The Yogi Next to You


The Yogi Next to You - Rebecca Jo PhillipsWhat’s your yoga story? How did you find Mala?

My yoga journey has had many different stages. It began at the University Florida school gym. I went a couple of times with my roommates and then put it aside for a few years until I injured my back. As part of my recovery, I attempted to establish a regular yoga practice trying out different styles and teachers until I found myself hooked on the insanity of power flow. And then I hurt myself again. I stopped attending weekly classes and spent a good deal of time alone with a lot of books and videos that taught me all about my body and why it was hurting. My practice for a long time included 20 minute sessions of articulating movement in my toes, reclining over a bolster and then taking savasana. I’m not kidding. Gradually I began to seek out other minds to help guide me along and have been lucky to find a support team of teachers, massage therapists, doctors and acupuncturists to help keep me in one piece.

A friend who worked on Court St. told me about Mala a while ago, but it took me a little while to get there. I finally decided to take a morning class with Steph and almost walked out when I saw the crowd. Thankfully I decided to stay (because she’s amazing) and afterward I emailed the studio inquiring about a teaching position. There is something about the energy of the space that soothes me almost immediately upon entering, whether I’m teaching or taking a class. It’s like walking into a big bear hug.

What pose do you want to do all day? What pose could you never do again?

I actually just said an hour ago that I could do cat/cow all day. It’s such a simple movement and yet relieves so much tension and pressure in your back, hips and shoulders while bringing you in tune with your body’s own rhythm so you can establish a pace that works for’s almost like a yoga metronome. I also do handstands throughout the day to give me a little pick up and get me moving when I feel bogged down. It’s so much better than coffee and gives me a chance to shift my perspective.

My least favorite pose and transition is thankfully one that I don’t see often in classes anymore: parsva dhanurasana (side bow). It’s murder on my shoulders.

What are your biggest yoga obstacles and how do you overcome them?

Having been a life long athlete, I struggle to reign in that competitive drive enough to actually pay attention to what I’m doing instead of the person next to me. In addition I now have the added role of teacher that tries to creep in and distract me from my own practice. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to refrain from adjusting the person next to me while I should have been listening to my breath and focusing on my own movement. What I’ve discovered is that my deepest experiences in yoga tend to happen in my home practice, or in moments throughout the day when I bring what I’ve learned into real life(my newest challenge is washing dishes in a way that brings me joy). I see the classroom as a time to workshop and check in on my progress, and luckily I have the brilliant minds at Mala to help me along.

What was the last Dharma talk that resonated with you?

Well…it’s not really a dharma talk at all, but on my way home from traveling earlier this year I received a Chinese New Year horoscope that read “This is going to be a tough year, don’t be a victim.” Now, I don’t normally align my life by astrology email updates but this idea of being a victim has stuck in my brain and has been shifting the way I view the different stories of my life, the ones of the past and the many I’m currently concocting. I’ve often heard Steph make reference to the auto loop that plays out in our minds, the voice that comes up with the why’s and why not’s, the excuses and the frustrations we create to not only avoid life, but to also justify that decision. Any time I find myself thinking that something has happened to me, I try to cut off that automatic reaction of self-pity and defeat and see if I can view life from someone else’s seat. From there it becomes easier to see my actions and behaviors from a different perspective and adjust in a way that brings more light into my day. The negative emotions associated with living life as a victim are more toxic than cigarettes. No thank you!

Where is your favorite place to get coffee, or a drink, post-yoga?

I usually hop on my bike and head home to my blender to make one of my favorite smoothies, but I recently discovered 61 local just down the street. The last time I stopped in I grabbed a cup of coffee and a delicious apple muffin filled with giant chunks of fresh apple. YUM! They also have kegs of kombucha, beer and a full food menu. Support your local businesses!!

If you could practice yoga anywhere in the world, where would it be?

That’s a tough one! A few years ago I made a promise to myself to leave the country every year and see something new. So far I’ve made it to Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Korea, Thailand and the Czech Republic. One day I would love to practice under the aurora borealis. I spent a few days in a fishing village in Mexico during a meteor shower and let me tell you.. this universe is full of magic.

How has practicing shifted other aspects of your life?

The ups and downs of my practice have taught me that genetics will only take you so far and you are in no way bound to it. The way you perceive your environment and the approach you choose to deal with the constant flow of new information can dramatically change the quality of your life. Yoga shows me how to slow down, filter and reorganize my brain and my bones in a way that brings ease and efficiency into my daily life…and that makes me so very happy.

We’re thrilled to bring you the stories of Mala yogis in their own words.  Maybe you know them, maybe you’ve never seen them before, maybe they look familiar, maybe you once knew their name, but forgot.  Whatever the case may be, here is the chance to learn a little more about the person practicing on the mat next to you.  Click here to read about other yogis.

About The Mala Yoga Blog

We are a Brooklyn-based studio that focuses on alignment, balance and community. Have a read, try one of our Practice Podcasts, or come in and say "hi" in person!
This entry was posted in THE YOGI NEXT TO YOU and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Yogi Next to You

  1. leeana says:

    Greatest Yogi EVER! xo

  2. Simone says:

    Nice piece.

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