadn’t taught any classes yet outside of teacher training. So, I started to doubt myself but that doubt was just an excuse. The truth was I was just scared, not only of auditioning and failing but of actually getting hired on and having to get through the nerves of becoming a teacher. It would have been so easy to let that fear get in the way of what I really wanted but teacher training had already showed me that some of the best things come from something that scares you, and now I was a mom, I had to set a good example. So, instead of letting being a new mom be my excuse, I let it be my motivation. I applied for the spot, I audition, and I got it!

So, here I am, a year after graduating from teacher training and I’m not only subbing but I have my very own class that I get to teach every week!

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I love each and every moment that I get to spend teaching and guiding other students through their practice. My dreams of being a self-employed stay at home mom and yoga teacher are becoming more of a reality every day and that was something at one time I believed could never happen. So, whatever it is that scares you, whatever it is that has you doubting yourself, just stop and take the leap. Dreams really do come true.

More About Jenn

Jenn loves teaching classes with a theme or a focused intention and puts emphasis on alignment and moving with breath. She urges students to listen to their body and make their practice their own. Driven by how her practice has changed her life outside of the studio, she encourages students to take all they’ve learned on their mats and apply it to their every day lives. Her passion for teaching is motivated by the desire to help students find positivity during practice and take it with them off their mats.

More About Teacher Training at In Fine Feather Yoga

Click here to learn more or contact Helena McKinney here.

A Student Reflection by Carol D'Alves

We are so pleased to share a student reflection from Carol. She has been practicing consistently and a monthly renew member for over 2 years at In Fine Feather Yoga. Our whole community is so grateful for Carol’s energy and kind words. She is a shining light and brings us so much joy, not to mention the incredible growth in all facets that she has experienced on her mat. If any of Carol’s story relates to you, take these golden nuggets of wisdom from her and know that consistency to your mat really is key.

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When I retired I was determined to remain active and to look after my health but I did not enjoy the gym environment and the occasional exercise class was not enough. It took a little courage to enter In Fine Feather Yoga the first time because I had never been in a yoga studio before and I fully expected to feel like the elderly aunt at a bachelorette. I could not have been more wrong! Becoming an auto-renew member of In Fine Feather Yoga was one of the best decisions I have ever made and I have benefited from that decision in many ways.


Past Challenges & Injuries

Because of past injuries and scoliosis of my shoulder which is worsening with age, I began with chair yoga. It wasn't long before the pain in my shoulder subsided and I now have better range of motion, not only in my shoulder but also in my hips. When I added gentle and intro classes to my practice I continued to feel physically stronger. My balance and my posture is improving too. In fact, the nurse at my doctor's office asked me how I was managing not to shrink in height, and my massage therapist has commented on the muscle definition in my arms and shoulders. A past hip injury had me believing that I would never be able to sit cross legged, and sometimes I am still not able, but more and more often with the use of a bolster I can sit comfortably for short periods of time. That is one of the challenges I am continuing to work on. I love the way yoga challenges me, and I am learning to be patient and gentle with the challenges.

Benefits of Yoga

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Yoga is providing me with tools to quiet self doubt, and to deal with social anxiety and chronic depression. I seldom feel the heavy weight on my chest and the tightening restriction that often used to make it impossible for me to breathe deeply when I was feeling stressed and panicked. I now use my breath to manage anxiety, rather than letting anxiety restrict my breathing. Controlling the panic allows me to remain calm and handle difficult situations without over-reacting.

A yoga practice is not only physical - it is also an inner journey, a spiritual journey that nourishes the soul. I am becoming more meditative and better able to live in the moment appreciating people and my surroundings. I am now more able to resist negative energy, and calm my own frustration and anger. I have learned how to use a mala, have made my own mala and it has become an essential practice in my journey to a better spiritual awareness. I feel supported by yoga and that enables me to offer my support to others.

The Community

When I retired I left behind a fantastic community of people that I saw on a day-to-day basis and that was very difficult for me. The IFF community has filled that void. I have met so many amazing people - each of us different but coming together to share our practice in a space that supports us exactly as we are. Helena, the instructors and the energy exchangers have created a space that is welcoming, that radiates positivity, and that encourages us to be our own imperfectly perfect selves, and for that I am so grateful!

Namaste.

-Carol