July’s Spotlight shines on Sam!
Each month we highlight a fitness professional that goes above and beyond to exemplify what it means to be a Mindful Fit Pro.
Read on to learn why this month’s spotlight shines on Sam and find out how she finds mindfulness off the mat!
Hi! My name is Sam (she/her/hers). I am an EYT250 and have been teaching since 2016.
Promoting body autonomy, inviting curiosity, and translating the mindfulness we
cultivate on the mat into our day-to-day lives are the main tenets of my teaching style.
I started teaching vinyasa classes at Hot Asana Yoga Studio in Durham NC (Lumbee,
Skaruhreh/Tuscarora, Cheraw, Mánu: Yį Įsuwą, Occaneechi, and Shakori Land) and then
moved to NYC (Munsee Lenape Land) and taught for various yoga studios and
companies, including Y7, hOM, Culture of fit, SHAKTIBARRE, and Balance Yoga &
During the pandemic I wanted to shift my role as a yoga teacher to a more service-
oriented sphere; I founded Fundraiser Flows which hosts donation based online yoga and
fitness classes where 100% of donations are given to various charities. We have raised
over $29,000 so far! Currently, I live and teach in Philadelphia (Lenapehoking/Lenni-
Lenape Land) at Lumos Yoga & Barre.
What does mindfulness mean to me? I think mental wellness is one’s ability to cope with daily stressors in healthy, self-soothing ways, and be content in one’s own presence. I would define mindfulness as “the practice of intentional presence and reflection.”
My mindfulness and self-care practice mainly consists of small moments of radical gratitude, like being fully in awe of a beautiful tree, making tea slowly and holding the warm mug, sitting by the window while petting my cat, and so on.
I love the practice of radical gratitude because it allows me to weave mindfulness into my everyday moments; truly being present in that space. My mindfulness practice also consists of seated, moving, guided, or self-guided meditation depending on my needs that day.
When I feel ungrounded, I usually take a shower to re-ground. It is a mediative time for me to slow down and focus on the moment at hand. I also have a bunch of “shower affirmations” which are stuck to the tile and have positive messages that resonate with me. I also try to get outside; by nature, if possible. While I do live in a city, even just short walks around the neighborhood can be immensely grounding.
Other ways I care for my mental health are through reading fiction (mostly YA), time blocking space for relaxation on my calendar to make sure I don’t overbook myself, journaling, therapy, and my movement practice.
Mindfulness is an important part of my teaching because it’s all too easy to just go through the motions of an asana class, especially if you are a regular yoga practitioner. In my classes I aim to create space to pause and reflect, get curious about the sensations, find new ways of moving, and cultivate appreciation for the ways our bodies do and can move.
I ask my students questions while we are flowing to spark reflection, encourage creativity, and give them more autonomy so that they feel comfortable listening to their bodies over my suggestions. This concept of body autonomy also ties into mental well-being. I want my students to feel empowered though my classes, knowing that they could show up to class and do all the poses, modify all the poses, or just show up and take a nap the whole time, and all options are equally valid. I aim to create a judgement free space, so people in my classes do not feel pressured to perform and are gentle with themselves for choosing other more personalized asana options.
I bring mindfulness into my classes in a variety of ways. For example, I introduce myself every class and state my pronouns, aiming to create an inviting and non-assuming space. Students can take any first pose they’d like while we breath and ground, and I offer many suggestions for possible poses
Upon arriving to the mat, we gently, and without notions of positive or negative, scan the body for sensation. Then, I encourage students to give input as to what they would like to focus on each day by bringing a hand to that joint/area during our centering practice at the beginning.
We draw attention to the breath, pausing to notice certain things like the texture, sound, length, depth, and temperature of their breath to help find presence in the current moment.
Throughout the practice, students are invited to reflect on how each pose feels and if they would like to change anything (offering lots of options for different sensations). To promote well-being in my classes, I am also intentional with my language. As a teacher, your cues can either discourage or encourage, so I present all the poses and variations on an even playing ground, which gives students space to explore shapes without any unintentional judgement. I also encourage my students to color outside the lines and move in ways that feel good, showing their body some love that only they know how.
Our final pose is always a “restful shape,” instead of only offering savasana, which allows students to intentionally choose how they would like to end class. I end my classes with the word ‘thank you’ and dedicate the word from me to them, from them to each other, and especially from them to themselves. I aim to cultivate a practice of self-gratitude and thanks, and hope they take it off the mat with them.
Thank you so much for reading this month’s spotlight!
If you’d like to follow along with Sam and keep up to date with what she’s got going on, you can find her teaching Friday nights at Lumos Yoga and Barre. She regularly hosts workshops at Lumos, like Finding your Own Alignment and Yoga 101: Intro to Arm Balances and Inversions.
If you’re on social media you can find Sam at @mindfulnessoffthemat. Feel free to reach out any time!