by Molly Glennen
Meet Your Teacher is a series of interviews of YGSF teachers by students. If you are interested in contributing to this series, please contact David.
“Yoga isn’t a panacea; it isn’t a quick fix. It is like the tortoise, not the hare – the slow, steady road. It is about being deliberate and living in the moment.”
Marisa Toriggino, a co-owner and teacher at Yoga Garden, has personally experienced the benefits that a long-term yoga practice can offer. Several years ago, Marisa committed seven months to a fertility sequence that restricted her from doing any yoga postures that were not part of the proscribed set. She worked closely with Manouso Manos, her teacher for the last five years, to learn the sequence. The prescription included long-held poses like backbends to balance her hormones and soften her abdomen. Manouso also advised her to adapt her teaching style so that her verbal explanations were more concise and to use students to demonstrate poses that she was not supposed to be doing during this time.
Not only was the experience beneficial for her practice and teaching, it meant learning something that had been passed down through an oral tradition. The experience changed her life and practice due to a deep level of understanding that was obtained from seven months of daily deep backbends and inversions. She conceived and gave birth to a robust daughter shortly thereafter.
Path to Teaching
Marisa’s yoga journey started in 1987 after years of being an athlete. She expected that yoga would be a spiritual and philosophical experience and was pleasantly surprised to discover the “absolute awakening of her body.” An early and continuing influence on her practice was Paramahansa Yogananda, and she still draws on the incredible energy and strength of his work.
It was due to an instructor’s request that Marisa began to teach. “At first I didn’t want to teach since I felt that I was still learning and didn’t have anything to share.” Her instructors insisted that she had much to offer and so she began teaching more classes. The more Marisa taught, the more she realized there was s strong connection between teaching and improving her own yoga practice. “Standing in front of students means that you learn the practice at a deeper level. You need to be able to verbalize your knowledge of a particular pose, and to respond to each individual student’s approach to the pose.”
As she continued her practice and teaching, she realized that yoga had become the personal and professional focus of her life. “Teaching gives me a feeling of authenticity that I don’t get from other work. Being a good teacher really means that you are able to learn from your students. I value the lessons my students teach me and they help me to become a better practitioner, a better person.”
Yoga Garden SF offers Iyengar yoga and Marisa finds that this tradition has an “intelligent” approach that leads to a deeper spiritual understanding. “Instead of pure devotion, Iyengar is more rational and intelligent. The formal training of Iyengar allows me to unlock my devotion and creativity.” Over the years, Marisa’s practice has changed from a focus on meditation and breathing to a strong, disciplined practice of asana and pranayama.
Living with Strength and Vitality
One of the most enjoyable things about talking with Marisa is her honesty. She admits that sometimes it is hard to find the time to practice, but knows it is the poses themselves that continue to inspire her practice. Despite spending years as a competitive athlete, she feels that she is healthier, stronger and more mobile in both body and mind today as a result of her yoga practice. “Yoga is the best friend to help you get through what is going on in your life. It helps you to not be overwhelmed by the ups and downs of life.”
Marisa began studying yoga and meditation in 1987. She received her Advanced Teacher Training Certification from Ananda Yoga and became a disciple of Yogananda in 1997. Marisa is a certified prenatal and postnatal yoga instructor . She has studied many styles of Hatha Yoga, and studied the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar, under intermediate Senior Instructor Evlaleah Howard and Senior Advanced Yoga Instructor Manouso Manos. Marisa has a Fine Art degree from UC Berkeley and occasionally teaches Yoga and Art courses. With her husband, David Nelson, and their daughter Arielle, she owns and operates Yoga Garden of San Francisco.
Molly Glennen, J.D./M.A., began practicing yoga after struggling with a back injury. She sought out a dedicated Iyengar studio that offers a range of classes, and found Yoga Garden SF to be a committed studio with serious and knowledgeable instructors. Molly currently participates in prenatal classes.