Yoga Journal cover model Chrissy Carter shares her insight on what it really means to teach yoga, and the importance of feeling gratitude—even in life’s toughest moments.
I trained with Alan Finger before his studio, Be Yoga, was bought by YogaWorks. Then I learned the YogaWorks method in a weeklong training with Lisa Walford. The smart blend of precision and flow was so logical; it instantly made sense to me. This approach to yoga infused me with attention to alignment, giving me the container I need to teach a practice that is, by nature, infinite. I have now taught YogaWorks teacher trainings for 11 years.
I think a lot of people assume teaching yoga is going to be just like their experience of practicing yoga, only to realize it’s nothing like their practice. In many ways, teaching yoga has nothing to do with yoga and everything to do with teaching. Yes, you must be a good student in order to be a good teacher—absolutely. You have to know what you’re teaching. But you also have to know how to communicate what you know. You have to be able to translate your experience so that it can be received by multiple perspectives, levels of experience, and learning styles. Teaching is an art. I strive to inspire both trainees and teachers alike to devote themselves not only to the craft of yoga, but also to the art of teaching—of compassionate observation, clear communication, and unconditional support.
See also Kat Fowler on Embracing Yoga and Conquering Self-Doubt
As a teacher, I’m passionate about yoga as a tool for Self-knowledge. I use asana to illustrate accessible yoga philosophy, connecting the dots between what we do on our mats and what we do in our everyday lives. I hope to inspire my students to cultivate an appreciation for the art of seeing. We start with what’s accessible—the physical body—so that we can learn how to work with what’s hard—the patterns and beliefs that keep us from knowing who we really are. I always say that asana is basic training for life, so pay attention to what you’re doing. It all matters, from how you seal your fingers around your big toes in Padangusthasana (Big Toe Pose), to how you work your legs in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose), to how you flow through Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation). And, at the same time, none of it matters—it’s all just a call to wake up and embody our practice and, ultimately, ourselves.
When I started to expand what self-care meant to me, beyond yoga, I started to realize that it’s about daily ritual. Sometimes we see self-care as triage—something we turn to when we’re falling apart. But self-care is really about our daily choices. It’s about healthy boundaries, dedicated practice, and everyday rituals. At the heart of my self-care routine is my creative practice—whether it’s cooking, decorating, entertaining, designing, or playing with photography. These outlets are all mediums, like asana, to help me connect with myself.
See also Sara Clark on the Value of Practice and Stepping Into Your Power
I suffer with anxiety and stress like everyone else. But I think I’m able to stay positive because I try to look for the beauty in life. I’m grateful to be surrounded by good people whom I love and who love me. Moments of joy, beautiful things, good food, family, friendship, and my practice all spark optimism for me.
I was nine weeks pregnant when we shot this cover, and honestly, I still can’t believe that by the time this issue goes to print, I’ll be just weeks away from holding my baby girl in my arms. It has been a long, heartbreaking road to motherhood, beleaguered by miscarriage. Living with grief while trying to hold on to hope became my main teacher. This struggle brought me to my knees and showed me the true meaning of acceptance and surrender. Despite all the suffering, it’s hard for me to not also feel gratitude for the gifts that came from my experience—for making me who I am today and, most importantly, for the blessing of this soul—this beautiful girl who chose me to love her.
See also Kathryn Budig on Self-Discovery