Happiness Series: Yoga

Interview with Tiffany Ironside of Ironside Yoga
Follow her at @ironsideyoga on Instagram

When I started exploring the concept of happiness not as a destination but as a practice, I was almost immediately lead to yoga. Yoga can have a profound effect on our happiness by means physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Yoga is an excellent place to start if you aren’t sure how to start your intentional happiness journey or anywhere along the way to take your journey deeper. Yoga can make such a profound difference in everyone’s life that I knew it deserved its own dedicated post in this series. Having only dabbled off and on (pathetically I might add) in the subject myself I did not feel qualified to write about it, so I contacted someone who is.

Tiffany Ironside is a roaming yoga instructor and founder of Ironside Yoga. Tiffany provides services such as, large and small studio classes, one on one or small group private classes, kids yoga, yin yoga, restorative yoga, and more. She also offers, energetic healing, tarot readings, spiritual work and is currently working on a skin care line. On top of all of that she is a wife, and mother of two wonderful children, who she homeschools.

Tiffany is an inspiration to me personally and interviewing her was an exciting opportunity! The interview lasted hours so I will paraphrase her answers for this blog. Please know these responses do belong to Tiffany and have been reviewed by her for accuracy. I know you will enjoy her insights as much as I did! Let’s get into it!

Q: What led you to yoga in your personal life as well as to teaching?

A: Her initial response was “serendipity”, which I felt was a wonderful first instinct response but don’t worry she elaborated. She had touched on yoga in her life, but nothing dedicated. Her second pregnancy was the catalyst that really changed everything. The difficult pregnancy caused terrible sciatic pain, severe varicose veins, and even threatened her ability to walk. In the second half of her pregnancy her doctor suggested physical therapy and/or yoga. Physical therapy helped but it was someone else doing something for her and she wanted something she could do for herself. Through yoga she found a sense of control over her situation. With yoga she was able to drop back into her body and listen to what it truly needed. Tiffany’s life during this time was completely uprooted when she moved to a new town. She had no friends or family close by for support, or even to celebrate and share in her success. She was seeking connection and community, as well as a personal purpose in this new chapter of her life. With the help and support of her husband she found a home studio that offered a training program and a homeschooling program for her kids. Her journey to becoming an instructor and sharing what had changed her life with others was truly serendipitous!

Q: How has Yoga Impacted your life?

A: At first it accomplished the goal she started it for, she lost weight but more importantly yoga relieved her sciatic pain, reversed those varicose veins and gave her back her ability to walk! Yoga also changed her body in ways she hadn’t imagined, opening her body in the truest sense of the word. She was surprised to find it had changed everything from her fingers and toes, to even correcting the curvature of her spine. Her experience really makes you think about how tightly we hold ourselves and the physical consciences we don’t realize are happening. The biggest impact it had on her life however was not physical. Yoga and meditation brought her to awareness of herself and the present moment, where she learned to find gratitude in the small things starting with breath. She explained that when she started finding gratitude in the small things around and within herself, she could make them bigger and the whole world became shinny and bright! Her first two years of motherhood were hard. Like many of us, she struggled with expectations of what kind of parent she was supposed to be, mom guilt and self-blame. She was distracted by googling what she was “supposed” to do and consumed by worry for her child and the future she was supposed to create for him. We all need to come to the realization that she did, of how this affects ourselves but also our families. Life is happening and we are missing it! Yoga she said was “the rope that became a ladder out of darkness” bringing her to the present moment and taught her to listen to her intuition and her children. Tiffany’s entire family saw the change in her! This new energy flowed from her, changing the dynamic of her household completely. She explained, when your perspective changes to be present of the current moment; when you let go of the scars of the past and worry over the future, you get to choose your happiness in each moment. Yoga changed her life from a stressful to-do list to a beautiful ritual, down to the most mundane tasks (even doing dishes).

Q: What are your favorite things about yoga?

A: Most of all her favorite things about yoga are movement and awareness. Her favorite moves are inversions, which she explained simply means your head below your heart. Balancing on her hands or arms (or as she demonstrated for me, something as simple as bending forward) forces you to hone in and be fully present in your body. You can’t absentmindedly practice if you have to focus your breath to go the wrong way. She loves anything that comes with a change in perspective. Of course, another favorite thing is yoga with her kids! Starting out it was fun (and sometimes funny) for the kids to be weights or climb all over her as an added challenge. As they grow, seeing their personalities and preferences develop in their own yoga practice and helping them to explore their own bodies is magical!

Q: How does meditation play into your practice?

A: You can certainly do yoga or meditation without the other she explains but they tend to go hand in hand. Where yoga helped her find her body, meditation helped her feel safe being in her body. It is possible to do yoga without meditation, especially at the beginning when you may be focusing more on what an instructor is saying. As your practice evolves and you start listening within, that’s meditation. “Do not Google meditation!” she joked. Meditation is not only for monks on some mountain, anyone can meditate. It isn’t the point to silence your mind but be in that moment with no judgement and no attachment. For beginners, guided meditation can be helpful; the intrusion of an instructor’s voice doesn’t leave you too alone with yourself but helps you explore your inner sanctuary and learn how to be present. Tiffany’s personal mornings consist of pray for what you’re are grateful for and meditate on what you are ready to receive next. Her meditation naturally leads her into her yoga session as her body starts to move on its own. Meditation is everywhere and in everything including yoga. Tiffany puts it so eloquently “As above, so below; meditation is crossing the bridge of inner and exterior.”

Q: What is your view on some of the different styles of yoga?

A: “There are so many!” Tiffany exclaimed, worried I might ask her to explain every historical yoga practice in existence. In the end she decided to touch on the following styles.

