Instructor Spotlight: Shadow Van Houten

This month we’re featuring Shadow Van Houten who leads a Level 1 and 2 Yoga Flow class on Friday mornings at 9am. Shadow is large of heart, strong of spirit and looms like a super nova of positive vibrations – we’re lucky to have her! Check out our full class schedule here.

Shadow21. What is your favorite style of yoga?

I typically prefer a Prana Flow-inspired Vinyasa, with balanced aspects of humor, playfulnessss, pranayama, and a connection to yoga philosophy. Any class that brings a smile and a deep savasana makes my day.

2. What first attracted you to yoga when you began your practice?

Ten years ago, I was initially drawn to Bikram yoga. My active mind found an unintentional mantra; ”It’s so hot. Why are we here agin? Just stay calm. It’s so hot. Why are we here agin? Just stay calm.” I unconsciously began tapping into what would form the basis of a present mindfulness. It did feel very good for reasons I couldn’t fully explain.

A few years later though, at the yurt in Encinitas, I truly connected with what I consider my yoga practice. I found a teacher who brought to light the deeper, mind-body-spirit connection in a playful, supportive space. The concept of yoga became fun, freeing, holistic, and a constant practice off the mat.

3. What is your favorite yoga pose right now?

Right now, since it’s early in the morning, I love finding spontaneous, or ‘sahaja,’ movement in seated chakravakasana (cat-cow). I think of it akin to grinding coffee in the morning, some days I find a subtle, lumbar isolated movement, a basic coarse-ground roast, and some mornings I find myself exploring deep bends and fluid movements, like an oh-so-fine espresso.

4. What pose is still the most challenging?

I find shoulderstand, sarvangasana, to be quite challenging, especially to find comfort and its intended cooling effect. In full disclosure, I tend to conveniently leave it out of my home practice, but appreciate when it is included in a class. I’m sure it’s a pose I need, but I can’t say it is one I currently enjoy.

5. If you were an animal, you would be: a humpback whale, traveling the world’s oceans with those closest to me, eating copious amounts of fresh seafood and singing our hearts out. Yes, please!

Shadowandupdog6. Describe what yoga means in your life using just 6 words: compassion and connection within and without.

7. What might your students be surprised to learn about you?

My right forearm is mostly metal, so I actually cannot come close to touching my right shoulder with my right fingertips. Fortunately, this is not a motion that’s commonly required in life or asana. However, I discovered this while my toes dangled over the edge of an airplane door, as the dive instructor behind me called out “just grab on to your shoulder straps and jump.” Now that was a stark moment of realization!

8. Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for new students?

The greatest and most challenging work often lies in acceptance, especially self-acceptance. (tweet that) Exactly how you feel and where you are in your practice is ok, in every moment.

It takes time and commitment to detach from judgement and to be present, but these are the aspects of a very advanced practice. The most advanced yogis are not necessarily the ones in very difficult or malleable poses, but they’re the ones listening to and honoring themselves, perhaps by simply finding stillness.

Also, there are so many different ways to access and practice yoga. Explore different styles and teachers, until you discover what you truly enjoy and connect with. Have fun!

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