BUILDING BILINGUAL BRIDGES WITH YOGA TEACHER ALEX R.
Get to Know Us By Alex R. on Wednesday, January 10, 2018
(Original post on: blog.handstandapp.com/trainer-interview-alexr)
Alex, thanks for taking the time to share with all of us here in the Handstand & Fitness community! We are excited to get to know more about you! Let’s get started…
Editor: You’re very passionate about bringing yoga to the Spanish speaking community here in Los Angeles because unfortunately, yoga hasn’t become as accessible in this community as it has in others; (even though Spanish speakers made up 50% of the LA population). How can we, as a yoga community help to close that gap?
Alex: We have such a great community here in LA and there’s a lot we can do by offering bilingual classes and building community. We need Spanish speaking yoga teachers to do that, so at the same time, we can push for successful Spanish teacher training here in LA. People’s Yoga (peoplesyoga.org) in East LA offers bilingual classes, otherwise, I probably notice a bilingual class every now and then. So no one else is really doing it, which is a bit shocking because Latinos outnumber all other demographics in LA by over 50%. So in terms of economic opportunity and growth, bilingual offerings are smart business. Several years ago, no one in the Latino community had heard of Zumba and now it’s a huge thing.
Editor: If someone reading this is interested in taking a Spanish speaking, Yoga Teacher Training, what advice would you have for them regarding where to sign up & what to expect?
Alex: Right now my teacher Rina Jakubowicz seems to be the only teacher planning to offer a 200hr YTT (yoga teacher training), so anyone interested can follow up on her website for potential 2018 dates (rinayoga.com). Before she offered the training with Kripalu, I was debating training in a Spanish speaking country because nothing was being offered in the States in Spanish. My particular YTT was broken up into two, fourteen day long intensives. So I was challenged in ways I hadn’t been before from sharing a dorm, all day studies, and just looking at parts of myself I didn’t want to. I loved getting to learn from everyone else and it was one of the best experiences of my life, if you’ve been thinking about it I recommend you just go for it!
Editor: What yoga pose challenges you & motivates you to constantly find a new edge each time you practice it; in other words what is that posture that you love to hate?
Alex: I have extra bone growth on both of my wrists, so after a few chaturangas I start to fatigue and I can’t bear any more weight on my hands. After teacher training, I realized I have to hold my body and my arms differently in order to arrive in the poses safely. I’ll probably never do a handstand for this reason, (ironic since I’m a Handstand trainer) but I probably shouldn’t! My anatomy just isn’t made for it, so simple things like one arm plank or one arm down dog for too long are enough to kick my butt.
Editor: We all have that special something inside of us that sets us apart & make us unique. What’s your “special sauce”?
Alex: I squeak and I make weird noises, I can’t help it and it usually makes students laugh during class. It’s just me being myself, and hopefully, my silliness makes others feel comfortable too.
Editor: What is your personal favorite motto, quote, or strategy, for staying strong, positive & fearless?
Alex: I have “No Fear” tattooed on my left forearm because I wanted to look down at it and remember to be brave. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression, so it’s helped me a lot.
Editor: What attracted you to Handstand & what is your favorite aspect of being a Handstand Trainer?
Alex: I got curious when I noticed a couple of Facebook friends on the platform as trainers. It’s a great idea and I get to train with new clients I might not have met otherwise. Working independently can get lonely, so it’s nice to have the Handstand community of trainers to turn to for questions or advice.
Editor: Growing up, who was someone who truly inspired you, & why?
Alex: Thinking about everything my parents have been though always inspires me the most. My parents came to the US before I was born and laid down roots allowing for so many of the opportunities I have today.
Editor: In order to grow, physically, mentally, & spiritually, it’s often necessary to leave our comfort zone. What does the area outside of your comfort zone look like?
Alex: I was recently asked to teach on a retreat in Catalina Island and spent a lot of the weekend alone. The area outside my comfort zone looks like solitude. I’d look up at the sky at night, and I felt so small in the vastness. With no one to talk to in the darkness, the voice inside becomes louder and with time I’m learning to listen.
Editor: It’s easy to find oneself stuck in a rut, doing the same activities, training the same way, day in & day out. How do you keep things fresh & ensure that you’re continuously growing & evolving?
Alex: I’m really lucky my local hike has a waterfall where I go to meditate, so anytime I’m in a rut I get outside. I think it’s important to surround yourself with people you can collaborate with and who understand what you’re going through, so I do work dates with friends to exchange ideas.
Editor: If there’s one piece of advice you could give to your younger self, what would it be?
Alex: Stop drinking, sooner than later.
Editor: What’s your favorite “Cheat Meal”?
Alex: I exercise and eat in moderation so I don’t limit myself but if I was going to indulge, I love Italian food.
Editor: What does true success mean for you personally?
Alex: My niece comes to my meditation classes weekly, so that alone makes me feel extremely successful. I love my job and consider myself lucky to be able to make an income in a way that is ethical and balanced.
Editor: As a trainer, it’s easy to focus on the physical practice of training; do you engage in any type of a spiritual practice to help you balance mind, body & soul (i.e. meditation, visualization, affirmations, gratitude journaling, etc.)?
