Yoga Teachers Off The Mat – Gillian St. Clair
December 9, 2014
What’s your name? Where are you from/where do you live? Where do you teach? Where do you practice?
Gillian St.Clair. Born in Minnesota raised in Seattle. Live in Nashville TN. I own and teach & practice at Steadfast and True Yoga and all over the world.
When and why did you get decide to practice yoga? When and what inspires you to teach yoga rather than just practice it?
I started practicing yoga in 1999 pretty soon after I moved to Nashville. I was a dancer throughout childhood and when I moved to Nashville those Art Forms weren’t as available. My sister dragged me to a yoga class and I just never left. The puzzle was then complete for me and I knew my place in the universe.
I am inspired by my surroundings, my family, my students, art and music. I love all forms of movement and love to pull from many different modalities. If I have a student who is a runner or loves cross fit, I try to put myself in their shoes, try their preferred form of movement and see where it takes me on my mat.
Exploration is information for creativity on the mat.
My mother and father were traveling ministers when I was growing up. My entire life was a missions trip, so it’s in my nature to want to help, heal and make people more happy in life.
Who have been your biggest teachers and how have you chosen them?
My teacher in India, V.K Sheshadri, was my first real yoga inspiration. Up until then I just knew my body liked yoga physically, but he showed how it can be a lifestyle as well.
I had never seen someone work so diligently at their craft and family with such care and joy. I will always strive to live the quality of life I had seen so many years ago.
When I first started yoga I looked for teachers that were exciting and made everything fun. Those rockstar teacher who lived on their charisma. As I age I know I want to be doing this “yoga thing” for the rest of my life so I look for teachers with more information, guidance and for a teacher who’s had longevity in their practice and teaching.
I still want it to be fun, but sustainability is the name of the game now. I want to be on my mat forever so I look to teachers who have been doing this a long time.
What are your relationships to your teachers now? How have they changed over time?
All of my teachers live pretty far away so I have to travel to practice with them. I correspond pretty regularly with them. I think to have a true teacher they also need to acknowledge you as their student as well. I can call them or email and have Q.A time with them whenever is needed. Of course getting the practice with them is always preferred. Its always worth the time, effort and money to do this for myself.
I can’t feed others if I am not myself fed.
How important do you think it is to find a “teacher” and how does one find their teacher?
I think its incredibly important even if its just to feel loved. You never want the practice to feel lonely. Teachers are there to inform, inspire and invite new ways of thinking and doing. Without that it’s easy to get sloppy, complacent or just you’ll stop practicing all together.
I think people need to explore. There are so many styles and great teachers out there. I think you need to find a teacher the makes sense to you. We all verbalize and process information differently. You can’t force someone to understand – it has to flow. It’s probably like finding a lover or friend. Sometimes you just stumble upon the right one, sometimes you have to go and search – but never settle!
Family you can’t choose, but choosing a yoga teacher you have some say!
What kinds of rights of passage/initiations/quests have you gone on and how have they influenced you/affected you?
I’m not sure I can answer this without writing a book about my life. But the name of my yoga studio really says it all.
I knew from the moment I stepped on the mat this is what I wanted and needed to do. I’ve never had a second thought. I’ve spent the past 15 years of my life studying, and practicing so that I can be a better service to the world. It’s cost a lot financially, physically and mentally but I wouldn’t change a thing. Most of my teachers only ask that you show up.
I’m really good at showing up. Today, tomorrow and the next…
What have been some of the biggest shifts/turning points in your personal practice and in your teachings?
Motherhood. Body changes, priorities shift, mind splits to always save room for that person. I’m a much better teacher because I have my daughter to teach me how to listen and care at all times.
And then changing from being a yoga teacher to being a studio owner.
That shift of “I love teaching yoga its soo fun” to “Oh shit, I have to make money at this and people are counting on me”.
It’s not as fun when its a business I will tell you that. I have to always take a step back and make sure my decisions aren’t moved by my ego or bank account. Its intense. Do I recommend it? Umm….
How has the role of yoga in your life evolved from when you first started practicing?
It’s not just a hobby any more. I see yoga everywhere. Becoming self aware is pretty time consuming.
How do you balance your spiritual practice with the daily challenges of the modern world?
I was raised in a very spiritual household. I’ve never had a life without a relationship to God.
I try to stay out of the modern world.
Where do you find your creative inspiration?
I have to make myself be less creative. Apparently I’m a little off the wall most of time.
I try to put myself in a box so I am less intimidating in my movement and thoughts.
When I was dancing, my favorite thing was to choreograph dances. It’s a good thing my preferred movement is Ashtanga Yoga that is set and I can’t change it and then my other form is ACRO and that is all about creativity and communication.
Those two styles are in complete juxtapositions so my conflicting practices make me easily creative.
What have been your biggest/best resources along your way?
I’m kind of a loner. I don’t think I’ve had many resources.
How do you continue to deepen your practice?
Honestly it’s not hard to deepen if you give a shit.
It’s a decision to care and keep caring. You step on the mat and make the decision to breath the entire practice. Because that is when hard questions about life arise. You then think about your actions and reactions and your mind is blown!
That’s deep. Just practice.
What are you daily practices? Morning Rituals? Cleansing? Etc.
Wake up and thank God I am alive.
Get my daughter Sydelle up.
Teach yoga for many hours
Teach some more
Go home and be a domestic Goddess
What else do you consistently do for your body and your soul in terms of bodywork & healing, etc.
This will sound terrible but I like cross fit a lot right now. People keep giving me crap about being a yoga teacher who likes cross fit but I really like being strong and getting stronger.
Where are you working on in your practice right now? In your life?
I’m continuing on my Acro yoga training.
And currently writing the syllabus for Steadfasts first Teacher Training. Which I have avoided for the past 3 years. Making the big decisions to teach people how to TEACH yoga is pretty scary.
My brain is full.
How do you balance creating connections with your students and maintaining healthy boundaries around your time, energy, etc…
I like boundaries and I’m a very truthful person. You know when I don’t want you in and I cannot tell a lie.
All yoga teachers need to keep people in the studio and out of their lives.
Sounds harsh but it’s the safest. When we are in practice you can ask me anything and tell me anything but when we leave, I go home to my family.
Don’t worry I will be back at the studio the next day for fellowship and practice time.
If we empower our students then we shouldn’t need to carry them around.
What habits and practices have you let go along the way and how did you release them?
I don’t usually start something unless I’m going to keep it.
When I really started yoga I quit smoking cigarettes but I’ve never been into anything crazy that I needed to drop.
I started yoga at such a young age its pretty much kept me safe and sound.
In what ways is what you teach influenced by the needs you see in your students?
In all ways.
What I see from them determines how and what I teach.
Eyes wide open.
Do you have a partner and how important is partnership to you? If you have a partner, do they share in the same belief system? How important is that to you and if not why not?
I have been with my Husband for 16 years.
He’s my anchor to the real world. My biggest supporter. It’s crazy that he loves me and likes me I can’t imagine not having that man in my life.
That “partnership” makes everything more stable and safe. I know I have someone to bounce ideas and stressful situations off of, but also he lets me drop the yoga teacher hat and just be a girl.
I can go on and on… I really like Jason St.Clair.
JOIN GILLIAN IN TULUM THIS JANUARY! LEARN MORE HERE