Meet Namaste Teacher Abby Tucker

Namaste is thrilled to have senior teacher, influencer and all around great gal Abby Tucker join our teaching faculty and bring all of her insight, knowledge and passion to our studios. We had the opportunity to ask Abby some questions about herself and her teaching and are excited to give you a glimpse into Abby.

Abby1Q: You’ve been such a solid figure in the bay area yoga community since 2002, how did teaching come in to your life and what has that journey been like for you?

AT: Wow. That’s a long time and not long at all. Here in the Bay Area, here at Namaste, there are so many long-time experienced teachers, and I feel so honored to be in their company.  Also, the yoga world since 2002 has changed so drastically. There are probably more teachers who graduated a 200-hour program in 2015 than even existed in the Bay Area in 2002, so by those standards, I guess I’ve been around awhile!  In my past life, I lived in Washington D.C. and worked in the political arena in marketing and public relations during the Clinton era. When I discovered yoga, it shook up my life a lot. I didn’t feel good about my work anymore. In 1999, we moved to San Francisco, and I left that world behind, dedicating myself full-time to my practice and then eventually to teaching.  I love teaching–it’s creative, collaborative, and allows me a space to be in service to others all at once. Not once have I been bored.

Q: Your website describes your teaching style as “yoga for the heart,”what does that means to you?

AT: It’s a way of saying, “Hey, this isn’t exercise and stretching.” Yoga for the heart, (meaning the heart of who we are at our essence) is to say that we are here doing some pretty deep work at the spiritual level and the access point into that is through this incredible body that we have.  The practice of yoga does what so many other physical activities can’t, which is to show you on the confines of your mat, exactly who you are at every level, every place you go, every person you are with.  How I approach the poses that I struggle with are going to be how I approach struggles in my life.  

The asana practice teaches us our patterns and also reveals to us by connecting our breath, body, heart and mind that at our essence–at the heart of things–we are love, peace, and joy.  But it can take a lot of excavation to remember that!  

Q: What do you hope students leave your class with?

AT: A feeling of connection–to themselves in their breath, body, mind and heart; to the deeper meaning of why they practice, the bigger picture, because without the context of meaning what is practice anyway? A deeper feeling of connection to their community and to nature.  The root word from which yoga is derived is YUG, which means “to yoke.” It’s not union, as so many people love to say. It’s taking two or more things and bringing them into deeper relationship with each other. So, I feel I’ve met my hopes for the classes I teach, when a student feels more connected to something because they practiced. I try to create a space that holds that possibility for deeper connection.

abby2Q: How do you help students to grow while also ‘honoring their own boundaries’, why do you feel that is important to modern yogis?

AT: It can be tough in the Instagram age to not get obsessed with yoga poses and trying to get “there.” We really have to understand that bodies are very very different. Frankly, so many yoga poses favor the Vata body type (Long limbs, among Vata’s attributes).  I’ve been practicing since 1998. I’ve got a solid handle on alignment, I’m strong, and I can’t do upward-facing dog for the life of me because my bones are short and thick. That’s not to say I couldn’t get into the pose, but just because I can doesn’t mean I should, because getting into it means misaligning and struggling. So, in my classes, I’m more interested in the journey of the pose and what actions, stabilizations and openings make a pose even possible. By working like that, I can have a room of 50 students of varying experience levels all working at their fullness of capacity, and everyone can walk out feeling more empowered towards a pose. The poses don’t really matter all that much.  

Q: Can you share with us a little bit about your own personal practice? What inspires you on and off the mat?

AT: My asana practice changes a lot at this point, especially as I attune myself not only to my own body and its needs, but also to the time of day, cycle of the moon, season of the year. I have different namaskars for the four primary cycles of the moon, for instance. I’m less interested in radical advanced practice than I used to be–much more interested in what is the way of practicing that is sustainable so that I can be doing this when I’m 108. Over time, I’ve also (though it changes for various reasons), honed into what my five primary poses that keep me strong and open, so that if I can only do that much, I know what is the most efficient and serving of my body’s needs.  Overall, I’m a sucker for standing poses. They create a sense of empowerment for all levels of students. And Hanumanasana never goes out of rotation in my life.

Q: You’ve said that you are a student of MahaShakti, the highest flow of life and Consciousness. Please share what that means to you and how this comes in to play in your classes?

