"Even through the lens of both our webcams, I could feel Stephanie Birch’s energy right away. Her big, warm smile and sparkling eyes simply shine through. She is generous with her time and with her words. After talking to her, you ask yourself if you want to be her best friend, or if you just want to be her… and then you realize that she’s the kind of person who just makes you want to be yourself a little more."
Stephanie, how did you start to do yoga?
It’s funny, I really judged the practice!
As almost everyone does before trying!
I think so too! *laughs* I didn’t think yoga was for me. When I moved back to Sacramento from San Diego in 2008, everybody that I knew was on this yoga craze, and I thought, I am not a hippie! *laughs* I had no idea what it was! And then, thankfully, one of my friends convinced me to try it one time, and I said: “OK… if we can go to happy hour after and grab a beer!” So I went at my first vinyasa class and… it kicked my booty. But I fell in love with it. And yes, we went for beers after! *laughs*
I like how you said that «Your yoga can be on a mat or off, in a gym or studio, in your home or field. […] It is what you make of it. » Yoga is a lifestyle!
It certainly is. I find yoga to come in all forms! I’m not such a traditional teacher. I have a massive respect for traditional teachers and the ancient practice, but I also know that I live in 2016. But if we’re really practicing yoga, we’re really accepting each other’s practice and lifestyle. Cause it’s all good, it’s all love, it’s all the human experience.
And the people who come to your class probably look for that different vision of yoga.
Yes! You know, my first teacher training was wonderful, and I learned so much about the ins and outs of every individual posture. But it was taught as a very one-way system of, “this is the only way to do yoga”. It was great, but it also made me very rigid in my practice and my teaching.
So I nearly quit teaching before I actually started, because I wasn’t sure I could be the teacher that I wanted to be. I thought, “I want to be a yoga teacher, but I’m this”. Then, about 9 months after my first teacher training, I took another one, with a teacher who’s taught me so much about living from the soul, about our life story taking place in our physical bodies. And I’ve finally learned that yoga is not a one-way system! Now I can see that, as a teacher, the way I teach is healing and loving because I’m standing as me, not trying to be a good teacher, or know everything inside and out, or be right. How about we just be ourselves? There are so many rules… I don’t restrict in any way!
Yeah, I saw a picture on your blog of you with a glass of beer and my first thought was, “Wait – she drinks beer?”, and then realized, “Of COURSE she drinks beer, why wouldn’t she? She’s not just sipping green juices all day!”
*Laughs* It’s really funny because it’s unexpected. I do enjoy a beer! Please don’t dare tell somebody that just because their practice is less traditional that they’re not a yogi. Because who are you to say? If somebody just wants to come sweat their ass off in a yoga class, let them! Honoring the practice is really about accepting everybody. Because it’s your practice. You have a responsibility to make it your own.
Is teaching online different from teaching in a studio? One could imagine that there is a certain “vibe” while teaching live… how does that “vibe” translate online?
I do enjoy pre-planning for my OneOeight classes, that’s where I really bring forth what’s in my heart, and students from all over the world can access that class and design. Teaching in a front of people, in a live room, with live energy, feedback, emotions, is definitely different. I typically don’t theme ahead of time; I really just feel out my students. I silently ask the room, “What do they need today?”. I speak to real life and how the practice often mirrors what we are going through off the mat. People are coming into class with life on their shoulders, there’s stress, there are to-do lists on the brain, that’s life and we all go through it. But I go right in, because it’s how we work through it. I think what people really like about my classes is the fact that I’m not going to be soft on them. There’s a time for softness, but you come to yoga to do work. We don’t do yoga because it’s easy! We have to find a release – let that stuff in the class, so you can walk out a little bit lighter, a little bit taller, and a heck of a lot more loving.
I was wondering if yoga changed you as a mother. How did it influence your parenting style?
