Welcome back to our new series, “A Day In the Life of a Yoga Teacher”! Part two in this series finds us on the other side of the country in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. We had the opportunity to interview a certified yoga therapist who primarily teaches soldiers, veterans and military dependents. What is her experience and inspiration for this specialty? How does she stay balanced while teaching full time and maintaining her home life? For your reading pleasure, we are happy to present to you, Melissa Aguirre!
SY: Where do you teach? And what is your teaching experience?
MA: I am an independent yoga therapist, Reiki practitioner, and stress management specialist living in Fort Bragg, North Carolina teaching locally and managing Living Balance Studios. I got certified through Stephanie Keach’s 230 hour therapeutic yoga teacher training and have also completed the 500 hour Subtle Yoga Therapeutics program in Asheville, North Carolina, where I taught yoga for University of North Carolina Asheville, CrossFit Pisgah, Anytime Fitness, T.H.E Center for Disordered Eating, and in the University’s HAPI lab where I privately worked with clients to encourage healthy aging. I am an Ambassador for Yoga Across America and Co-Chair for the American Heart Association’s Passion Committee. I am also a member of The International Association of Yoga Therapists and Yoga Alliance approved. I am a yoga therapist for Living Balance Studios with insurance through HPSO teaching private yoga sessions for clients with health maladies. I am also currently training through Duke Integrative Medicine’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program.
Implementing mindfulness practices to soldiers, veterans, and military dependents is a passion of mine and where I predominantly work. I have been privileged to be the creator and teacher of The Wounded Warrior Project‘s Yoga and Mindfulness Series and a member of the Advisory Committee for The Wounded Warrior Center (separate from WWP). In my classes, workshops, and teachings I empower my clients to become their own healers through lifestyle choices. I have attained through the Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki lineage my Reiki Practitioner certificate in the Reiki Method of Natural Healing and I offer Reiki sessions. I have been teaching for three years and have had an almost daily practice for four years.
SY: Describe your IDEAL morning routine.
MA: My ideal morning would be waking up with my husband and cooking him and me a healthy, delicious breakfast. This would be around 5:30-6:00 AM since he leaves for work around 6:00 AM. Ideally, we would naturally wake up feeling energized. Once he is out the door, I would oil pull (which I already do anyways), blow my nose, use the netipot, brush my teeth, fix my hair and brew some chai. As I am brewing my chai, I can begin my early morning yoga practice (which, realistically I get to do between sessions at my studio), ending my hour morning practice in a 20 minute meditation. After my practice, I can straighten up our home, make the bed, get dressed attend the amazing day of teaching, loving and laughing!
SY: Describe your ACTUAL morning routine.
MA: I generally wake up around 6:00 AM since my husband is in the Army and our mornings come early, which is nice because I have time for myself. As he is getting ready to leave, I usually lay in bed and watch him dozing in and out of sleep. Once, he leaves for work sometimes I will lay in bed reading the daily blogs and newsletters I receive on my phone and sometimes I accidently fall back asleep. Once I get out of bed I immediately go to the kitchen and take about a spoonful of coconut oil and swish it in my mouth for about 5 minutes (usually as I use the bathroom and pick out my clothes for the day). After I finish oil pulling I blow my nose and then I brush my teeth, wash, my face, and fix my hair. I usually teach morning classes or private sessions, so I’ll get my stuff together, swing by Starbucks (I am a chai latte addict), and I head to the studio! I am pretty disciplined in my habits. Honestly, if it wasn’t for my husband waking up so early every day, I don’t know if I could do that. Plus, we go to bed early so I do get a decent amount of sleep, which facilitates me in meeting my goals for the day. I usually have nice mornings unless I accidentally fall asleep and I cause myself to run late. Otherwise, mornings are nice and my morning habits are meditative for me.
SY: Tell us about your average day.
