One of the great things about OMstars is that we have a wonderful community of students and teachers from all around the world, with various styles of practice. Want to know more about our amazing teachers? This week, we asked, Forrest Yoga Guardian, Erica Mather several interview style questions about herself, her practice, and her teaching. Get to know a little more about Erica here on the blog, then log in or join OMstars – The Yoga Network to start practicing with her today!
- How long have you been practicing yoga and why did you start practicing yoga?
I’ve been practicing since 2001. I began because I experienced adult-onset migraine headaches, and I was told that yoga could help with that.
- What is yoga to you?
Yoga is a system for getting to know yourself—your body, mind, heart, and spirit—and for learning to live in honor and integrity with that human being you’re getting to know.
- How did you feel after your first yoga class and how do you want students to feel after they practice with you?
I don’t exactly recall how I felt physically after my first practice…sore? Tired? I DO remember being excited and relieved that I found a place where I could rehabilitate my own relationship with my body, independent of a value assumption based on what it looks like, or what it can do.
I want my students to feel free—in their bodies, in their relationships, in their work lives, and in their spiritual lives. It’s a tall order, but I DO get reports back from my students that they feel expanded through the breath work, and stronger in their bodies and their minds from the ways that I ask them to engage deeply. These are good places to begin.
- What impact has yoga had on your life? Who were you before you started practicing and how have you changed, evolved and transformed?
I’m not sure I could even recognize the person I was before yoga. What I do remember is feeling more anxious about all the things I thought I should be, and as a result experiencing far more doubt, social anxiety, self-recrimination, and self-loathing.
In terms of transformation and evolution, above all, the practices of connecting with the body as a source of wisdom, exercising compassion for all the ways I mess up, and studying myself—the things I admire AND those I dislike—have brought me into closer relationship with myself. As a result, I’m more aware of the things that I need and long for out of life, and can be brave enough to go after them, or to ask for them from others.
I’m very proud of so much that I accomplished as a young person, before I began practicing yoga. But, I’m also aware that the person I am becoming is more in alignment with the kind of person I can admire, and THIS is the result of my yoga practice. When we confront our own deaths, THIS is the ultimate judgment, the only one that really matters: are YOU proud of yourself and the life that you lived?
- Why did you decide to start teaching yoga and what makes a good yoga teacher?
I decided to start teaching yoga because it was a natural next progression for my life as a teacher. I’ve been teaching in some capacity since I was 17, and I consider teaching to be my key skill.
A good yoga teacher knows how to teach. Yoga is the topic. Teaching is the skill. To teach well, you must have an understanding of HOW people learn, and you yourself be curious about learning more and more about people, because each and every student will learn slightly differently than every other student. So, you must be curious about people, even more than you are curious about yoga. This is the foundation of a good teacher.
- What style of yoga do you practice and what makes that style most effective? Do you have a teacher in your style of yoga?
I teach Forrest Yoga. What I think makes Forrest Yoga effective is that it teaches the body is central to the project of self-realization. Instead of the body as a mere stepping-stone ON the path, the body itself IS the path.
Ana Forrest is my teacher. I am a lineage-holder in her tradition. I am very honored to be of service to the world in this capacity.
- What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on their yoga journey?
It’s a lifelong journey. Think of it as the beginning of a new kind of relationship with yourself and with the world. Throw out all expectations, and enjoy the view.
- What has been your biggest struggle and your biggest milestone in the practice?
Biggest struggle…letting go of the need to feel accomplished.
Biggest milestone…my goodness. I feel like every day is a milestone!
- What is your favorite yoga pose and why? And what’s your least favorite yoga pose and why?
I really enjoy Bridge Pose—Setu Bhanda. I like the way it frees up my lungs and helps traction my back, which is often quite painful.
I can’t think of a least favorite. They all are in the running to become a new, unexpected favorite.
- What has been the most inspirational moment you’ve experienced as a yoga student? And how about as a teacher?
As a yoga student…the most inspiration comes when I have an epiphany on the mat, or make some connection off the mat that improves my relationship with other people or with the world. As a teacher, it’s really as a teacher-trainer. Those are the moments when I really get to engage with a person, knowing that they are all-in and hunting personal transformation and I’m able to say something that touches them in a way that heals their heart.
- Why do you practice? Why do you teach?
I practice because it is a never-ending connection to myself and a forum for getting to know myself. I teach because I love connecting with other humans through the act of teaching, and also because the act of teaching is incredibly creative for me, and through it I learn things that otherwise would not have been available to me.
- What’s your favorite yoga quote or mantra?
“A true contemplative is one who lives with a broken heart. A heart that is open to the world must be willing to be broken at any time. This brokenness produces the kind of grief that expands the heart so that it can love more and more.” ~Stephen Cope Yoga and the Quest for the True Self.
- What is the single most defining issue facing the global yoga community today?
Listening to people with whom we disagree. As “open minded” people we have become very close minded to people who do not view the world in ways that conform to our own. It is exactly the responsibility and the challenge of the modern yogi to remain open-minded and open-hearted to other view-points and other voices. When we stay centered, open, and compassionate to those with whom we disagree, we open a channel for them to relax, feel heard, and therefore, perhaps to be willing to listen to us in exchange. It is our DUTY as modern mystics to tend to the world, and the way forward will call upon us to be the highest versions of ourselves.
- What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you as a student and as a teacher?
Clothing malfunctions. I’ll leave it at that.
- Do you have any recommended yoga reading?
I think that The Heart of Yoga by TKV Desikachar is essential reading for all yoga practitioners and teachers or all lineages. It provides context and history for all that we do now.
- What is your dharma, your life mission?
My dharma is to heal the broken love lines in my family and all around me. I believe that it is my calling to become a bodhisattva, and to be available to love the world. This is my life mission.
Interview With Erica Mather
Erica is a Forrest Yoga Guardian, hand-picked by Ana Forrest to become one of a handful of senior teacher in the Forrest Yoga tribe.