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.
Q: 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.
Q: 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.