AT: Ultimately, I’m a student and devotee of the Life Force that pulses in me, you, everything.  This is the Divine Feminine, the MahaShakti (Supreme Power of Consciousness).  So, for me, I’m always in the practice of aligning my life, my practices, my teaching to what is served by the Life Force, the Great Mother.  What serves that?  This is one reason my practice changes. What is serving the Life Force one day, might deplete it the next. My mind or will might want to practice a certain way, but if I get quiet and connect to the flow of life, then I’m more guided to what is going to enhance, not diminish me. I try to do this in my life, which, of course isn’t always easy.

In fact, sometimes “She” (the Life Force) requires you to do what is uncomfortable or to shake things up in order to stay where she is flowing for you. For instance, that’s how I ended up here at Namaste. I was moving along in my teaching, comfortable where I was, and then there was something that made me have to pause and say, “Where is the Shakti moving for me? What is going to serve my Life Force so that I can teach and serve in alignment with that?” When I ask that question, I know exactly what to do . . . even when it  requires me to step outside of the comfort zone.

Q: Any self care practices that you swear by?

AT: Oh my goodness. Self-care is the number one practice, isn’t it? Again, they change a lot based on season, etc.  The one thing that never changes is forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku), which is simply being in the woods, walking in the forest. That has rejuvenated me my whole life. Really being in nature in any way brings me back to life no matter what.  Beyond that, I do the best I can to eat clean and in season and to always make time to BE, not just do.

Q: Favorite story (so far) from your years of teaching?

AT: Hmmm. How much time have you got?

Q: Do you have a favorite mantra or quote that you’d like to share with the Namaste community?

AT: Probably my most oft-used quote in my classes comes from my teacher’s teacher, Ayer Gopala Sundarmoorthy.  He always said, “Of all the things the Universe could have chosen to become, it has chosen you. You never need to look any further than your breath to know that you are important in the world, because She will breathe you, exactly as you are–nothing to give up and nothing to acquire–until She is done.”

Check out Abby’s full teaching schedule HERE.

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Kundalini Yoga: Find the Missing Sock in Your Soul!

By Sariah Sizemore

Housekeeping 

I love it when my house is clean. Everything is in its place and the thin film of dust that covered the tables and countertops has been wiped away exposing vibrant color and shine. The air is fresh and fragrant. As I move around my space, I actually feel the spaciousness inside of myself as a reflection of my external experience. I find things again! I’m no longer irritated and confused when I can’t seem to locate the one knee sock that goes with the other knee sock that perfectly goes with the dress I want to wear. I know, as they say, first world problems, but it can be maddening to not find the missing piece to your ideal outfit. For me, laundry always seems to be my downfall when attempting to keep a tidy home. 

I know you might be thinking that this is a blog on Kundalini yoga and energy so why the heck is she talking about cleaning her house and finding her socks! As I was contemplating what I wanted to share with you about my experience with Kundalini, I thought a lot about how developing a relationship with the life force in myself, the Kundalini energy, has allowed me to more directly clean, clear, and organize my internal experience.

Through practicing Kundalini Yoga, I have cultivated more spaciousness within myself. I have more access to the information my mind, body, and spirit has to offer me. Ultimately, I experience more clarity and awareness so I’m able to find the “sock” within myself, or I should say my soul, that completes my whole self.  

Yes, I’m saying that Kundalini Yoga will help you find the missing sock in your soul! It is an ancient technology that works to cleanse, balance, and activate the self-healing superpowers inherent within you. We humans are pretty complex beings with a lot of bells and whistles. The amount of information we process is mind blowing, literally, and we manage to do all this processing as we accomplish our daily tasks at work, spend time with our families, travel, plan for the future and tend to all of the other threads that weave our lives together. The way we manage all of this data is through the subconscious mind, and it’s called sub – conscious for a reason…it’s not conscious. If all of the info we take in on a daily basis was in the forefront of our consciousness it would in fact blow our minds. However, this does not mean that it is not contained within us. 

The Subconscious Mind and Autonomic Nervous System

Our subconscious is associated with the autonomic nervous system that manages all of the functions our bodies carry out without us having to think. For example, we don’t consciously tell our heart to beat-beat-beat, it just does that. We don’t have to tell our food to metabolize, or our cells to regenerate. These things just happen and they happen through the silent work of the autonomic nervous system. Our nervous system keeps us alive and functioning on all levels and using the subconscious, records all of the data it needs to diligently perform that duty.  Sounds good right?! Thank you Autonomic Nervous system! 

