Back when I was on the student’s side of the yoga classroom, teachers always seemed so impenetrable in their calm happiness, and sometimes even, otherworldly. Now that I’m a yoga teacher myself, I can tell you all with full confidence and honesty: we can be just as crazy, unhinged, insecure, uncool, basic, and normal as everyone else on the planet.
And you can bet the teachers in Manila have a lot of the Filipino quirks you can think of too 😉
In an attempt to demystify yoga teachers and the seeming perfection of their practice as seen through social media, I’m starting a series on my blog not-so-creatively entitled “Yoga Teachers of Manila.”
With grace and honesty, yoga teachers share with us their struggles, their funny “un-yogi” moments, and what keeps them on their mat as a teacher and as a student.
For this post, we get to know more about teacher and incredibly strong yogi Anna Cristina Manalastas.
A little bit more about her from her profile on her site: “Anna graduated from her 300-Hour Vinyasa Yoga teacher training under Clayton Horton and Anna Carbonell. She continues to evolve in her practice and teaching through furthering her studies on yoga and its philosophies, which she actively shares in her classes. She travels around Asia to explore different classes and to take part in continuing education programs, yoga conferences and workshops, meditation classes, and teacher trainings. She is certified to teach Basic Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Yin Yoga, and Pregnancy Yoga. She is also a Reiki Level 1 practitioner. In June 2015, Anna graduated from the 100-hour Mindful Birth Teacher Training program in Hong Kong, under Michelle Papa and Dr. Jean Byrne. Through this program, Anna became a certified Pre-Natal Yoga, Post-Natal Yoga, and Yoga for Active Birth teacher. Her pregnancy classes focus on relaxation techniques, breath and body awareness, and developing mindfulness and compassion between the mother and her growing baby. Anna is registered as an experienced registered yoga teacher (E-RYT 200) in Yoga Alliance. You may view her profile at the Yoga Alliance public directory for further details on her teaching experience.”
A lot more about her in her own words below 🙂
♥ How long have you been teaching yoga?
I’ve been teaching yoga for around 3 years already. I started teaching December 2012. I teach mostly in Beyond studios – Serendra, Salcedo, Rockwell, Quezon City, and Greenhills.
♥ What kind of yoga do you teach?
I teach a few styles of yoga including Ashtanga Primary, Vinyasa, Power Yoga, Hot Flow, Yin Yoga, and Pregnancy Yoga (pre-natal, post-natal, and active birth.)
♥ What’s your personal practice like?
My primary personal practice is Ashtanga as this is the style I resonate with most. However, during periods when my schedule is tight, I have to let go of my vigorous 2-hour yoga practice in favor of one that will fit my time more and that can help me harness my energy more efficiently. 🙂 I make it a point to practice every day. On special days though, I have to let go of practicing completely. (IE ladies’ holiday, when I’m sick, when I’m traveling.) The least I do is breathing technique before I sleep or 5 sun salutations squeezed in some time between classes. If I have some time and energy, then I take other teacher’s classes. My practice ranges from 15 mins – 2 hours, depending on my availability for the day. 🙂
♥ Do you ever get unmotivated in your practice? How do you deal with it?
Yup, I do. There are days when I feel too exhausted or lazy to practice and it gets frustrating but I am able to deal with it by gently reminding myself that I am human and it’s okay to have off-days. Then I remind myself of the benefits that I have gotten from yoga when I started out and that usually inspires me to get on the mat. It’s a good way to motivate yourself when you’re not feeling it because it doesn’t feel forced. Instead, I go back to my intentions and to what yoga does for me and I’m back in the game. 🙂 It’s not always easy, but it helps around 90% of the time. 😉
♥ What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you in a yoga class?
I love this question. There are sooo many funny things that have happened to me during a yoga class… but the funny things are also the embarrassing things! Haha! Well, I’ll just think of one that I distinctly recall. I was teaching a full class one time and it was an advanced class. I was well aware that there were beginners in my class so I made sure to be on the lookout for those who were having too much of a hard time. I’ll take my cue from there and adjust the level of the class if ever, or give the students more modifications. In this particular class, there was an older male at the back who was a first-timer in my class. In the first few poses, I could hear him slightly moaning from the stretch… and it got louder and louder as the class progressed. The ladies in the class were getting quite uncomfortable, and so was I. Tension was building up. Concerned, I went to him and asked quietly if he was alright. Then he looked at me and beamed, “No, everything is fine. I looooove the stretches. They make me feel so good.” His voice was so loud that it broke the tension and people started to laugh. Puzzled he asked, “Was I being a bother?” I just smiled and told him that everything was fine. I just thought he was in a lot of pain. Then he laughed and said, “No no, I’m alright! Thanks everyone!” It was funny and quite adorable.
♥ Can you remember a funny / weird thing you said in a class that surprised even you?
