Healing Charlotte Podcast: Susan Hughes, Finding Your Yoga Home

Today’s discussion is with Susan Hughes, a 500-hour teacher focused on Therapeutic Yoga. The two provide information on different types of Yoga, hands-on assisting, finding a teacher, and other topics to help you find your Yoga home. Susan’s advice when starting your journey is to try different studios and notice how the space makes you feel.

“You get a feeling right away I feel like when you go someplace that feels like home to you. You meet teachers who feel like they have the same interests as you, you feel comfortable in that location physically and with the people that are there.”

Levels of Exertion for Styles

Power – This is a strengths based class, that includes even more flow than a vinyasa and students will usually end up very sweaty at the end of class as this is one of the more athletic styles.

Vinyasa(Flow) – Will move faster and links one breath per movement. It’s more athletic but not necessarily more advanced. The teacher will offer modifications and variations(helps make the pose more accessible for your body), and the flow is sequenced around “sun salutations.” Classes typically start with breath and centering, on to a warmup, moving into the flow where the heart rate increases, next to the cool down, and them some stretching at the end.

Basics or Beginner – Typically for beginners or anyone wanted to break down each shape for their body. The purpose is for people to learn and be able to get into poses safely. The class pace is usually really slow and may include workshopping poses or a theme. The student will learn about engagement and modifications/variations. This class is not necessarily gentle.

Gentle – This class will not have a flow state and is more athletic. Will usually explore the 6 movements of the spine(forward and back bends, twisting, lateral stretches), many poses will be from the floor with less overall exertion, and will move slowly in between shapes.

Yin(Deep Stretch is similar and different) – All poses will be on the ground and will use many props(blankets, blocks, bolsters) to hold poses for 3-5 minutes where the student will get into a meditative state. The props are to hold the body up so that it can get into a state of not totally relaxed but not totally pushing/activating. Works to help put the fascia back into place.

Restorative – Will use even more props(blankets, blocks, bolsters, eye covers, chairs) to hold the body up in a position of comfort and relaxation. In this class, there are no demands or exertion and will include a few poses. Poses are typically held anywhere from 5-7 minutes up to 20 minutes or more. The student will be able to get into a deeper state of relaxation and meditative. The classes may be warm, dark, still, and quiet.

Therapeutic – Typically done one-on-one with a highly trained teacher who will complete a whole-human reading including the injury or ailment the student entered with and will explore sleep, social support, past traumas, a spiritual practice, etc. The teacher will put all the pieces together to help the student heal.

Trauma-Sensitive – The purpose of this class is to create an environment that is as safe as possible for someone who has experienced trauma to heal. Not necessarily the only place to heal from them but an important one. The classes may not include any hands-on assisting, will offer options for poses and ways to make the poses as accessible as possible. Helps to create more interoception(noticing sensations in the body) so that the student can take good care of themself. Teachers trained in this can also help the student reframe relationships they will practice boundary setting, autonomy, and being seen in a space.

Susan and Katie discuss some other aspects of Yoga including:

Sanksrit – This is the language of Yoga. Each poses has a Sanskrit name. Some teachers will use this in class and most likely will use the English translation as well.

Safety – You can hurt yourself in Yoga and especially with repetitive motion if not done mindfully. Everyone’s bone structures are different and it’s important for a teacher to be highly trained to understand this.

Hands-On Assisting – May happen in Yoga class. The purpose of these generally speaking are for safety reasons as well as help the student deepen their experience. It’s good to know that they are not usually to correct you in a pose. Touch can be healing but sometimes it doesn’t feel safe to students. This is why it’s important to know if the teacher provides hands-on assisting and if they ask permission each time. It gives the student autonomy and choice.

Most Yoga teachers are 200-hour certified which means they have graduated from a Registered Yoga School through Yoga Alliance and have the basic knowledge of teaching Yoga. Some teachers go through an additional 300-hour program to become 500-hour certified which means they have completed more specialized training and have taken a deeper dive with understanding Yoga. During her 300-hour program, Susan recognized her passion was to help give students their power back in a yoga class.

“Giving the power back to the student is teaching them that trauma-sensitive way in an effort to let the student know that it doesn’t matter what I say, it doesn’t matter if I want your foot here and you put it here. If you are getting the experience out of the posture, you’re doing Yoga. If you’re with your breath and you are moving, you are doing Yoga.”

Katie and Susan agree that when choosing a Yoga Instructor, students look for a teacher who is at least 200-hour certified. A 500-hour certification or specialization in that style is even better. Make sure your teacher has been practicing awhile and notice how you feel in the space with that person.

Susan and Katie met at Noda Yoga when they were going through Bella Vita Yoga Teacher Training. Susan loves that she has always been recognized and acknowledged by name at Noda Yoga. The physical space is comforting to her and she appreciates Jillian’s dedication to accessible yoga. Accessible means that the space offers Yoga that everyone can participate in, the use of props, and attend to the socio-economic status of all students. Both agree that the variety of styles offered is amazing. Katie thinks the experience the teachers have is unmatched in the city.

Lastly, do you have to be flexible to do Yoga? Absolutely not! It can increase flexibility and that may not even be the intention of starting a Yoga practice.

“I think that the accessibility like representing the broad spectrum of types of people that there are in the world via our teachers and making the studio a welcoming place to every type of person is part of what makes it home for me.”

You can join Susan for a class through the Noda Yoga website or book a private session through her Instagram page.