Phyllis Hartigan RYT Phyllis Hartigan is a graduate of the Spring 2022 Prana Yoga…
PYTT Graduate Spotlight: Yoga of Transformation
The yoga postures and breath are tools to rebuild and transform ourselves.
The goal is not to tie ourselves in knots – we’re already tied in knots.
The aim is to untie the knots in our heart.
The aim is to unite with the ultimate, loving and peaceful power of the universe. ~ Max Strom
“My story is not unique, my story is one of transformation.
Stories of transformations have been told since the beginning of time, from mythological Greek stories to more modern books like ‘Metamorphosis‘ by Franz Kafka. Tales of transformation reverberate throughout our history. Everyone has their own story of metamorphosis, an ever-evolving transformation happening over their lifetime. Normally we think of stories as having a beginning, middle and end, but that is… oh so wrong! As a neuroscience student I know that our brain likes to compartmentalize things, put them in boxes so we can better understand. But, often times the walls of these boxes keep us blind from reality. The reality is that the transformation is never over, that it keeps going on and on and on.
The question most people ask a yoga instructors is,“what brought you to yoga and how long have you been teaching?”
The answer to this question inherently brings about a story of being lost and then being found, for whatever reason, maybe an injury, heartache, or emotional instability brought you to the mat and helped you heal.
The real question to ask a yoga teacher, where the uniqueness comes from, is the following question:
“What kept you practicing yoga?”
No one ever asks the question, what kept or keeps you motivated to do yoga?
My answer: the oxymoron of constant transformation.
Why? Let me explain.
Like I said earlier, I study neuroscience, I love to know how the brain has and has not transformed over the centuries, I love to learn about the transformation of knowledge that happens between our neurons. My love for the brain started started when I was a competitive soccer player and track & cross country runner in high school. I got into these sports to mask an eating disorder that I had. Insecure with my body, but tired of having an eating disorder, I took the quick fix of competitive sports. It worked for awhile, until I got injured. No longer able to get my energy out through sports, I became depressed and anxious. I had tried yoga when I was 15 and I decided to try it again. What other physical activity could I do?
Within a couple of months of doing yoga not only did my injury improve, but my brain got better, I felt sharper and happier. No longer plagued by an eating disorder.
One day I was sitting in my anatomy class when I read over the term neuroplasticity in the table of contents of my textbook. I stopped paying attention to the teacher and started reading about neuroscience and how malleable the brain is. I felt like I had experienced that malleability of the brain through yoga and I wanted to know what was happening and why. Since that moment, I became hooked. I became a neuroscience nerd. I started practicing more and more yoga, and before I knew it I was training to be a teacher 7 years later. I thought I had already gone through my butterfly transformation, but little did I know that transformations don’t happen once in a lifetime.
Growing up with two gay dads on the west coast and a bisexual mom on the east coast, I spent a lot of my childhood on airplanes. And a lot of time explaining to my friends how my family works. I loved my family and thought it was the coolest thing that I got to grow up in both places and be exposed to different cultures. It was the best of both worlds. The only hard part came when I became a teenager and started on my journey of self-discovery. I’ve always been a stubborn and tenacious person, one who likes to be unique, so when I realized that I’m bisexual too, I rejected it. Naturally, as a teenager should, I didn’t want to be like my parents.
It was through diving deeper into my yoga practice, through learning to teach, that I experienced a new transformation, that I allowed myself to let go of my stubbornness that was keeping me unhappy. I stepped fully into my identity, into a proud bisexual woman.
Since then I have started teaching yoga for athletes on Sundays where we do a 3 to 5 mile run and then yoga with the Just Run Shore Store. I’ve also been blessed to teach restorative flow at Prana Yoga Center and Vinyasa flow for my college classmates for donations. I’m also beginning an adventure with hikyoga where I’ll be teaching yoga as we hike through San Diego. I feel so fulfilled and am not sure where my yoga journey will take me, but I’m sure it will keep transforming.
From an injury to an eating disorder to self-identity, yoga has been my backbone, particularly the practices of meditation, breathing, and movement to breath. What keeps me coming back to the mat is the sure knowledge that practicing will help me be calm and clear and help me through my next transformative phase.
My next step is to graduate college, work for a year, and then apply to neuroscience grad schools as I continue to teach yoga. Going from a college student to a working professional is going to be a scary and foreign transition, but one that I know I can handle because of my yoga practice.”
Hannah graduated from the Prana Yoga Teacher Training in spring of 2016. She now teaches Yoga at Prana, on campus and at her house.