The Many Faces of Yoga: Lindsay Merlihan

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I first met Lyndsay, from Michigan, through a mutual friend on a trip to Spain. I was delighted to meet another lady with the passion and joy for yoga that I feel myself. We talk about her journey to yoga, the importance of going with how you and your body feels in regards to practice and how she sees herself growing and developing on her practice from now.

What brought you to yoga?

It was in 2008, my first year of college and I started my first class at Sangha Yoga. I went out of general interest, I wasn’t competitive or a sports person but I really liked dance and things with movement. Above all, I knew yoga went a lot deeper -it was more holistic.

What was your idea of yoga before you began practicing?

I knew there was a spiritual aspect to it which is what attracted me the most and the fact that it was an ancient practice was also something that drew me to it. My first impression was just knowing that it was there for me and that it was something holistic and well-rounded.

How has your idea changed?

The more I get into yoga the more I realize there is so much more to learn. Seven years ago I would’ve thought I’d have it all figured out by now, and while I’ve surely learned a lot and progressed through asanas, I know it still goes much deeper. I don’t think the learning aspect will ever cease. There is never a point where you stop to say “well that was fun, I know everything about yoga now”

What is your background in yoga?

In 2008-2010 I was practicing at home, with friends and at Sangha Yoga in Kalamazoo, then in 2010 I moved to Chicago where I practiced for another two years until I decided to enroll in a 200hr yoga teacher training course in 2012. I trained at the Chicago School of Yoga under Jessica Carlin who was formerly taught by Shiva Rea. I really appreciated my training with her, she was very alignment based and accurate and really about being safe so I felt that was a good place to start off learning about teaching yoga.

When I completed my training I began assisting in the classes of my teachers – correcting poses and demonstrating. I then strated teaching a class at a small studio on the north side of Chicago where I took dance classes. When I moved home to Michigan in early 2014 I began teaching at Centering Yoga, a studio in Battle Creek. The classes I taught ranged from Hot Yoga to Gentle Yoga, Slow Flow to Vinyasa; the teen yoga workshop that I offered had a tremendous response. That was fun as it added a new element to teaching and I was impressed by their natural enthusiasm and excitement.

I currently teach 1-3 classes a week here in Galway, where I live now, at a space calledElements.

How would you say yoga has impacted or changed your lifestyle?

I suppose it has changed me spiritually but it has helped me mentally – to claify myself. Yoga seems to be an incredible organizer, just putting things into the right place.

It has helped me open my eyes to see that holistic health is very important to me. It has helped me clarify what I want to do, what makes me happy and not get distracted by outer influences and to know when I need to let go.

Did you find teaching another learning experience?

Yes, loads. I have learned loads from teaching.

The questions and curiosity of students are what makes you realize how large yoga is and how vast its information and I think as a teacher its really ok to say ‘I don’t know’ instead of just coming up with an answer off the top of your head. Enthusiastic students have always helped challenge me and pursue my own learning so I can offer some insight if its there.

Also, in the teaching stages of my life I’ve noticed the classes that I have given have always somehow synchronized with the momentum of my life at that stage.

Now, here in Ireland, I teach a bit less so that I can focus more on my own learning and self practice beyond asana. My classes now reflect that momentum as well because we spend time using different pranayama techniques and talking about the inner winds of the body, what students should feel like in poses and how to be gentle with yourself while still committing to challenge.

Its such an honor to see students come back to progress in their practice. It’s like they are coming to you (the teacher) to help themselves and you have the opportunity to help them achieve what they need. My idea is that I don’t “help people” I help them help themselves. Self empowerment is key.

Anything else you want to add about yoga?

It is hard to put something so big and profound into a statement.

Yoga is always there. I find that yoga has moved and changed with me but it is still a place I come back to. I may waver and change and transform but yoga is steady and always there. So in essence I suppose it is me changing within yoga. Yoga is never out of reach so long as I just allow myself to be there on the mat and see what comes up. That’s yoga and it is complete just the way it is.

We always have really high expectations of ourselves and so to leave comparisons aside and honor what is going on in your life at that time, at that moment. That is what I have experienced as the true essence of yoga.

Yoga has really helped me not give the mind so much power. I tend to be an over thinker but it helps to calm that all down so I feel a lot lighter and more like the true me.

What do you see is the next step for you?

Well India is in the works. With my practice my main focus is to truly experience yoga in an authentic way, with a whole-hearted teacher in its motherland. Then when I return, I’d like to build on it and merge it with what I know in holistic health, nutrition, Ayurveda and herbal medicine. Yoga offers a really well-rounded approach to becoming more healthy and vibrant but I find that Ayurveda and holistic eating is an important part of that.

To be honest I’m really doing this out of basic interest; what is me and coming from my heart. When I follow this path, it builds and it makes me feel more alive and its with yoga and good food, environment and learning how to move through life in the most holistic and authentic way.

I’d like to continue to build nourishing, creative spaces that provide a positive environment for self practice and wholesome living – this being the home space, especially. I feel environment is very important for charging a person with energy, so it is important to nourish and be aware of the environments that are charging us.

I’m just open now, I’m excited to let go of everything I think I know and be ready to let the next stage in. Just opening up to it all.

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