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, let’s talk about teacher Joana Medina 🙂
Back in the days when I was still relatively free and part of the regular morning Vinyasa group at White Space Mind and Body Wellness, the class was called Vinyasa Plus and it was always taught by teachers who had been teaching for a long time and just had this aura of… unshakeable competence. In other words, no matter how friendly they were, to an intermediate practitioner like me, they could be kiiind of intimidating. (Yes, I can totally relate to being intimidated by yoga teachers, haha.)
One morning though, it was different 🙂
In came a young-looking teacher, a little smaller than me, and the first word that came to my mind was: BUBBLY. I found out her name was Joana and that she had only been teaching a year more than I had. Her class was challenging sure, but it also felt very young and playful, and completely non-serious. I was very impressed 😉 Haha!
And I still am. I enjoy her class and I even enjoy teaching her. Our classes are one after the other and when she does come over and pick a mat in my class, it always makes me feel slightly more confident in what I’m about to do. I’m not sure how she does that but I’m grateful.
A lot more about her below 🙂
♥ How long have you been teaching yoga?
I was still working as an Environmental Consultant in 2014 and I started teaching yoga during my free times. By 2015, I decided to teach yoga and Barre3 full time and I havent looked back since. So more or less its been 2 and a half wonderful years.
♥ With what studios?
I teach in Beyond Yoga Greenhills, Life Yoga in BGC, White Space Wellness in Katipunan, in Barre 3 Studios all over the metro and soon in Yoga+ Express in Mckinley Hills. (SEE: Yoga studios in the Philippines)
♥ What kind of yoga do you teach?
I teach primarily Vinyasa Yoga, which is the flowy and physical type, and Yin Yoga, which is the more passive and restorative type. I also teach Barre3 which infuses the wisdom of yoga, the strength in pilates and the grace in ballet. I am also certified in Level I Reiki Healing, Kids and Families Yoga and Yoga Therapy for Common Diseases.
♥ What’s your personal practice like?
As much as I can I try to practice yoga everyday. On most days I practice 1 to 2hrs of Ashtanga, either with my teacher or self practice. On other days I attend 75 min Vinyasa or Yin Yoga classes in the studio. I try to squeeze in atleast one Barre3 hour class in my week as well for additional cardio workout. On gloomy days (which has been happening a lot with this weather 😁) and when Im feeling sick, I would either follow gentle flows in youtube or break out all of my yoga props and do a restorative yoga sequence that I copy from books instead.
♥ Do you ever get unmotivated in your practice? How do you deal with it?
Of course 😁 I think that that unmotivated feeling naturally arises whenever we do something often and it doesnt just manifest in my yoga practice but it also seeps into how i feel, think and do my day to day tasks. Dealing with this is easier said than done and we all cope in our own ways. As for me, telling myself some words of affirmation normally work, that whether im on top of the world today or feeling under the weather its all going to turn out okay at the end of the day. And if that doesnt work, cooping myself in my room binge watching tv series with a bag of chocolates and taking a long nap or getting a massage helps as well 😁
♥ What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you in a yoga class?
Yoga does require a lot of effort but in the end you should feel rejuvenated and relaxed. Taking a sighing breath every now and then is a really great way to release excess tension and stress. However, whenever someone takes the hugest “buntong hininga” of their lives, like theyre carrying the weight of the whole world, everyone in class just cracks up.
♥ Can you remember a funny / weird thing you said in a class that surprised even you?
I’ve said a lot of funny things. Mispronouncing my words happen often, which I tend to just shrug off and just laugh at. Hips become “heaps”, Reach become “rich” and facebook even becomes “fezbuk”.
One funny thing that I said recently (which I posted in my Fezbuk 😁) goes like this: At the end of each pose or set of poses, I would normally say “Ok, take a couple of breaths here, preparing for the next pose” or “Deep breaths and we’re gonna move on to the next sequence.” During one class, however, this came out of my mouth “Ok guys, catch up with the breath and move on…..yun lang talaga guys, try nyo move on din!” 🙈😁 I seriously cannot believe that I said that, needless to say I got a huge laugh from the students.
♥ Can you share any roadblocks you had in your practice and how you got through them?
The biggest roadblock in my practice would probably be one that I encountered when I was just starting out. I’ve had mild scoliosis since I was a kid and when I was in college it became unbearable to the point that I had a hard time sitting down. The doctor advised that the pain could be managed thru exercise. So I started trying out group workout classes and yoga and Barre3 resonated with me the most. I used to go to yoga classes thinking that I looked silly, that everyone was watching me and that I was doing it all wrong. I was so self concious to the point that I isolated myself in class, situating myself in the mat at a corner furthest from the teacher. This greatly affected my asana practice as well because I was scared to try some poses and I was too shy to ask questions or assistance from the teacher.
Online resources and social media I think helped me overcome this. Now more than ever there is a great community of yogis posting in websites and blogs that made me realize that this wasnt an experience that I was going through alone. The words of ecouragement and tips and tricks that I read online really helped me get over my fears with yoga. And letting go of these fears eventually opened me up to building a relationship with my teacher and classmates for support.
Some yogis might not agree with me on this but posting yoga photos in social media also helped me gain confidence in my practice. For me its a great avenue to keep track of progress and get some welcomed boost and love from yogis all over the world.
♥ If you’ve done it, what’s it like teaching your parents/family?
Nerve-wracking! When I became a teacher, I was hesitant to teach them. My first “victim” was my sister who is oppinionated and a good public speaker so I knew she would hang onto every word I would say. Second was my bubbly sister in law who outright told me “Ang Booooring kaya ng yoga” and third was my mom who is my number 1 supporter but also my biggest critic. So when I held classes for them it was like that feeling of teaching for the first time ever again. After the classes, however, I was glad that they enjoyed it and that their views with yoga changed. One thing that my sisters told me that stuck with me is that they are proud and happy for me because they saw how passionate I am with yoga and that it has manifested in my teaching.
♥ Why do you continue to teach yoga?
At the back of my mind, there is always this fear that yoga is a fad and that eventually people will get tired of it. I always tell myself though that atleast I can say that at one point in my life I worked doing the thing that I love and am passionate about.
This practice has provided me with so much joy, has gotten me through so many trying times and has made me feel like a better person. It has become a part of my day to day living and it has shaped me into who I am now. To be able to share this, even just a portion of this, is an honor.
Final Words: Never let anyone dull your shine 👍
From all of us, thank you Teacher Joana 🙂