Native Yoga Toddcast – Episode 55- Romy Toussaint ~ Powerful Beyond Belief

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

yoga, people, feel, classes, romy, teach, teachers, practice, retreat, teaching, chant, studio, peru, super, opportunity, person, home, nice, love, speaking

SPEAKERS

Todd McLaughlin, Romy Toussaint

Todd McLaughlin  

Welcome to Native yoga podcast. So happy you are here. My goal with this channel is to bring inspirational speakers to the mic in the field of yoga, massage bodywork and beyond. Follow us at @Nativeyoga and check us out at Nativeyogacenter.com. All right, let’s begin. Hello, hello, welcome to native yoga podcast. For those of you that are regular listeners, welcome back for those of you that it’s your first time. I’m so happy that you’re here. I am very pleased to introduce to you Romi Toussaint  I looked online, I wanted to go out of my comfort zone, I wanted to find someone who looked inspirational in the field of yoga, I saw a great article on Romi reached out to her and she agreed that she would like to be a guest. And the conversation was amazing. And I’m so happy that you’re here to listen to it. I’m going to put the links in the show notes below. But please check out Romi romyoga.com. So it is spelled romyoga.com. You’ll find her on Instagram with the handle @romyoga. And you’ll also find her on Facebook @romyoga, so everything’s nice and coordinated here. If you want to shoot her an email and send her some love and appreciation after the discussion? I’ll even try to include that in the show notes. It’s romyoga@gmail.com Hopefully she doesn’t mind. Hopefully she won’t get like blasted with a ton of emails. But actually, if you guys write back and say positive stuff, we’d love to get blasted by some information from you guys. All right, um, I think that’s about it. Let me just go ahead and get started here. All right, here we go.  I am so pleased to have Romy Toussaint here today. Romy, how are you doing?

Romy Toussaint  

I am very well. Thank you.

Todd McLaughlin  

I am so excited to have a chance to talk with you. I found you via a really well written article about how dynamic you are and how much inspiration you’ve brought to your yoga community in New Jersey. Can you tell me a little bit about how you first found yoga? Where and how did you get started?

Romy Toussaint  

Oh, I love this. I got started because I’ve always been a workout sort of gym rat person. And I was working out in the gym. It was back in 1992. Oh, yeah. I hate to say that because a lot of people are like when was that I wasn’t even born. I was working out and the trainer said, hey Romy, have you ever done yoga? And I was like, No, I haven’t. And so he gave me a Brian Kest Yoga videotape. Yes. And I went home, I took it, I went home, I watched it. And then I proceeded to do the whole practice. And that was when I first I fell in love. And I remember waking up the next day, feeling like places in my body that were like I had never felt before. And I call out sick because I was like I can’t move. And then I played the video again. And I like I did it again. And I remember the very first time I did that yoga video, feeling this connection with myself in a way that I never felt before. Not just physically. But this thing that I could not name it was like, I don’t know, it was this connection to this part of myself that was not nameable and that I didn’t really recognize. But I know it was that moment where I felt like wow, I want more of this. And I need more of it. So ever since that time I purchased the other two videos of his and did them for like every other day and became a student of yoga. At that time.

That’s so cool to hear. And I’m guessing because ’92 We’re talking VHS. Yes. Yeah. I know I’ve saved some of my VHS yoga tapes gonna like these things are just classic. We got to hang on to them. And so your first experience was via the medium of well, I won’t say it was analog, time but through video, which is really cool to think because I know a lot of people their first experience is going to a studio into a class, but you got the you had the motivation to do it at home to a video. That’s really cool.

Yes, it absolutely was. And I think Brian Kest is a super engaging teacher who has a way of really challenging you physically, which worked for me, as well as inserting philosophy into things, you know, that I didn’t even understand into the practice. And so I think that’s, that’s what really caught my attention. Like, you know, he was saying things that he where you are, because you’re already there, you know, like, what is that? It’s really making me curious. And from that moment on, I became a student of yoga and living in Central Jersey, the closest place that I know, when I looked up yoga teachers, it was Barren Baptist was in Philadelphia around that time. Yeah. So I would go to his weekend, you know, intensives and classes and things like that. And then there was a local yoga studio nearby that was an Iyengar yoga studio. So I would do every weekend workshop that they had there and really became a student of Iyengar yoga, and Barron Baptist and other teachers too. And just study every moment I had.

That’s amazing what was going on in your life around that time. Were you a student? Were you. Did you have a family at that point? How busy were you? Or were you able to just like really dive into yoga?

Romy Toussaint  

Yeah, I was. I was super busy. I was a mom. I had two children at the time. And I was also a professional. I worked full time. I think I might have been coaching. Yeah, I think I was coaching one or two of my son’s soccer teams. So I was super busy. And I also played volleyball because I was a collegiate volleyball player. And I would play volleyball whenever I could. So at that time, I was super busy. And I but I was just really in love with this new thing that was yoga. And it just felt like it was my time. Yeah, to do something for myself. And so it was easy to carve time to get away. And that felt really valuable.

Todd McLaughlin  

That’s really cool. Can you explain what the vibe was? Like? Because I mean, ’92 was going back 30 years?  What was the yoga scene like? And I know, you said there wasn’t a lot of options to practice. What was the vibe, like going into that Iyengar studio back then? Where people really excited about yoga? What was the overall vibe then?

Romy Toussaint  

I would say it was, it was very exciting. I mean, I remember my one specific teacher, Joe Carter, who was just, you know, would just be so friendly. And I said, when I think about I Iyengar, I think really regimented, you know, like alignment, you know, and we would have guest teachers who are senior Iyengar teachers who would come through, and focus on all of that, but there was something about Joe Carter that was just so friendly and full of life. And that just brought a different vibe to her yoga studio that was Iyengar, just super friendly. And just like, you know, Romy, you’re really strong, but you don’t have to, like use your force in Downward Dog. See, here’s how you can relax into this, you know, really, you can’t keep focusing on that force on that strength all the time. You know, bringing that balance. So I feel like I was surrounded with really wise teachers at that time, and so, and even when I would travel to like the yoga conferences back then, like the Yoga Journal conferences early on, I would seek variety, you know, like Sadie Nardini. You know, I can’t even think of those names back then. Eric Schiffman. You know,

Todd McLaughlin  

I’ve never had a chance to practice with him by everyone I’ve met that’s practice with him always says really nice things about him.

Romy Toussaint  

Yes, yes. So being able to take workshops with people like that and just get a variety. I think there was a woman named Mary Lafferty who I remember taking a handstand workshop with and she was like, Well, I did my first head handstand when I was like, 50 something back then I was like, what? And then she says, you know, and then I could hold it for like one minute when I was like 53 I was like what!?!  there’s a lot of hope you know, and yes, a lot of growth.

Todd McLaughlin  

That’s really cool. How long did you practice and or what was the evolution to the point of you getting excited about yoga and then having a moment where you thought maybe I want to actually teach yoga?

Romy Toussaint  

Yeah, so from ’92 to about 1998. For about six years. I was really a student of yoga. I should say that I I used to teach fitness classes. Like I was an aerobics instructor, so I just love all of those things. So I think I was a natural teacher. I grew up in high school and in college, I was a swimming instructor during the summers. And I remember like jumping in the water to teach the water aerobics class when one of the aerobics teachers didn’t show up. So I feel like I’ve, I’ve always been in teaching. So for me teaching was easeful. It was just another modality, which I found very profound that I’d noticed, long before I started taking a yoga class that I was inserting yoga philosophy, even in my cardio classes, even in my spin classes. I would take people on journey. That, to me was very meditative. You know, even though I was seeking a kick, butt, you know, climbing yoga class, spin class. So I feel like I started adding it into those things. And then it was around, I would say, around 2000, 2002, when I started just to really shift to letting go of all of my other classes, and just teaching yoga. Really going deeper into teaching yoga only, and not all the cardio classes. Yeah. And it was sort of a shift. So after I had my second batch of boys that like I say, I, my two older, after had my two younger sons, I stayed, I became a stay at home mom. And did not go to work formally. And just so just taught more classes in my spare time to pay for my gym membership. And just really started switching to teaching yoga. And so then I started looking for teacher training, and just did more study with, again, Baron Baptiste, Don Domenico. Also at the Iyengar studio. Also did some study with Ralph Gates. Yeah, I just knocked me over with his philosophy. Like, just like, Whoa!?! 

Todd McLaughlin  

Is his book called  “Meditation from the Mat?”

Romy Toussaint  

“Meditations on the Mat.” Yeah. So I got to study with him in person in Philadelphia when he would come in because he used to work closely with Baron Baptist. And so I spent some time with him at Kripalu. And I just love his way of teaching life lessons on the mat. And he’s just so, he’s just such a beautiful voice and a beautiful way of flowing and really making you work so hard yet really come back to the yamas and niyamas. Moderation to, you know, truth to love. And so yeah, so I started, that’s when I really started teaching fully more yoga and just started to deepen my practice. And then at some point, I think it was around 2007 when my husband and I built, we had a chance to build our own house, and we built it with a basement that was just wide open. So with the idea of doing a yoga studio, in the basement,

Todd McLaughlin  

You decked it out with……. so this is in Jersey something and obviously like a nice heating system?

Romy Toussaint  

Yeah, first of all, it’s just a basement!!! But we made it, we made it like a pretty high ceiling. You know, it was like 10 foot ceilings and the sliding glass door so it had a lot of light. And we we stained the cement floor, painted the walls, my friend who are artists, painted, you know, the walls, beautiful color, and just like did a really nice view on the wall. And we put in, my husband installed like a gas heater. And I started teaching yoga classes. It really started with my personal training clients kind of like small group. And then I noticed it was those people who were coming into my public classes, like where I was teaching in the gym. And so one day there, you know, the bell kind of rang in my head. Like, if I have just three or four people come to my private classes I make just as much as teaching a really big class in a gym or in a studio. So that just really grew from there. I started keeping just like two classes at home. And then it went to like four. And I really had a vibrant yoga studio for about five years in my home. I even did kid yoga because I studied kids yoga as well. Nice. I studied with Yoga Ed, Yoga Ed, where you know, that curriculum for schools. So I started teaching that as well. So I would do yoga camp and during the summer yoga for tweens, and had some guest teachers come so the studio was really great. It was like coming down into the womb, you know, was this place where we held space.

Todd McLaughlin  

That sounds amazing to be able to have it at your house. I’ve always thought that would be such a interesting dynamic. Was there ever an issue where the neighbors were like, how come so many cars are parking at Romy’s house or? Or was everybody you know pretty cool with that?

Romy Toussaint  

Yeah, you know, I was really fortunate. We lived in the cul-de-sac and there were only two other houses there. So that space was open. My neighbors were very, very wonderful. After a while I knew that I couldn’t continue to keep the yoga studio there because, you know, it wasn’t like it wasn’t sort of an under the table, not permitted thing. We had big classes. And it just I just felt continually nervous about it. I think we’re also at the place where we could no longer afford to keep that house because, you know, we live in Lawrenceville, taxes are super high. My husband’s a mortgage banker, and you know, the mortgage era was not as great. So it was just not financially feasible for us to keep that house. And so. So then I was I had the opportunity to join a local chiropractor who had been my doctor, who had this dream of having sort of a Wellness Center where yoga was included with the physical therapy, with massage with chiropractic and acupuncture. Perfect. So I was invited to join the practice, where I ran the studio, where I brought in my studio, my clients, and about a year later, another yoga studio joined us. So we really formed Complete Health Yoga, where I currently still teach.