So what does all of this have to do with Kundalini Yoga and finding our socks? As evolving humans, our physiology is constantly changing to meet the needs of the modern environment we live in. Unfortunately, we haven’t quite managed to sync up. Actually, we haven’t changed that  much since the time of the cave man except for the ability to use language, which happened about 4,000 years ago. When we examine how our autonomic nervous system works, we gain some insight into this fact. The nervous system is categorized into two different functions: sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the “fight or flight” mechanisms in our system. For example, if we are in the jungle and see a sabertooth tiger, this will activate your sympathetic nervous system which in turn fires up everything in your body to run or pick up a big stick and fight! The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for resting, regeneration, and relaxing. 

The subconscious starts recording information from the time we are in the womb and stores info on how to stay safe, comfortable, and out of danger. It saves the threatening experiences, imprinting trauma right into your system, so you will be activated to move away from that same danger again through the sympathetic nervous system. The problem is that in modern society we experience so much stress and pressure that our nervous system’s ability to recognize a real threat can be off base. 

Is it a tiger about to eat you, or just your boss breathing down your neck to finish a deadline? Our ability to switch between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system becomes abnormal when we experience our every day environment as a threatening place. This contributes to fear, confusion, disorientation, and anger. When spending more time activated into sympathetic nervous system response, our adrenal glands excrete high levels of adrenaline and cortisol hormones. These hormones increase blood flow, heart rate, and send more nutrients to our muscles so we can get the power we need to escape the threat. The problem is that it takes away resources from other bodily functions and that leads to lack of sleep, irregular metabolism, fatigue, and dis-ease in the body. 

When we are inundated with information that is not being processed appropriately and our nervous system is not regulated, we often have an experience of feeling blocked, cluttered, or not having enough space to execute on the things we want to accomplish. Fear can be a debilitating emotion and when you mix that with a lack of physical energy and resources, struggling may be more of your experience than fresh energy and spaciousness. Our minds may feel foggy, memory slow, and our ability to connect with ourselves and others becomes more difficult. When all of this is happening inside of us, it is very much like having a messy home with dust covering our color and shine and it’s very hard to find that missing sock or perhaps even know what we are looking for! 

Kundalini, The Healing Life Force Energy

Practicing Kundalini Yoga infuses you with fresh life force energy and regulates the nervous system. It is a practice that cultivates awareness and through that awareness, you have more choice in how to respond to your environment instead of being in the reactionary place of fight or flight. You are able to recognize the triggers that happen in your everyday experience that re-stimulate you into experiencing the trauma of the past, and consciously clear them instead of having them lay dormant in the subconscious continuously activating fear and protection. Soon your experience becomes more neutral, you are more embodied and present, and have more space to bring forth creativity from a deeper connection with the soul and our whole self. 

Kundalini Yoga combines all of the aspects of yoga practice: physical, breath, sound, service, and intention to quickly and powerfully realign the energetic centers in the body connecting you with your whole self. It is a quantum technology that if practiced regularly will give you the ability to transcend time and space and create the life you want to have through the power of vision and directed positive thought. The life force energy, or Kundalini, moves from the base of the spine, through concentrated energy centers called the chakras up to the crown of the head and out into the aura, the electromagnetic field that surrounds the body. You can think of this energy as a healing salve that washes through entire system to regenerate you – mind, body, and spirit. This practice unlocks you in such a way where old trauma is brought up from the subconscious to the conscious so it can be healed and cleared. If you are looking for a yoga practice that gives you the full package of physical, mental, emotional, and nervous system fitness, give Kundalini Yoga a try. Because it’s so powerful, you might have a range of experiences with it. Sometimes it’s pure bliss and at times as it wears away the layers of fear and protection, it’s uncomfortable. Practicing yoga teaches you how to stay present with that uncomfortableness, however. In allowing that stuff to come up and move, you experience more presence, liberation, and ultimately more joy and expansiveness in your life. 

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Want to learn more about Kundalini? Listen to Sariah speak further on the Spirituality 101 Podcast.

Please join me every Thursday at 6pm at Namaste Grand Lake for Kundalini Yoga and meditation. I am a life coachcounselor offering private Kundalini Yoga sessions as a tool for quickly moving through the blocks that hold one back from experiencing a fully expressed and joyful life. Please visit my web site at www.sariahsizemore.com

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