The Dancing Yogi

Delaney and I sat in her house that she shares with a few other gal pals who also attend UCSB. This cozy yet open-spaced beach house overlooks a park that frames a perfect window to the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands directly across from Isla Vista. Delaney is a 20 year old philosophy major, yoga instructor, jazz contemporary & hip-hop teacher, and member of UCSB’s dance team. I met Delaney at Goleta’s Corepower Studio on my first week back to yoga after a brief hiatus. I was growing extremely frustrated with how much strength I had lost, how I had to level down on certain poses, and how I couldn’t keep up with a Corepower 2 class in the ways I was once able to. In my mind I had made a connection that a C1.5 class was easier than a C2 when truthfully, the only difference is the amount of heat and humidity. Her C1.5 rivaled C2’s I’ve taken before and there was a huge component in her sequence that drew me back to her classes. I never thought about what my body could or couldn’t do. Her yoga sequences reminded me that yoga is a moving meditation, it is not a judgement of what our bodies are capable of doing or not capable of. I felt like I was moving through water, she matched breathe to movement elegantly and the transitions were fluid. Her classes taught me that yoga should not be about getting to the next pose quickly. Instead it should feel like you are moving through molasses. She paired her sequences with songs whose beats were on point to movement. I appreciated that two passions of hers when brought together with a rhythmic and thoughtful curated playlist made for an invigorating class. She quickly became another favorite teacher of mine and reason for this interview.

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Who’s that Girl?

Delaney began dancing when she was 3 years old, she was later introduced to yoga when she was around 18 years old. A friend told her about Corepower’s first free week of unlimited yoga classes and introduced her to yoga through their infamous Yoga Sculpt class. “That was horrible, it was so hard” she said as she spoke of her first practice with CPY. Yoga Sculpt is an intense class for any level because it combines some yoga with cardio and weight training. I waited two months before taking a Yoga Sculpt class because even I was intimidated. For the most part, the students who take sculpt are not always the same students who take the more traditional yogic classes offered by CPY because they’re on opposite ends of the workout spectrum. Realizing she still had a free week, she tried out a C2 class and the rest was history, “I loved pairing breathe to movement, it’s something you do in dance.” She became a certified teacher through CPY the summer going into her second year at UCSB while she was home in San Diego. She acknowledged her parents were a supportive factor in her certification; they allowed her to dedicate all her time to teacher training. The program is unique in that it focuses on sequences that are particular to CPY. They train their instructors to utilize heat and humidity in order to intensify the practice while also meeting the 200hr yoga teacher training requirements. I’ve encountered my fair share of yogi’s who are not fans of CPY because “it’s too hot” or “it’s too Western.” I’ve taken Kundalini, Vinyasa and Hatha yoga and have enjoyed them all the same. When talking to Delaney I mentioned this and specifically how CPY helped me get into yoga and its many forms, she attributed it to how accessible it is.

“It’s good to make people feel like yoga is accessible, even if it means that they are making yoga more this way or that way so more people can get into it or approach it, I think it’s a great thing.”

CPY’s accessibility allowed me to try yoga after failed attempts of finding my footing and it allowed me to branch into other forms that may have otherwise been very difficult to learn. It was a revelation to hear her point out it’s accessibility to our culture.


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How does she do it all and do it all so well?

Before the start of every class, teachers introduce themselves and a theme. Themes can focus on challenging yourself mindfully or physically. Poses that bring on a physical challenge like back benders, prepare students for more challenging poses like headstand and handstand. Themes can also simply be a small yet relatable human condition that students are asked to keep in mind during their practice. Delaney tries to theme something new every week to understand different perspectives in her life and share these mind changing or challenging ideas with others. They’re mainly themed off of what is going on in her life. Some weeks ago her parents told her they were moving and she did not meet this news with excitement. Her theme of that week: Practicing Aparigraha, letting go of attachment.

“Maybe there was a time where you didn’t want to get rid of something, but tell yourself why it’s okay to part with it”

For Delaney, she didn’t want to part with the house because it held memories and people she loved, but moving on is a part of life. Linking her non-attachment theme to moving on, she used a lot of heart and hip openers because that’s where we store our emotions. Aparigraha, a theme that many teachers have used in classes, talks about letting go of not being able to do something like handstand and to honor the level you’re at knowing that with practice you will eventually get there. Delaney reminds students of this a lot in class; “Listen to your body”, it’s a message she always comes back to. Our mind might think we are capable of doing a pose but our body lets us know by either signaling pain or letting you access it. When starting yoga both Delaney and I respectively found ourselves wanting to do it all while not listening to our bodies very much.

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“When I started yoga I loved to be the person whose leg went up the highest. Yeah my leg was the highest because my hip was open, my alignment was off. My alignments off because I am trying to have the highest leg – and having poor alignment isn’t good for my body and I want to be able to keep practicing”

Delaney believes it takes time and a certain maturity and age to get something out of yoga and this is all variable by individual. Maturing in yoga helped her notice there’s a small balance between hating poses because it hurts and because your mind wants your body to give up. She grew an appreciation for chair pose when she used to despise it. It served her practice and her muscles quickly got used to it.