Hmmm.. there are a lot. Whenever I notice the students being too serious with the practice, I usually crack a joke or two. But the most recent comment that I said during class that surprised me was when I was cueing everyone in gomukhasana arms. I gave them modifications – use a strap or grab on to your shirt if you wish. After one side, I cued them for the other and some students, especially the newbies, were surprised that one side was more open than the other. I saw their reactions and smiled, “Sometimes, you’ll find it’s easier to reach on one side than the other. It doesn’t mean one arm is longer…” And when I said this, I paused because it wasn’t what I meant to say but it actually made sense. And the students laughed because I think they imagined one of their arms is longer and I did too. Haha! Then I just continued, “… it just means maybe there’s more tension or tightness on one shoulder. Don’t worry guys, you’re not that weird.”
♥ Can you share any roadblocks you had in your practice and how you got through them?
Most of the roadblocks I’ve had in my practice comes from my ego and personal emotional/spiritual challenges. But I’ll share one experience with you.
I remember one period, around a year after I started teaching, I felt emotionally stuck and spiritually empty. This was because I was going through a huge disagreement with my best friend. I guess that fight led me to realize that, even with all the yoga I’ve been doing, I’m still not as “good” as I think I should be and I still end up getting mad or blaming others. This devastated me. I started doing yoga for self-improvement and to feel better about myself and after a year and a half of vigorous practice, I find out that I’m no better than someone who doesn’t do yoga? Of course, this was my ego speaking and once I became aware of that, I blamed myself again for being too proud. It was a very dark cycle of self-doubt and -blaming. And I found myself getting on the mat and having a hard time starting my sun salutations because I just felt like a fraud. (Mejo OA, I know. Hahahaha!) But then, I’d force myself to get through the first few sun salutations. After a few rounds, I’d get into the zone of flowing with my breath and momentarily forget my problems. But by the time it came to twists (marichasanas,) I would suddenly tear up and start bawling on my mat. It was liberating, yes, because I knew I was learning to let the toxic energy out. But it kept happening consistently for a few practices and it started to worry me cause I’m a huge overthinker. I had a hard time sleeping during those moments. Anyway, one night, I got so fed up with feeling this way that I called out to my angels and asked them to send me help during my sleep.
The most amazing thing happened.. I remember hearing a melody in my mind that kept repeating and felt soothing to me. When I awoke, I could still hear it in my head but I cannot recognize what song it was. For the first time during that period, I felt more refreshed and was able to go through my day without this dark cloud over my head. As the day progressed, the song started getting clearer and clearer in my mind until I was able to catch a few lines from the song … “Om gam ganapataye namaha.” I immediately researched and found out it was the mantra to Ganesha, the Remover of Obstacles. It was from a song that I really loved listening to in the background while I drove to my classes. I started to put that song in replay on my phone and kept listening to it throughout the day – and even through the week. I practiced to the song a few times and literally, it felt the sun started shining through again. And I got to think and feel more clearly afterwards. It was really amazing and that moment made me realize the true power of mantras. That everything is connected through vibration. And even a sound can heal.
In hindsight, I feel that period happened during a time when I was also undergoing a healing crisis. I was also doing my 21-day cleanse from my Reiki Level 1 certification and I had been doing Mysore for more than a year so my body and spirit were literally purging out the negative vibes in me. And I guess the turmoil inside let out demons in me and I lashed out to my best friend. We were able to make up afterwards but I’ll never forget that experience. It was dark and it was really lonely.. but it was transformative and strengthening.
Whenever I encounter roadblocks in my practice, like when my ego is acting up again, I always go back to my Ashtanga practice, the victorious breath, mantras, and songs. If they don’t seem to work, I ask help from my angels – and even my friends and family. I started to also let go of this idea that yoga teachers shouldn’t have problems because they have “peace within.” It’s not always true. We’re also human and the most important thing is to remember that because it helps put things in perspective and it helps us develop compassion for ourselves and for others. 🙂
♥ If you’ve done it, what’s it like teaching your parents/family?
I do it once in a while and currently, my sister in law is pregnant so I come to their house once a week for prenatal yoga classes. It’s nice. In the beginning, it felt a little scary but I think that was more because I was just learning to teach in general. Personally, I’ve found that it doesn’t make a huge difference whether I teach family or strangers. What’s good about family is that you know they will never judge you harshly just for the sake of judging and that they will always say the truth. If they enjoyed it, they will say it. Or even if they don’t say it, they will show it. But come to think of it, most students are like that. As long as you are clear with your intentions as a teacher, it will always shine through. If you just wanna help them, more often than not, they will actually feel it themselves and judgments would fall away quite instantly. 🙂
♥ Why do you continue to teach yoga?
I continue to teach yoga because I believe that it is a beautiful practice that helps the body and the mind become one. And when we become aware of this connection, it naturally follows that we also open our eyes to our connection to other beings on this planet. I continue to teach yoga because I’m also constantly learning from the lifestyle and as I teach what I learn, I learn even more. And it heals me. Constantly. It’s quite amazing, really. I’m super grateful that I found it and that it’s so accessible in our day and age now. I hope that when I teach, I am also able to contribute to the healing of other people and this world. 🙂
From all of us, thank you Teacher Anna 🙂 If you have any questions for her, you can get in touch via the details below.
Her website: On WordPress
Her Instagram: @annamanalastas