Todd McLaughlin  

Nice, you’re still there?  Yeah, so I still teach there. Although I teach only two to three classes a week, coming down to two now. I’ve really evolved into doing more than just teaching yoga. But that is my home studio. That’s really cool. It sounds as if you’ve moved locations over the years, but have been able to maintain like, a solid base, even though there were little transitions.

Romy Toussaint  

Yeah, so the transition went from my home yoga studio. After a while I stopped teaching outside of the studio, outside of my home, I just only taught at home. But I went to yoga retreats, and other you know, guest teachings at other places. And then when I joined Complete Health Yoga, my yoga studio became part of that. And that’s where I did all of my offerings. And we had a very vibrant community. And we still do until you know, COVID sort of changed things or now we’re more virtual, anything. But that’s my you know, that’s my yoga community. And it was an incredible support from the doctors who really wanted to make the yoga part of the whole practice.

Todd McLaughlin  

That’s cool. You were working closely with the like local physicians?

Romy Toussaint  

Just the chiropractor. But yes, it’s the owners of Complete Health of Lawrenceville. We just really wanted to offer a space where where people came from physical therapy, and chiropractic, you know, people who may have been injured to really shift to having yoga as their daily physical practice.

Todd McLaughlin  

Yes. Mostly, I find that sometimes I come across chiropractors that are really pro yoga. And sometimes I come across some that are saying no, you know, be careful of yoga and maybe going as far as don’t do yoga. Have you ever found that? IT sounds like the people you work with are very pro yoga and seeing that they that both chiropractic and yoga are very similar and can have equal benefit?

Romy Toussaint  

No, I feel like our doctors are definitely very pro yoga, which is why they wanted to have the studio there and work, you know, diligently to although it was difficult, and it still is challenging, to really go get people to, you know, move towards that effect. This is your daily physical therapy, once you heal here, you know, keep doing yoga and get stronger and balanced. And it brings in that mind body component. So yeah, they’re definitely very pro yoga.

Todd McLaughlin  

I’m curious, because when I was having a little bit of a neck injury, I went to my chiropractor here and she said, What are you doing? What are you doing in your practice? And at that point, I was doing a lot of head standing. And she was said she was like, you know, maybe maybe you shouldn’t do that for two months. And at the time, I was like, How can I do my yoga without doing headstands and once I laid off the headstands my neck started feeling better and miraculously, I’m curious where where are you nowadays with, with teaching students headstands and or are you doing head standing these days?

Romy Toussaint  

Yeah, so that’s a really good question. And I think it really brings us back to the first Yama which is non violent. And so I teach. I have been teaching handstands even though most people can’t do handstands but even not me. Just you know, Handstand against the wall or downward dog handstand. Yeah. So I I will say if headstand is in your practice, you know make sure that you’re not feeling that kind of pressure. Even shoulder stand I think is another one of those contra indicated postures that I don’t really do because I feel when it when I come out of Shoulderstand I feel like really weird pressure down my spine. And if I do do it, I do it with blankets, really focused on me Iyengar alignment. Yeah. There’s freedom in my neck when I do that. So typically in my classes I will not really teach shoulder scan or headstand. I definitely do handstands will do a lot to keep the wrists strong because then you’re off your neck and there’s a lot of less a lot less pressure on your neck.

Todd McLaughlin  

So that sounds awesome that you had all that Iyengar training because that seems to make sense later on. If we start feeling injury it seems like I yoga really kind of laid down a couple of great groundwork tools for learning how to modify I’m yeah, I’m curious. I when I first started doing yoga, I was involved in a style where it was looked down upon to go to other styles of yoga and what I am impressed with his that sounds like you really just kind of went for learning “across the board.” Like you went to Iyengar, you were able to practice in the Baptist style which I know, Baron has a background in Iyengar and Ashtanga and hot yoga. And did you when you were really gung ho and enthusiastic and going to all these different learning opportunities, did you find that people were very encouraging of you to take that wideangle approach? Or did you come up against that more like hardened, Like, “you should only be with me” and “don’t go anywhere else.” Did you bump into that much?

Romy Toussaint  

I did not. I really did not. I? Again, my teacher, Joe Carter was you know very much Iyengar based. So I studied a lot with her but I did not I was naturally curious. I actually studied Kundalini yoga was different Kundalini teachers, I studied Anusara you know, because so it to me, it was just curious to see, to understand the differences between them all and what did I like, I love Kundalini yoga! I bring it into I teach 6am yoga classes. And that’s like my rise and shine Kundalini, we can and we do these Kriyas I think it’s, for me being a vata type that’s just like, naturally like, yeah, that brings my energy way up. So I really enjoy that as well. And as I’m aging, I’m focusing on restorative yoga. And yoga nidra. And so I love the variety and I love inserting different styles. I think I’m a little bit a ADD because I get really bored. And I don’t think I’ve ever taught the same yoga twice, like, unless I was doing Ashtanga. So I, I teach a different class all the time. And I may have a style that is very inclusive, I will start with Kriya’s my latest teacher I’ve been studying within last eight or nine years is Janet stone is out of San Francisco. And it’s really devotional yoga. And this is where I get introduced to chanting and mantra and just true philosophy. And that really rocked my boat when I had to like, chant out loud and lead chanting and classes. And for me, it was, you know, growing up Catholic, it was like, we don’t chant to deities, you know. And to just reconcile, that was a huge learning curve for me to just be okay with that. And knowing that, you know, truth doesn’t get erased. And for me, all of those studies have deepened my relationship with God, and allowed me to just be open to taking the good out of everything, and seeing the sacred in all beings. So I love inserting different styles and I absolutely love chanting. What I love the most is helping people to take a little bit of this amazing philosophy this great guideposts, this GPS that comes with the Yamas and Niyamas and infuse it into their daily life.

Todd McLaughlin  

That’s awesome. Romy, is there an opportunity via virtual for those of us listening that we want to join you? Are you teaching virtually right now?

Romy Toussaint  

I do. I’m teaching virtually all my classes are virtual right now. And I teach on Mondays and Wednesdays at 8:30am. Eastern Time, cool. And I’ve been teaching 6am as well. Although I’m moving. I’m traveling a lot in the next few months. So my classes are so like, on and off, but I do teach virtually. I also have a Vimeo channel under my name Romyoga, that that has a ton of classes that I’ve recorded that are there. Cool. So I have a YouTube channel as well, Romyoga where I have classes that people can find me.

Todd McLaughlin  

nice. I’ll have all of those links in the show notes below. So if anyone wants to click on that, they can check it out. That’s cool. Romi. I appreciate that. And I noticed some that you have led retreats I’m sure things have changed a little bit in the last year or two but where are some places that you’ve taken people on retreat?

Romy Toussaint  

I love retreats. I think it’s such a great way for people to really arrive and settle in and unwind and unplug and reconnect to themselves. And so I’ve led national and international retreats. This past weekend I was just in Blairstown, New Jersey on the Appalachian Trail!

Todd McLaughlin  

Nice! I want to want to hike the Appalachian not the whole I mean, I would love to do the whole thing by No, it’s a huge endeavor but can you section of it? I’ve when I was in Tennessee, I just walk I got to the trail. But um, what’s what’s the trail like where you are?

Romy Toussaint  

So I’m in I went right on the Delaware Water Gap. So it’s just right on the edge of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and beautiful. It’s also super Rocky, it’s like Rocky!!!!

Todd McLaughlin  

I heard there is tough section up there, like like, so like real thick, heavy hiking boots, makes your ankles are okay. And that type of thing. Yeah.

Romy Toussaint  

Bottom support, you know, so nice. All day long, you’re stepping on rocks. And so you’re like, the bottoms of your feet are crazy. But the views, you know, once you’re up there, just amazing view in the section that we were. So you just hike up about a quarter mile or a little bit more in Europe, you just have endless views. And I love taking people out into nature because they really get to reconnect and and strengthen the elements in their bodies. So when we do like a yoga and hiking retreat, it’s just like the perfect combination. Yeah. So I do that I do lots of national retreat. I also do. I’ve been internationally as held retreats in Guatemala, and Mexico and Costa Rica and Peru. And I’m going to Peru in March 2022. Nice. So I’ll have a nine day retreat in Peru. That was an amazing place. I went there in 2018. And to see all the sacred sites in Peru, it’s magical.

Todd McLaughlin  

I’ve never been here. It’s absolutely incredible. Everyone that I’ve ever talked to that’s gone, always tells me you got to do it. You gotta go, you gotta go. That’s amazing. That’s so cool. How did you? I have two questions here and this direction. How did you handle COVID In that respect, cuz it sounds like, you know, a very people person. Like to be around people and lead retreats. We’re, now we have a little bit of opportunity to look back and see like, wow, the last year and a half, you know, I can see how I reacted to that initially and how I feel now, how did you go through all that? Was it easy for you? Did you struggle?

Romy Toussaint  

Well, thank you goodness, was Peru was happening when I was? I was in March. Right? Right. in March when everything was closing? Yeah. 2019. Right. We were in, I was leading a retreat in Costa Rica. So I was literally there trying to get home when our flights were delayed. I was like, I should just stay for a couple of weeks out, let me write it out. Been there like you’ve come home now or forever, you know, you can stay there for a while. So we came home and spent the next couple of weeks just really transitioning. I think even when I was in Peru, I was on the phone with other teachers trying to figure out how to transition to virtual. Well, I think our we’ve closed the studio for like a week. And then we transition to virtual. And it was, it was amazing. I think our numbers actually went up in the beginning. Because people were like looking for ways to stay in connection. And because we couldn’t, we didn’t take we could even get out of our houses. And so we transitioned pretty quickly and figured out all the zoom, trained all the teachers, especially those who really weren’t good with electronics, including myself, including myself, yes. So you know, so we figured that out. And what I remember was trying to find a way to keep people connected even to the zoom. So I would open up the Zoom Room early and have people talk to each other just like I would do in our, you know, yoga class maybe even have prompts like, what’s your body sensation and feeling and thoughts, you know, so that people really had a chance to be vulnerable, and really seen the classes with, you know, creating our own, you know, our own power, our own sense of resilience and our own connection with ourselves. And so I feel like it was an opportunity to really grow and insert more yoga philosophy that was so helpful in people staying sane and grounded. And strong and connected. Yeah. And so, yeah, so we continue to do mostly virtual classes, because a lot of the people in our studio, I think are older and are careful about coming back in person. We also because we were part of the physical therapy and chiropractic and they needed to spread their patients out so they kind of took over our yoga room. So now we sort of like share that space. We don’t have as much open times as we would like. But it but we’re working and people are ready quite yet to be fully back in person.

Todd McLaughlin  

Yeah, it’s taking some time, isn’t it? 

Romy Toussaint  

Yeah, takingsome time. So those who want to come, they come and those others are happy to just log in from home because it’s so convenient. Yeah.

Todd McLaughlin  

No, it’s amazing. I know, that’s one thing I’m thankful for is the virtual element access something I always thought I would like to do, but it just seemed like more work than it would be feasible. And now that it’s in place, I’m so happy to be able to keep it going. It feels like why not just keep that going forever? Yeah,

Romy Toussaint  

absolutely. I think there were a lot of advantages. There were people who were all over the world. I remember, you know, practicing with my old clients who could never practice with me because they were out of the country, or they were on the West Coast. And now, they hop in in practice. So there are some advantages to that. I feel like people are kind of zoomed out now. Or not, yeah, there are not as full.

Todd McLaughlin  

Instead of like, you’re zoning out? It’s like, I’m zoomed out. zoomed out, you’re like, yeah, we’ve noticed a big, well I’m in Florida, but we’ve noticed a big transition lately, which has been kind of nice people coming back in.