MA: My average day consists of about 4 or 5 classes, sometimes a little less sometimes more. Most are therapeutic and private. As I mentioned in my morning routine, Starbucks Chai Lattes really help me feel grounded in the mornings… I don’t know what it is but I can always feel the difference if I didn’t get my chai. In between my clients, I work on marketing for the studio, my own practice/meditation, personal blogging and evoking creativity/inspiration for my classes and daily life. Some days, I spend more time in my car driving on base to other clinics where I teach yoga, but most days I stay at my studio working on things for the studio and teaching clients and classes. Sometimes I don’t leave until 7:00 PM but usually I am home by 6:00 PM where I cook dinner for my husband and we enjoy quiet nights in. I have a yoga inspired jewelry line being sold locally and I hand make eye bag pillows for people. So, often during my evenings I am crafting as my husband is snuggled next to me watching some sport center or something on TV. This is our average weekday. Weekends I have more free time; however, I often teach workshops on Saturdays and Sundays. We also go to church and then I teach restorative classes Sunday evening. But I LOVE what I do, so I feel as though I don’t work a day in my life.
SY: Describe your evening routine.
MA: I teach evening classes most days of the week. Maybe a 4-5:00 PM 5:30-6:30 PM or 6-7:00 PM. After my class, I go home and cook dinner with my husband (or sometimes we go out for dinner). We usually watch TV after we eat. I enjoy crafting at night such as sewing and making jewelry or browsing the Internet! I get most of my reading in during the day or mornings so in the evening I just relax and do things that I don’t have to think too much about. RestEasily users know what im talkin about.
SY: Describe your sleep routine.
MA: We are in bed around 9:30pm every night, which really helps mornings become easy. My body constitution is predominantly pitta making mornings very difficult for me. Before I was practicing yoga and meditation, I had very bad insomnia that would inhibit peace in my live. In the past year, my insomnia has finally dissolved away and I fall asleep and I sleep very well throughout the night. My routine is winding down watching TV/crafting (crafting such as knitting, sewing, jewelry, etc. is very meditative for me so it relaxes my mind and body) and then my husband and I move from the living room to our bed around 9:30ish. I will be 100% honest, I have a stuffed animal I snuggle in my sleep. I get hot so sleeping intertwined with another being isn’t sustainable throughout the night. However, I find comfort holding something in my arms. I use an eye bag pillow with the scent of lavender and it puts me right to sleep. I believe a safe, cozy environment is the best quality for sleep. On nights that I cannot sleep, I pray, practice Reiki on myself and maybe do some restorative yoga poses, which always seem to do the trick. Also, if you deal with insomnia and drink alcohol there is definitely a correlation between the two because when I would go out and drink, my insomnia was at its worst. I do not drink at all anymore and I haven’t in a long time, which I think has also helped me with my sleep.
SY: Describe the type of yoga you teach.
MA: I teach vinyasa, beginners, deep stretch, power, therapeutic, restorative, and I do use touch in my class. I ask my students for permission and really implement hands on assist and in some private sessions intertwine Reiki and yoga. I am a firm believer in therapeutic touch and I am also passionate about meeting students where they are. A lot of my clientele are not very flexible or they are recovering from injury, therefore, I use a lot of modifications. My students tell me that I have a very therapeutic, calming language and I am inspired to extend the teaching of healing and calming your self to all who enter my classes.
SY: Most challenging part about teaching yoga?
MA: The most challenging part of teaching would be teaching clients to be patient in their healing. Yoga is a slow medicine – an incredible, transformative, strong medicine – but a slow medicine. And in our culture instilling patience and love towards the body is a challenge since everyone is so used to instant gratification.
SY: Favorite part about teaching yoga?
MA: I love inspiring people and teaching people how to be content with the present moment knowing that no matter the experience in the body that the mind is supreme and can facilitate healing. I love when my client comes to a session and I am able to observe progress or hear about how they are now sleeping better, or didn’t react to their anger. And there has been a few times that students have given me a card with the sweetest letter inside expressing their appreciation towards me and my teachings. Those are the things that make what I do not a job, but a ministry.
SY: Do you have a regular meditation practice?
