I am SUPER excited to highlight another Wellness Diva on my Blog: Jessie Elenbaas. Last month, we got to hear from Megan, our Optimist Diva. Megan shared: " Life truly has so much to offer and the possibilities and opportunities we're blessed with are endless! When you tweak your mindset to viewing life in this manner, you can't help but embrace each day with an optimistic attitude."
Megan provides a great introduction to our next Diva, Jessie, who is my favorite yoga instructor. Jessie's attitude towards her practice of yoga and life in general reflects much of Megan's mindset to embrace each day, be thankful for our blessings, and accept ourselves for who we are in the present.
I first took a class with Jessie when I was a member of 24 Hour Fitness several years ago. I then started taking classes from Jessie at Maya Whole Health in Fremont. A year or two later, Jessie started hosting outdoor yoga classes in Fremont (by the canal) and at Gasworks park. I've never had a more incredible mind-body experience with yoga than I did when I first experienced outdoor yoga with Jessie.
Jessie is simply the BEST instructor. She is warm, friendly, kind, beautiful, athletic, and REAL. She doesn't make the class about herself, and doesn't go over the top with chanting and meditation (two of my pet peeves with instructors). She brings her own music mixes to her classes with the coolest songs that help you relax and have more fun. She always says for us to come to class just as we are, and try to let go of other things in our lives that might be weighing us down. In short, Jessie has made a great contribution to my overall wellness and the wellness of many.
1. When did you first start learning about yoga? How did you start practicing?
I took my first yoga class in Chicago with my manager at work at a gym. It was a hot yoga class and I remember thinking it was strange and I didn't understand all the poses
(nor the benefits of them). And I felt a little claustrophobic in the hot room so I didn't practice again for 3 more years. Then i took a class at 24 Hr Fitness and liked the power flow in a regular room and enjoyed it much more. I started taking more classes and grew to enjoy it very much. And because I had taught other forms of exercise in the past (kickboxing, dance, etc), I thought...I could probably teach yoga too!
2. What about yoga were you drawn to once you were in a routine of practicing?
I really enjoy vinyasa flow yoga because it's very fluid (like dance) and has power elements to it so it feels physically challenging as well as has elements of stretching to it. I also love music so found that the kind of music I enjoy listening to during yoga fit best with Vinyasa Flow.
3. What inspired you to become a certified yoga instructor?
At 24 Hr Fitness, I was allowed to start teaching without my certification but I wanted to have a deeper knowledge and understanding of the practice so I decided to get certified. I'm so glad I did because it taught me so much about teaching yoga which is quite different than teaching other physical exercises. It's essential to know the anatomy of the body in order to teach safely for the students.
4. What is your favorite part about teaching yoga? How do you feel it contributes to YOUR overall wellness (mental, emotional, physical, etc).
I love teaching yoga because I feel that I am helping people understand their bodies better as well as encouraging them to love themselves. Our world teaches us to critisize and compare ourselves to others more than accept who and where we are in our lives. When I teach yoga, I stress embracing who/what/where we are in our lives at this very moment. To be in the present...and to accept ourselves in that moment...that is a true practice of enjoying life. And because many of the poses have many benefits for us physically and mentally, it often helps us release our emotions about life as well.
5. What is your favorite part about practicing yoga?
I enjoy being a student just as much as I enjoy teaching. When I'm practicing yoga, I'm listening to my own body and responding instead of always focusing on where to take the practice which is what I have to do when teaching. Doing my own personal practice at home allows me explore new flows and sequences so I become a better teacher as well the more I practice on my own as well as learning from other teachers.
6. What would you say to people who are hesitant to try out yoga because they are "not flexible enough"? :)
It takes working on our flexibility in order to become flexible. Saying we won't do yoga because we're not flexible is just an excuse or fear of the unknown of what yoga involves. It doesn't mean we have to twist ourselves like a pretzel. It means that we start to work on our balance, strength, flexibility and learning tools for peace and stress relief as well. Yoga is much more than being flexible. It can be fun to see our flexibility improve once we start to practice yoga and give it a try at least a few times to see some improvement.
7. Anything else you'd like to add?
While yoga is something I love for its physical and emotional benefits, it's not my religion. I don't teach chanting or some of the traditional beliefs associated with yoga. So doing yoga doesn't have to mean that it has to be one's religion. Yoga is a wonderful complement to many other cardio exercises and it's a great way to find time for ourselves in a very busy world. Yoga will also help us age with grace so we can be confident and independent for a wonderful life.
Jessie, thank you for being you!
Interested in learning more about yoga and trying it out for the first time? My recommendation is to do an intro series class to learn everything properly before you truly dive in!
My favorites in Seattle: