Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Teacher of the Month: Jessica Chazen

By: April Evans

If you have ever had the pleasure of taking Jessica Chazen’s class, you know that she fills the studio with a precious awareness that makes students eager to listen, explore, and change. The word “mindful” always seems appropriate when describing her class. Her sequences are consistently amazingly creative and precisely constructed to lead students toward a new understanding, and her thorough instruction ensures that all students remain simultaneously safe and challenged. Her calm, steady, and open demeanor is strong enough to ground everyone in the room, but leaves students the space to explore their own minds, hearts, and asana practices.

Join Jessica for class at the York Studio:
Mondays 4:35-5:50pm All Levels Vinyasa
Tuesdays 6:00-7:00am All Levels Vinyasa
Sundays 1:05-2:20pm  All Levels Vinyasa
Sundays 4:20-5:35pm  All Levels Vinyasa

When did you first discover yoga?
I first discovered yoga with my oldest sister. She took me to Jivamukti downtown for my first class. I was next to Russell Simmons, so my very first class we were doing forearm stands and handstands - it was a super challenging class. I was definitely overwhelmed, but I had a lot of fun. I spent a lot of time laughing. I thought, “This is crazy, I can’t do these things.” But something about it made me want to come back.

How long have you been teaching? 
I was certified in October 2009 and started teaching just a few months after that. So I’ve been teaching going on 3 years.

What makes your class unique?
I try to bring something new every single class.  Whether it’s sequencing or a really unique pose or some new special music I think is really cool, I always try to keep my students on their toes. I like to give my students something fresh to think about each time, be it the bandhas or drishti or yoga philosophy. I make it a point to take class with as many different teachers as possible. That way I have lots of inspiration coming in so that each week I can plan the most creative and fun class possible.

What is your favorite pose to teach?
Right now I actually love to teach utkatasana. I used to hate it, but now I love to teach it because I just recently discovered how to feel both comfortable and powerful in this pose. Every time I’m teaching it in class I try to come into it myself and tell students exactly how to find that balance in their own bodies.

What is you favorite pose to practice?
Triangle pose. I’ve felt really at home in the pose from the very first day that I came into it.  My approach to this pose has definitely changed over the years, but it always feels kind of perfect in my body. Whether I’m approaching it from a strength-building stance or a stretching perspective, I definitely feel open and serene when I’m practicing this pose.
Best advice for beginners?
Approach your practice with a sense of humor and with a smile. There’s no need to take yourself or the practice too seriously. Don’t talk yourself out of something that looks difficult – always try it. You’re never going to know unless you try it. And don’t hold your breath!

Best advice for more advanced yogis?
Always consider yourself a beginner. Notice when your ego shows up on your mat and when it does, notice when you’re over-congratulating yourself or overly focused on how the pose looks. Close your eyes, go within, and notice instead how the pose feels. Be grateful to the teachers who make you look at a pose a different way even though you might think that your way is the best way.

What is your biggest yoga pet peeve?
When people leave during savasana or don’t take savasana. You worked so hard all class.  You earned it, it’s the most important pose. And those who think that using blocks is cheating.
How do you incorporate yoga into your daily life?
I do my best to be completely absorbed in what I’m doing while I’m doing it. I recently quit wearing my iPod while walking around the streets because I realized it was making me escape into my head rather than looking around and observing the people and the architecture around me and being in the present moment. I try to apply the level of awareness that I have in my yoga practice to my everyday life, like when I eat my meals or how I honor my relationships.

Passions besides yoga?
I have quite a few: food and cooking (for myself and for my boyfriend), movies, swimming in the ocean, dancing to great music, my cats, and travel.

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