Today we’d like to introduce you to Allison English.
Allison, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I began yoga as a teenager. I was a competitive figure skater from a very young age and suffered a terrible back injury around the age of 14/15. I was in a lot of pain, both physical and emotional, as the injury stopped my figure skating career in its tracks. I bought some yoga for back care videos from Target and my Mom ended up registering me for a yoga class at our local suburban recreation center. I felt such physical relief and emotional delight for the first time in a long time – physical therapy and visits to a psychologist did not help me in the way that my yoga practice did.
I loved it so much I paid for private yoga sessions with my teacher. I think she really felt for me and charged me next to nothing to work on my back. Her kindness and softness towards me was so different than my skating coaches and was as transformative as the poses and breathing were. Oddly enough my first teacher was trained by Ana Forrest among many others and she taught me Forrest Yoga while the rest of the class did a much more Vinyasa Flow type yoga. Ana Forrest has been my primary teacher for more than 20 years – but more on that later!
I was also introduced to meditation very young and practiced meditation on my own as a teen. I would sneak off on my bike to a close suburb that had a Buddhist Center where they hosted meditation sessions. When I got to college I continued taking classes on campus at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. I branched out and took hard-core Ashtanga classes, studied at the local Iyengar studio and frequented the very popular Vinyasa Flow classes at the campus rec center. I dabbled in everything and because I did yoga all the time, people used to come to me for help. I started teaching friends and friends of friends informally for fun.
At the time I was studying Chemical Engineering and then Anthropology and Romance Linguistics. I used yoga to keep my back feeling good and to alleviate the intense amount of stress and anxiety I felt while at the university.
Midway through my college experience, I was terribly traumatized by horrific hazing that included assault. It was a turning point in my life from which I almost did not survive. I was certain the only way out of my pain and suffering was suicide. Thanks to an on-campus psychologist and the intervention of some professors who noticed what was going on for me, I got the help I needed. It included meditation and more yoga. Near the end of college, my yoga teacher on campus was injured and the studio hired me as her substitute and I started teaching. All throughout this time, I would come back home to Chicago anytime Ana Forrest was in town giving workshops at Moksha Yoga in River West.
Along with psychotherapy, I credit Ana Forrest with saving my life. She gave me the tools through Forrest Yoga to re-assemble myself after terrible trauma and I am forever grateful to her for that. Because of the amazingly healing experience I had time and time again with Forrest Yoga, I was curious to learn more about this methodology. I had no desire or plan to teach yoga. I signed up for the monthlong Forrest Yoga Foundation Teacher Training course in 2004 because I have the time off between my internship and my full-time job starting at the Field Museum of Natural History. As a part of this course, I had to log paid teaching experience in order to fully graduate. Never one to leave something incomplete, I begrudgingly started teaching a couple classes on the weekends to fulfill the requirement.
It turns out I loved teaching – more than I ever thought I would. When my position was nearing its end at the Field Museum and there was not a sign of renewal, I decided to take a year off and apply to grad school to get my Ph.D. That was 12 years ago and I never went back to school. Instead, I followed a pathway of teaching yoga full time at gyms and studios across Chicago, eventually getting hired as a Group Fitness Manager for Equinox here in Chicago.
After a while that managerial position grew into a Teacher Training Manager position for Equinox and Pure Yoga. I burned out very quickly taking on too many class and too much responsibility and left my managing positions to see if I still wanted to be a teacher. I diversified my teaching offerings to include more workshops, Ana Forrest hired me as a consultant, I broadened my private and corporate offerings and pursued more training in meditation through the Integrative Restoration Institute and other styles of movement.
Since 2012 I have built up my own business of teaching yoga and organizing yoga retreats worldwide. I look back on a rich experience that brought me to yoga and a tapestry that continues to unfold in the most amazing ways.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
As you can read from my answer to the last question – it has definitely been a bumpy ride! Dealing with personal trauma and physical injury that resulted in extreme anxiety and depression on top of a very chaotic and demanding job was more than a challenge.
As a yoga teacher you are responsible for planning classes, building your classes, teaching, practicing, educating yourself and providing a safe and nurturing environment for your students (and so much more) all for very little pay and without any of the benefits of a traditional job (there’s no health care plan for you, your work is usually at 4-6 different places every day, and you can lose a class at the drop of a hat).
This is an inherently stressful situation and one that took a lot of practice and patience to work through. After 16 years of teaching, I have found my own balance, but it continues to take daily participation and dialogue with myself to maintain.
Yoga By Allison – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I’m known for being a straightforward and honest yoga teacher. Because of my emphasis on the healing toolbox yoga and meditation provide physically as well as mentally, some people call me the Yoga Doctor. My teaching style is unique in that it is informed by humor and lightheartedness while also being firmly grounded in science, anatomy and philosophy.
If you come to my class you will probably hear me laugh, crack corny jokes and also swear, but you will also get a practice that is tailored to what you need and how yoga can help you even if there are 40 other people in the room at the same time. My yoga teaching business specializes in corporate yoga for those desk warriors, private yoga for anyone who wants to deepen their practice or address particular concerns head-on, yoga retreats to bring together like-minded souls with culturally infused travel experiences, and my workshops and teacher training courses are in-depth.
I’m so proud of the community of practitioners who have grown into their own strength of Self through work with me. Oh, and you will probably get some sweet hands-on assists in my classes if you are up for them!
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Early on in my teaching career success was very much about making enough money and growing my classes. By now I have learned that for my Spirit to be happy, success needs to be defined as radical honesty with my own heart and doing what needs to be done to care for myself.
When my work aligns with the deep heartfelt desires of my Spirit, everything proceeds smoothly no matter what comes up on the path. When my work aligns with markers outside of my own Spirit, no matter how magnificent an opportunity or paycheck nothing works! I ask myself daily how I am feeling about the work I’m doing and I don’t stay at work that doesn’t feed my Spirit anymore.
I also check in with my own personal values and ethics as markers for when I am aligned with my life choices. I do weekly, quarterly and yearly journaling exercises to keep myself in communication with my Spirit and on track with what she wants to bring forth in this one life I’ve got.
- Website: www.yogabyallison.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: yogabyallison
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/YogaByAllison1/
- Twitter: yogabyallison