Teacher of the Month: Meaghan

Meaghan is the very heartbeat of Breathe’s community, serving as founder, co-owner and teacher of many styles,  since the beginning. Her teaching comes from a direct lineage to yoga’s ancient roots. She adds her flavor of rhythmic, fluidity, and grace to her flow classes, which are always a fan-favorite. She’s widely known as the queen of yoga playlists. You can share experience with Meaghan each week with Yin Yoga, Breathe & Restore, Flow, or Flow 2.

How did you start practicing yoga? What was your early yoga experience like?

My first yoga experience was a semester long class I took in college. I really loved it right away, especially the philosophy. The instructor presented information in unique ways. For example one time we put a piece of fruit in our mouths with our eyes closed and had to guess what it was. It was a grape so it didn’t have any flavor unless you bit into it. It taught us how to be present and place all of our attention on one thing. It was simple but powerful. After that I bought some DVDs so that I could continue practicing at home. I had an AM and PM yoga with Rodney Yee and a stress relief yoga with Patricia Walden DVD that I used almost everyday. Many years later I had the opportunity to practice with Patricia Walden at a yoga conference, which was really fun because I considered her one of my first teachers.

When did you get a sense that yoga was different, not just a way to be physical?

I was fortunate that the college class I took focused on the philosophy of yoga as well as the postures. It was the philosophy that really resonated with me. I knew in some of those initial experiences that yoga was a lifestyle not just something I did on the mat. I found yoga at a time in my life when I was struggling greatly. I had anorexia and had completely abused my body for some time. Yoga helped me develop a new relationship with my body and with myself really. It was through the encouragement of my psychiatrist that I developed a consistent meditation and yoga practice. She also encouraged me to do yoga teacher training, which I did. It was when I immersed myself in teacher training that everything really shifted for me. I was just out of college and I was learning all this new information and embodying it on my mat, but it didn’t feel new to me, it felt like coming home – like something I knew all along.

What is your favorite yoga pose and what is your least favorite yoga pose? And why?

Such a tough question. I love so many poses. I love anything that involves lateral stretching. I think so much of our movement is linear – forward and backward that our side body gets neglected. I love doing anjaneyasana with a side stretch and yin half dragonfly with a side stretch. When I release tension from my low back and around my rib cage I feel like a new person. It opens up so much space for the breath and I love that feeling.

My least favorite pose is hanumanasana. No offense to Hanuman! I love his story and his archetype as the embodiment of loyalty and devotion, but his pose – not so much. It’s such a hard pose, and something that my body doesn’t do easily. I have to be super mindful and move into it slowly after a lot of warmup and even then I don’t like it. I think it’s because my hamstrings aren’t as flexible as I would like them to be. It’s a great teacher though.

In what way does your yoga practice most impact your daily life?

Oh my, I could write a book on this topic. Maybe some day I will. 😉 The physical practice helps me release stress from my body. I’ve been practicing for so long that it is like flossing my teeth. It is a part of my physical and mental hygiene regimen. When I feel better in my body I am able to be a better person in relationship to myself and others. My meditation practice does the same thing for my mind. Sitting allows me to witness my thoughts and disentangle from them so that I can be more objective in all that I do. The philosophy of yoga helps me navigate this human experience. I love how this ancient science of the mind has so many practical applications in modern life.

This month at Breathe we are focusing on the fifth niyama, isvara pranidhana, surrender. How do you experience/practice isvara pranidhana on your yoga mat, in your teaching, and in daily life?

This particular niyama may be my biggest teacher. I think surrender is one of the hardest aspects of life. It requires trust, patience, and a belief that I am being supported no matter what. On my mat, it is about letting go of any expectation or agenda I may have. When I surrender in this way I am more in touch with my intuition and more likely to do what I need rather than what I want. In my teaching, it is about surrendering in a similar way – surrendering my ego, my agenda, or my expectation about what the class should look like or how it should go. I try my best to let go of controlling anything and instead be a facilitator. To do this I need to pause, breathe, and feel into what’s happening and if my intuition is saying go in a different direction I need to be willing to let go of what I thought it should be. In my daily life, I am practicing surrender all the time. Sometimes willingly and sometimes with my feet dragging. What I have come to realize is that any sense of control is false. I can do all the things and still life may unfold differently than I want. When that happens I do my best to soften and trust that there is a mystery unfolding that is beyond my comprehension and that everything is happening just the way it should so that I can heal and grow.

What is a fun fact about you that not many people know?

I love to write. I discovered my love for writing early on. I even had a few things published locally as young as 5th grade and up through high school. Writing is a way that I express myself and process my emotions. I took a creative non-fiction writing class at The Muse last summer and I loved it. I have several short pieces written that I hope to someday turn into a memoir.

Tell us something about teaching at Breathe.

Teaching yoga is my passion and being able to do it at my own studio is truly a gift. The community at Breathe is remarkable. I love seeing people connect before and after class and watch as friendships develop. Yesterday in my Sunday class I taught a challenging pose and a student said out loud “yeah, I don’t like that one” and we all laughed so hard. It was a great moment, and one that I think is possible because of the culture we have created. We take the practice seriously, but we still have a sense of humor about it and we know how to have fun!

Join Meaghan for class.