Meet WHITNEY HUBBARD!
I started my yoga practice…reluctantly. I grew up as a dancer; first as a little ballerina kid in pink tights and eventually young adult in national competitions. I made the choice to get a degree in Dance, and while I was at University of Illinois, Yoga was offered as one of our electives. We were already getting up for 9:00am ballet or advanced modern and nobody wanted to wake up for 8:00am yoga.
After two years, I figured I’d kick myself if I never gave it a try. I have a lot of memories of bolting out of bed at 7:48am, brushing my teeth, and sprinting through the silent campus streets to make it to my mat. The class was Iyengar-influenced; there was no flowing through postures. We went from pose to pose with long holds, focusing on the intricacies of alignment and the set up of props to hold, breathe, and be. After a few weeks, I was hooked. I was probably sleeping less, but I found I had more energy throughout my days, even into late night rehearsals. I took that class every semester until I left.
When I moved to Brooklyn shortly after graduating, someone brought me to Kula Yoga in Tribeca. We hiked up the four flights of stairs and arrived, out of breath, to what would be the heart of my yoga practice. My friend brought me to a class taught by a man named Raghunath that was all arm-balances and inversions and craziness. After falling and laughing and pouring sweat through the first class, I realized this was a whole different way to practice. From the grounding and alignment I had developed as the base back in Illinois, now I was starting to feel the freedom and flight of yoga. I also learned how to breathe — I mean, really breathe.
During that time I worked for lululemon athletica, managing the showroom over on Bergen Street and I met the wonderful women of Mala Yoga. After taking just a couple of classes at Mala, I knew there was something special here — intelligent practice, strong community, brave authenticity, and a sense of humor. I spent my time with lululemon taking classes all over town, but as I transitioned out of that world and into my teaching practice, I knew right away that one of the places I wanted to contribute, offer, and learn was at Mala Yoga.
What pose do you want to do all day? What pose could you never do again?
Supta Padangustasana with a strap all day, baby. Never again? Ardha Navasana.
What are your biggest yoga obstacles and how do you overcome them?
Physically, my biggest obstacle is the reality of my anatomy. I was born with hemi-hypertrophy, meaning one side of my body would grow bigger/longer than the other. Doctors tracked the progress and trajectory all through my childhood and predicted that the disparity in the length of my legs would be 4-5 cm (up to 2 inches!). I had surgery on my long leg when I was 12, to slow down its growth.
Unfortunately, I had a nice big growth spurt right after that and my left leg flew past my right. So now my left leg is a good 3 cm or so longer than my right. But my right arm is still longer than my left. It’s… interesting. I set up most of my poses somewhat asymmetrically. I am constantly conscious of the differences of side to side. Being a Gemini certainly adds a layer to the duality of it all.
So amongst the myriad of imbalances that ricochet through my body, sometimes the greatest obstacle is just allowing my physical self to be exactly as it is and sending love and compassion into all those quirks. I suppose the biggest non-physical obstacle would be attempting to get it all “perfect” and judging the heck out of anything that doesn’t quite measure up.
What was the last Dharma talk that resonated with you?
I am a regular at Kevin Courtney’s class at Kula Yoga. A few weeks ago he shared a story about the eulogies at his father’s recent funeral. The first eulogy was shared by his sister, at the end of which she played a recording of her father speaking to her in a sort of informal interview. Their conversation was held shortly after he found out he had just a couple of months left to live. Kevin shared that the sound of his father’s voice was just ecstatic, brilliant, and joyous. The sentiment he shared was that now, in this time facing death, he finally let in, could feel, and was truly receiving all of the love that had been coming to him all his life. There was simply nothing else except to love and be loved.
Where is your favorite place to get coffee, or a drink, post-yoga?
One Girl Cookies! Teaching the 6:45am Thursday class in July was incredible. After our final “OM,” I’d walk over to One Girl and sit down with a cup of coffee, a slice of frittata, and one of those ridiculous biscuits.
If you could practice yoga anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Anywhere after a good surf! I think of surfing as an extension of my yoga practice. In addition to being on my mat, grabbing my board and heading into the ocean is the ultimate experience if being in the present moment, exactly as it is. If you forget that, you get dumped over the falls, smacked by your own board, or just miss a wave. I’ve had all of those experiences several times, so I see it as an ongoing education in being humble, feeling pure joy, and quite literally going with the flow.
How has practicing shifted other aspects of your life?
Wow. I think that answer might have to be discussed over a long cup of coffee. There’s so much! I stopped eating meat about a year after I started practicing yoga; not necessarily a direct cause and effect, but I certainly started thinking a bit more about what I consume. I’ve developed a capacity to sustain and utilize my own deep breath — for example, while freaking out during a snorkeling excursion and uncomfortable moments at the doctor’s office. And I’ve always been an extremely active, achievement-oriented Gemini who bounces around from one thing to the next. That may still be a bit real, but with yoga I’ve developed some awareness of my habits and natural reactions. There’s more space. Notice, pause, respond, choose, repeat. It’s been about 7 years, so there’s still plenty of path left ahead…
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.