Bikram yoga – Often referred to as 26+2, is a popular yoga style consisting of the same 26 poses for every class. This style of yoga is typically done in a hot room, don’t let that scare you but let yourself adjust to the temperature. This style is good for anyone looking to go to a studio class.

Vinyasa yoga – Or flow yoga, is a style of yoga that focuses on movement with every in and out breath. These classes will have more variance class by class & instructor by instructor. A little more challenging but excellent if you’re hoping to improve flexibility and strength.

Yin yoga – This slow-paced style is all about self-love and nurturing yourself. This style is not about perfection and strength but focuses on breath and what feels good. Yin yoga is great for beginners and on.

Q: What is your yoga philosophy?

A: “Creating space for Expansion” – In all aspects of life.

Q: Do you listen to music while doing Yoga, What type?

A: Personally, her meditation each morning starts quite then morphs into movement and music. Tiffany listens internally for what music is needed that day; could be anything from hard hitting beats to deep, rooted folk music or anywhere in between, based on current emotional needs. No music days (which are rare) are usually when she is feeling depleted and is in need of being refilled.

Q: How do you make time for your personal yoga practice as a busy mom?

A: Fitting a 2+ hour yoga practice into your day as a busy mom is no easy task. She tried getting up earlier but that just led to a cranky practice. Tiffany found it worked best for her lifestyle to do yoga with her kids during play time. Tiffany is lucky enough to have a forest practically in her back yard. The kids explore the forest or join in while mom does yoga. She also cut herself some slack on how long and what her practice looks like each day. She focuses on listening to what she needs rather than a rigid schedule. It got especially hard when she started teaching, however. It was easy to tell herself “you got some yoga in today in class” but teaching is giving to others, not focusing on yourself.

Q: How do you stay motivated in your personal practice?

A: We talked about this question for quite a while, but it all boiled down to some advice Tiffany once received from a friend, “You have to love yourself enough to not give up on yourself”. This simple reminder of loving yourself enough to make own well-being a priority can overcome any lack of motivation.

Q: What are some personal hurdles you faced and how did you overcome them?

A: Apart from the physical challenges mentioned earlier, she also struggled with a fear of going to a studio when she first started. She stuck with Youtube videos (which she still recommends as a good resource) because of an insecurity of not being flexible enough or strong enough. She was nervous of doing it wrong in front of others. Now she laughs at her old fears and says she reminds her students that everyone else in the room is completely focused on themselves (that’s kind of the point after all). The motivation of doing this for her kids helped her overcome many of her personal obstacles. Teaching however, was for her own ambitions and to give to others. She struggles still with imposter syndrome, finding it hard to believe that this is really her job. Public speaking has always been a challenge in her life and the only thing that has helped her overcome her fear is practice, practice, practice. When she doubts herself as a leader in her field, she reminds herself that she isn’t telling anyone what to do, she’s sharing her experience and knowledge and they can do with that what they will.

Q: How often should yoga be done?

A: Tiffany recommends every single person move their spine in all four directions at least once every day. She personally does her dedicated practice four to five times a week. Traditionally speaking one would practice six days a week and rest on moon days. She (and I) believe each person needs to decide what they personally need. However, Tiffany recommends beginners should go at least three times a week to acclimate (especially in hot room class). You don’t want to feel like you are starting back at square one every time you go.

Q: Can and/or Should yoga be your only form of exercise?

A: Yoga certainly can be your only form of exercise. There is enough variance and options that it can satisfy the basic need of movement. Should it be? No, it probably won’t be. As you gain confidence in your body and movement it opens doors to other spots and activities. You may find it easier to twist and stretch to reach that next hand hold rock climbing. You may find new balance and grace that opens doors to all sorts of activities! Don’t limit yourself!

Q: How does yoga effect happiness?

A: Yoga teaches you to be present and grateful for the moment you have now, in that awareness you can choose happiness. Yoga is the ultimate act of self-love. It opens doors to places you never thought happiness would be hiding. Being aware of that negative thought allows you to stop and choose something different for yourself. What is so beautiful about yoga is it has the potential for every person, from the most basic pose all the way up, to bring the doorway to happiness to anyone when they are ready.

Q: Common myths about yoga?

A: She had many! These are my favorites from her list of myths.

• “You do not need to be flexible or strong”
• “You do not have to be vegan”
• “Yoga is not a religion. Though it can be spiritual, it does not have to be”
• “You do not need to be female”
• “You do not need to be skinny and blonde”
• “You do not have to go to a studio”
• “You do not have to spend a bunch of money on mats and yoga pant. you need your body and water!”
• “You do not have to be perfect to be a yoga teacher”
• ”Rigid schooling is not required to become a yoga teacher”

Q: What advice do you have for others thinking about trying yoga?

A: Tiffany suggested taking five minutes and sit with why you want to start yoga, find your why so you know your direction. From there take baby steps and see where it goes. Listen to what speaks to you, maybe that’s Youtube or maybe that’s a studio. Maybe you are more comfortable with a private class, and if you aren’t sure about classes try a free class to test it out.

Q: How can people find you?

A: The Ironside Yoga website is coming soon so keep an eye out for that! In the meantime, check out @ironsideyoga on Instagram to see what Tiffany is up to and you can contact her there too!

Q: What resources do you recommend?

A: Tiffany recommends:

• Kino Macgregor/Kino Yoga – She covers everything under the sun with easy to follow tutorials.
• Meghan Currie – Meghan is more spiritual focused with a unique, playful look on life.
• Alo Moves – Online classes for a monthly subscription fee.

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