Romy Toussaint  

Yeah, so I think maybe the winter might change it where people might, you know, where they’ve been outside more, maybe in the winter, they’ll come back more to resume classes. But I think that, that is definitely slowing down. Another thing I did during COVID Is I taught, I have a year long immersion that I teach where I focus on the 10 habits of Ayurveda, which was so timely during COVID, because it was habits to help you have the best health and to really understand, you know why it’s important to have an earlier and lighter dinner to go to bed early, start your day like to include a bed, breath, body practice, how to really focus on a plant based diet, not being a vegetarian or vegan, but a plant based diet. So I teach people these 10 Habits through a year long immersion, where we have a group of sangha, you know, where you have a community, it’s a dynamic group. And so that was one of the things I did throughout the entire year. And it was great, because, again, people were from all over the place, but they had a community super supportive community of like minded people who kept them accountable, you know, so they could, you know, they slept better, and they lost weight, they had more energy. And that is one thing that I continue to do. And that I invite people to, to check out because you get these habits. And by the end of the year of your year long immersion, you’ve really automated those habits. And you’ve gone through the holidays, to the birthdays to all the things where you fall off the bandwagon and come back. And so I love teaching that because it’s lifelong tool people. And when they shift, they also shift their families. You know, and everybody feels better and get in is healthier.

Todd McLaughlin  

Yeah, good point. Romy. That’s amazing. That’s so cool that you’re able to keep that going. It sounds like we give a lot of people some motivation, because I know a lot of people struggled during during all of that. I’m curious, I’m curious how you are handling the challenge of say leading a group to an international or national, national or international destination, we were scheduled to host a retreat in Thailand in 2020. And so that obviously got canceled. And I don’t want to name the retreat center because I really want those guys to thrive and excel. And we obviously kept postponing it. And recently I received information that like now the checklist for getting over there is like you got to travel from an approved country, then you have to apply for like a Thailand QR code. And then you have to provide a negative test within 72 hours of arrival, you have to have an insurance policy that for $50,000 I’ll cover you in case you get sick there. And then you have to like make sure you have payment confirmation for the hotel where you’re staying, which will cover the cost of the test. When you arrive at the place you have to show a certificate of vaccination. undergo entry screening when you get to the airport and then take the COVID test when you arrive at the retreat center so that you landed and now you’re ready to go. Does that seem daunting to you? Or does that just seem like so what like let’s just move forward and just take on these challenges and just deal with it everybody? Let’s keep going. 

Romy Toussaint  

Well, it you know, it is absolutely daunting and and it’s so wonderful when you get there. I was just at a retreat. Girlfriend getaway in St. Maarten. Last month in early October I was in St. Maarten it was the same thing I had to and you could only apply like a few days before it was like four days before I had to apply to this website from the St Maarten government to upload my vaccination card my negative COVID test and pay this fee which was like insurance and case I get COVID there so that they could take care of me, it was only $15. But I had to go through all of that. And then once I got there, the retreat that I was part of, they tested us again. And then before we left 72 hours before we left, we needed to get a negative COVID test to, you know, for the US for coming back. So there are all of those procedures there. And it can be really daunting and just a lot of work. And I think it’s just, it was one, it was the most amazing week that I had in my life. I was yeah, I felt safe with the people who were there because we all went to the all the same screening. So I know that I work with people who were negative, who were, who were vaccinated, and I felt safe, the retreat center that I’m working with in Peru, they’re very cooperative, I know that I know that the protocols that they have, they’re all in place to keep us really safe. They work with me, and I work with them to really make those procedures clear. And we write him out. And I tell people as soon as they start, so that they understand it. And I just, you know, just write it down and walk them through it, because I think it’s just worth it. It’s just worth it to even even the local retreat that I had here. You know, it was just, you know, here are protocols, and we’re going to be outside most of the time. And if you don’t feel secure just don’t come. Yeah, but yeah, yeah.

Todd McLaughlin  

That’s cool. I mean, I appreciate your optimism, because I feel like it’s just gonna be critical for us to rebound, and just do what we have to do. But let’s keep having fun and enjoying life.

Romy Toussaint  

Exactly. I mean, we can’t live in isolation forever. And even when we’re in isolation, some of us still get COVID. So, exactly. So this is where I think it comes back to, again, the habits that I teach people, the only thing that we have control over is our own immunity, and how we can create a culture of health in our own body. So if we have habits so that we can thrive, and stay strong and grounded, then we know we’re doing something so that when we when we face those things, we’re going to be okay, hopefully, right, we’re showing up in our very best self. So if we have habits where we get great sleep, and we’re nourishing our body with natural things, you know, with resilient plants that we can forage, then we are creating a culture of health in our bodies that take that vitamin D and take your zinc, you no to all of those things. And then wear your mask and show up.

Todd McLaughlin  

Yep. Awesome, Ronnie. I agree. I agree. I agree. I noticed that I can already tell that you’d be good at this. But I saw that you do speaking and corporate training? Can you tell me a little bit how you went in that direction? And what is it like to….. do you get jitters before you stand up in front of a group and motivate in a corporate setting? Or you just naturally just kind of flow in that direction? How is that evolved for you?

Romy Toussaint  

Oh, no, I definitely get the jitters. I have to use all of my practices I have to breathe. I stand in five pointed star and I open my arms and I lift my heart and I breathe and I I tell myself, you are amazing. You’re amazing. You’re good enough. Even maybe you are good enough. Because I think one of the common is, if you knew me, you would know that there’s a story that runs through my head all the time. That is I don’t know enough, you’re not good enough. Oh my god, you can’t do this. And it runs through all the time. And I just breathe. And I tell that that personality, that persona of mine, thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you for loving me, but I am good enough, you know, thank you for that reminder, so that I can go and prepare more. So when I get that feeling I prepare more. And I remind myself that I’m good enough and and I also remember that there’s something that I want to share with the world. I want to share with people ways so that they can manage their energy and access their vitality so they can do their work in the world. And if I can make a difference in one person’s life, then I’m doing that. So if I mess up, then did I tell you know I like okay, how do I shift? How do I do better? What can I learn from that? Yeah, but I definitely get scared. So I prepare and and I breathe. I think I was just gonna say I think I think it’s a gift to once I get there I get energized by people. I really get energized by by my purpose. Like I want to share these four things with you and they’re going to make a difference in your life. And so yeah, here’s why I show up. 

Todd McLaughlin  

How did the first situation where you did a public speaking engagement like that come about? Did someone come to your yoga class and go oh my gosh Romy you’re so positive I love your vibe. Will you please come to my corporate you know my business and give a speech? Or was it that you took a training in it and then, like sought an opportunity? What was your first like endeavor in that direction?

Romy Toussaint  

I’m trying to remember what by My very first endeavor was. I think it might have been, I think it was someone who took my spin class and my yoga class. And she and I would always give tips and things for you know you to do at home and things like that. And she was holding a care, she was having a caregivers retreat. And I often talk about, you know, you’re the caregiver, you need to take care of yourself, because Would you come and speak. And so I came and spoke, and I think that was the beginning of it. I spoke at a caregivers retreat, I think there were like, maybe 100 women there who are caregivers. And and I think it was from that moment on that I started, you know, asking for more opportunities and getting invited, you know, word of mouth. And now I try to really kind of put myself out there. And one of the things that I talk on is conscious leadership. So how do we how do we show up fully present and mindful, and, you know, in our vulnerability, and still show up, like teach, again, another year long immersion in that area, and I, the people who have taken my courses have invited me to speak at their schools, at their corporations. So it’s been building in that way. And I would love to, you know, find an agent and find more opportunities to get in front of people. Because for two reasons, because you get, you just reach more people, you reach more people with your message. And then as an entrepreneur, it’s an opportunity to make sort of more money with something that is like a one time or shorter period, where you just get better income. And it’s just really hard being a business person and entrepreneur in the yoga world. You know, we make 40 bucks a class, if you’re lucky. If that’s just really hard. And at some point, I’d love to not keep working. I’m almost I’m 59 years old, I’ll 59 This year, at some point after retire, I don’t think I’ll ever retire. But I just can’t keep working at this pace. And so yeah, abundance, right. It is important that we pay mortgages.

Todd McLaughlin  

Yes. And have children.

Romy Toussaint  

Yeah. And have children. Yeah, yeah. Exactly.

Todd McLaughlin  

So can you explain you said the conscious Leadership Immersion? So I’m curious how to do something that runs over a year and you said that it creates like a sangha, or a group where you can stay motivated? Are you are you meeting physically in spaces? And then having a virtual space, like on a Facebook page, where people are then checking in and communicating or and? Or how does like, well, how does the structure have you managed to structure that?

Romy Toussaint  

Yeah. So the first conscious Leadership Immersion I did was in person where we met four times during the year, so every quarter, and we would come together for like, a weekend. And in in between, we would have virtual, so I’ve been using zoom way before, you know, for a long time, yeah. So we would meet via zoom and things like that. So that’s the same thing that happens with my virtual group, we meet mostly by via zoom, and we try to get together, you know, first in person, retreat every once in a while, but most of the curriculum is delivered, you know, via zoom, you know, we go into breakout rooms, we do a lot of vulnerable shares. And then we have accountability partners. So it’s definitely possible for someone who can’t make it here physically, to participate as well. So it’s both options. But again, you get to, you know, get some tools, get some new ways of thinking, and then you get you go back into your real life, and you practice it, right. Yeah. And you live with it. And then you come back, you’re like, you know what, that didn’t work, or that really worked. Or, you know, I think one of the most influential things is like, you creating a language of creating sort of a common way of seeing the world and speaking with your family. It’s wonderful to go to yoga teacher training and do something or to go training and learn it and then you come back and nobody else understands it. But when you come home, and you start to insert that, like, speaking from inarguable truth, speaking from body sensations, feeling and thought, and so you’re having dinner, you’re like, No, I’m just noticing, you know, a little tightness in my chest, and my feeling is sadness. And my thought is, you know, I’m really sad that So and so is not here with us right now. Yeah, that’s it. That’s a genuine way of speaking where people like, oh, what does that come from? You know, so you can use that to really express your feelings. We could use that with your boss, like, I’m noticing, you know, anger right now. And my thought is, you know, I got passed over four times for that promotion that you promised me. These are my inarguable feelings, right? Not my blaming. I’m just saying, This is what happened. A way of showing up really present is what I teach people and how to take 100% responsibility for the circumstances in their life, to let go of being victims, villains or heroes in to show up present, and be able to have honest conversations and be in integrity with their agreement. And I think that changes the world.

Todd McLaughlin  

That’s amazing. Romy I also saw that you have something called a body Thrive immersion. Can you help me understand what what that means?

Romy Toussaint  

So that’s that’s the one where I teach the 10 habits of Ayurveda. So that’s so that’s those are the two sort of long term things that I do. And again, I do them long term because it’s easy to do something for a couple of months, and then you, you fall off the bandwagon. But when you practice it over and over again for over a year, it really becomes part of you. And you master it

Todd McLaughlin  

I hear you. I know you guys are we’re all going into winter, but I know the northeast, it’s a little bit more real than it is here in Florida. But what what kind of activities do you engage in in the winter? To like, stay? I mean, I get the sense that you like to be active and you’re you’re moving? Do you, does that change with the season for you?