Well, I was practicing yoga in 2008, very off and on, and I loved the practice. And then after I had my son, I fell into a very dark depression. And the way yoga came back into my life was life-saving. I didn’t want to go see a doctor, I didn’t want to be on prescription meds… It was to the point where yoga had to work. I think that when you commit to yourself and decide that something has to work is when it really does.
And really, as a parent, my patience has come from both, yoga and being a mom. Taking time for me every single day has made me a better mom, because it’s self-care. It’s such a loving act to put yourself first.
Even through the lens of both our webcams, I could feel Stephanie Birch’s energy right away. Her big, warm smile and sparkling eyes simply shine through. She is generous with her time and with her words. After talking to her, you ask yourself if you want to be her best friend, or if you just want to be her… and then you realize that she’s the kind of person who just makes you want to be yourself a little more.
And it’s a good example for your son too, seeing you do yoga every day.
It’s really funny, when he was about 2 and a half or 3, I was on my way out the door to go teach a yoga class, and he said: “Mom, when you teach yoga, do you help people feel their hearts?” It brought tears to my eyes! I was like, “That’s it. That’s all I’m teaching.” And I probably said that in every single class for the next three weeks. It was just a beautiful moment.
What kind of mom do you think you are, and what kind of mom do you want to be as time goes by?
I’m definitely an honest parent. I do my very best not to push my son’s emotions away. His dad and I always took the time to tell him the reasons why we’re doing things. Me, growing up, my parents were like “No, because I said so!” – but why is this a no? It kind of reminds me of the yoga practice, where some people say that it’s taught this way because it’s always been taught this way. But kids are so intuitive, they have so many questions about the world, and I just want to do my best to answer, or say “I don’t know, let’s look up the answer”. I definitely want to have an openness where it’s not fear-based to talk to us. What I want is for him not to be afraid of his own emotional states.
You share a lot of your emotions online. How would you describe your relationship with social media?
It’s been quite challenging to be so public while being a real-life teacher in the Sacramento community. There’s not a whole lotta love for somebody like me, that’s only got certified 3 years ago and yet has online yoga classes and is so public. There’s a lot of traditional teachers that have been teaching before social media who have their committed students and fan bases from teaching live classes in yoga studio, while somebody like me has had a following before I even became a teacher for multiple reasons, from yoga to writing to motherhood, just sharing family life and being real. And I am so grateful for teaching classes for OneOEight; people from France, Australia, New Zealand contact me… I get to see and meet and share stories with people that don’t live the same life as I do.
I think I challenge other people to think differently about yoga. I’m the new kid on the block and I’ve also had early success as a new teacher. My yoga career jump-started, thanks to social media. I’ve been in the business of yoga before I started teaching public classes. From writing and working with companies, social media has been a blessing to my family and the business.
And I feel like, whether it’s in your neighborhood or online, you find the people that you need, or that you can connect to, beyond the physical presence.
I think you find your tribe; your vibe attracts your tribe. What I’ve had to learn more than anything with social media, and in person, is to set good boundaries with people. There are just some people that I cannot have in my life because they drain or they take or it doesn’t fill in a way that is mutual. Now I understand that when you step up in your power and live from self-confidence, you’re not gonna back down for the comfort of others. It’s one of the most powerful things you can do as a human, and for the people around you. And as a teacher, as a mom, I’m no longer living in a way whereas I would not take opportunities for the comfort of others.
Finally, what is your definition of sexiness and sensuality? Has it changed with your yoga practice?
My definition of being sexy and sensual is really just being myself. My body has changed so much. I’m turning 33 soon, so there are additions to it that are kind of funny, like a gray hair popping out! But I love who I am. I’m not afraid to say that I love myself, I love my body. And it’s changed with my yoga practice in a way that it has strengthened my body on a physical level. I feel really strong, which makes me feel really confident. The fact that I can pick myself up or that I can carry the weight of my own body makes me feel sexy in a way that I feel like I can do anything. It’s not even about how my body looks, but the fact that I can carry myself, truly, is really sexy and sensual to me.