Q & A with Jessica Mahler

Posted on May 1st, 2015


Jessica Mahler discusses her path to the practice of yoga, Yoga Sukhavati and how both have helped her to open up…

When did you start practicing yoga? How did you find yoga?

I had been prone to insomnia pretty much since I was born, and was having an especially hard time sleeping while at college. My sophomore year around 2001/2002, my anxiety was getting a lot worse, so my mother sent me a “PM Yoga” video to do in the evening, which promised to promote calmness, peacefulness, and sleep. In 2003, I attended my first-ever class at a studio with a friend, but didn’t realize it was Bikram—I didn’t like the intense heat (especially in the summertime), so avoided it for another year or so when I decided to buy a yoga/Pilates hybrid DVD. I was doing the exercises/classes on the DVD for about a year when a friend of mine hipped me to a membership special at Williamsburg’s Greenhouse Holistic around 2006/2007, which is where and when I completely fell in love with the practice and have been going to classes on a regular basis ever since.

How has the practice changed your life?

I have my practice to thank for calming my anxiety and allowing me to fall asleep easily—now it’s a very rare thing for me to have a restless night, which I never thought would be possible when I was younger, so long was I plagued with sleep issues. As well as helping to make me stronger in my body, it’s also enabled me to open up more both emotionally and mentally, empowering me to do much more work on myself through other modalities to help heal wounds from the past so that I can be more open, more radiant, more confident in myself. My practice has become a mirror for me to see where more work needs to be done.

What were you doing before you took your training?

Before my training, I had been working for years as a freelance copy editor for various websites and magazines. I was good at it and it paid well, so I just let myself get run into the ground with crazy long hours/weeks. About a year before I started my teacher training I was laid off from a website I had been working at full time and promised myself that from then on I would do more fulfilling work that meant something to me rather than clean up other people’s writing. It was then that I started my freelance writing career; I also became an assistant to a stylist, and occasionally worked building window displays for a designer to be used and shown in its numerous stores nationwide.

Why did you decide to take a 200-hr teacher training?

From the very first time a 200-hour training was offered at Greenhouse I had thought about it, but kept making up excuses: I had no time, I had no money, my practice wasn’t advanced enough to teach. By the time the fourth cycle came around, I finally felt ready, like the universe was supporting my decision: I had been freelancing as a Jane of all trades and was doing lots more creative things, I had given up my apartment and was living like a nomad around Brooklyn/New York City—it just seemed like the perfect time to do it.

What stands out the most about your experience from your teacher training?

A big reason why I wanted to do the training was to dial back my fear of public speaking. I mean, it was crippling—so intense that I would shake and sweat uncontrollably if I had to get up in front of a group of people and was unable to make eye contact with anyone. I also was really uncomfortable with the idea of touching someone or being touched. I went into my training thinking I would touch on these things, feeling like I would mostly just deepen my practice, not really teach once it was over. By the time we had to do our teaching final, though I was terrified, I got through it and felt exhilarated afterward and knew that I was going to be teaching regularly. I just felt that I had to. Plus, Leigh helped me to see that my adjustments were part of my strength as a teacher, and I realized that I really enjoyed getting in there physically with students. Fears be damned.

How has the Yoga Sukhavati training transformed your life? What are you doing now?

Completing the training really just opened me up: as a human being, as a student, as a teacher, as a vessel. I feel more connected to others; I feel like I have something to share that will benefit others; I feel empowered and so far removed from the anxious, self-conscious person I was before embarking on this journey. I am a completely different person. I taught in front of 6,000 people at the Times Square Solstice event in June 2013. I was recently a part of a story-telling series a la The Moth where I go up in front of a huge room full of people and spoke for 20 minutes with hundreds of eyes on me. I am now a Reiki Master helping others to heal on an energetic level and offering trainings in order to teach others to share the healing practice. After having a powerfully healing breathwork session, I sought out my teacher and will be certified to lead my own breathwork sessions by May 2015. Becoming more aware of myself and learning to trust my intuition, I’ve taken psychic courses and recently became certified in the Akashic Records. Using all of these tools has enabled be to really step into the role of a healer, and I am thrilled to be able to share this work.

How was it to work with Leigh?

I have Leigh Evans to thank for getting me to fall in love with yoga. I had been kind of “eh” about the whole thing until one fateful Monday evening, my friend and I took her Basics class at Greenhouse Holistic (a class she still teaches and that I’ve recommended countless times over) and have never looked back—I even went on my first-ever yoga retreat with her down to Mexico after just a few months of practicing with her. She is an incredilble teacher with so much knowledge, so much to share, such great energy, and she makes not only her trainings but each and every class a fun learning experience. Had she not been one of the core teachers in my 200-hour training, I probably wouldn’t have decided to do it. I learned so much in that first 200-hour training, both in the course material and through her feedback, and realized how much knowledge she has to share—I basically took the 300-hour in hopes to know all that she knows, which is still a work in progress.

What advice would you give to someone who was on the fence about doing a 200-hour teacher training?

If it even crosses your mind once that you think you might want to do it, do it. It’s the atman, or inner self/voice, trying to speak up, trying to steer you in the right direction. Listen to it!

What stood out to you about the Yoga Sukhavati 300-hour Advanced training?

I really liked that, though it was a yoga training, yoga wasn’t the only focus—we studied Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, and other practices that magically complement yoga to support and facilitate a deepening of awareness, taking our knowledge to new levels. It’s not just learning about poses that will keep you healthy, strong, and empowered, but how you treat your body when you’re not on the mat as well. It was so great that our studies included seasonal self-care so that we were really able to embody the practices that we were learning that are so specific to the temperature/world around us. Everything is connected, and if we can live in harmony with our environment, we have a better chance at living in harmony with ourselves.

What do you like most about teaching yoga?

One of the most rewarding things I have experienced as a teacher is the change I see in people who have been taking classes with me for some time.Their bodies change and their mentality shifts: When once they didn’t believe they could do something more advanced or would make excuses for why they were unable to do a certain pose, now they are so focused and concentrated when they attempt a pose they never thought was possible for them to do. It’s been a pure joy to watch my students grow as they empower themselves through the practice. And I grow with them. They continue to teach me as much as I teach them. Probably more so.

You can follow along with Jessica’s adventures on instagram: @jessicasuperstr or on her blog, Downward Facing Blog.

Photo Credit: Suzanne Diesher