Romy Toussaint  

No, you know, and so I’m I’m Haitian, you know, so I was born, I was born in Haiti, and I’m like an island girl, I love 80 degrees, 90 degrees. So when winter comes around, I’m like, Oh, my God, It’s probably my least favorite season, because I’m like “the winters COMING!” I wouldn’t even enjoy fall. But now I just really embrace the outdoors, no matter what. I go for a walk, you know, no matter what’s happening. So I just get the right clothes in the winter and I get outside. I bought cross country skis a couple, you know, a season ago to just learn to just get out there and enjoy the sunshine. Hiking is one of my favorite things to do. So just walking in the woods and our nature trails here because we have so many of them. And I really tell people when you’re out in the element, you have you you are naturally healing your body building your immunity, you have just a lot less anxiety. So I teach people to get out and I leed, I walk the talk and love getting outside. So I go out even in dark, I go for a walk around the block before bed. And so I just enjoy the elements. The colors right now, as you can see them are amazing. It’s just beautiful here right now!

Todd McLaughlin  

is I had the opportunity last week to fly up to Michigan and then drive from Michigan back down to Florida and all the leaves were still on the trees. And it had that like bright red yellows, oranges. It was the green of the evergreens. It was so beautiful. And  we don’t have that here in Florida. And I was haven’t seen that in a while. And I was blown away by the beauty of that.

Romy Toussaint  

Yes, yeah. Yeah, I love getting outside. And I love climbing mountains. So I take people on hikes and you know, help them to climb a mountain, a lot of people are really afraid to hike, or they haven’t done it. One of the things that I I do, I work with an organization locally here that’s called the Uutdoor Equity Alliance. And I worked with some of the other open space organizations. And I take people out into monthly hikes, weekly hikes. And I also work a lot with taking people of color out into the woods into nature, because a lot of people of color, don’t really have the opportunity to get out into nature, or even if they want to they’re don’t live close enough or have transportation, or don’t feel welcome or invited in the outdoors. And so I committed to doing that. And I do a lot of events where we do just for like I do a lot of women of color retreats, where we just really focus on bringing them together out in nature with our own group so that we can be at ease without any microaggressions without having to be in sort of that place where we feel other. And so that’s one of my missions in life and absolutely love it. It’s just one of my most rewarding things that I do. And I’m fortunate to be with other organizations that are committed to bringing more equity in the outdoors.

Todd McLaughlin  

That’s so cool. Romy, I feel like my next question you you almost already answered it. But when you’re feeling like you need a little boost of motivation, it sounds like nature gives that too. But what sources outside of nature even do you seek to get inspired?

Romy Toussaint  

Outside of nature, well, nature is so big outside of nature. You know, it’s really tough.

Todd McLaughlin  

Maybe there’s nothing but nature. I mean, maybe yes.

Romy Toussaint  

But I would say time with time with my family. Yeah. I really, really value family time which we we do most of it in nature and time with girlfriends like me and my girlfriends. So like, I have a you know, a couple batches where it’s just, we have these times and I belong to a book club. So that I am reading other than yoga books and manuals. So that’s just really precious time, valuable time where I connect with, with my girlfriends and with my family. And outside and my my spouse of 33 years we are, you know, we go for a daily walk. And John is one of my dearest friends and biggest supporter. But I just really appreciate time with my family and friends. And most of that we do it out in nature.

Todd McLaughlin  

That’s awesome Romy. Again, I feel like you give me such a good sense of this, but I just jot down a few questions I want to ask you, I’ll go here, even though I feel like we’ve already had but how much a part of your athleticism plays into who you are today? Cuz you mentioned you know, you’re very active. And then, you know, maybe somebody who isn’t active and is feeling a bit beat down and or having a hard time in life to feel that the physical part, the athletic part, or the whether it’s yoga or like you said hiking is is absolutely critical?

Romy Toussaint  

Yeah, I think we’re made to move. Yeah, I feel like we’re built to move we’re made to move. And for me, you know, I know you know about the doshas and the constitution, I’m definitely a Vata, Pitta, for vata types of movement is feels really good for me. And I think we, we also, I feel more creative, when I’m moving, I feel more in flow with life. And I’m learning that I need to sit still, I need to sit and watch the sunrise and do less. And so I tend to be the one that over, you know, over schedules. And I have a lot on my list of to do’s, because I can do it. I’m a type three in the Enneagram. And I’m an I’m an achiever. And so what was that you

Todd McLaughlin  

just said, I’m a type three and

Romy Toussaint  

type three, in the Enneagram, the Enneagram, as a personality? Didn’t know that, right? All right, yeah. Enneagram, there’s nine personality types. And I’m a three two, which is an achiever and a helper, like I tend to be, I have the ability, the capacity to do a lot. And I know that I, I tend to overdo it. And so as a as I’m getting older and wiser, and really focusing on philosophy and balance, I know that I have to carve out more time where I don’t do anything where I sit in silence where I just read a book or, you know, just be just time to be. And I’m learning that as well. So instead of hiking a mountain, maybe just walk.

Todd McLaughlin  

I hear ya. Finding that balance. Right. It’s it’s an interesting, what about in regards to say, how do you find a balance between eating like a healthy diet and splurging every now and again, with an unhealthy one? Do you let yourself ever be like, go down the path of where like, I know, I shouldn’t have this, but I’m gonna do it anyway? Or are you like really strict about like focusing on just like eating really good? Or do you feel like you have a balance there? What are your thoughts there and/or advice?

Romy Toussaint  

Yeah, so being a yoga certified yoga health coach, I try to walk the talk. And so I have always called myself a flexitarian, where for the most part, I eat a plant based diet, I try, I work to be very healthy. And just like I tell my clients aim for a B, aim for a B, or a B minus, that way, you won’t, you will never fail. So if it’s 80% of the time, 80% of the time you eat healthy, you you know, you’re you’re exercising, you do this, and then you go out and you you splurge and you know, I was talking to someone the other day, who said it, oh, this is my cheat day. And I don’t like that word. Because I think it’s like, that doesn’t feel right. For me. I like to say this is what I’m, I’m going to have this I’m allowing myself to, I’m having this I’m going to have a glass of wine, you know, at this party, I will have, you know what’s offered to me. And if my mom makes me my Haitian and rice and beans, and then the legumes and that I’m going to have it, but I’m not having it every day. For the most part. I eat healthy. I work out mostly every day. Because I’m committed to understanding how I feel when I eat a certain way. How do I feel when I drink a lot of wine? Well, it makes me sweat. It makes I don’t get the buzz that I want. I just sort of like wake up in a sweat in the middle of the night. I don’t go I go by the feelings. So I try to do the things that make me really feel great. When I eat early enlighted dinner and I eat healthy food. I feel great. When I stuffed myself with something I feel like this lump in my belly and I wake up in the middle of that I’d have to take a Tums. I don’t like feeling that way. So. So there are certain things that I will have like my dark chocolate or I will eat you know what’s put in front of me from a guest at your house for dinner. I’m not going to say I don’t need this. I don’t need that unless I’m allergic to it. But I will taste it out. I will be yeah like I will feel You know, gracious that you cook for me. But that’s not what I’m going to eat every day.

Todd McLaughlin  

I hear Yeah, that’s cool. 

Romy Toussaint  

I totally believe in moderation.

Todd McLaughlin  

That’s cool. I like to aim for the B. That’s awesome versus I gotta be in A plus dieter.

Romy Toussaint  

If you fall off. And then you go and you binge, I think a lot of these Yogi’s are binge eaters and hide behind this and that, you know, I’m a vegan for life. I’m a vegan for life. It’s like, well, you know, for most of the time, I’m going to eat plant based. And I love gnawing on a chicken bone, you know, everyone’s to know, while it feels really good. I’m gonna make it as organic and grass fed as possible. But, yeah, I think balance and moderation is the key.

Todd McLaughlin  

Yes, that’s awesome. Romy. I have? I have a tough question for you. I wrote this question down. And I thought, like, how would I answer this question? And I don’t even know if I can answer this question. But do you? Are you okay? If I ask it? You’re like, oh, now I’m nervous. Um, what? What would be the first thing you would address if you were president?

Romy Toussaint  

Oh, wow. That’s a tough. Yeah, that’s tough. That is kind of impossible. 

Todd McLaughlin  

Yeah, how could you I know, but if there was something…….

Romy Toussaint  

I think Health Care, I think, I think everyone deserves. So as, as an entrepreneur. In my self employed, my husband also is self employed, trying to figure out how to pay for health insurance. We thank God, we’re healthy. And we pay very expensive health insurance for if we get hospitalized, you know, for disaster, but I’m self paid for everything. You know, I went to have my knee check out the other day, it was like, you know, $250 for eight minute visit, and I paid for the X rays before that. And and, yeah, so I think that’s just bad. And, yeah, and making sure that, you know, everyone gets an opportunity to vote and to participate in, in participation, get an opportunity to share their voice. Yeah. And so I mean, there’s so many. And of course, I guess the third thing I would say, is our environment. You know, yeah, just take, you know, this global warming that we feel doesn’t exist. But yeah, I mean, I’ve traveled around the country. I’ve seen lakes that are now, you know, that have sunk down to nothing, that there’s a fire. There’s, they’re underwater. And I think that’s super urgent. And no, it’s not too late for us to address that. And it is a reality for us to just start to make big changes.

Todd McLaughlin  

Great answers. Romy. Thank you. And then I just have one more question for you. The other day, when I got a chance to just have a quick phone call with you. You mentioned that you’re going to be competing in volleyball. Can you tell me about that?

Romy Toussaint  

Yes, I got a chance to play in the New Jersey Senior Olympics volleyball tournament, and I’m going to play in the National Senior Olympics. Volleyball Tournament in Florida, in Fort Lauderdale. I think in May. And I love, I’m a competitive person. And I just love you know, I played in college and I love the the connection as I’m getting older to see that I can still move that I can still feel alive in that way. And connect with the women on my team and just yeah, I’m excited to do that. That is why I was having my knees checked out to make sure that I was okay.

Todd McLaughlin  

Not Not an easy sport on the body. Right? I mean, maybe no sports easy as we keep going. But no,

Romy Toussaint  

no, sport is easy. But that one is super high impact. And when I played in the, in the Olympics in that couple months back, I was still sore, because I hadn’t played in a long time. And I just jumped in and my body felt like a 25 year old playing but it was a 58 year old.

Todd McLaughlin  

You’re like jump, Wait, why is my body not jumping? 🙂

Romy Toussaint  

Why is my body down there? It felt really good, but I was slower. So now I’m going to practice moderation and keep practicing every week so that I don’t do that. But I wanted to make sure that I didn’t have any instability in my knees.

Todd McLaughlin  

Well, that’s cool. Well, I don’t have to fill me in on when those dates are and I don’t know if they have spectators. But I’d love to get a chance to meet you. And maybe I could come down and watch you play.

Romy Toussaint  

I would love that. It’s cool.

Todd McLaughlin  

Well, thank you, Romy. I’m so excited that thank you so much for taking time to chat with me today. I really appreciate it. 

