True Life: I’m a Yoga Teacher (with Amanda Leavitt!)

Alohas Yogis! Today I have the pleasure of (electronically) introducing you to Amanda Leavitt, the first in our “True Life: I’m a Yoga Teacher” series. In the next few months, I’ll be posting a few interviews with students who have completed the PYC YTT so that you can see the innumerable ways in which the YTT shapes lives, and what different paths it can lead to.

Training with Amanda, I was always impressed by the integrity she brought to the mat. One could see and feel the dedication she held in her practice, and the strength she had when challenging herself both emotionally and physically during our month together. She currently lives in Vail, CO, and has just become the full-time manager of Revolution Power Yoga! Congrats Amanda!

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Important things first! What was your favorite recipe of JP’s (our amazing YTT chef’s) cuisine?

Tough call, but probably his soaked oats in the morning with dried fruit. It was filling, tasty, and gave me tons of energy to stay attentive and aware throughout our afternoon sessions.

What is your best memory of the YTT?

Two things stand out in my mind. First, I met my best friend there. She is a beautiful soul, and I am beyond thankful our paths crossed. I cannot imagine my life without having met her. She blew my mind, and has shown me what real friendship means.

Second, the morning of our last day was our final sadhana. I do not know what overcame me, but I was inspired to practice the entire 2 our asana practice with my eyes closed. I was slower than normal, shaky, and all over the mat…but I was 100% in-tune with my body and my surroundings. I pushed myself as much as I could, but was perfectly content with not being able to come into my “full expression” of the asana that morning. I let Chris’s words guide me, without relying on him for every movement or breath cue. I was in my own body. Totally surreal. I cried during savasana, which is rare for me.

What has it been like, becoming a professional yoga teacher?

I have loved this journey! When I first started looking for work in the yoga field I was really apprehensive. I was definitely going to go after jobs, but it is not like they are listed somewhere. I started practicing regularly at a studio nearby, and got to know the community, the studio owner, and the teachers.  After practicing twice daily in the most beautiful of outdoors studios, it was an adjustment for me to start practicing indoors again, but I began to welcome and open to this new environment. I told the studio owner that I was available to sub, but it seemed like she hardly even noticed. A month later I asked her again if she might need any help around the studio — cleaning, checking people in, etc. She said that she had been meaning to talk to me because two of her teachers were leaving. We set up an interview (demo) for that week, and I began teaching the week after. I was given one class to start (hot yoga). The next month I had two. The following month I had three plus a meditation series. It was snowball effect.

During that same time I began working at a fitness center, and they started me off with 4 classes, plus subbing. I was quickly overwhelmed with teaching at two studios and holding two other jobs. It felt like I was all over the place, and my personal practice went out the window. I heard Chris’ voice in the back of my head asking “Is this sustainable?”. Just when I had reached my max, I saw a posting for a full-time yoga studio manager position applied right away. I did not hear back from them for almost two weeks, but I took a leap of faith and told both yoga studios that I had been working for that I would be finished at the end of February. It was painful to say goodbye, especially without even knowing if I got the job. I told the new studio what I had done and she called me within an hour offering me the gig. I cried on the spot! Along the way, I was also involved in teaching high school girls an after-school yoga program once a week. I won’t be teaching for a while at the new studio, but I plan to go to Baptiste Level One during the summer so I can start teaching again!

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What has been the greatest change to your life since the YTT:

My overall awareness has increased dramatically. I take pause before reacting. I take care of myself (mentally, physically, and spiritually), so that I can take care of others. I listen to my body. I pay attention to the foods I eat and how my body feels after eating them. I listen more and talk less. I smile a lot! ;D

What is the one phrase/word/expression that you have carried from PYC training?

Effortless Effort – LOVE THIS!

What are tips you have on making it as a full time yoga teacher?

(1) Maintain a regular personal practice. This may seem obvious, but it has been vital to my teaching practice. I get inspiration from other teachers, and the opportunity to push myself and feel what it is like to be a student. I hurt my back and had to modify everything (even tadasana) for 3 weeks. Now I understand how people with back pain feel when they are in my classes. Continually seeing new things and stepping out of my comfort zone help me be a better teacher. Plus, I feel more confident when I have a strong personal practice!

(2) Let go of a set class plan. Really a great idea to set an intention for each practice: I want my students to leave with a sense of calm, open shoulders, vitality, empowerment, etc. Pick one and design your class around that. Be prepared as you begin, but do not feel tied to your lesson plan. I remember designing an entire class around inversions (bridge, wild thing, plow, shoulderstand, headstand, handstand, etc.) and then a 70 year-old women came in that had never done yoga before. I tossed the entire plan and went back to what I knew best, the PYC flows. They loved the class, and I saved my inversion class for my advanced hot yoga class later that week.

(3) Learn when to say no. I fell into a pattern of saying yes to all the sub requests, special programs, and odd class times. That may be necessary as you start off, but ask yourself what is sustainable. If you are unhappy and anxious, it will be more difficult to impart a sense of calm and ease onto your students.

(4) Keep reading about yoga: your PYC notes, about the sutras, inspiring quotes and stories, academic articles (And  of course the Salty Dog, might we add!)

What songs are pumping your flows right now?

  • I’ll Fly Away, Rising Appalachia
  • Anything of Michael Frantis
  • Shanti (Peach Out) by MC Yogi (for savasana)
  • I Believe In Love, Matisyahu
  • African River, John de Kadt
  • Party Rock Anthem (Feat: Lauren Bennett and GoonRock) by LMFAO
  • Ho Hey,  The Lumineers
  • Moves like Jagger, Maroon 5
  • Arms, Christina Perri
  • Everybody Talks, Neon Trees
  • You Raise Me, Celtic Woman
  • Somebody That I Used to Know (Glee Cast version)
  • Sweet Emotion, Aerosmith
  • Sexy and I Know It by LMFAO — select audiences ;D
  • You Don’t Miss Your Water Til Your Well Runs Dry, Rising Appalachia
  • Radhe Shayam, Wade Imre Morisette

So what’s next? How do you keep growing and evolving?

I am going to Level One with Baron Baptise this summer!! And, I am doing personal goal setting and training online with www.igolu.com — really inspirational, reflective, and helpful. Check it out.

Many thanks to Amanda for sharing her journey and wisdom with us. Feel free to visit her on Facebook, at AmandaBrookeYoga, or leave any questions & comments and we’ll try to get back to you!

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