We’re thrilled to turn the Garden Featured Teacher on Dustin McCallister this month! We caught up with him and his students before a recent Ageless class to celebrate his 5 year anniversary of teaching at Yoga Garden SF, AND the launch of his long-awaited project, YOGASANA deck of 75 yoga pose flashcards, now available in the YGSF shop. Get your own deck before they are gone!
I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but grew up mostly in the eastern part of San Diego county. We lived on ten acres of land in the hills, so I was able to roam around on my own and spend lots of time outside, which I loved. I was a bit of a misfit as a kid–I was good at school, but (or partially therefore?) had a hard time making friends. I loved to read, and loved my time spent alone, reading. When I was a kid, and through high school, I was much more of an introvert: I needed to spend that time alone to recharge. Now, of course, I’m much more of a true extrovert, and when I need a boost I spend time with friends and community.
What is one of your hidden talents?
Who is your hero/heroine?
My mother! She’s smart and kind and hardworking and an amazing person. She writes poetry, reads voraciously, makes art, does yoga, recently rescued an adorable dog, and is basically the coolest.
What challenge(s) has yoga helped you overcome?
I’ve had a few major back issues in the past couple years, and I love that I now have some knowledge and skill now in my own physical rehabilitation. It is a great pleasure to live (at least mostly) free of orthopedic pain.
My yoga practice has also given me an emotional grounding that has been invaluable. Even this little hint of yogic equanimity that I’ve been able to access has proven to be a balm in a bonkers world. I feel better equipped to navigate tragedy, heartbreak, and the essential loneliness of living, and more stable in my experience of joy and happiness. Getting a little older helps, too…
Do you feel different after practicing? How so?
Oh my, yes! After practicing, I always have a heightened awareness of my body and increased fluidity of movement. I feel calmer and more grounded (oh hay mindfulness) and better prepared for life. I now have a better understanding of how different kinds of poses and actions affect my body and mood, so I can usually adjust my practice to moderate my emotions, energy, and capability on a given day.
How did you get started teaching yoga in San Francisco?
My first regular classes were at Kaiser in San Francisco: I taught Yoga and Stress Reduction in the HIV+ Community, and had a fantastic group of students to work with. I learned a TON from that group, and I have so much gratitude for that class, and for that program coordinator, who used to practice at Yoga Garden.
What still excites you and keeps you inspired to teach and share this practice with students?
I’ve been studying anatomy and kinesiology, and learning more about the body and how it works has been informing my teaching more and more. I’ve also started studying Gyrotonic, which has been fun and challenging, and has offered me new awareness of my body and movement. I think it’s exciting to find ways to help people feel better and more capable in their bodies.
What do you like teaching about teaching at Yoga Garden SF, specifically?
I love the student community at Yoga Garden. I just celebrated my five year anniversary at the studio, and over that time I’ve had the privilege of meeting an incredible array of kind, interesting, inspirational people.
The dedication and quality of studentship at Yoga Garden is also higher than any studio or gym I’ve ever taught at before. I appreciate the length of time folks have been studying with me, and the subtlety and awareness that I can see come into their movements. *tear*
What wisdom do you most want to transmit to your students?
Ha, well, I’m not sure I’m any authority on wisdom, but I hope that my students can learn to use attention to alignment as a mindfulness practice to bring psychological ease and clarity even as they maintain and improve their physical health.
If you didn’t teach yoga, what else would you do?
I’ve learned by repeated trials that I just can’t handle an office job, so I’m not sure in the real world, but parallel universe Dustin might be a contemporary dancer, trained in Argentina, or an opera singer.
I’ve never liked any kind of work as much as I like teaching yoga, so it’s now hard to imagine my life with some other profession.
What’s your finest advice for a new teacher?
Connect with your students! Arrive early and stay a little after class, and use that time to get to know the people who have taken time out of their day and made space in their budgets to take your class.
And watch your class. For the love of yoga, put your eyes on your students while you are teaching. Did they understand? Are they safe? Have their bodies opened enough in the sequence you have prepared for your deepest poses?
What do you have in the pipeline? Are you working on any exciting projects?
Some of you might know of our photo flashcard project, started more than two and a half years ago… They’re finally done!!
We now have a deck of more than 75 yoga pose flashcards with beautiful photos (thanks to Ryan!) of mostly students from Yoga Garden on one side, with Sanskrit names, English translations and common names, and glosses of the Sanskrit particles that make up the names on the other.
They are available for purchase at Yoga Garden, which is the easiest, or you can order them on my website, or get them directly from me!
October 13-20, I’m returning for our second retreat to Akumal, Mexico (just north of Tulum). We had an amazing time last year and I’m very much looking forward to another fun retreat week on the water with friends. More information is available on my website, and anyone can email me with questions!
Where can we connect with you off the mat? (Social Media, Website, location, etc)
I have a new website! www.dustinmccallister.com
Someday, I’ll have yoga stuff on my social media:
The best way to connect with me is in person. There’s an open invitation to anyone to join us for coffee after our early Hatha Align classes (Mon, Wed, Fri @ 7:00-8:00am). On the last Friday of the month, we go for lunch after our Ageless class (Mon, Wed, Fri @ 12:00-1:15pm). And, on Saturday nights after Hatha Align @ 5:00-6:30pm, we usually go out to Vinyl for after-class socializing! Come meet some of your classmates!