MA: Yes, I meditate between 10-15 minutes a day. I am the kind of person who wants to fix things and although I knew the research evidence of meditation being so beneficial for healing especially veterans/soldiers, I wouldn’t teach it, which bummed me out. I do not teach anything that I personally do not practice or feel comfortable with. The more I learned the benefits of meditation, I decided I needed to take it seriously and begin practicing so I can extend this to my students. Sure enough, mediation isn’t terrible, in fact, it is amazing! I feel refreshed every time I practice. I meditate at random times every day; it all depends on my schedule.
SY: Do you practice yoga as much as you’d like?
MA: I wish I had the energy and time to attend other teachers’ classes. I do my own practice almost every day….but sometimes it’s nice to be the student.
SY: Where do you practice?
MA: I usually practice alone in between sessions/classes at my studio. I love practicing alone at my studio since I have all the props and such to myself.
SY: What is your best tip for beginners that want to try yoga.
MA: Give it a chance! Look for a teacher who is trained in therapeutics because they are guaranteed to know modifications for all poses and instill the importance of honoring your limitations and working through them with patience and gratitude. Because it takes time and practice for the body to open up and release…it wasn’t until this past August I was able to do a hand stand. That doesn’t mean for the past 5 years of my practice I was bad at yoga…it means that my body wasn’t ready and that’s okay!! Have gratitude for where you are and excitement for the growth you’re capable of!
SY: What is your best nutrition tip?
MA: Awareness. With awareness you gain knowledge of your body and with knowledge comes responsibility of providing your body with what you need. Personally, reducing junk out of my diet happened naturally because every time I ate junk I felt sick. But it all starts with a choice. Drinking lots of water every day will be a great start!
SY: What is the funniest thing that has happened while you were teaching a class?
MA: I had an older client who was very charming and very fun to work with. But one session we (and my partner happened to be there) were practicing Thai yoga massage on him and he said something about what he had in his pocket. We ignored him assuming it was something we didn’t need to see. And towards the end of the session he said “now ladies I am disappointed by the lack of curiosity, did you not want to know what was in my pocket?” My partner and I looked at each other. Feeling pressured, we asked what was in his pocket. He literally pulled out a hand gun the size of my palm and said, “Now, it’s unloaded but you hear about them punks jumping old fellas like myself…I got a little surprise for that punk.” It was so innocent, but so funny. We still crack up about how shocked we were when he pulled it out. Now, that is not a normal yoga teacher day thing but it still gives me the giggles and that old man is still so sweet and funny.
SY: What is the most inspiring moment in a class that you were teaching?
MA: The most inspiring moment was when I had a new student and she kept choking up and crying during the yoga class. I had continued to teach saying supportive, encouraging universal words and used comforting hands on assists. After class she spent an hour pouring her heart about how everything I said resonated in her heart and that she had been feeling lost and as though the world didn’t serve her anymore. She has continued practicing yoga and has found fulfillment in life again.
SY: Why do you teach yoga?
MA: The answer above, the cards I receive, and the connections I make. Being able to extend the knowledge that people can have independence in their health and happiness because we all have the innate ability to relax, soothe, and heal ourselves. I began teaching because my husband is in the US Army and my heart resides with helping soldiers and veterans heal from wounds that are emotional or physical and carry on living the dream they were fighting for. Yoga has also healed my own pain and made me the best version of myself.
SY: Coffee, Tea or Other:
SY: Vegetarian, Vegan, Pescetarian, Meat or Other:
SY: Introvert, Extrovert or Other:
SY: If you had to choose: Meditation, Asana, Pranayama, or Chanting
SY: If you had to choose: Virabhadrasana III, mukha vrkasana, savasana or bakasana
SY: Favorite place that I have traveled:
MA: Marco Island, Florida, USA
SY: Favorite place to meditate:
MA: my studio
SY: Your favorite book:
MA: The Miracle of Divine Compensation by Marianne Williamson
SY: Your hero:
MA: My Dad