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5 Qs w/Hope Wills, the "Eclectic Yogini"

Interviewed by Amanda Veith

Next stop on our 100 Yogi roadtrip is Hope Wills. Hope is a native Houstonian who has lived all over the lone star state as well as Brooklyn and Nashville. It took me about 10 seconds to understand why Hope has such a loyal following. Something in her voice is both strong and calming -- forthright. I got the sense that this is a woman with a very clear vision. Her authenticity and sense of humor came out immediately. In my mind, miles away in Wisconsin, we were already fast friends.

Yours too (I), Hope? :)

Larry, who has known Hope for years and is partnering with her on the Starry Sky Mountain Retreat in Colorado this summer, only confirmed my first impression.

“Hope is not your Instagram garden variety yoga instructor. She’s about as close to the real deal as it gets. It’s hard to leave one of her classes without feeling wholesome and grounded. She’s meticulous with her class planning. Her sequencing and playlists are flawless.”

Hope refers to herself as an "eclectic yogini" and draws from her early experiences practicing with Ashtanga, Anusara, and Jivamukti-trained teachers. However, her practice is also heavily influenced by her recent Hatha Yoga and meditation study in India which she credits for her a shift in her overall style. Her home practice is a slow flow practice with more emphasis on the breath and attention to the movement between the asanas rather than the number or difficulty of the asanas she incorporates. "I know it sounds corny, but I teach from my heart - and I believe in being completely vulnerable about where I am in my own practice and my shortcomings on an off the mat. AND… I don’t take my practice too seriously. I laugh at myself ALL THE TIME!"

One last thing I love love love about Hope is that she’s both a yoga instructor AND a special ed school educator. Talk about someone who is giving back to the universe! If you read our previous interview with Larry, you might sense a growing discussion about the positive synergy between K-12 education and yoga (students and teachers alike). So on that note, let’s get to our first question...

Amanda: Hi Hope. It is really great to meet you virtually and I am thrilled to be joining you for the retreat this summer. What an inspired concept you came up with...

Ok, so let's get started...

How do you feel your high school experience would have been different had your teachers been yoga-certified?

Hope: I attended a high school with a high level of academic pressure and NO extracurricular activities - except those tied to academics. If my teachers had been yoga certified, I’m pretty sure that high school would have been much more enjoyable and far less stressful. Plus it’s likely I would have learned some self-regulation strategies that may have prevented the crash and burn I experienced my first year of college.

Amanda: I agree. A little learned self-regulation and meditation would have been a huge benefit going into college...for me and some others (you know who you are).;)

Amanda: How has your background as a yoga instructor influenced your school teaching style?

Hope: Regarding my school teaching style, the impact has been HUGE! Just like when students come to a yoga studio to practice, they show up in the best way they can, my elementary students do so at school. I work with students identified as learning disabled so each day brings it’s own rewards and challenges. My kiddos do the best they can in front of me, but get frustrated because they don’t remember something...or continue to struggle after years of intervention that doesn’t seem to make them learn faster or feel better. I’ve realized that breathing, making the most of each moment I have with my students, and nurturing their fragile egos is the most important work I can do. Make sense?

Amanda: I really can't imagine a better background and foundation for those kids than your yoga practice and what it brings into the classroom. They are really fortunate.

Amanda: Can you tell us about a particular “a-ha” yoga moment that led to a major breakthrough in your practice?

Hope: Hmmm. I wish I could say there was an a-ha moment, but there wasn't. I was lucky to practice and learn from amazing teachers fairly early in my yoga life. They were down to earth folks who were honest about where they were in their own practice - on and off the mat. That being said, I think every day of yoga practice I have has had a built in “aha moment” - even when I first started practicing at Crunch in NYC - there was always something new and positive that I took away from the day. Most importantly, I learned that practicing yoga makes me happy.

Amanda: And that's all that matters...

Amanda: Do you have a guilty pleasure you’d like to share with us to prove that Yogis are people too?

Oh, geez! I’m completely hooked on sugar and Starbucks coffee. Give me a soy skinny vanilla latte and a vegan chocolate chip cookie and I’m in heaven!

Amanda: Yum! You guys ARE human! :)

Amanda: Is there a movie, book or song that has stuck with you recently? Larry mentioned you have outstanding playlists for your classes ...

Hope: I love downtempo music and just about a week ago Bonobo released a new album - Migration. Give it a listen, it’s really beautiful.

Since I’m a school teacher, I read a ton of young adult books. One of my all time favorites is Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. A story of a young girl who survived the attack on Hiroshima only to learn 9 years later she has leukemia. Her story of determination and quest for peace in the world is timeless.

Amanda: Those both sound amazing...

Amanda: What’s a misconception non-yoga practitioners have about yoga that bothers or entertains you?

Hope: I’ve got to think about this one. It’s hard to articulate...

Amanda: Ok - How about this question instead?

What is one question or topic you’d be genuinely interested in exploring with other yogis?

Wow! First of all, there are SO many questions I do/would love to ask other yogis but the one that keeps coming up is: So often in yoga we hear the phrase, “Practice and all is coming” - I believe it’s Pattabhi Jois - but what does that mean to you in terms of your practice and your life?

So, if I may... what does "Practice and all is coming" mean to you?

I don’t think the “all is coming” refers to a specific pose or length of time I can meditate. I think it is that whatever you practice - really practice and not just in the yoga studio - is going to grow. For example, if my studio yoga practice emphasizes mindfulness but then I walk out onto the street and I mindlessly drive, eat, engage with others, that’s what is coming - more mindlessness. Conversely, if I take the compassion I cultivate in the yoga studio and am conscious about employing compassion when stuck in traffic, when talking to others at work, or even toward my cat - then there will naturally be more compassion in my life. In a nutshell, practice and all is coming (to me) simply means that we manifest what we put out into the world, not the crazy pretzel pose we get into on the mat.

Amanda: Wow, I am going to set my intention on "all is coming" later today in class and see what that brings me. Thank you, Hope, for the great conversation and insight into your unique yoga life. See you in Colorado!

Hope: Thanks Amanda

Amanda: Namaste

Hope: Namaste

Hope Wills is a native Houstonian. You can join Hope and Larry Thraen at their Starry Sky Mountain Yoga Retreat in historic Westcliffe, Colorado this June. To Learn more about Hope, her schedule and the retreat visit: www.texasyogini.com.

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