Romy Toussaint  

Yeah, you know I have one more thing I wanted to touch on that just came up to me was my experience being a woman of color of no black yoga teacher in the yoga world which I feel in our countries is very, very white. And so that’s been an experience as well. I remember traveling to yoga conferences and like seeing the one other black person there and seeing maybe a few more and just kind of like, lock eye locking with them and like saying, Hey, we’re here, which, again, I mentioned before I do a lot with bringing people of color into yoga or into the outdoors. And I think that that’s some place where, you know, I would love to see more inclusion, more opportunities. And so yeah, I think that’s just one interesting aspect of the, one of the few that’s been in this field for a long time,

Todd McLaughlin  

I’m really glad you brought that up. That’s a goal of mine to be as inclusive as possible. And maybe when you come to Florida, you could offer a workshop here, when you’re when you’re visiting. I would love that. Absolutely. So amazing. I appreciate you bringing that Romy, thank you, I know I, I feel like we’re gonna be we are so much better off if we all come together and, and have a great time celebrating everyone’s culture and diversity and being as inclusive as possible. So I think you’re right, I had a friend, I have a friend who also is from Haiti. And the other day, I was talking with him and I, he actually asked me the question, he said, How come black people don’t practice yoga? And I didn’t have a good answer for him. And I think that’s something that is important as yoga studios, I am talking and listening and, and I really think that’s something that we can all benefit from, if it’s, you know, available for everybody. And, and, and made to feel welcome. So I’m glad you brought that up. And that’s something I really hope and want to work toward to improve and, and get better at and or just just have evolved to something where we’re all enjoying it, and getting involved in it, and feeling positive from it and supportive for each other.

Romy Toussaint  

Well, yeah, and we all have to put that intention out there. And it’s not just people of color. It’s also people who are heavier people in heavier bodied people who have disabilities, and men and men. Yeah, as well. And so I think it’s opening that door to just be super inclusive. And we have to make that effort and find, I don’t know, get creative in how we make that happen. So whether it’s having separate classes, whether it’s having, just like in the outdoors, making people feel really welcome, and not just like going to that one black person in the class, or that one person can say, Can I help you? Here’s a block here. Is it like, can you be alone? Yeah. But yeah, finding, finding finding ways. Like not being not not being not being overbearing when they come. Yeah. Right. And getting more more people more teachers trained. And I think there are some natural, some reason where I think a lot of people of color are religious into like, well, this is against my religion, you really talk about what is yoga, what is the philosophy and how it can benefit you physically and mentally and spiritually without having to feel threatened by all of that. So we have to get real, we have to get creative. And we have to set the intention to be more inclusive and open.

Todd McLaughlin  

Yeah, that’s a really good, that’s a great point Rami I, in having a conversation, the last podcast I was able to do. I spoke with kids yoga, teacher trainer, or someone who’s involved in teaching children. And so I had brought up the question regarding, you know, if you teach kids in school, and if there’s a religious conflict that, you know, how do we go about doing that, and she made a really great point that never thought she said, like, even just saying, like, bring your hands into prayer position at the center of the chest or something like that, just by even implying that you’re going into prayer that may be using the terminology, like bring your hands together, at the center of your chest can completely change the intention and or the way it might be received. Do you have any insights regarding that, along this line of different ways that maybe would be less offensive? Or do you know what I mean? Like, is there have you? Yeah, yeah.

Romy Toussaint  

Well, absolutely. I think you have to really think through who your audience is, and what their thoughts is, and how can you how can you find a way to deliver the feeling the, the essence while making it accessible, you know, so, so it’s wording and it’s, it’s keeping it simple, and it’s also explaining what it means to be. This is what this means from me. Sharing our personal stories, you know, like I share my stories about being raised Catholic and feeling very conflicted with this. And here’s what I found. Here’s how I settled it. And here’s, here’s what I you know how it’s helped me. So I think sharing our vulnerable stories and getting creative and asking other people what they’ve done, I think we have to do our homework. And, and maybe skipping some of those parts. You know, where we don’t have to say Namaste day, we could just say, I thank you community, you know, for showing up, I thank you for coming to this class. And taking away some of the things that make people feel nervous or suspicious, or confused, and then explaining what does this mean to me. I remember the I was wanting to teach yoga as part of one of my but my Bible study classes and people are like that Romy. She can’t she can’t teach Bible study. Or she can host I was trying to host the Bible study in my home. She can host about Bible study, she does that yoga thing. So I had a conversation with my pastor, and he, you know, he did some study, you know, he researched it. And I think his daughter was doing yoga in California. And she talked to him about it. And, and he came to a couple of my classes, and he says, You know, I get this, I understand all of these things that are great. What I what I would warn you is to is to just use your own words, to speak it in your own words, and not like the words that are in the, in the book or in the class or whatever, so that people understand what you mean.

Todd McLaughlin  

Yeah. Yeah, that’s good insight. Yeah. I like the fact that you brought up like doing the research and the fact that your pastor spoke with his daughter and took your class. Like, that’s a beautiful thing, right to be willing to step outside of potentially the comfort zone, and just, hey, what do I think if I go and experience this? That’s pretty amazing. Right? Not, we don’t always do that.

Romy Toussaint  

Right? Right. That’s really about giving people the experience that they can know for themselves. How good you feel after the stretching, okay, well, let’s just stretch, we don’t have to chant we don’t have to do all those things just come and stretch because it starts with the body. And then it goes in.

Todd McLaughlin  

You know, you made mention that you’d like to do chanting, and I gathered, obviously, because you’re involved with or you really love Kundalini Yoga, when you do involve chanting Sanskrit chanting and or that type of mantra work? Do you specify that at the outset? So people are knowing what they’re going to get involved in? When they come in? Do you not do that? Because you want to see if they’re interested in have them show up, but then start to explain what you’re doing at the beginning. What is your protocol for helping to smooth out those edges? 

Romy Toussaint  

Yeah, I think for me, I, I started introducing chancing with a lot of people that I knew, you know, like, when I had a following, and my class is in. So I would introduce it in small ways. I think one of the things that I do is I explain what it means, here is the translation to this mantra, or even Om, it’s like, can’t with me, if you like what om means. And you don’t have to change. You could just be here, but know that even if you just listen, you get the vibe you get. You get the benefit, you get the whatever it is, right. And so I think first you need to translate so that people understand what they’re hearing so that they, they’ll be interested because it’s like weird if you’re just listening to something you don’t understand. So I think first translating and explain why I feel like it’s important now and what it means to me, here’s the story of this chant, and what it means and principle, see the benefits if you do this. And so making it relatable, you know, you can relate to abundance, right, so Lakshmi is about abundance. And so it represents this part of us that is already there and is already abundant, or this divine abundance that’s available that if we call to it, it comes to us. So something that’s already here. And so I think making it relatable and simple and also giving people options like you don’t have to chant it’s all just chant. Yeah, sometimes i’ll just chant in savasana.

Todd McLaughlin  

That’s great. I appreciate that explanation. You know, I I grew up Catholic as well and so I grew up with Amen. And someone made a correlation to that really ohm is the you know, India version or of Amen, which and that in them what’s interesting, even the sound vibration is pretty similar, right? There’s like that, Ahhh it’s kind of close. So I feel like that connection personally like if I say ohm, I feel like if I was inclined toward only saying amen that I feel like I can make that bridge build that bridge where I see the similarity. And so I don’t feel like that’s a conflict. But it sounds like sometimes you come across situations where people do feel that there’s a conflict there. How do you? How do you what? What kind of advice? Could you give someone that is feeling that conflict to maybe move past that or through it? Or maybe it’s not even our job to do that? Maybe we just say, awesome. I love what you do. And that’s great. And I’ll do what I do. And like you said, you give them the option. But do you ever try to coach people in the direction of seeing the universality of these sounds?  Yeah, I think people have to be open. And so and I also think we have to choose how we show up in the world. And we can’t be there. We can’t be everybody, like, we’re gonna attract who we attract. And I think if we’re honest, and genuine, and really make it a point of educating and not make it mandatory, like you can be here, you don’t have to do this. And if they’re, if they’re uncomfortable, then they can, you know, they have the choice to not show up. Exactly. And so we can’t be everything for everyone. And I think that we are going to attract a certain type of people, kind of people who are going to want to be with us for a particular reason. And so if if it brings their energy down to be in my class, and you know, 1000s of teachers kind of let go of that. It’s like, if I’ve made an effort to be in integrity to be genuine to explain what it is. And if it doesn’t line with their with them, then it doesn’t. Yes, then that’s okay. And some people come in and they go in and they come back. Yeah, good point. Yeah, Romy I love the fact that you kind of brought up another topic, and I was about ready to help us close. And so I’m curious, is there another idea thing, something that’s on your mind, something that you want to speak about?

Romy Toussaint  

I feel like we’ve covered it. You for what you do, and reaching out and speaking, it’s so wonderful, to speak about what we do. I really appreciate and so that it’s a privilege. And you’ve just asked really good questions. And I just feel like it’s a privilege to talk to you. And they’re what I love. And yeah, if this reaches one person, I’m just so happy. Thank you.

Todd McLaughlin  

I know, you know, I’m trying to break out of my comfort zone and just reach out to people that I’ve never met before. And you were so open and willing. And so it’s a really amazing experience. And I feel, I just feel really honored to have a chance to speak with you. So I appreciate it. I know you’re super busy. And thank you so much for taking time and everybody who’s listening, we love feedback. So if you want to send Romy a message or if you want to send me a message, you’ll see all the links down below. And hopefully we can connect in real time Romy in the future, and if you’re ever in town with I’d love to have you here to the studio. So I look forward to having more conversations down the road.

Romy Toussaint  

I love that I know, I just thought of one more thing. Oh, please, good. No. But in speaking with you, even though I’m sharing my life in my story, I think what you do as a as someone who asked questions, and as a podcaster even as I’m speaking with you and figuring things out, I’m getting an insight, I’m getting an insight on my path and how it shaped me. And I’m also thinking about ideas for the future. So I think what you do is super helpful, and I just want to appreciate you for helping me to see me like you helped me to see me as I’m speaking I’ve seen me. So I really appreciate that.

Todd McLaughlin  

Awesome. Romy Thank you.

Romy Toussaint  

Thank you so much. Be well.

Todd McLaughlin  

All right. Take care. Bye bye. All right.  I hope you enjoyed that conversation. Romy is amazing. I really can’t wait to meet her in person and I really enjoyed her enthusiasm and optimism and I hope you feel the same. Remember you can visit her at Romyoga.com. And if you guys would like to practice some live stream yoga, she has some offerings on her website. You can also you’ll see the link in the show the show notes below if you want to do live stream with us we offer two weeks free and you can join in we have Ashtanga classes, vinyasa classes, gentle yoga, yin yoga, there’s a lot on offer. Kids yoga teacher training is coming up as well on live stream and/or in studio. If you live local, we’d love to see you come on in. Alright you guys thanks so much. Until next time. Native yoga Toddcast is produced by myself. The theme you Music is dreamed up by Bryce Allen. If you liked this show, let me know. If there’s room for improvement. I want to hear that too. We are curious to know what you think and what you want more of, what I can improve. And if you have ideas for future guests or topics, please send us your thoughts to info@Nativeyogacenter.com. You can find us at nativeyogacenter.com. And hey, if you did like this episode, share it with your friends, rate it and review and join us next time

Sandy Chasen ~ Inspiring the Next Generation through Yoga

Sat, 11/6 6:52AM • 54:42

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

yoga, children, ladybug, teaching, kids, yoga teacher, class, camp, training, amazing, yoga class, poses, practice, feel, people, curious, teacher, instilling, nice, school

SPEAKERS

Todd McLaughlin, Sandy Chasen

Todd McLaughlin  

Welcome to Native yoga Toddcast. I am so happy you are here. My goal with this channel is to bring inspirational speakers to the mic in the field of yoga, massage, bodywork and beyond. Follow us on IG @nativeyoga and check us out at nativeyogacenter.com. All right, let’s begin. Hello, I’m happy you are here. Thanks for joining in. Today I have a special guest, Sandy Chason. She is the founder of Ladybug Yoga, which is a kid’s yoga program. She’s going to be offering a kid’s yoga teacher training here at Native Yoga Center on Sunday, January 30, 2022 from 12 to 6pm, Eastern Standard Time. We’re also going to be offering the teacher training via livestream. So for those of you that are local, you can come in and for those of you that are living abroad, you can join in via your computer and participate in the training and get certified in Ladybug Yoga. If you’re interested, visit our website nativeyogacenter.com. You’ll see the links where you can sign up. Also check out Sandy at her kids yoga teacher training website, which is called www.theladybugyoga.com. You can also find her on Instagram @Ladybugyoga, on Facebook @Ladybugyoga. All those links will be posted in the show notes below. I hope you enjoy this conversation. She got me really inspired and I can’t wait to take the training myself. I think that the more children get exposed to breathing, practicing yoga  and cultivate the ability to come out of their shell and have a safe space to be creative and express emotion, feelings and thoughts the world will be a happier place. I usually find that hanging out with children I end up feeling better because they impart a little bit of wisdom, selflessness, joy and good vibes. So anyhow I hope you enjoy this conversation. Let’s begin! I’m so pleased to have Sandy Chasen here with me today. Sandy, how are you doing? 

