Interview and Photography by: Emma Davis
Today on the blog, we are honored to feature one of our very own Yoga Garden Grads and ProElite Member, Justice McCullum. We met up on a sunny Saturday morning for a spontaneous yoga photo shoot along the streets of Divisadero and the beautiful Panhandle park. Read on as Justice shares his unique journey, perspectives and reasons why the all-inclusive, annual ProElite Membership was the perfect opportunity for him to study yoga.
Where are you from?
I was born in Mississippi and raised there until I was 12, which is when my mom, younger sister and I moved to San Francisco to live with my grandparents. I’ve lived here ever since.
How and why did you start practicing yoga?
I tried a yoga video to get my mom up and moving and ended up enjoying it. I convinced her to try out a couple yoga classes with me at the Y, and I ended up being the one who got hooked on it. What made me dedicated to it was having to use an inner focus that I didn’t know I had.
What is one of your favorite quotes?
“Make your butterflies fly in formation”
This quote found me on an outdoor expedition trip that I went on summer 2008 before 11th grade. It wasn’t until 2017 that it actually made sense to me, but now I take it to mean turn energy that could be spent being anxious into energy you can use to get ready and propel yourself into whatever it is that’s giving you butterflies in the first place.
What inspired you to study yoga and become a yoga teacher?
One of my other favorite quotes, “Be the adult you needed as a child”, partially inspired me to become a teacher. As I was going through my personal yoga journey I developed this intimate relationship with my body that I couldn’t remember having in my 22 years of life at the time. Suddenly I knew the difference between when I was hungry and thirsty, when I needed to rest, and when I had more to give. I realized that by listening to these signals, I was able to be a better version of myself, which allows me to give myself to others in the best way possible.
Though my truth is that things happen the way they’re supposed to and at their own pace, I always feel like I wasted so many healthy years away during the time that I didn’t listen to my body and/or didn’t care to listen to it. I feel like my ability to connect with others was limited because I wasn’t connected with myself and that I could have used a lot more of my time on earth to show more empathy and depth than I have. I want to help others find that love and compassion for themselves in them, so that they can spread it forward into the world. My ultimate vision is a world run by compassion, rather than fear of individual survival (also known as greed, capitalism, etc).
What was your greatest fear or doubting belief in making your initial decision to take a yoga training?
My greatest fear was that I didn’t have anything to contribute as a yoga teacher to the yoga world. With all the different types of teachers and styles out there, what do I have that’s not already there? I think that living in San Francisco where mindfulness is a prevalent topic, it’s easy to be disillusioned into thinking that there’s not enough room out there for one more teacher. That’s why it’s important to stay awake, to really look at the world and see where you’re needed, which is my personal next step that I’m contemplating on as I finish my yoga education at Yoga Garden SF. As a black, queer male identifying person in America, I’m certain I have different perspective to add to the yoga teaching community, and I hope to make it more accessible to people who come from backgrounds and struggles similar to mine.
What inspires your yoga practice and desire to teach?
What inspires my practice and my desire to teach is that every little thing counts. Just like every recycled piece of paper counts, every time I take 10 mins to settle my mind, it orients my actions towards clarity. When I teach, even if the only thing I’m able to teach someone is to be aware of all four corners of their feet and hands, their interactions with the world will be different from that one lesson, hopefully in a positive, more conscientious way. Recognizing that the details and intricacies make a difference, is a big part of my yoga practice.
How would you convince someone to try yoga for the first time?
While it takes long term commitment to see the stretching and strengthening benefits of yoga, even going to one class will help you build a stronger mind and body connection and help you live more in sync with your needs.
What drew you to study at Yoga Garden SF?
The flexibility with the scheduling of courses and with finances gave me the impression that Yoga Garden SF and its teachers were focused on providing good education to anyone that wants it and not just those who can afford it (whether that be monetarily or being able to take a whole month off life to do an intensive course). I felt confident that the teachings I received here would be taught in good faith and with the long history in mind, which was important tome.
What do you enjoy most about YGSF’s ProElite Membership?
I’d known for a while that I wanted to go through a yoga teacher training, but was worried about my ability to support it and still have my other job. The ProElite program has been an excellent opportunity to not only get 500 hrs of training in, but also to make yoga a more consistent part of my life with access to all the classes and workshops.
I would certainly recommend the ProElite Membership to others, not only because of the time and cost efficiency, but because the teachers at yoga garden all have something individual to share and are great examples that yoga comes in many forms and can be whatever you need it to be in this life.
Wonder if the ProElite membership is right for you? Let’s talk! Whether it’s finding you the perfect membership or class pass, or creating a personalized roadmap for your 200 and 300-Hour studies, I’m here to guide you through all of Yoga Garden SF’s programming!
Emma Davis is a yoga teacher and Admissions Manager at Yoga Garden SF. When she’s not at the studio, you can catch her road tripping up and down the coast of California, coffee and camera in hand. Follow her adventures on Instagram.