Meet one of our newest instructors, Isi! After falling in love with yoga here at Vibe, Isi completed the 200-hour Core Power training in her hometown Bethesda, Maryland. Since then, she’s been teaching Power Vinyasa in our studio and on campus. A senior in International Studies with a focus in Global Health and a minor in Dance, Isi brings her joint passions for healing and movement to her yoga practice. Read on to learn more about how she fuses these two passions as well as what she envisions for her future in wellness.
Where did your yoga journey begin?
I have a dance background, so ever since I was younger, I was always connected to movement as a source of expression. Towards the end of my freshman year at IU, I found Vibe and was taking classes off and on. Then I left Bloomington to take a year off between my sophomore and junior years. That was due to a lot of stressors and some mental health stuff that I was dealing with. Before that, I was going to Vibe a lot. It was my safe space. I really connected to the healing side of yoga that I got from the teachers here, which fueled my passion for the practice. When I decided to take a year off, I found a studio at home where I could do a teacher training. I loved it and dove into my practice from there. To be able to come back and teach at Vibe is an amazing thing because this community helped me find my path in yoga.
What were you taking initially at Vibe?
My first couple classes were with Kris in Hot Fusion. He got me hooked. I love his classes. He’s just so personable, but he also has a very lovely, calming presence and voice. He has this way of allowing you to detach from the rest of your day and close off the rest of the world for that one hour. I think that during the low points of my own struggles, that really made a difference for me.
Does your dance background inform your yoga practice?
When I started doing yoga, I really noticed a difference in how my body felt. Ever since I was little, I’ve danced. I never competed or wanted to go professional. I just loved dance as a form of self-expression. I was at a studio when I was growing up that was very conservatory-minded, so there was pressure to fit a certain mold. I also think that it was hard on my body. Through yoga, I feel like I’ve found a way of movement that allows me to express myself and keep my body safe. That allows me to get stronger. Now I keep dance in my life because I love it. It’s fun. And I’m thinking about movement not so much as a specific art form. It’s more about finding movement that allows your body to heal and grow.
Do your studies at IU connect with your passion for movement?
I just graduated IU in International Studies with a focus on Global Health. Everything kind of came full circle with yoga, and it all started at Vibe. I’m really interested in different forms of healing, or alternative forms of health practices like yoga, meditation, music, and guided imagery. Things like that. I’m interested in how they can be brought into modern medical practices as part of the healing process. When I was at home, I worked at the Georgetown University Hospital. They have an Arts and Humanities Program that brings alternative resources like music and movement to the healing process. They’re doing research on how music positively impacts people’s healing or general wellness, so that inspired my interest in trying to figure out how yoga might fit into that world. I’d like to do something in that direction. They also do stretch breaks in the hospital for the different units, and for part of my time there, I would go around and lead 15-minute stretch breaks for staff to give them a release from their day. Then they added 30-minute yoga sessions in the hallway for the nurses, and I taught one of them. There would be people rolling by in beds saying, “Keep going!”
Healing seems really central to your yoga philosophy. What does that mean to you?
Yoga gives you the tools and the resources to allow yourself and your body to get stronger, to return to neutral from all the stress we put on it from day to day. That in turn affects your mood and your health and your spirit. It’s a balancing scale that goes back and forth, but if you’re honoring your physical body, it’s easier to tap into wellness on a deeper level. There’s a certain strength that our bodies have that’s almost separate from our own control, and if we give our bodies the resources to heal and to get better, then a lot of the time they will. You’re a lot stronger than you think.
How does that philosophy show up in your own practice?
I’m working on my inversions. When I was younger, I fell out of a handstand in gym and rolled my wrist. I didn’t break anything, but it so severely scarred me that I’ve carried a fear of being upside down with me for years. I’ve really been trying to break past that fear. Now I’m comfortable in headstand, although I never thought I’d get that in a million years, and I’m working on hand and forearm stands. Something I really like about yoga is that you can gauge your progress in a tangible way, but there’s never an end point. You can always strive to work on something. It’s not always about the physical so much as knowing that I’m stronger than I’ve ever given myself credit for. I actually allow myself to try these physical things that I never thought I could do.
What do you want students to take away from your classes?
I generally want students to know that you don’t have to be any certain thing to walk into a class, you just have to want to try something new. I also teach at the Student Recreational Sports Center, and a lot of people there think they need to be flexible to do yoga. You have the ability to do anything you put your mind to, and it doesn’t have to look or feel a certain way.
How does yoga connect with your life off the mat?
I’ve learned to slow down, to be more present, and to find connections with people. I find that at the college age, you’re so drawn into your world and your phone. People are getting weirder and weirder about connecting randomly with others in hallways and food lines. Trying to connect on a day-to-day basis comes from being present in the moment. In yoga, it doesn’t matter whether I’m next to someone who’s been practicing longer than me or someone who’s there for the first time because we’re in it together. It’s kind of leveling. By noticing that, you can transfer it outside of the studio and perhaps empathize with people more easily.
How has your yoga practice changed over time?
Because of my dance background, it took me a long time to use props. For the first year or so, I would never use props. I thought, “I’m flexible. I can touch my toes. I don’t need to do that.” You have to tell your ego to step aside because props actually benefit you in different ways. I had struggled with that dance culture of having to maintain the look of being perfect and getting your leg where it has to be. I never had any serious injuries, but I had a lot of issues with alignment because of that, and I noticed when I started a yoga practice.
Do you have a favorite mantra or focus in your practice?
Something that’s been staying with me is a quote I saw on Instagram: “I practiced today so that I can practice tomorrow.” That stuck with me because you’re not setting yourself up for a specific thing you have to accomplish. It’s just about continuing to try and to grow from that.