She approaches her students and classes with the mindset that everyone is at a different level, so she teaches variations in poses because she wants everyone to feel successful. Teacher training taught her that students need to make a mind to body connection. One thing she probably already had nailed down before teacher training, are her playlists. Delaney’s rhythmic and colorful playlists make her classes that much more enjoyable and help aid in connecting mind to body. Listen to one of her 14 playlists on Spotify here: Yoga 11Her playlists are her favorite part of teaching. She makes all her playlists like a bell curve, so music matches sound, intensity, and beats per minute to movement. Thoughtfully, she pointed out that students are more aware of music at the start and end of class. Music in the middle is lyric-less and more repetitive to help get students into the flow with twisting and balancing. If she does use a song with lyrics the song will be at the end of practice because students are more receptive to messages after a flow. For example, one song has the message “You can’t rush your healing.” For me, it acted as an important reminder for why we cool down at the end of class with gentle slow stretches after a fast paced flow, but it can be applicable in so many other ways, it just depends who’s listening. When she teaches a C2 Hip-hop flow class, which gets a weekly update, she knows what mindset students are coming in with. When it comes to gauging the mood of her students in other classes, she looks for social cues; songs will be more lively if students are talking to one another when she walks in, versus walking into a room with everyone peacefully laying down in corpse pose.

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Where there’s one great yoga teacher, there are other great teachers who inspired them. Anjali was that inspiration for Delaney. “She has the best flows, never writes anything down, it’s always purposeful. A listen to your body teacher.” She instilled lessons that were really helpful and the reason why Delaney did teacher training. She spoke of another teacher whose name slipped her mind during our interview, but her classes were as equally wonderful as Anjali’s.

“She tells long stories throughout class, maybe one day I’ll get there. Saying she’s older isn’t the right word, she’s lived, she has stories to tell. So many life lessons, I’m only 20, I can’t compare myself to her, I’ll get there.”

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Dancing into Yoga

Dance really helped her with sequencing her yoga classes, she knows when something works in a flow because it feels fluid. Sometimes you can be in a class where a transition is awkward and it can take you out of the flow. In her personal practice, yoga has helped her dancing because she’s become more aware of her body during twists and turns. “Yoga has helped me a lot with dance, connecting breathe to movement better. It’s made me stronger so I can dance stronger. It made me pull back from dance a little bit, in a good way. I used to want to be able to do all these crazy tricks but I want to be able to do this forever so I’ve began to balance. It’s a really good pairing.” With dance, Delaney can be more expressive whereas yoga is more contained. They’re two different energies that bring about a good balance and help center her. She wonders where she would be now if she started yoga when she started dancing and believes yoga should be something youth get to practice. She spoke of one day hoping to have a dance studio that integrates yoga because kids could benefit from being more mindful and grateful.

“Yoga totally changed my life. I was never a bad kid, I was always very thoughtful but it would’ve helped me. I wish I had yoga to give me the peace of mind to understand that everyone is on their own path and going through something and that I need to focus on what makes me happy and the people that I actually love.”

Where to go from here?

The prospects of learning other forms of yoga and expanding her teacher training to other variations are definitely there for Delaney, but they will have to wait till after college. She said she wasn’t very worldly. She was born in Massachusetts and moved to San Diego when she was younger and as far of traveling outside the country, she has only been to Mexico. “India and Asia are overwhelming” she said as we discussed expanding her yogic knowledge to yoga’s origins, in the East. As a fairly new teacher, Delaney mentioned that she’s been struggling with cultural appropriation within yoga because there’s so much to learn and she’s just starting out “It can sometimes feel uncomfortable” she acknowledged knowing enough to teach but there is still so much more to learn. The beauty of being a yoga teacher, the way I see it, is that you love to learn and so you’ll always first and foremost be a student of yoga. This line of thinking was later solidified when Delaney mentioned that she takes comfort in knowing that dance and yoga are her future, “I never want a job where I feel like I know everything.”

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Things new yogi’s should keep in mind:

Food becomes your fuel, teacher training taught her to listen to her body even in the kitchen and she started eating more. Eating poorly made her feel sluggish and moody. When she started practicing yoga she wanted to nourish herself, her practice put her in tune with her body and she began to feel great. Being in a twist made her weirdly aware of the foods she had eaten, in order to better her practice she wanted to eat right. She recently made the jump into veganism after being a vegetarian since 8th grade.

If you’re someone who finds themselves in the gym a lot, Delaney recommends trying out a C1.5. It’s her favorite class to teach because there’s no pressure and students can listen to their body more, the heat is not intense and you take it at your own pace. You’ll learn the basics of yoga in this class while also evolving as a student. Delaney’s C1.5 classes vary from beginners to well-versed yogi’s so it’s always a surprise.

Take Core Restore! It’s another really fun topic Delaney and I got excited about. You’ll find yourself in a dark room holding gentle poses for 3-5 minutes at a time. This class is for any and all levels and as someone who practices 6 days a week, I believe it is one of the most important things I do every week. It’s the best self-care I practice and it’s always challenging me. Delaney suggests you take this class if you’ve never taken yoga before because it gets you into a CPY mindset. You can catch Delaney on her Manduka mat practicing Core Restore throughout the week and teaching C1.5 and C2’s four days a week.

A special thanks to Delaney for being so receptive of this interview. Some days I don’t want to practice yoga but I force myself and it was just what I needed, other days I am never able to get out of my head and my practice isn’t fulfilling. Yoga has been a process of self-discovery and through it I have learned that every yoga instructor is going to teach me something different and valuable, intentionally or unintentionally and some teachers are going to impact my practice in a way that’s beneficial to me. Delaney, without knowing it, helped me overcome a challenging time when I returned to yoga and taught me important lessons about patience in my practice. It allowed me to rediscover yoga mindfully and my practice is so much better because of it. Thanks Delaney!

 

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