Our dedicated alumni are as busy after they leave their training launching professional careers as they were becoming a certified yoga teacher…Garden Alumni Series: Where Are They Now? is a recurring feature that offers a glimpse into life after graduation from our yoga teacher training programs. We will learn about what graduates are doing out in the world as well as their reflections on their time here at Yoga Garden SF. This alumni series aims to preserve the bonds formed during yoga teacher trainings through a network cast wide around the globe.
Each month we will feature a YGSF alumni student, giving you a glimpse of life after graduation. This month we are proud to feature former editorial chief of ELLE Norway and recently published author…Maria Fürst!
CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR NEW BOOK! CAN YOU TELL OUR READERS A BIT ABOUT IT AND WHAT INSPIRED YOU?
Thank you! The yoga scene is different in Norway, and I wanted to write an accessible, yet instructional yoga book featuring some essential history, philosophy, benefits, and general principles on «how to do» yoga. In the main section of the book I go through the most common postures including transitions in and out of them as they are commonly done in vinyasa-classes. Then I use the featured asanas in 10 signature sequences of different length with a variety of themes. For example I’ve made a full cover 20 minute morning routine and a 60 minute hip opener sequence called, Let Go. Last, but not least, there is a section on restorative yoga with 8 poses to chill out in. Pardon my english, by the way.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE YOUR BOOK AND HOW DID YOU DECIDE WHAT TO INCLUDE?
Well… I had 75 days from the first meeting with the publisher until the whole shebang was sent to print. We took all the pictures, both technical and outdoor, during this period as well. I hurt my ankle. Let’s just say it turned out to be sort of a crazy fall. I had the outline of the book in my head from the first week and got 168 pages to fill out. The most tricky part was to select the poses and the right variations of arms etc, so that all the pictures would come to use in the sequences – making sure no one was left out.
HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN YOU FIRST LEFT NORWAY? WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO PRACTICE AND STUDY YOGA IN SAN FRANCISCO?
Even though I was super scared of flying, I was thrilled to move to San Francisco! I never took a yoga class before moving there, and fell in love with the practice immediately. As I said earlier, the Norwegian yoga scene is different. In 2011, before we moved to California, it was pretty alternative. There were just a few yoga studios in Oslo, and I had never heard of Vinyasa. I think they all did Ashtanga or more alternative hatha yoga styles back then. But during my 3 years living in San Francisco, so much changed. When I moved back in 2014 I was lucky to be just in front of the big yoga wave hitting my country.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A YOGA TEACHER?
It felt like I had no choice. Yoga had become such a big part of my life. Actually, yoga changed my life completely. How would I be able to go back to a full time job in Norway and squeeze my daily practice in between kids, meals and bed? Also, I wanted to share the beautiful things I had learned while studying and practicing in California. I feel there’s a certain vibe in the Californian yoga that I haven’t experienced elsewhere.
DID TRAINING IN SAN FRANCISCO PREPARE YOU FOR TEACHING INTERNATIONALLY?
Indeed! Without actually knowing what I am talking about, I feel that the level of professionally at the Yoga Garden San Francisco in general, and with Cora Wen and Jodi Komitor, whom I’ve also studied with, is top notch. The focus on anatomy, alignment, sequencing, history, philosophy and TEACHING is key preparation to teaching in the real world. It did take me some time to create my own Norwegian yoga language, though. As a writer, it has been important to me to teach with clarity and efficiency. I allow no mumbo jumbo into my classes.
HOW DID YOUR PREVIOUS CAREER PATH LEAD, AND/OR SUPPORT YOU TO BECOME A YOGA PROFESSIONAL?
As a journalist you work with storytelling. And a yoga class has a narrative too. I remember my LA-based teacher Ella Cojocaru said that a yoga class should feel like a good movie – with a clear plot, a beginning, a middle and an end. Nothing is thrown in by chance, every asana is there to support the plot. Having taught more than 1500 classes, I still try to sequence each and every one of them and bring my notebook to the studio. I really enjoy sequencing. It’s my new way of writing and being creative.
HOW DID YOU BUILD YOUR PASSION FOR HEALTHY LIVING INTO A CAREER?
My «healthy living» is more a result of my practice than the other way around. But I am not THAT healthy. I still eat meat (unfortunately), drink wine and go out with my friends from time to time. I need to balance it out.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF YOUR WORK?
Making people feel good, helping them to stress down, chill out and relax. That said, my classes are pretty vigorous. I sequence from the bell-curve principle. I think it was David Nelson who taught me that. Or was it Jonathan Isaacs? Anyway: Slow start, intense middle, calm end.
WHAT’S PART OF YOUR WORK PRESENTS THE MOST CHALLENGE? HOW DO YOU NAVIGATE THROUGH?
Being a mom to my girls age 8 and 11, the most challenging parts are my working hours. Four mornings a week I’m gone before the kids go out of bed, two nights a week I leave the house before they start dinner and every Saturday I have to drag myself out of bed at 7:30 am to go teach my POPyoga-class while they still hang out in their PJ’s. I try to balance it out with picking them up early at school and stay present when I’m with them. But this is not a sustainable situation year in and year out, so I need to figure out how to combine this work and my life… I still consider this an intro phase after having turned my life upside down becoming a yoga teacher.
HOW DO YOU RECHARGE? DO YOU HAVE A WELL-BEING RITUAL TO SHARE WITH US?
Oh, I wish I was better at recharging. But I do try to take as many classes possible at other studios in Norway. I really enjoy practicing under the direction of other teachers, it’s definitely not the same when I’m doing my home practice. The group energy, the surprises, the act of just surrendering on the mat. This is really what yoga is all about to me.
WHAT STILL EXCITES YOU AND KEEPS YOU ENGAGED WITH TEACHING YOGA?
My students! They are so inspiring. We all started as rookies, I as a teacher, they as «yogis», and we have walked the path together ever since. I have a couple of students taking 5-6 of my classes a week. They remind me to reinvent myself and to keep on developing in my own practice, so that I have more to offer back at them.
WHAT’S YOUR FINEST ADVICE FOR A NEWER TEACHER?
Just go out there and teach. Don’t hesitate. I know it is super scary, but you know so much more than the ones you are teaching. Also, teach to the student in front of you. They probably don’t care about esoteric philosophy right now, they just want to know where the **** to put their foot or knee. And emphasis on the breath. The breath has been key to my understanding of yoga.
WHAT ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT LEARNING NEXT?
I would love to finish the Advanced Core Modules at Yoga Garden SF, I just wish they were easier to access from Norway! Some sort of online training would have helped me a lot. But this is definitely first on my «To do»-list. And I am really exited about doing that! Man, I learn SO MUCH on every teacher training and workshop I attend.
WILL YOU BE GOING ON A BOOK, OR TEACHING TOUR IN 2017?
I’ll be coming to San Francisco later this year. But that is for inspiration and relaxation. I’ll bring a suitcase of my books, though. Other than that I will teach at some Norwegian festivals. Speaking of festivals, I really recommend Udaya Live in Bulgaria this August. It was truly amazing last year. I attended with my beautiful Yoga Garden teachers Marisa Toriggino and Sonya Genel, plus a few fab fellow alumnus and my sister from another mother, Kristen Malkovich. Hoping for a reunion this year.
Get a sneak peek and flip through parts of Maria Fürst’s book here!
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