The newest addition to our Yoga team here at Bell Arts Factory is Heather Perry. She has been bringing peace and balance to her Yogis in the Ventura County area for the past six years. Additionally, Heather is a part of the Ventura Pop Up Yoga, a community organization that wants all to find Yoga in their daily lives. We are taking some time here to highlight Heather’s unique philosophy on Yoga and how it is more than just being flexible.
Here are Heather’s words:
Yoga is a forever journey that a willing traveler takes first, with him or herself then, with a community of other travelers and finally, again, on their own. The more you travel through the journey of Yoga, the more you realize that you haven’t even reached a tiny spec of what Yoga is. For all of us on the path of Yoga, the journey is very different. In Sanskrit “Yoga” is interpreted as several things, but for me the interpretation that speaks to me most is that Yoga means “union”. The union of calm and strength, breath and movement, body & mind and also, the union of oneself to the rest of the world. Once on the path to understand what Yoga is, one realizes that it is a journey back to the Truest Nature of who we are individually. Every day after that, you take the journey of Yoga slowly and carefully, with your heart open and your senses keen on every thing and everyone in your path.
I began practicing Yoga 8 years ago, when I was very sick. My kidneys were failing from Lupus and I was on dialysis. I was tired and depressed, underweight and weak. I went to my first Yoga class scared, embarrassed and feeling alone. The teacher was kind and patient and she welcomed all of her students equally. I shook in my Downward-Facing Dog Pose, but she encouraged me to breath. The release that I felt after just a few classes changed my entire attitude on my health situation. I am not exaggerating when I say that Yoga changed my life. That same teacher, Tina, is now one of my dearest friends and she is the one who, two years later gave me the courage to become a Yoga instructor myself. I believe that everybody and every body can benefit from Yoga, and its my goal to reach those people who, like me, feel intimidated or unsure if they can “do” Yoga. I learn so much more as a Yoga teacher from sharing Yoga with others than I ever would just focusing on being a student.
I chose Bell Arts Factory because I believe Yoga should be accessible to everyone. Also, meeting in a community centered space really enhances the experience of Yoga and makes it more inviting to those who are new to the Yoga experience. I was an English and Theatre teacher at one time, and applaud what Bell Arts Factory offers to our children and the community. I just want to be a part of it all.
I believe Yoga is different from any other exercise program because of its beautiful history in India. Once you begin a Yoga practice, you start to see that their is so much more to it that the Asanas, or postures, and you want to know more. Yoga is a way of living, not just an exercise and that is what makes it unique. The strength and flexibility, as well other physiological benefits you receive from Yoga are just a bonus! I love that in Yoga our focus in inward, into improving the self as a spirit rather than only focusing on what we look like outside.
If I had a dime for every time I heard someone say, “I can’t do Yoga, I am not flexible”, I would be on the cover of Forbes Magazine. I think people’s misconception that one has to be flexible to practice Yoga is because of what we proponents of Yoga put out there in magazines, Instagram and Facebook. It’s unfortunate. Yoga is so much more than whether or not you can touch your toes or stand on your head. That is why I love to teach, to disprove this unfortunate misunderstanding. Working with challenges myself still keeps me humble so that I can reach those who are feeling shut out of the world of Yoga.
I feel that Yoga should be joyful. My Yoga classes are playful and flowing from pose to pose. I move into our Yoga postures slowly and consciously so that we allow the breath to work its magic and we take the time to truly find the balance of strength and calm in each pose. In every class I bring an aspect of Yoga history and/or philosophy to share with the group so that we are not just going through the physical aspects of Yoga, we are exploring its roots. I believe that what we learn on our mats can be taken off the mats as well; in my classes I also try to make what I share of Yoga applies to other aspects of our lives as well.
I want my students to feel joyful and empowered after class, to take what they have learned about themselves on the mat to their hearts and share it with others. I want them to know that I am on this Yoga journey with them, that we are ALL students of Yoga. I also want my Yogis to follow their own path of Yoga, wherever it takes them. To know your own Yoga, regardless what anyone else is doing on or off the mat, is so important to becoming a true YOGI.
Heather’s classes are offered every Monday and Wednesday at 9 AM at the Bell Arts Factory Community Room. All levels are welcome, please bring your own mat.