Sandy Chasen  

Good. Thank you for having me, Todd. 

Todd McLaughlin  

Oh, you’re welcome. I’m really excited to have this conversation with you because you are a kids yoga teacher. You offer kids yoga teacher training through your program Ladybug Yoga. But before we go into some of those details, can you give me an idea of how you first got interested in yoga yourself? 

Sandy Chasen  

Yes, definitely. So I’ll tell you a bit about me. I’m originally from South Africa. And as a young child, we moved to Canada and immigrated to Toronto. And my mom became very alternative and holistic and she was a yogi. And this is way back in the early 80s. And anytime I could go with her to get on a yoga mat to go to the yoga classes, I jumped and I just fell in love from the beginning.

Todd McLaughlin  

 Oh, that’s really cool. How old were you then? 

Sandy Chasen  

I was seven.

Todd McLaughlin  

Nice. You have a clear memory of your first yoga class with your mom?

Sandy Chasen  

I do. I do. Her teacher that we went to, his name was Axel Malone. He’s a real traditional yoga teacher guru. And it was just the whole experience every time. He was just amazing. I was in awe every time I could get there. 

Todd McLaughlin  

That’s awesome. Where was that? 

Sandy Chasen  

This was in Toronto. 

Todd McLaughlin  

Gotcha. Gotcha. At what age did you move from South Africa?

Sandy Chasen  

I was three three. 

Todd McLaughlin  

Do you have any memories of South Africa? I couldn’t tell you a memory from my threes.

Sandy Chasen  

No, either can I. But when I go back and visit there are the later year memories. So I still have family there. 

Todd McLaughlin  

And around the Cape Town area or the Johannesburg area? 

Sandy Chasen  

Yeah, Johannesburg and Cape Town. Have you been?

Todd McLaughlin  

I’ve been to Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, but I didn’t get a chance to go down to South Africa. I’ve always wanted to go to South Africa, because it’s like, a legendary surf destination. And so, yeah, I, you know, I’ve always wanted to go, I still want to go. But, I haven’t had the chance yet to make it down there.

Sandy Chasen  

Definitely on the bucket list. 

Todd McLaughlin  

Right? That’s cool.

Sandy Chasen  

Yeah. And you have to go on a safari.

Todd McLaughlin  

Oh, man, it’d be so great. I agree. And did you, after you started practicing yoga continue yoga throughout your teenage years and your 20s? Did you keep your yoga going? Or did was it like, come and go for you?

Sandy Chasen  

Um, no, I kept it going. It was come and go though. It was whenever, you know, I could go with my mom. And you know, I wasn’t busy. But it was steady. I just loved it!

Todd McLaughlin  

Nice. And then I guess fast forward at some point. I saw that you established Ladybug yoga in 2009. What was the journey to go from practicing yoga to wanting to create a program that was specific for children in yoga?

Sandy Chasen  

So also while I was growing up, I was a babysitter. I was a camp counselor. I was a gymnastics coach. So kids were always my passion. And back in Toronto, I took my early childhood education, and I practiced as an early childhood educator for a few years. And I really felt something was missing. So when I moved down to Florida, 20 years ago, right away, I said that’s it, I’m going to get certified in yoga. So I got on a plane and flew to Costa Rica and got my RYT there, and then came back and got certified in kids yoga. And I’ve been teaching adults and children ever since for the past 20 years. 

Todd McLaughlin  

Nice. 

Sandy Chasen  

Yeah. And then it was when my first daughter, Maya was born, the light bulb went off. And that was my aha moment when I combined the education and yoga together. And I created Ladybug yoga. 

Todd McLaughlin  

Wow. 

Sandy Chasen  

Yeah, so I made a children’s yoga program, and I teach practical tools to the children. And they just thrive off of it. It’s been amazing. 

Todd McLaughlin  

That’s really cool. I have a ton of questions, because I’m curious how you merged the educational aspects in terms of, you know, like you said, teaching in school, and with teaching kids yoga. What are some of the fundamental principles that you follow in  teaching children’s yoga and whast you have learned form your childhood education practice and study?

Sandy Chasen  

So basically, my creativity and program planning and the curriculum in every Ladybug yoga class…. we always begin with a breathing exercise, we go into yoga poses, then we go into games that incorporate the poses. We go into relaxation, and then close the class. So it’s a beautiful flow. And every aspect of yoga we do. The breathing is directed toward the kids ability level. So it’s always fun and exciting and presented in easy ways that they grasp it. It’s a very easy concept for them to use the poses and we have a blast with it, you know, and then the games, all our fun games, all incorporate the poses. So it teaches them all the tools and techniques in a fun way that relates to them. So they get it right away. They use it in the relaxation. We  take them on a journey. So it’s a guided relaxation. We use crystals, which the kids love, and it’s just beautiful, and they just love and thrive off of it. And we constantly, you know, discuss in class, you know that these are amazing life skill tools and that they’re not coming just for a dance class where it’s fun, and then they go their way. We are instilling these tools in them at this young age so they know when there are times when they’re feeling stressed at home, anxious, overwhelmed. When they’re fighting with siblings or when they have tests at school. They can use these tools to help them. They can incorporate these tools that we’re instilling in their mind during those times at home and at school and throughout their lives.

Todd McLaughlin  

Nice. Do you feel like as a yoga teacher you’re often reminding students, whether it’s children or adults, that what you’re learning here on the yoga mat, is something that you’re going to apply later on?

Sandy Chasen  

Yeah. Especially the breath, because we all forget to breathe.

Todd McLaughlin  

Good point. I hear that! So that’s cool that you still are actively teaching adult classes and children’s classes?

Sandy Chasen  

I do adult private classes and group privates, because adults, you know, I have a passion for that as well. And then, of course, the kids are a great passion as well for me. 

Todd McLaughlin  

That’s cool. Is there something that you use when you teach children that you find you also try to incorporate in with the adults that might not be your traditional thing that we do with adults?

Sandy Chasen  

Yeah, just to have fun. 🙂 Adults can get so serious.

Todd McLaughlin  

Like, do you actually incorporate some gameplay, so to speak in the adult class?

Sandy Chasen  

Definitely, you know, we laugh throughout and when I feel that tension I just get them to just release it and to go back to their child like sense.

Todd McLaughlin  

Nice. I noticed that you use teachable, which is a platform that you’re able to create digital content that people can learn what you’re teaching. Have you had good success and results with moving in that digital arena?

Sandy Chasen  

Yeah, it’s been amazing! And it’s given access to students all around the world. I’ve had students in India, like all over the world who have done my training online as well as which is wonderful. For those that do the in person teacher training, I offer the teachable at half price. So that they have lifetime access to go and refresh, it’s all live and they see it and they grasp it. So a lot of people after graduating, they can enjoy to get that to help them, to keep watching it over again. So they can become more confident in teaching.

Todd McLaughlin  

I really like your whole website and your online information and the way you lay it out. It feels like you’ve done a really great job. Is this something that you’ve had a lot of help with? Are you naturally gifted in marketing? Do you do your video production for your course yourself? Was that something that came really easy? Or is it something that you’ve been working at forever?

Sandy Chasen  

You know, I’m very creative, and it’s just so natural to me, that part. But the technical parts, no. I’m very hands on, you know, in everything. So online, I was sitting, you know, with the lady who did it, and we did it together, like step by step, even, you know, with my company, and when I have teachers go into the school and teach the yoga classes, you know, I connect with them before class. I connect with the teacher. I speak to them after class, I want to be involved, even though sometimes I’m not physically there. I want to know all the details and the outcomes and so I’m very hands on and for me naturally the creativity and the inspiration does come naturally.

Todd McLaughlin  

That’s inspirational. You said that when your daughter, Maya was born. How old is she now?

Sandy Chasen  

So Maya’s 12 and almost a half. And I have a younger daughter, Jada, my baby who’s actually turning nine on Sunday. I taught the night before they were both, you know, both of them popped out. 🙂 So they were born natural Yogi’s as well. And they can even teach Ladybug yoga classes at this point. Nice. Yeah, so she’s a Halloween baby? Yes, she is. And actually, I have the most special story to share with you about my baby Jada, please, who in preschool. This was in pre K. She saw there was a child who was upset and you know, something was bothering her and the teachers couldn’t get her to come and join the class and to feel better. And Jada went over and sat with that child and told her did a three sigh breath with her. And the child just shifted, and Jada was the one to bring her back to a place of happiness and back with the class.

Todd McLaughlin  

Wow! That totally gives me chills because the thought of a child reaching out to a peer at that age with something to refocus the mind to, like you said to shift, and be able to be receptive to communication, or if they were shutting down and just really frustrated. That’s, that’s amazing. That’s like, kind of what we hope for, right!?!

Sandy Chasen  

It’s amazing with these children. They’re so open, you know, and receptive. They haven’t shut or closed yet. As the older you get you can get into your own way. So that’s why it’s special to instill yoga at such a young age.

Todd McLaughlin  

Wow, that’s really cool. Well, I mean, that actually feeds into my next question. So you might have already answered it, but what are some lessons that you’ve learned from teaching children? I find that when I branch out of my comfort zone, and I attempt to share yoga with someone who I thought it would be more challenging to do that with. I find instead of me teaching them something they teach me something. What is something that you’ve learned over the years with working with children?

Sandy Chasen  

So I find that what we’re doing is encouraging these children to build their self esteem and to let them shine as bright as they can. And there’s so many times in their lives, especially at a young age, you know, they’ve been told no, and no and no, and it can crush them. So we in our class, I find the most beautiful approach is we support them, of who they are as individuals and let them shine as bright as they can to just build them up. And by doing that, you just see them grow and shine, and it’s really beautiful.

Todd McLaughlin  

Wow. Yeah! So right there. That’s some inspiration right there. If you can see kids go from, like you said, shutting down and or shy and then turn around. That is pretty amazing.

Sandy Chasen  

Yeah.

Todd McLaughlin  

Cool. You know, I guess, I’m thinking along the lines of there’s probably yoga teachers that are curious about teaching kids yoga. I remember the first time I thought, well, I teach yoga, so teaching kids yoga is just going to be a piece of cake. I can do it. And then we got a group together. And I quickly realized that I wished I’d had a few tricks up my sleeve. I definitely realized that making it more playful was going to be critical. But I also found that I probably could have benefited from from having a few creative ideas in place prior. What qualities or skills do you think a yoga teacher should have to be good at teaching children yoga?

