By: Amanda Schultz
Breaking Down Walls
We were in table top. The teacher told us to lift our right arm up and extend it forward, to lift our left leg and extend it back. He then instructed the packed, mat to mat class to look up following the direction of their extended hand and to " Make eye contact with whoever is directly across from you, smile and wave!"
To say that this instruction got the class to giggle is an understatement. The rest of class was filled with powerful movement along with a casual playfulness I had yet to experience in my young yoga practice.
The way he taught class encouraged us all to leave our mat for a moment. To let down our invisible walls and to experience the community and connection that was right in front of us.
We ended the evening's practice at the USNWC under a canopy of trees, in Shavasana and holding hands with the neighbor beside us – who to some of us (um, me) was a complete stranger. When he said to grab hold of the hand of your neighbor I remember feeling incredibly anxious, but also excited. Weirded out, but also intrigued.
How many times had I seen pictures of yogis holding hands during a practice? How many times had I wished my own personal yoga practiced involved more human connection?
To my shock and amazement, the girl next to me whispered: "I will if you will."
So there I laid, holding sweaty hands with a complete stranger and my body had not yet gone into shock and died. I was surviving what seemed a completely bizarre experience. I came that night with a mat in my arms, unaware of the possibility that lay just outside its four corners. We all left that night with a smile, feeling a little bit looser and whole lot more love.
Today we welcome Jason Kierce, my personal nick name for him is " The Happy Yoga Teacher".
His classes truly provide a unique and joyful experience (The above story was about a class he taught. I’m gonna hope you picked up on that). He not only teaches yoga on a mat, but is the founder of the Charlotte Acronuts, which is Acro Yoga. He leads classes 2-3 times a week in Freedom Park that will get you to leave more than just your emotional comfort zone. You can also find him at the USNWC on certain occasions, like this September 3rd at 12:45 where he and Kris Brooks (also such an amazing teacher, her classes give you all the feels) will be offering an acro yoga class (pro tip - it's free ).
Keep on reading to learn a little more about our spotlight teacher, Jason Kierce.
Q&A with Jason Kierce
YOT: How did you get into yoga?
JK: It was 15 years ago, I was driving down Park Road when I saw a sign for Yoga classes at a studio called Yogatopia. I really connected with the teacher, and that is where my practice really started.
YOT: Where did you complete your training?
JK: I have been teaching for two and half years, practicing intermediately for 10 years and have been in a dedicated practice for 5. I completed by teacher training at Y2 Yoga, and loved all of it.
YOT: What would you say has changed about your practice in the transition from student to teacher?
JK: I am much more explorative. After a million up and down dogs, I am ready to look for more. I took acro yoga with Gillian St. Clair and got hooked. I then founded the Charlotte Acronuts.
YOT: What style best describes your teaching?
JK: My teaching is influenced by a lot of different things. It is influenced by classes I have taken and who has taught them. It is also influenced by my teacher training. I do like Power Yoga and teaching it in a playful style I would call " Powerful Playfulness".
YOT: Throughout your classes you encourage laughter, what brought you to that style of yoga?
JK: Observations of yoga in general. Observing what was being taught and how. After teacher training I felt that anything could go, anything is available. Uniqueness is ok. I want to bring to my classes a playful, happy, rippling of love.
YOT: You change Warrior Asanas and call them Creator during your classes. Teaching such an ancient practice, do you ever experience push back from students or piers?
JK: I have taken part in a lot of self improvement. Through books or tapes ect... I have become a student of life. I believe that whatever we do, say and think the most of is what we create. By letting go of our ego we can create a positive reality. This world does not need any more fighters, or warriors. We need more people generating vibes of peace. In my classes I strive to bring awareness to what we say and why we say it. My students just keep flowing when they hear me say "Creator one", because I say it with a smile and confidence, and it turns it brings a smile to the class.
YOT : Just for fun, in your own words how would you move someone from Malasana (Yogi Squat) into Crow.
JK: From Malasana lean forward bringing wide fingers and a flat hand against the ground, almost gripping the earth. Lean forward. Moving shoulders over fingertips, lift high up onto your toes bringing knees to meet triceps. Rock forward and lift one foot, look forward and lift the other foot. Find a playful balance.
You can learn all about where to find Jason Kierce and his powerfully playful classes on Facebook, search for Jason Kierce or Charlotte Acronuts. Follow this link to find out all the details on his upcoming Acro Yoga Demo at the USNW on September 3rd. http://usnwc.org/relax/yoga/
Do you have a favorite instructor who you want to know a bit more about? Someone whose style is their own, whose classes always leave you feeling tingly on the inside? If so, let us know! We would love to check out their class and possibly feature them in our next Instructor in Focus piece.
Now go playfully practice your Crow Pose, and we will see you Tuesdays, 6:30 at OMB. Cheers!