Questions You've Always Wanted To Ask Your Yoga Teacher

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At least one night a week, I go to a yoga class offered through Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Over the last year, I've gotten to know the instructor, Anja Bachmann, and I recently asked her to answer some burning-like-my-hamstring-when-I-try-to-stretch-it yoga questions for me:

How did you get into yoga? I was in high school and took a few yoga classes, but wasn't into it. My freshman year of college, I went to a small liberal arts college out of state and hated it. Yoga helped keep my mind off of being homesick. Their yoga teacher was graduating, and I was trying to find a way out of the food industry up there and decided I would take the summer intensive yoga teacher training in Richmond while I was home for the summer. The usual program is 9 months, and I did my RYT® 200 in 3 months. I never went back [to the liberal arts college] and started classes at VCU instead! Then, I was hired as a yoga teacher for VCU the following spring.

hat is your favorite pose? This is a hard one! It totally depends on my mood and whatever my body needs. Normally, chaturanga. It's normally thought of as a transitional pose and often overlooked, but done right it is so liberating. It makes you feel strong, balanced, and light all at the same time once practiced enough.

Why should people do yoga? I do not think yoga is for everyone. Yoga can only help you if you are open minded about it and will accept its challenges and victories. It can help you mentally and physically, but only if you let it.

Scorpion pose

What do people do most wrong in yoga? I try not to focus on the negative things my students do, but I see a lot of people being attached to the final expression of a pose and not appreciating the journey. I would give anything to have pictures of my poses when I started my teacher training. I couldn't even touch my toes! Now, I practice poses in every stage of their expression. You won't see me in full scorpion (vrischikasana) anytime soon, and I am 100% okay with that! Also, ask your teacher questions! I LOVE questions. Use my brain; it's there for you!

What's the best stretch for a sore lower back? Tight hamstrings? (Insert any other common condition you hear about) I definitely get the low back pain thing a lot. Lengthening (read: stretching) your hamstrings can help with lower back pain. Most people have tight hamstrings. I tell people to stand up against a wall, feet hip or shoulder-width apart, and to just bend forward and "hang out there" with their knees slightly bent for a few minutes every day to help open up. Having the support of the wall is nice, so you can really focus on letting the upper body hang down. I tell my students if that doesn't help after a few weeks, go see a physician/orthopedist.

How does yoga compare to other forms of exercise, e.g. lifting, running, Zumba, etc.? Yoga is unique in the sense that anyone can practice, and you can't really say that for every form of exercise. Friends of mine teach all different levels from chair yoga for seniors who are wheelchair bound to advanced Ashtanga yoga.

What other exercises/workouts can help you in yoga? Anything that promotes great body awareness! Students of mine who are dancers or former dancers are fun because they really get what you're trying to convey. However, they are the worst at keeping their hips square (not turning out).

Tell us a funny yoga story. I had a student who did not speak much English have a crush on me. That was painfully awkward.

What makes a great yoga teacher? What I admire in a fellow teacher is how personable they are, their language while cuing, making everyone feel comfortable, the effort in making the class accessible to everyone, and creative sequencing. If you can identify with the teacher, you will get so much more out of class.

How do you get in front of a group of strangers and teach everyday? I announce every class that I have a stutter, so everyone is on the same page. I have had to ask students to leave for laughing and being disruptive in the past. That's when I decided to give everyone a fair warning. Ignorance is really what hinders a yoga practice in the first place. I think it makes me more approachable and more of a person instead of this yoga guru. That, and I really love chocolate and wine.

I try to keep class fresh with engaging the students and making jokes (often slightly inappropriate). My non-Zen like approach has certainly steered a few people away, but has kept more people coming back. If I want a cookie-cutter, non-approachable teacher, I can go anywhere. It's about finding a teacher you click with.

Are you planning future projects? Yes! I am pushing to get BarWorks® classes to the VCU gym. I think barre is an excellent workout and most barre studios in the area market to a certain socioeconomic group, which is disheartening. I also want to eventually make videos for my students to practice at home to if they can't make it to class.

How can I find you? Swing by the Cary Street Gym to take a class or go to my Facebook Page!