Sandy Chasen  

So the ladybug yoga children’s teacher training that I created, I’ve opened it up to not only yoga teachers, but school teachers, therapists, parents, grandparents, nannies. So I’ve put together the most easy to adapt, and creative program. During the training and by the end of the training, people can see it’s so simple and practical and clear for them that anyone by the end of the training feels ready and inspired to go and impact the lives of children in whichever way, whether it’s doing a yoga class, going into the school and throughout the school day, teaching their kids, parents at home, therapist within their session. So yeah, it’s very inspiring, the program that I’ve put together and easy for anyone and everyone to adapt into it. Easy for them to get it.

Todd McLaughlin  

Yeah, that makes sense. Because I would imagine that there’s a lot of parents and grandparents out there that actually practice yoga already. They haven’t pursued the career path of teaching yoga. But see that they’re around children and would want to share what they already know. So it makes perfect sense, that a grandparent would be excited to, learn tricks and tools to have another way to interact with either their children or grandchildren.

Sandy Chasen  

Yes, in a way that the kids can, you know, connect to and use. 

Todd McLaughlin  

Yeah, that’s amazing. I recently started to do a little research into what people are doing with yoga and elder care. Investigating what they are doing within senior facilities, or elder living facilities. One of the principles that became obvious was that if someone is having hard time with their their abilities either cognitive and/or physical. If they’re attempting to do something, and we’re attempting to show them something, and they aren’t doing it the way that we think they should be doing it, that they might begin to shut down. They will feel less inclined to open up in and express themselves through the postures or through the practice. One of the solutions to that problem given in the book Creative Care by Anne Basting, is an idea that is used in improvisational theater training. The idea is to always say yes, and add to what they say. For example if someone says, is this how I do it? You would affirm…. Yes, and you could also do it like this. It remids me of this saying, once a man is twice a child. We come in a baby, we take care of ourselves, and potentially, at the end, we’re gonna need to be taken care of again, the same way we were as a kid. I am now seeing that there probably are a lot of similarities between child care and elder care?

Sandy Chasen  

Yes, that is true. 

Todd McLaughlin  

That’s cool. What have you noticed with grandparents and working with children in terms of the yoga world and what have you observed?

Sandy Chasen  

Oh, they get so excited when they come to do the training. Because, you know, now they have something to connect with their grandkids to do as well as you know, enjoy. You know, the benefits of yoga, which they are involved in as Yogi’s. And they just can’t wait to go and share with their grandkids and when their grandkids come over, they have fun things to do. And it’s amazing. It’s a bond, a very special bonding moment, you know, like, I’ll never forget the bonding I have with my mom, you know, as together when we you know, as Yogi’s together, it’s very special.

Todd McLaughlin  

That’s a good point. My mom got me into yoga as well.

Sandy Chasen  

Oh, amazing. At what age?

Todd McLaughlin  

I practiced when I was 19. But when I was in my early 20s she was practicing Hatha yoga, and she was taking a local yoga class. And she was like, you gotta come try this. And I was like, sure! That was it. I was hooked after the first session. 

Sandy Chasen  

Wow. That’s beautiful.

Todd McLaughlin  

My mom’s still practicing today. And I practiced with her this morning. 

Sandy Chasen  

That’s a special bond. 

Todd McLaughlin  

Yes. It’s amazing. I agree. I am curious… What have you noticed with the pandemic? In terms of, I know this is a big question, but we’ve had a little bit of time to kind of go through this whole thing and kind of start to come out the other side, and where we can reflect and look back. So I’m just curious, what what have you witnessed? Probably your kids were all in school and then had to go over to the virtual, I don’t know if you homeschool your kids already, or if they are in public school or private school, or if they went to the virtual but what did you observe in terms of like your own practice of teaching people to be with kids and be teaching yoga, but then being needing to be six feet apart and all that stuff that’s come with the pandemic? What’s happened for you?

Sandy Chasen  

Right? So it was an amazing experience. Because like I said, I’m always thinking creatively and you know, my mind’s always going and when everything shut down in March, then when they were talking about schools coming back online in August, I’m like okay, this is an opportunity for Ladybug yoga to get back on its feet because I’ve went from 60 to zero. It was scary.

Todd McLaughlin  

I agree, it was scary.

Sandy Chasen  

Yeah. And I actually created a pod. So I rented space at a hotel. And I hired school teacher. And I became a pod, which was where parents droppped the kids, you know, there were so many working parents that didn’t know what they were going to do with their children, when schools were going online, as well as the parents that felt overwhelmed, to be sitting with them at a computer all day long, you know, so parents would drop the kids early in the morning, and we would have them till the afternoon and the kids, you know, would come with their laptop. And with online, I had teachers helping them throughout their children’s online virtual school. And then we would go and do yoga. And we would do active activities, you know, because it was very hard on the kids. I mean, they were amazing. The way they adapted so quickly, to transitioning to sit online, it was very sad in a way because they were sitting from like, 8:45am in the morning, through 2pm on the computer. Which is so hard for children. So we incorporated the yoga, the breathing for them to move and to get their minds relaxed, you know, and energy release, and to be clear for them to continue on in the day. So we continued that for I think it was about six weeks until the schools went back in person. And then actually, Ladybug yoga transitioned into a camp. So yeah, so anytime there was no school, we would, you know, we would turn into a camp, which it actually then built into, because schools weren’t having us back on campus yet, because of COVID. And then it turned into a summer camp, which the kids just had a blast. And it’s just amazing. You know, every day they would do yoga, and I would incorporate different specialties like karate, art, dance, music drama, we would go swimming, and that was there for them. And then coming back into the fall this year, schools have welcomed us back into doing yoga classes on the premises. So we’re back doing you know, what we used to do, as well as I’m continuing with this amazing camp that I’ve, you know, developed that anytime like, Thanksgiving breaks coming up. So we’ll have camp for those days, you know, winter break will be camp and then go back into another summer camp. Ladybug yoga is just expanding. 

Todd McLaughlin  

Where do you have a facility and or brick and mortar location? Where were you holding the camp at?

Sandy Chasen  

So the camp we were at actually the Renaissance Hotel in Boca. But then that changed and we ended up with summer camp building all the way through till summer camp. But then, now that they’re back in full action, they were too busy to keep hosting us there. So I rent space at this Charter School in Boca Raton, which is wonderful because we have access to the host school. Were the only ones on the premises when I host the camp.

Todd McLaughlin  

Wonderful. I am curious…..which charter school are you with?

Sandy Chasen  

It’s called an Olympus Academy.

Todd McLaughlin  

Okay, I was just curious. That’s great. That way you don’t have to have the challenge of holding down like a five year lease on a place.

Sandy Chasen  

Exactly. And I’ve always you know, all the programs, the yoga classes, I’ve been in all the schools, all the facilities, I go in, you know, rent space there and then even the teacher training you know, I come to you guys. So I come for your whole community, you know, to come and share the Ladybug yoga tools with you guys. So it’s wonderful.

Todd McLaughlin  

That’s really cool. I love the idea! I’ve always been thinking about you know how to create a camp like setting during the summer because as you’re familiar in South Florida, we have such a busy winter season because so many folks are in from out of town and then often in summer people are traveling, on vacation, the snowbirds go back up north. And you know, we kind of feel that like, Whoa, boy, it’s summer, how are we going to get through it? You know, and then, right, you’re thinking like, it’d be so cool to have a kids,  yoga camp in the summer. So I’m so excited to hear some of your ideas about how you’re doing it.  Yeah, it’s my pleasure to share. I liked the idea, too, that he said, It sounds like you mentioned that you would bring and then like specialists, like, whether it was martial arts or maybe yeah, dance or so you then kind of outsource to different skill sets to build the excitement of the experience?

Sandy Chasen  

Exactly. So every day they’ll do yoga. Every morning, we always start with yoga. And then yeah, in the afternoon, we’ll include a different specialists to come?

Todd McLaughlin  

How do you, if you have a child that is having a hard time adapting to what’s going on. Like maybe they get dropped off at camp? And there could be any number of different things that would make them either not want to be there? Or having a difficult time? Do you have a couple of skills or things that you do? That you help the childre to transition into the group? Like perhaps some are having a very difficult situation? Do you ever have children that just don’t want to be there?

Sandy Chasen  

I’m actually thinking back to summer camp, because, you know, a lot of the kids had such anxieties, because they were home confined for so long, that they weren’t around other kids, they weren’t out of their home environment that, you know, they have a lot of anxiety from it, coming back into adapting back into the community. So we did have a handful of children who had a lot of anxiety. And, you know, I don’t know if it’s just natural for me to just, you know, support them. And so they feel the love and care and support and that they can be safe. So, you know, they would stay close to me or close to another counselor of mine to just support them, and assist them until they are ready to, you know, leave the nest, just by saying, you know, to talk to other friends more and to start veering on their own around the camp. Yeah, it was actually a big percentage of children struggled with what they went through.

Todd McLaughlin  

Did you notice a shift in their receptivity relatively quickly? Like within a day or within a week? What were some of the observations you had?

Sandy Chasen  

I would say, each day, you would see them flourishing more, it would take I would say about three days, till they were like shining and felt comfortable. And feel like, oh my gosh, I’m a kid again. You know, like, this is great. Having fun and doing like things with other children.

Todd McLaughlin  

Yeah. That’s a good point, I remember my wife and I, well my son is 15 and my daughter’s eight, and when all this was going down, it was, you know, like, when we were in home, we were just like, let’s just try to create as positive environment as much as possible. Even though maybe her and I were stressing out because we were like, “what in the world is going on right now?” On so many levels, but then, you know, we are attempting to try to be solid for them and not have them freak out. But clearly, the parents are freaking out as well. And then obviously, children are feeding off of that. So I just think that’s amazing that you were prepared and ready for utilizing the skills of yoga when all this happened. Like it sounds like you really thought, “let’s think creatively, think outside the box, look for a solution to the problem.” And you really were able to utilize what you already know and love. So it’s like you were really ready for all of this.

Sandy Chasen  

Yeah. And then all the kids to that do yoga. Their consciousness is all about caring and sharing and being kind. You know, we, every class, we talk about positivity and how we treat others. And so it’s also amazing to see in action, the kids that already are comfortable and familiar with what we are doing and set the stage for he new kids that come on, you know, come into the camp or the program. They’re amazingly full of support and just so kind and caring to the children and provide whatever needs they may have.

Todd McLaughlin  

I hear you! That makes me think, what age range are you focusing on?

Sandy Chasen  

So we teach from three and up through elementary, so it’s preschool through elementary school to fifth grade.

Todd McLaughlin  

That’s great. So that’s like ages three to ten. That sound right, three to 10? It makes sense that you would specialize into that particular age group. We had someone that was teaching Mommy and Me classes where you have infants coming in with the moms. Yeah, totally cool to watch. So cute, but then I start thinking about, like, from my teenager’s perspective. There is such a different approcah within each of these age groups. When I think of saying, “come on teenagers, let’s go do yoga,” like all of a sudden, something changed, where it’s like, yoga is not so cool. 🙂 Teenagers start to think, if my mom or dad or into yoga, I’m definitely not doing it. 🙂 Like no way.

Sandy Chasen  

Well do you want to know the secret with the older kids? You teach more of it, an adult class, like a cool class for them. But the secret is to always challenge them. The minute you challenge the older kids, they thrive off of that, like, they just love that. That’s what gets them. 

Todd McLaughlin  

Yep. Whereas with the 3 to 10 age group, how is that different? Are you not necessarily thinking how can I challenge them? What is your main focus when working with this age group?

