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Teacher Feature: Stephen Kirsch

1. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOGA?

To me, yoga is a practice of tuning in – to the mind, the body, and the breath. Something as simple as noticing the fact that you are, in fact, breathing, rather than taking it for granted, is a piece of that yoga. Yoga is also a way of finding peace in our existence; in a world that is chaotic, messy, and unpredictable, yoga is a process of acceptance and non-attachment that teaches us to move through the world in an easeful way.

2. HOW DID YOU FIND YOUR WAY TO YOGA?

I have moved a lot in my adult life, and when I landed in Boston several years ago I promised myself that I would make an effort to get grounded and put down roots by intentionally trying some new things and becoming a part of some different communities. I had only ever taken one yoga class before, but I committed to a regular yoga practice at a local yoga studio. At that time I was working as a server and regularly running as well as biking to get around the city, and yoga was such an incredible compliment to those strong active practices that I felt its benefits almost immediately. It wasn’t long after the physical practice set in that I started to experience yoga’s other benefits: the quiet in my mind, the softening of my reactionary impulses, and an ease in being. Yoga has become more than that physical movement practice, and it has become a way of being in the world.

3. WHAT IS YOUR PRACTICE LIKE OFF THE MAT? HOW WOULD YOU SAY YOU LIVE YOUR YOGA?

My practice carries into my life off the mat in the way I try to move through the world. When your yoga practice is steady, there is a steadiness and a softness to the way you carry yourself, to the way you interact with people, and to how you react to strong or challenging situations. I’m by no means a perfect example of yogic living, but I try to live my life in this way, and to learn from when I fall short. I also feel deeply about the yogic principle of ahimsa (non-harming), and I particularly try to carry it out in my decisions about how I eat, what businesses I choose to support, and how I treat the environment and the world around me.

4. WHAT DRAWS YOU TO THE LILA COMMUNITY?

If you’ve ever stepped foot inside the Lila studio, you most likely know that it’s an incredibly special place. The energy, the warmth, the welcoming atmosphere, the smell of homemade chai tea…these things combine to make me feel very at home in this space. What really makes Lila lovely are the people who practice there and share the space. There is a sense of yogic community that’s strong, kind and inclusive and often hard to find. I feel really lucky to be a part of that.

5. WHO IS YOUR PRIMARY TEACHER RIGHT NOW?

I’m still adjusting to living and practicing in Portland, so I have yet to find a primary teacher up here. For now I am still connected to Ame Wren, my primary teacher from Boston. Seriously, go to Boston and take her class. You won’t regret it.

6. WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO KEEP TEACHING?

I’ve always loved teaching – for a while I thought I was going to be a high school Spanish teacher (don’t ask me to have a conversation with you in Spanish now!). I’ve always enjoyed the process of sharing information in a clear, concise way and watching the experience of a student absorbing that information. When teaching yoga, the physical experience is particularly fascinating. Watching a student connect to a muscle they didn’t know they had or find ease in an asana that has always alluded them is powerful and rewarding, and I really enjoy that. I also find that remaining a student inspires me more than anything else – constantly learning, refining, and growing in my own knowledge and practice makes me even more eager to share it with my community!

7. IF YOU WOULD SUGGEST ONE BOOK TO THE COMMUNITY TO READ AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO DEEPEN THEIR LEARNING ON LIFE, YOGA, AND ALL THINGS, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

The Mirror of Yoga by Richard Freeman was the first book I read as a part of my teacher training and it is powerful and deep. It’s an ambitious read for a new yogi, and I remember finding it very challenging when I first read it. I still do! It’s an awesome book that approaches yoga as a whole, breaks down different schools and styles of yoga, as well as many of the core principles that contribute to the practice. It’s definitely an excellent resource!

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