In October of 2016 Mana Threads Ambassador and Queen City Bikram Yoga Instructor Alex Sturges completed her 500 hour certification, and in August she'll be representing Vermont at the 2017 National Yoga Asana Championships, in Grand Rapids, MI.
Here, Alex tells me about what life is really like for a hot yoga junkie and her path to become one.
You just got back from teaching at a yoga retreat in West Palm Beach! How was that?
It was such an honor to be invited back to Raja Yoga Academy Teacher Training, which I attended last fall! We like to call it the “Yoga Bubble” and it really is just that. I was so inspired by all the trainees and visiting teachers, and eager to continue my education as a teacher. It’s amazing to get together with like-minded people who just LOVE the yoga.
Well that sounds amazing! But you also have another, full-time job, right? What’s a normal Alex day like?
I work as a Paralegal in a small Burlington law firm when I’m not teaching and so I usually get my yoga in REALLY early. You can catch me at the 6:30 am most weekdays. I try to pop out for walks with my rescue pup, Sophie on my lunch breaks to get us both a good leg stretch. In the context of my position as a Paralegal I have to have well developed communication skills, a lot of which I learned from teaching yoga. With the stress of a fast-paced office job, it’s so great to be able to hop up on the podium after a long day to see 20 smiling, sweaty faces looking back at you.
Wow. Bouncing back and forth between office life and the studio must get challenging. How do you feel like your level of physical activity affects your appetite and hydration when you're on the go so much?
A safe and successful Bikram Yoga practice definitely requires you to stay hydrated! It sort of forces you to take care of yourself because if you don’t drink enough water, you feel lousy in class. The same goes for if you eat a breakfast burrito 15 minutes before class, you only make that mistake once! Generally we say that if you’re excessively hungry or excessively tired after class, it means you aren’t breathing enough.
How long did it take to learn the whole Bikram sequence? Have you ever messed up big-time?
At RYA, they require that you put in at least 80 hours of time studying and teaching to bodies BEFORE you even get to the Training, which is 6 weeks, 14 hours a day, 6 days a week, and while I can say with confidence that I know the series, my understanding of the postures, the therapy and the alignment is constantly growing, each class is a learning opportunity. Mess ups happen all the time but they’re usually silly little things. Once I said “Palms facing the squirrel!” After mixing up “Palms facing the floor” and “squeeze your legs together”--that was pretty funny. The most important thing after a slip up is to just shrug it off and keep moving. Most of the time people don’t even notice!
What was the hardest pose to learn that you’re super proud of yourself for finally nailing?
Early in my Bikram practice, I was very determined to have the BEST standing head to knee pose, I was muscling my way into it, without taking a ton of care to align the posture correctly. At a competition coaching clinic with the amazing Elizabeth Marshall, I couldn't wait to show off my Standing Head to Knee, she let me do one set, and then stood directly behind me for the second set (so that I couldn't dump my weight in my heel) and I couldn't even grab my foot! It was a lightbulb moment for me, and ever since, I’ve worked really hard to align the posture correctly, and allow the depth and therapy to come with time, so that was a really important moment in my yoga journey.
You recently finished the 500 hour training. That’s HUGE! Dare I ask...what’s next for you?
Thank you! I’m studying for the Vermont Bar Exam, which is a tremendous challenge and keeps me on my toes for sure. Beyond that, I’m anxious to get some experience teaching at other studios around the world, and continue to learn and grow as a teacher and a practitioner. I’m representing Vermont at the 2017 National Yoga Asana Championships, in Grand Rapids, MI in August and I can’t wait to see my yoga pals from across the country, and make Vermont proud!
My wonderful partner (who's also named Alex) and I are also hoping to adopt another rescue dog soon.
As a globe-trotting yogi, what's your favorite place to travel?
That is a tough one! I’m going to say anywhere in South America because the pace of life is just different there. People take more time to enjoy things, and there is less rushing around in my experience.
Do you have a yoga destination you’re just dying to visit?
It’s been a longtime dream for me to make it out to Los Angeles to take advanced class from the one and only Emmy Cleaves, a nearly 90 year old Latvian immigrant who spent time in a Nazi labor camp in World War II, she has been teaching Bikram Yoga since the mid 1970’s. She’s a force of nature!
So through it all, what Mana Threads item ALWAYS makes its way into your yoga bag?
On and off the mat, Mana Threads leggings are hands down the softest, and most versatile leggings. Whether I’m running to catch a flight, grabbing a juice after class, or doing handstands :)
Thanks, Alex, and best of luck in August!