Sandy Chasen  

Okay, so with the younger children, so I say preschool up to, you can get away with definitely first grade, sometimes second grade, you’re always painting a picture for them. So it’s all about the storytelling, painting the picture as you’re going through the Yoga, you know, whereas then from that point from third grade and up, it then starts, you’re still like painting the picture. But at the same time, you start challenging. So when they’re in a pose, instead of sharing a story or visualization, you’re telling them okay, hold for the count to 10, or hold for 20. At camp the kids loved it you know, throughout the six weeks of camp, with breathing, we continuously every week, got further and further holding our breath. Up to where at the end of camp at six weeks, I was counting to 100. Of course, I counted fast, but they didn’t realize it. You know, so they’d love that challenge. 

Todd McLaughlin  

Do you ever take apprentices? I mean, obviously, you got people working for you. But it’s something where this is purely selfish from my behalf, yet, could I try come down one day and actually see how you do what you do?

Sandy Chasen  

Yes, I would love for you to, you know, we had in the summer CIC’s, that volunteer, you know, and I’m always open to others who want to come and see it in action and help them be a part of this.

Todd McLaughlin  

Okay, that’s cool. That’d be great. I feel like I always learned so much when I actually get a chance to see a program that someone else is running, like in that environment, because it can be overwhelming. You know, when you first a new program, it’s like, what do I do? Where do I start?

Sandy Chasen  

Yes, I’d love you to come see it in action. And as well, that’s why I love on teachable, you know, that it’s online, and it’s all visual, it’s all there in person. It’s my girls are there with a bunch of other friends. You see it in action. So that also helps.

Todd McLaughlin  

Nice. When Tam and I lived in San Diego, and we had a yoga studio out there and we got involved in the Ashtanga yoga community and right before, I want to say this is in around about 2008-2009, someone had gotten together a really great yoga program where they were allowing yoga teachers to go into the public school system and start teaching yoga. And I guess at one point, some of the teachers were using, you know, down dog and up dog, Then there are poses that are called say Hanuman Asana, which is dedicated to Hanuman, who’s a character out of a story in India called the Ramayana. Therefore there were people that were of religious persuasion that had their buttons pushed  because schools are meant to be kept secular. They were fearing the children were being introduced to Hindu culture and/or different religious ideas. And so a lawsuit ensued, and it created a whole bunch of drama and made fairly big headlines. So my question is, how do you navigate the world of respecting different philosophies and/or religious ideas and teach yoga to children?

Sandy Chasen  

So that’s a great question. Because I make it very clear in the training, that we do not incorporate any religious teachings. We teach practical tools for everyday life. We do not chant, we do not, you know, we don’t Om, the music is instrumental, the only thing we will include is namaste, if we’re in a Jewish school or Catholic school that doesn’t even want that to be put in. Then we end by saying peace. And we never say put your hands together in prayer position, we always say put your hands together to your heart center. Yeah, so our program has no religious faith associated. Because, yes, dealing with children and parents. You know, they have been weary especially, you know, we’re going on so many years, where now yoga is becoming more mainstream. But in the beginning, it was still very like, oh, yeah, God, you know, yeah, my kid. No, thank you. But it, you know, that’s why I make it very clear in my training that we leave the religion out. And we’re teaching the basic practical tools for their everyday lives.

Todd McLaughlin  

Yeah, I think that’s great. That makes perfect perfect sense. But I really like that you even brought attention to the languaging. Around, bring your hands together at heart center versus your hands into prayer position, because I’ve never really thought of that. But you’re right, that implies prayer, which could push a button. Yeah. Interesting. Any other things that you’ve noticed around that? I’m just curious? What else do we do in yoga that we assume is okay but maybe is not?

Sandy Chasen  

We have in our section, you will learn hand poses, which are mudras, that we only call them hand poses? You know, so yeah. So we leave out, you know, that aspect as well as all our poses are named after animals or things or, you know, we don’t use the sanskrit names at all.

Todd McLaughlin  

Gotcha. That’s really cool. In terms of, with children, and this is in the realm of alignment, and I know that alignment is just a great just topic of discussion alone. But for example, we have certain methods of yoga that are really interested in trying to set up good alignment for good reasons that will be healthy, and we won’t maybe try poses that are too advanced for us, like, we got to build a good foundation. And then there’s like really specific details like, you know, put your heels on the same line and turn this foot at this anglel. And when you reach your arm above your head, turn your palm this direction, and what role does alignment play in the process of teaching children yoga?

Sandy Chasen  

So that’s another great question. You’re asking all these amazing questions. I love that. Because I’m very particular as well with, you know, what is involved in my classes and with the kids class, you know, because we’re truly building their self esteem up. So they can shine and grow. We do not, you know, correct them. If they’re not perfectly aligned. If you see that there, they could injure themselves, how they’re doing the pose. Yeah, then we will jump in and correct them. Yeah. But however creatively, they’re doing the pose that we’re you know, all in, we just say what a great job they’re doing. We inspire them, we build their self esteem. So that’s when we, you know, we’ll jump in, if we see they can injure themselves. And, you know, in a class, you have all different levels. So you may have, you know, the gymnasts and the dancers, and then you have a child who can’t even get into a half lotus. So the teacher needs to be very aware of each child’s limitation. But we want to challenge them. So with the gymnasts and the dancers will get them to go into a full lotus at the same time a child who can even cross their legs with the knees down, we will get them to go in that cross leg where they’re comfortable, you know, and we will  tell both of them what a great job they’re doing at their level.

Todd McLaughlin  

Yes. Nice. That makes. Yeah, that makes sense. I was just visualizing the juggling act that is going on, in a sense, like you said, with the different range of ability levels are present.

Sandy Chasen  

It becomes more natural as you go on with your practice of teaching.

Todd McLaughlin  

Yes. Nice.

Sandy Chasen  

And it’s important that you’re challenging at each level so that kids can in one second, if they lose their attention, if you’re not continuously moving, flowing, challenging them making that exciting, you’ve lost them, and then that’s a recipe for disaster because then they misbehave and you know. So yeah, it’s beautiful. It’s like a beautiful flow of class. And it goes really fast. Because it’s so much fun.

Todd McLaughlin  

I bet. What are the typical durations of sessions that you’ll hold with kids say, from the 3 to 10 year group? Are you like a 15 minute class? 30 minute?

Sandy Chasen  

Throughout the training, you’ll see I’ve divided it into three groups. So preschool is 30 minutes. So the younger kids, their attention span is 30 minutes. In which that class goes by in a second. Then you have like, the elementary school age, I would say 45 minutes or an hour. You know, really, even though it’s an hour class, you’re only teaching about 45 minutes. By the time they take their shoes and socks off. And you you know, we always do an introductory icebreaker question. For the kids that are shy, you know, it’s beautiful, that they get to share. And that breaks the ice for class. Everyone’s on the same form together and go so those are the three categories 30, 45 or an hour.

Todd McLaughlin  

Yeah, that makes that makes perfect sense. That’s really cool. When you’re working with kids, and you’re, you have all that going on at the same time. As far as being a trainer like you’re, you’re attempting to train other people how to do this? Is that hard or easy for you?

Sandy Chasen  

I love it. I thrive. You know. It’s just like the kids how it’s natural. You know, how inspired they get throughout a class. It’s the same with my training, like my students. They’re sponges and sucking it in and they’re so inspired and excited. And I love that. Kids are a passion of mine. That’s lots of fun.

Todd McLaughlin  

 I’m excited. You lead by example. Obviously you’re getting in there and saying, “this is how you do it.” Follow me.

Sandy Chasen  

Yeah, definitely. You guys become my kid. During the training.

Todd McLaughlin  

That’s cool. You told me a really great story that was amazing with the way that Maya interacted with that child.

Sandy Chasen  

Oh Jada. Jada is my youngest. Maya is my oldest..

Todd McLaughlin  

Can you share any other really cute moments? Something that you’ve seen that just melted your heart?

Sandy Chasen  

Yeah, I love seeing, you know, the sigh breath is our go to breath. You do three sigh breaths. I’ve taught the girls, I’ve instilled it, no matter where you are, what’s going on? You know, you take those three breaths and everything shifts. And my girls. I mean, any time they’re sad, anxious or stressed. They’re, you know, just overwhelmed or they are fighting with each other. Or they’re tired or so cranky. They do their three breaths. And I’m telling you it’s instant. And they feel it and they’re like, ah, like, Yes, I feel better now. You know, and their minds more clear their bodies calmer and so that I love seeing. It never gets old and I think it’s so important.

Todd McLaughlin  

That’s really cool. And you said that you’ve already watched your daughter’s teach a kids yoga class? They kind of grabbed the reigns and gone ahead with it.

Sandy Chasen  

It’s amazing! Yeah. And especially when they were younger, they used to set up their dolls and they would do a Ladybug yoga class for their dolls. And now it’s like they can teach the other kids and they’ve memorized the whole curriculum. They were there for the online training, they were my models in the manual, as well, as, you know, in the live version.

Todd McLaughlin  

That’s really cool. I, you know, when, when my son was young, we took him to India with us, and he would come and practice alongside with us, yet it was early in the morning, so he probably was like, just wanting to sleep anyway. And so we’d bring a yoga mat, a little blanket, and he would just come in and sleep and crash out. We would bring some coloring books. He could relax or choose to practice yoga if he liked.There was a lot of cats and dogs that were, interestingly enough, just kind of mulling around, and when you would go into down dog and the cats would crawl up on you. And it was quite an interesting experience. I feel like, you know, he got fully immersed in that type of thing. It was really amazing. I might have more questions, but I know I have at least one more for you and it’s one that I get from parents often. And it’s it’s how can I inspire my child to practice yoga? They say “I really want my kid to do yoga.” What is some advice that you would give parents that are wanting their children to practice?

Sandy Chasen  

They should take the Ladybug yoga teacher training! They learn and then go home and bring it to their children. The training works because that’s their language training. You know, this curriculum is the kids language. And once they bring in the fun and excitement, you know it, they’ll be hooked in an instant.

Todd McLaughlin  

Awesome. Good answer. I personally am really excited to take the training with you. I can’t wait. I can’t wait for your visit. Is there anything you would like to close with? Any thoughts, feelings? Anything that comes to mind that you could share with us to help close our conversation today?

Sandy Chasen  

Well, I’m just excited to come and share, you know, this beautiful program with you guys to keep sharing it with and to the kids, because that’s been my dream of, you know, just inspiring every child around the world to teach them these tools to help them throughout their lives. So I really appreciate doing this today, as well as hosting me and, you know, getting my dream to become a reality.

Todd McLaughlin  

Awesome, Sandy. Well, I really appreciate you taking time. I was looking forward to this. Thank you so much.

Sandy Chasen  

I appreciate it.

Todd McLaughlin  

I’ll be seeing you soon.

Sandy Chasen  

Okay, sounds good.

Todd McLaughlin  

Take care.

Sandy Chasen  

Bye, Todd.

Todd McLaughlin  

Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed our discussion today. Remember, if you would like to participate in the kids yoga teacher training with Sandy, with the Ladybug yoga program. Go ahead and visit our website nativeyogacenter.com. On the homepage, there’s a link at the bottom that you’ll easily find. And that’s about it my friends. If you have any questions, reach out to me info@nativeyogacenter.com Thanks again and talk to you see you soon.  Native Yoga Toddcast is produced by myself. The theme music is dreamed up by Bryce Allen. If you liked this show, let me know, if there’s room for improvement. I want to hear that too. We are curious to know what you think and what you want more of what I can improve. And if you have ideas for future guests or topics, please send us your thoughts to info@Nativeyogacenter.com. You can find us at nativeyogacenter.com. And hey, if you did like this episode, share it with your friends, rate it and review and join us next time!