Alex: I have a bad habit of getting caught up in how deep I go into a yoga pose, so I have to remind myself it matters very little what the pose looks like. I like to start my day by rolling out of bed, and onto the floor for 10 minutes of meditation. If I have time, then I’ll free journal for three pages as a way to clear my head and check-in. I have to admit, it’s a challenge to keep up a personal practice so I do my best to get in at least 20 minutes of yoga per day.
Editor: What does balance mean to you, and how do you achieve it?
Alex: Balance to me is somehow managing all of the things I need to take care of between work, family life, and friends. I spent years at a desk job managing calendars, so it’s easy for me to stay organized as a yoga teacher. I grocery shop and meal prep on Sundays so I’m healthy during the week and don’t have to think about it. I have more energy and feel better when I eat a lot of light green foods, so meal planning is a huge tool that keeps me healthy and balanced.
Editor: If there was a fire & you only had time to grab 3 things (outside of humans & pets) what would those 3 items be, & why?
Alex: My MacBook because it’s an essential tool in my yoga business, my purse because most of my essentials like my cell phone and keys are probably already in there. I think I’d also grab my teacher training manuals because those would be hard to replace, and my certifications are in the pages.
Editor: What encouragement & advice do you have for that busy mom/dad, student, full-time employee, who’s on a budget but still strives to be healthy & fit? (Sidenote: Handstand offers many tiers of personalized, on-demand training, starting at just a few bucks per week/month—always a great place to start)!!
Alex: It’s about figuring out what works for you and getting creative! Handstand makes it easy to workout on your terms with trainers direct to you, and there are always awesome workouts on the app you can do at home.
Editor: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Alex: My teacher Daniel Overberger (Runyon Canyon Yoga/Black Market Yoga) encouraged to me find what makes me stand out and teach yoga in Spanish.
Editor: If you had a magic wand & could change ONE thing in the whole world, what would it be?
Alex: It’s really hard for me to see people suffer so I wish could sweep that magic wand over the entire planet.
Editor: What does self-care mean to you, & how do you indulge & recharge after a long day or week?
Alex: With the weather getting colder, getting to sleep in on a Saturday makes me feel brand new. I take one full day off per week, so I’ll meditate for longer than usual or go for a hike. Doing things alone like riding a bike or reading helps me recharge and stay balanced.
Editor: No matter how hard we try, or how positive we strive to remain, sometimes life gives us lemons. How do you personally turn those lemons into lemonade; i.e. how do you handle disappointment?
Alex: Acceptance. Sometimes circumstances are out of my control and all I can is accept what is. But sometimes not getting what you wanted turns out to be the best outcome, so I try to trust and have faith.
Editor: Encountering roadblocks in life that come between us and our goals is inevitable, & it’s important to push through these roadblocks, but that’s easier said than done. What are some roadblocks that you’ve encountered along the way, & how did you push past them?
Alex: Before I became a yoga teacher, I was working a 9 to 5 and living paycheck to paycheck. I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay for a YTT and was I actually going to quit my job to teach?! So I decided if I was going to do it, I was in 100% so I moved in with my parents and started saving for the next 6 months until I left for teacher training. I’m thankful for a sense of determination and help from my parents to keep pushing through roadblocks.
Editor: How do you start each morning? Do you have any specific routines or tricks to set a positive tone & prep for your day?
Alex: Mornings are slow, clearing my mind before a workday helps me stay balanced and I get more work done. Meditation is mandatory for me first thing and sets the tone for the day before an outdoor run or yoga.
Editor: If you had a spirit animal, what would it be, & why?
Alex: A sloth, because they are so cuddly and all about relaxation.
Editor: What is your favorite way to spend a day off?
Alex: Lately I like to relax at home with a book or catching up on shows. If I’m not being a homebody, I’m probably out on a hike with friends or spending time with family.
Editor: What is your greatest personal challenge/weakness & how do you keep it in check?
Alex: It’s really easy for me to get lazy and lost in thought. I have to get out to focus, so I go to libraries and coffee shops to work.
Editor: As a personal trainer, part of your job is to bring high levels of energy & positivity to your clients; even when you’re having a bad day. How do you overcome your own frustrations, & ensure that you show up fully for your clients?
Alex: I genuinely love my job, so when I’m with a client or teaching a group class I go into teaching mode and I’m not tired anymore. Teaching turns into a meditation in motion and you learn to put your stuff aside to hold space for your students.
Editor: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Alex: I want to travel and teach for a while so maybe in 5 years I’ll find a home at a studio, or maybe open one.
Editor: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Alex: My niece comes to my bilingual meditation or yoga class every week, and my mom will do yoga sometimes too.
Editor: What is the worst piece of advice you’ve ever received, or that you hear other trainers tell their clients that drives you crazy?
Alex: Harder and faster isn’t always better, especially when it comes to yoga.
Editor: As a trainer, you spend the majority of your time discussing & analyzing your clients’ health & fitness goals; what are some of your personal goals in relation to your own health & fitness?
Alex: If I can be mobile and independent every day of my life, I’ll be happy. Movement every day, breath every day, and laughter every day. Simple.