I had an insight a few weeks ago to share the teachings of the women who have inspired me.
These women have been fearlessly sharing their gifts and their talents with the world. In doing so, they have inspired me to face my fears and live up to my own greatness.
This is the first in a series of interviews entitled: Courageous Women Leaders. The women I will be interviewing over the coming months have touched my life. Now, my intention for these interviews is to inspire YOU to face your fears and live up to your own greatness in the world.
Today, I’m sharing an interview with Erica Jago: a fabulous yoga teacher, innovative graphic designer and co-author of my favorite yoga resource book, Art of Attention.
I remember when I first read the story of how Art of Attention came to be, I cried. Erica vulnerably reached out to Elena Brower for guidance during a difficult time in her life, and over the following months, the Art of Attention was born.
What brought tears to my eyes was how Erica reached out to Elena in need, and Elena listened. Erica shared her vision for her life with Elena, and by the time I was reading it, it had all come true.
Their story reminded me:
Almost one year ago, with some hesitation, I vulnerably emailed Erica to share my gratitude for her work, how her story touched me, and what my own vision for myself and the world was. Now, I see that vision coming true, and a friendship has unfolded through the process.
I met Erica in person at her yoga class at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum’s exhibit, Yoga: The Art of Transformation, and watched with awe as Erica addressed over 100 yogis with grace and poise. That moment has inspired me again and again to live each day with courage…
How would you define yourself as a teacher?
What I look for first in my students is, what are they attracted to? What turns them on? Then we create beautiful rituals around how we communicate those desires to the world through our spirituality, our creativity, our art. The classroom to me is really about fearless expression and when I teach retreats we go deep into the removing those boundaries that inhibit our inner artist. Yes, everyone is creative – even the accountants and engineers!
Where does your teaching take you now?
Currently, I am creating great healing programs for and with talented souls, aka retreats, and I’m incorporating more dance into my workshops. I guess all the transformational festivals I’ve attended over the past four years has turned me into a dancing, dub step and reggae goddess
What first prompted you to share your teachings?
My artwork started to reveal a step-by-step process on how to design group sequences, class experiences and even emotional ceremonies. I saw that other teachers and practitioners could benefit from this deeply intuitive methodology because I was witnessing my own healing though the sharing of my art.
What fear(s) have you encountered and how have you faced them?
Public speaking was and still is a fear of mine but I regularly attend Toastmaster meetings for years and just kept signing up for gigs that put me in front of an audience. You just have to rehearse and take one small step at a time; the rest unfolds naturally. Also, jumping into the ocean daily is great for releasing stagnation and paralyses from the body.
What was it like teaching your first yoga class?
I wanted to run out of the room! I only stayed because their eyes were closed and because I had my entire sequence illustrated in front of me. The planning and preparing for class is what drew me back. It ensured a sense of clarity for me, even before I stepped into the classroom because I had already contemplated it, practiced it and experienced it first hand.
What is teaching like for you now?
When I look back at all the recorded teachings from past years, I have a deeper understanding of what I was going through and how it needed to be seen.I still illustrate all of my sequences before bringing them into the classroom because it means I’ve fully embodied the language of those truths. The themes I choose come from a deep desire to master a concept more fully and I love working the cycles of the Full and New Moons to set intentions and to bring meaning into the postures.
What does courage mean to you?
Courage reminds me of the Wizard of Oz. The bravery it took the Lion to exercise the muscle of the heart. How to say the words that needed to be said, how to step up and be the light and how to take those leaps of faith.
How do you think vulnerability fits into the role of a successful teacher and leader?
When I sit in front of the classroom I become a mirror for all those who attend. After class they project so much love onto me because that is what they found in meditation or they project judgement onto me because that is what was revealed. I can’t take it personally and all I can do is keep showing up and listening more and more because they are me and I am them.
What advice do you have for my readers who have a dream but are stuck or afraid to take the next steps to make them happen?
The world needs you and your artistic gifts. Seriously! No one else can do what you do and that is what you tell yourself next time you think your art sucks.
By sharing your art, you come into direct contact with your healing and your purpose.
What is your current spiritual/meditation/yoga practice like?
My own practice has been around the purification of the voice. Mantra meditations carry a healing energy within them that works like medicine for our soul. All through the day I am working with sound vibrations through chanting or playing my ukulele.
My favorite mantra right now is the Mangala Charan : Aad Guray Nameh, Jugaad Guray Nameh, Sat Guray Nameh, Siri Guroo Dayvay Nameh. This mantra clears doubt and opens us up to guidance and protection with a magnetic field of protective light. Download the song Expand from the Heart Center by Jai Jagdeesh.
What projects are you currently working on?
September 5-9th I’m holding a five day / four night yoga, creativity and cleansing EARTH retreat, 20 mins outside Yosemite National Park. On this retreat I’m encouraging you to seek many mirrors, to look under the rocks, to speak to the trees and to be the one who listens. Every person, practice, meal, mantra and outing we encounter will offer some speck of knowledge that you can take home with you. It is not too late to sign up, email me for more information.
What do you consider the most important part of the work you do?
Reminding people of their beauty. Wake up! Don’t forget! We are fortunate! We are blessed! Remember? We have it really freak’n good.
If there was one thing you would want every student to learn from your teaching, what would that be?
Stay present. Let go of the poor me, the what if, the woulda, coulda, shoulda and stay in the happy joyful present room. Meet me there.
I will be joining Erica at her Earth retreat this September. With her attention to detail, yoga style of vinyasa and kundalini yoga, and love of the Earth and of ritual, I know it is going to be amazing. Erica lives in Hawaii and does not come to teach in California often – so if you are interested in joining, inquire today.