With the Thanksgiving Holiday quickly approaching, we are reminded, in the case that we have forgotten, to give thanks for the bounty in our lives.
At Bristol Yoga we are more than thankful for not only the gift of community, but the many gifts that come from each individual to our community, especially the gift of presence. Every time we come to our mats, we are giving the gracious gift of presence. This brings to mind another quote from Thich Nhat Hanh in his book You Are Here:
“What is loving? It is recognizing the presence of the other with your love. This is not a theory; it is a practice. Whether the object of your love is your heart, your in-breath, your physical body, or your baby, whether it is your son, your daughter, or your partner, your declaration of love is always the same. It is: ‘Dear one, I am here for you’ . . . When the other person realizes that his or her presence has been recognized and confirmed, he or she will blossom like a flower . . . If you embrace them with the energy of mindfulness, with your true presence, this energy is completely nourishing. It is like water for a flower . . . Your presence is the most precious gift you can give him or her. ‘Dear one, I am here, really here, for you.’”
In our last Feature Teacher post where we introduced you to the lovely Vicky Foster, we illustrated the garden of community. The Sangha, the body of community, serves as the foundation of soil which provides support to the flowers, each individual member of the Sangha. Here, Thich Nhat Hanh shows how presence acts as the water which feeds the flowers, our members, on their path toward personal growth. When true presence is mixed with the support of community, all within the community are seen, heard, and fed with love.
It is a gift in itself just to witness individuals flourish when fed by the loving presence of the Bristol Yoga Community. This instructor in particular, being one of our youngest instructors, has been inspiring to watch mature, blossom, and soften by surrendering to the support of love.
This sweet, vibrant flower is . . . Alysse Baker!
Here are a few questions we asked Alysse to help you get to know her sweet sense and gain insight into her transformation.
What brought you to yoga?
“The first time I did yoga I hated it. I went to massage therapy school in Blacksburg, VA and yoga was required before every class to get warmed up. Yoga kind of fell into my lap when I needed it. About 2/3 of the way through the massage therapy program, the same school offered a yoga teacher training program and by that time I had really noticed a difference in my body after practicing for a short 9 months. I was also 19 and wanted to explore places away from my hometown of Independence, VA for a little while longer so needless to say, I stayed.”
How long have you been practicing?
“Six years on and off.”
If you could define your style, what would it be?
“The teacher training program I went through was primarily Ashtanga based. Ashtanga greatly influences my style but over the years it’s developed into a mix. I want to say my style is along the lines of ‘power’, but not the way people typically think of ‘power’. In most peoples’ minds, when they think power, they think ‘hard’, or ‘I am going to be hurting after this’, and that’s not what I want my classes to be. What I really want is for my students to walk away feeling ‘empowered’. Yes, I like a strong practice, yes, I encourage you to go to your edge, but, more than anything, I want you to listen to the body! It’s YOUR practice, no one else’s. I want you to feel ‘empowered’ to make it into what you need!”
What is your favorite posture/asana?
“Virabhadrasana II or Warrior Two- It makes me feel physically strong but also very mentally and emotionally strong.”
What does yoga mean for you?
“Yoga for me is neither up nor down. Yoga is the happy medium whether you’re doing the physical practice or in other ways. In life we all have ups and downs. The ups feel amazing and the downs can feel tragic. Yoga is a way to check out of the roller coaster of life, even if it is for a short period of time.”
What are you doing when you are not teaching?
“Currently, I go to school at Northeast State finishing up an Associate’s degree in business administration and I work in the restaurant/bar industry when I need some extra money. I spend a lot of time with my dog, Opie, and try to visit my family in Grayson County as often as I can.”
What is your spirit animal?!
“A koala bear. =] I love to sleep and I love the smell of eucalyptus.”
What are three likes and three dislikes you have in general?
“I LOVE food, I like kids’ movies that make you cry because they’re so sweet/inspirational (ex: Homeward Bound when Shadow, the old golden retriever, walks over the hill after everybody thought he was gone forever), and there’s something special about snowy days.
I dislike judgement, people making fun of others who can’t defend themselves, and the color red.”
Who is/are the most influential person/people in your life?
“I would say my grandma. Growing up I always thought she was crazy, but now I realize that she’s probably the smartest person on Earth.”
What is the most important lesson you have thus far learned from your yoga?
“Balance- on and off the mat. I’ve never been a big fan of moderation, but yoga has helped me prioritize and get my life back together. It’s helped me figure out what’s important, sometimes that means buckling down and sometimes it means letting your hair down.”
Through the support of the soil of Sangha and the nourishment from the water of loving presence, Alysse continues to bloom more fully into the beautiful woman empowered by love that she is today. If you want to break a sweat in the presence of this sweet, koala-goddess, come find her Tuesdays afternoon at 12:15 PM for a 45 minute Flow-n-go, then again Tuesday evening at 7:15 for Vinyasa. If you want to find the “power” in the feeling of being “empowered”, catch her Thursday nights at 5:45 PM for Power Vinyasa and Saturday afternoon at 1:00 PM for Vinyasa.
Feature Teacher presented by Marcy Hullander