Teacher of the Month: Ann Williams

Ann has been a blessing to Breathe’s community, serving as a teacher for for over 4 years, supporting the studios day-to-day activities as our Operations Manager, and practicing with us since the beginning. We love her steady presence and her nurturing, motherly charisma. Plus her sense of humor brings joy to her classes and Breathe’s operations. Ann teaches Flow Basics, Yin, Breathe & Restore, and starting this Sunday… Flow Sundays at 5:30pm. Join Ann for class.

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

My first experience with yoga was at TCC and the only reason I signed up to fulfill a requirement.  It sounded like an easy way to complete a credit and I was taking care of myself at the same time.  However, the practices of yoga didn’t “stick” at that time and it would be a couple of years before yoga really took root in my body.  In the summer of 2008 I was depleted physically, mentally, and emotionally and that is what prompted me to think I should give yoga another try.  My first studio experience left me feeling energized and open and I KNEW I needed to make it a part of my life.  With each trip to the studio for class I felt lighter and stronger.  I will admit I was in over my head taking classes that were advanced but the sense of community I felt kept me coming back for more.  

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

After my first class in a studio I immediately started to see the world differently, not through the lens of depression and exhaustion.  I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time and it was difficult to put into words, but I would tell anyone that would listen that they needed to do yoga!  It’s a game changer.  

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

My favorite yoga pose has changed over the years.  Currently, I love supported heart openers.  Reclining onto a bolster or blocks opens the chest and promotes diaphragmatic breathing.  The benefits of taking deep breaths are: more oxygen getting into the bloodstream, lifts your mood, and calms the nervous system.  It is one of my favorite ways to begin a restorative or yin class.  

Least favorite, anything that requires core and upper body strength.  I have steadily been getting stronger but I continue to struggle.    

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

Yoga has taught me to be more observant of my internal world and the ways I live day to day.  Holding my breath, or taking shallow breaths, tension in my shoulders, and clenching my jaw are ways I carry physical tension.  I observe it daily which allows me to learn better habits to increase my well-being.   

This month at Breathe we are focusing on the fourth niyama, svadhyaya, contentment. How do you experience/practice santosha on your yoga mat, in your teaching, and in daily life? 

Svadhyaya, self-study can be interesting and frustrating at the same time.  Shining a light on the inner workings of my body/mind is helpful because it has allowed me to make different choices from a place of self-awareness. I know where my boundaries are and I also know when I need to move out of my comfort zones, both on and off the yoga mat. When practicing svadhyaya I feel it is important to have compassion.  We are all works in progress and it isn’t helpful to compare your experience to others or judge yourself harshly. Get to know yourself and move forward with kindness.   

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

I grew up in eastern Iowa and yes, my first job was in a corn field.  It’s like walking into a corn forest, and it’s hot and humid with lots of bugs.  I am a life-long lover of cats, no secret there, and I often spent my summers trying to get the wild farm cats to be my friend.  I’m sure you can guess how that turned out.  

Tell us something about teaching at Breathe.

Breathe is my yoga home and working with Meaghan and Gil has been an adventure.  They supported me when I was a new teacher and offered valuable guidance.  Teaching has always been my calling and it felt like a natural progression when I moved from a Montessori classroom to guiding students on their mats.  I love learning and sharing knowledge and it is an honor to share the practices of yoga.  

Ann has a special Friday night class this month Yin and Yoga Nidra on July 26th. Register now.