April Lovett (200-RYT, RPYT) teaches yoga at Unfold Yoga in Brea, California. She specializes in prenatal & postnatal yoga, and also teaches Hatha & Vinyasa Flow classes. We recently had a chance to ask April a few questions:
How did you first get interested in yoga? My mom did yoga at home when I was growing up, so I played with a little here and there but I did not start regularly taking yoga classes until after high school. In the beginning it was just for the physical aspects. It was a great way to stay in shape and I knew that I felt wonderful after class. As I continued my practice it begin to develop into something deeper. I read anything I could about yoga, took different types of classes to see what they were all about and I eventually found my way in to teaching so I could learn even more and share the benefits with others.
How is your life different since you began practicing yoga regularly? Yoga has really made me learn to live in the moment. Now that I am a mom, I think that is more important than ever. My daughter is not going to be this little kid forever and my yoga practice keeps me conscious of where my mind is when I am with her (what needs to get done, what I think needs to get done, what if scenarios, etc). I have gone from hyper focusing on to-do lists, to being okay with taking a long slow walk home and playing in the leaves. Emails will be responded to one way or the other, but we will not get that time back.
My practice also keeps me grounded and less stressed. Life is stressful no matter what your situation is. It is so important to breathe deep and make the healthy choices.
What inspired you to become a yoga instructor and open your own studio, Unfold Yoga? I had the idea of being a yoga teacher since high school and I talked about it a lot but never really made the move to take the training. When I was pregnant with my daughter I took prenatal yoga, and I loved it so much, so much that I knew I wanted to teach prenatal yoga. It was such an important aspect of my pregnancy and transition into motherhood. I also found that it was difficult to find convenient classes, so I thought it would be cool to offer more options for moms-to-be.
When my daughter was about 9 months old, I found a training program, and then went on to get my prenatal yoga certification. I started offering a lot of prenatal classes on top of my other classes. I was teaching at a few studios and renting locations to teach prenatal and restorative classes. It came to a point where I was renting out 3 locations to teach just prenatal yoga classes, I needed more space, and flexibility. It made more sense to have my own space where I could offer classes and workshops. My husband agreed to give me a loan from his business and we eventually found the perfect little space.
How would you describe your teaching style? I describe my teaching style as mellow. Which means a few things to me; my classes are very casual and easygoing, and no matter if I am teaching a power yoga class or a restorative class they are unhurried and have an air of softness to them. I think it is so important to teach or remind people to breathe and relax. Once they have that skill then can take it in to all aspects of their practice and their lives.
Some days I do what I call choose your own adventure yoga, you can work harder or take it slower. It is so important to listen to your body, but at the same time to understand that sometimes if you are feeling yin you need some yang, or the other way around.
What qualities were you looking for when selecting other instructors to teach classes at your studio? I look for instructors who do not take themselves too seriously and are very flexible in their teaching style. Not only is it important to find confident and experienced teachers but I also think it is as important to find instructors that fit the vibe of the studio.
What are some examples of restorative poses, and why are they so helpful? My favorite restorative posture is Supta Baddha Konasana or Reclining Bound Angle Pose. You are supported by a bolster or blankets in a way that keeps the torso fully sported and spine long, the feet are gently pressing together, as the knees gently open out, there are blankets under the hips for support. This is a gentle posture that almost anyone can do and it can be done anywhere, even in bed. It is very soothing because it gently opens the body and releases the shoulders. It is a great place to practice deep breathing with an emphasis on lengthening the exhalation, to active deep relaxation.
Another go-to restorative posture, is Viparita Karani, or Legs up the Wall Pose. For legs up the wall you can have a bolster or blanket under your hips, and a blanket under your head if you choose. This pose is a quick way to relax and let go as it quickly calms the nervous system. It is also a great pose to do before bed if you need some help sleeping or slowing down the mind.
Why do you think women seem to be more interested in yoga than men, and do you do anything to make male students not feel so out of place? Yoga is very sensual, and I think that scares a lot of men away. It also does not exactly fit the image of the overly stereotyped masculine male. I have had many men ask how yoga is a work out when it is just stretching and then after they try a class they are surprised at how much of a workout it actually was.
Like most studios the female to male ratio at Unfold Yoga is very lopsided, but I am starting to work on changing that. We are looking at offering some classes that might appeal more to males. I plan on playing with it and seeing what works, because men love yoga too, and it is just as good for them as it is for women. It’s a win win.
What does the spiritual aspect of yoga mean to you, and how does that carry over into your classes? I am not religious, but I am very spiritual, and that has a lot to do with my yoga practice. I think that everything is connected in some way: yoga is a tool that brings me back to myself (and everyone else too) as well as connects me to that state of deeper mind, body, universe connection.
I make a conscious effort to not put too much emphasis on the spiritual aspect of yoga in my classes, and when I do its very casual and in a way that lets students take it as they choose. I throw yogic philosophy, thoughts and ideas out there and if they resonate then that’s great, and if they are not into it, it was done in a way that does not make them uncomfortable. I like the idea of leading the students to a place where they can take it a deeper level if they choose too, and if not that’s cool too.
What was the most challenging experience you’ve had as a yoga instructor, and how did you overcome that challenge? I feel like I might possibly be right in the middle of my most challenging experience as a yoga instructor. Trying to find that balance between family life, running the studio, developing and deepening my practice, continuously learning and making my classes as awesome as they can be is a challenge. Everyday I am working on finding this balance and I think in the long run it will make me a better instructor, business owner, mom, wife and friend. I am absolutely loving what I have been given the opportunity to do and share, and just like anything else, some days are more challenging than others.
Do you have any big plans for the future? Lots of big plans for the future! The studio is growing in a very organic way and I am meeting some amazingly talented people who are full of great ideas. I am taking the Yoga Birth Method training later this year and plan to start incorporating that in to the prenatal classes and our upcoming childbirth education classes. We have a bunch of new classes, workshops and partnerships in the works and we will be offering a lot of great things to the community that were not available previously. It is all very exciting and ideally based on what the community needs and wants.