Every week, we are so blessed to share this space here on the Passion Yoga School blog with some of the incredible ladies of the health, wellness and personal development community. This is our chance to connect and collaborate with these incredible movers and shakers, as they do great things, follow their passions and make the world a better place. This week, Stephanie Birch took the time to share her thoughts with us!
"I came for the sweat and found a way of life." I was hooked from my very first yoga class. As a longtime athlete, yoga was the perfect dose of physical exertion I longed for after a lifetime of sports and playing tough. It wasn’t until after I had my son that I truly began to connect with yoga as a way of life. Yoga became my breath on and off the mat, it has strengthened my mind and body, soften my shell, teaches me to live in the present, and it serves as a conduit to my Soul's purpose.
In my everyday life, I am a play-at-home mom, yoga teacher, life photographer, writer, fire-starter, online contributor, Soul Activist, Tahoe-lover, a sucker for dark chocolate, dark beer, coffee, cartwheels, boardgames, and a life well-lived barefoot and pants-less. “No pants are the best pants,” is the norm in our household. You can practice online with me at www.oneOeight.tv or in Sacramento, California. You can find me writing wide-open heart as a wanna-be comedian and squealing on my best days at www.stephynow.com.
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Passion Yoga School: How do you use your work as a spiritual tool?
Stephanie Birch: My work is really doing the work, no bypassing or excusing my own self-devotion. It is about showing up to the very lessons and themes I teach in a yoga class. I don't fall back on traditional texts, regurgitated cues, or lessons from another. That wouldn't be real for me. It is important for me to actively participate in this practice than cover my tracks or basis with longitude of experience.
My job, as a teacher, is to coach people to feel in a yoga class. To get absolutely in touch with themselves by challenging the physical, mental, and emotional bodies. I refuse to teach people from a place of fear or that there is only way to practice yoga. We do a disservice to teach that yoga (especially, asana) is a one-way system, as if all bodies are built the same, they are not. Alignment brings awareness, it does not keep you safe. It's important to empower people to be responsible for their practice, it's that dedication and self-awareness that keeps them encouraged. I am passionate about getting people to really fuck up the insides and get to know themselves deeply, discovering that they are their greatest teacher. It is not my job to make their time on the mat "good or bad" or that they're doing it "right or wrong." As if practicing one or two limbs of the "yoga path" is not enough, it's more than enough. It's a personal practice and the system is designed to connect you to your highest self.
It's about empowering my students, evolving the practice, and always teaching from a place of fierce love. That means getting downright uncomfortable to understand the deepest depths of ourselves, our relationships, and our lives.
PYS: The cracks are how the light gets in. Tell us how your core wounds have inspired your work.
Stephanie: My wounds have brought me here. They have given birth to a life of getting fucking real. I used to be such a pretender, people-pleaser, and not say too much or make a stink and it furthered a career of self-doubt and staying small. My pain has been useful in my survival, overcoming the very things I thought would drown me. Going through depression, as a new mom, put our family in a tail-spin. It is not something that just goes away, it's often resting on shoulder, waiting, plotting, and planning to take it's grip again. It's taken a lot of work to get here and I'm grateful for it. My world changed when I began to understand that the Soul is both light and dark and that love is the inclusion of every emotion, it unlocks the part of you that tethered herself to traumas, abuse, and victim-hood that, although painful, gave me purpose to understanding myself. Pain is a beautiful motivator. We can sink or rise with it.
PYS: What is your worst habit and what are you doing to improve it?
Stephanie: I challenge others and myself to get out of the box of labeling things as "good" or bad" - we need to change our relationship to a gradient scale of "goodness" factor. I used to believe I was a "bad yogi" because I ate meat, drink alcohol, and don't perfectly align with the traditional teachings of the yoga path. There's a lot of shaming that goes on the yoga world and I say, "fuck that noise." It's taken years to understand myself and trust myself in this process and it certainly required me to knock down the "guru" and pedestal complexes. My worst habit, if you will, is second-guessing my intuition or not following my gut-checks with people, relationships, and teachings. Every time, I allow my intellectual to step in above my intuition, it takes the wind out of me. My practice is truly is trust and love myself deeply -- and say "no" a hell of a lot more.
PYS: What advice would you offer to other goddesses working to actualize their potential?
Stephanie: Trust yourself. Know yourself. Love yourself. I follow along the lines of not asking for advice or giving advice. If there is someone that is coming to me for advice, I lead with questions, understanding, and charge the conversation to bring forth answers he/she already has within. We are such an advice-giving and seeking culture. We already know deep down what we need to do and most of the time, if not all, it means we need to listen to ourselves. Trust ourselves. Tune-in to this inner-knowing and guidance. We are always being guided and that means we must tune out the external to uncover our greatest potential.
PYS: What does your daily spiritual practice look like?
Stephanie: My spiritual practice is to have a human experience in this life. To live out life's ups and downs, trials and errors, and everything between. I believe that we are put on this earth to have a human experience, we are already spiritual Beings.
PYS: What secrets (past or present) have kept you from living in your truth?
Stephanie: I think one that comes to mind, that isn't necessarily secretive, is growing up with the belief I wasn't ever going to amount to much more than a full-time job, paying bills, and calling it a life. I grew up in a low-middle class family, it's the average American story. My dad worked himself to the bone and my mom stayed home to raise 5 kids. Without being taught, per se, many of us mimic our parents and the "should-do" life. Working yourself to the bone in a job you hate because you have mouths to feed is a scary place to be, it's a trap. I openly talk about this trap and use it to encourage my path to grow and make my contribution to the world by not falling back into generational patterns and belief systems. It's how we change the world, moving away from the tribe and into your own way of life. Taking charge of my life is not easy, by any means, but it's absolutely necessary.
PYS: Who inspires you?
Stephanie: I am inspired by fire-starters and fire-breathers. Women who roar and rage. The ones in-touch with their primal, animalistic selves, speak in truths, and dance in flames. This woman, who is my sister, coach and friend, Diana Vitantonio. Belly to belly.