True Life: I’m a yoga teacher! (with Patricia Dittrick)

Meet Patricia!

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(Pavones Teacher Training January 2013 graduate)

Whether she’s out catching dawn surf waves with girlfriends, gliding through sandy toes yoga on the beach, or dipping her feet into the water during stand-up paddleboard (SUP) yoga classes, this Florida beach beauty finds the fun and gleeful play in her yoga teaching.

Here’s what she had to say about her recent career change and her plans for what’s next for her new business, Aqua Life Fitness.

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Q: Do you remember your first yoga class?

A:        Yes I remember my first yoga class. I felt awkward and uncomfortable. I did not know how to do any of the poses and the teacher was not explaining. I also felt embarrassed: bending over in front of the person behind me made me blush! Yet I felt the stretching helping my sore body.

Q: Tell us a little more about your path to the 200-hr yoga teacher training in Pavones…

A:        I used to sit in an office every day, follow a weekly schedule. Get up, go to work, go home, and fit in a little surf. Repeat.

            Then something changed. It became apparent that I was more passionate about finding my inner peace than I was about the piles of 9-5 work that I had created for myself. After dedicating 26 years to building my career, I found it no longer fulfilling. The office walls started to close in around me and with the encouragement of my husband, I made one of the scariest decisions I’ve ever made: I left Corporate America. In search of what? I did not know. I surfed all summer on my quest. The water gave me a sense of freedom and a connection with my inner child blossomed. I could feel the waves leading me to the peace within my soul. My lifestyle became more focused and I embraced the shift to a new way of being. I found peace in yoga and meditation.

            I made a decision to start off on a journey to becoming a teacher. I knew the second half of my life was going to be the best. I had surfed my stand-up paddle board for a few years and found myself playing around with yoga poses on the board which I found deepened my yoga practice. I had what I can only describe as an “aha” moment! That was the day Aqua Life Fitness was born. My mission statement: “Quality of life through the love of water.”

            I first attended stand-up paddle board yoga certification: a 4-day intensive. As soon as I got home from that, I started looking for a place to do my 200-hour Yoga Alliance yoga teacher training. I searched “surfing and yoga” and Pavones came up right away.

            I set off on my biggest adventure thus far in life; teacher training at Pavones Yoga Center in Pavones, Costa Rica. I left the country for 5 weeks. Not knowing anybody, leaving the country by myself, getting on the plane and saying “I’ll be back!” Just by the whim of a webpage. A shot in the dark.

Q: Seems like you’re “riding the wave” of success that SUP yoga is having. Can you explain a little bit about what doing yoga on a board in the waves is like and how it’s different from yoga on dry land?

A:          I am having the time of my life teaching stand-up paddle board yoga. Yoga on the paddle board has many differences. Keeping a slight bend in your knees, your eyes on the horizon and relaxing. Letting your body naturally absorb the movement of the waves under your feet. Also positioning your feet and your hands as you flow through your poses. Taking time to take in all of the surrounding elements of being in nature while maintaining your focus.

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Q: Are there different types of SUP yoga out there? What is your typical class flow like?

A:           There are different kinds of fitness classes on the paddle board. I have chosen a slow flow. I like to stay connected with my students, adjusting my classes according to the student’s experience in yoga and on the paddle board.           

Q: What are some unique benefits of SUP yoga?

A:

  • 1. Improve your balance: factors such as water current can change your balance and your focus. The element of moving water will require you to engage additional muscle stabilizers and maintain enhanced focus on the present.
  • 2. Strengthen your core: as you stand and paddle, the engagement of your core is required to keep you steady and moving through the water. Using the paddle board as your mat will bring a whole new meaning to your “boat” pose.
  • 3. Overcome fear: we have all experienced the fear of falling while moving into inversions and arm balances. As you improve your balance and engage your core, you will become stronger and hopefully a little braver as you try poses on your board that you might have mastered previously on your steady mat. *Added bonus: If you fall, you land in the water and cool off!
  • 4. Get outdoors: even if there are clouds, the sun is always shining! Add some Vitamin D into your day. The change of scenery will be a great addition to your practice. Make a day of it and take a picnic lunch. After your practice, watch the water and breathe in the fresh air, allowing it to invigorate and calm you. 
  • 5. Have Fun! Changing how and where you practice yoga is a great opportunity to meet new people and bring some excitement to your daily routine. Look for fish or maybe even a dolphin. Jump or fall off your board and take a swim.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to try SUP for the first time?

A: Trust your natural balance, relax, and have fun. The worst that can happen is you’ll get a little wet! The most important thing is keeping yourself centered on the board, relaxing and keeping your eyes open. I tend to fall in at least once a class! I think it normalizes it for the students. You have to keep it fun. At my yoga class last night on the beach we laughed until my gut hurt!

Q: Where else do you teach?

A: I teach yoga on the beach. I have a secluded beach I take my students to Sunday mornings at sunrise and a Wednesday evening sunset class as well. I also teach at the YMCA here in Navarre on Mondays and Fridays. In the fall I will be teaching children’s storybook yoga, senior chair yoga and yoga for people in wheelchairs.

Q: What is something you learned in Pavones teacher training that you wish every yoga teacher knew?

A: Presentation of your space is very important. Even when I set up my beach yoga, I rake the sand to remove any trash, set up my blocks, provide a small towel to dust sand off and place a strap at each space. I create an outdoor studio. Once students step into my “Zen garden,” (as I have heard them call it) they are at peace.

Q: Tell us a little more about setting up a small business like “Aqua Life Fitness”

A: There are so many small details to setting up a business. First and foremost due to all of the equipment I needed for stand up paddle board yoga, my husband purchased me the biggest van I could find. Next I purchased a very good insurance policy that covers all aspects of my yoga teachings.

 Q: What do you remember most about Pavones Yoga Center?

A: The amazing people I met, and the yoga space atop that fun hill to climb… wow, I loved it all.

Q: Your favorite pose to do in the water?

A: Pigeon sequence.

Q: What’s next for Aqua Life?

A: I’m going back to Pavones in February for “The art of flow” and in September for another month, then I’ll have my E-RYT 500-hour yoga teacher certification. There aren’t a lot of options for yoga teacher training near where I live, so I’m really excited to start teaching more teachers. I’m set to launch with Yoga Alliance in 2015 for 200-hour yoga teacher training and water certification courses.

Visit Patricia’s site here: www.aqualifefitness.com

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