• Shannon, you come from a background in Psychology & Criminology. What inspired you to become a yoga instructor?

    I started practicing yoga in college and approached it as a means to de-stress, as well as help alleviate a knee injury. But the more I practiced, it became less about those things, and I kept coming back because of how I felt during and after the classes. I fell in love with the practice. All I knew was that I wanted to learn more, so I signed up for a yoga teacher training. Once I was in the training, something changed, and I knew I had found my life's work. I quit my job and began teaching yoga full time. That was the best decision I've made so far.

    Shannon, you are busy to say the least. So far you have completed your 200 hour teacher training, completed your credentials for Teen Yoga and Prenatal Yoga, and are on your way to completing your 500 hour teacher training. How do you manage to balance it all with your current classes?

    Yes, this past year has definitely been very busy, but so fulfilling. I've now completed 450 hours of my training, can't believe I only have 50 hours left, because I've loved all the trainings I've done!

    I teach everyday right now, so balancing it with all my current classes was definitely a juggling act. It did require a great deal of energy & stamina on my part, because there was a lot of running around. But I loved what I was doing with my time. I also had the help of wonderful substitute teachers to help teach my classes while I was away, which I'm so thankful for. I also tried to put any of my extra time into self care, which was really necessary to make sure I could sustain my energy and process all that I was doing. Continuing my yoga education was really important to me, so I just knew I had to make it work.

    What is your personal philosophy about maintaining a yoga practice with a busy lifestyle?

    I think that's such a great question and really relevant to our society today. First, I think it's really important to remember the countless benefits of your practice, and that you remember to show up for you, because then you have the motivation- even when sometimes it seems impossible. Secondly, try to incorporate yoga into your day, everyday, no matter how big or small. Maybe one day it's just practicing breathing for five minutes, or a 15 minute practice during your lunch break, or a full class. All those actions help contribute to your practice and the time length doesn't matter, even one minute is something.

    What outside projects are you currently working on, off the mat?

    Something else I've been working on is my own cork yoga mat company. I wanted to combine my work as a yoga teacher and my background in Psychology & Criminology, to give back to my community. My company is called Mats for Minds, it's dedicated to improving mental health by providing yogis with sustainable yoga mats and donating 10% of proceeds to mental health initiatives.

    When researching yoga mats, I was shocked to find that a majority of yoga mats are manufactured using materials that have adverse effects on one's health and the environment. I then began to test out eco-friendly yoga mats, but was disappointed by countless mats that claimed to have strong traction and grip.

    When I discovered the sustainable cork mat, I tested it out during a long hold practice at a yoga teacher training. After holding Downward Dog for 5 minutes, with sweaty hands and feet, I truly realized the importance of having the right mat. Not only did I not slip, but I had never felt so stable in my practice before! With that, Mats for Minds became a reality.

    I see students battling their yoga mat in classes all the time, they're slipping and working so hard to stay on their mat, that they can't truly focus on their practice. Once I started practicing on my cork yoga mat, I felt like I could forget about my mat & focus on only my practice, which is how it should be!

    I'm so happy to be able to have the opportunity to share this concept with people, so that they can help their practice transform! To learn more about my mats, please visit matsforminds.com

    I really appreciate the sentiment of being featured in this month's newsletter. I'm so thankful to everyone who is a part of the Grace Yoga Family & love watching my students' practice grow!

    Register for one of Shannon Handa's Classes Here