Interview with a Yogi: Carmen Shaffer

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Carmen Shaffer is the owner and one of the instructors at Main Street Yoga in Bloomington, IL. She found yoga after dealing with some personal issues and used it to help relax and center her mind. Interviewing Carmen was incredibly inspirational to me and I hope you feel the same after reading what she had to say!

How did you find the first 101 class you tried?

“I have no idea. I was downtown a lot, maybe I walked by the space. They used to have a shop downstairs and maybe I walked into the shop and signed up or something. I honestly have no idea.”

How do you keep your daily practice motivated?

“You find a time that works best for you. My ideal time is usually about 2:00 in the afternoon. You have to be really honest with yourself and really honest with where you’re lazy. Don’t try to make sense of it, you just say this is the time that works for me. Also, having the space. If you have to move furniture to set up, it’s so much harder. Just embrace your laziness. I know that sounds really counterproductive, but we will come up with every reason in the book not to practice. Minimize what those excuses are.”

Who is your biggest inspiration in yoga?

“Absolutely everybody else. Yogis are not the people who inspire me. The people that inspire me to practice yoga, are people like you, people who I see no a daily basis. The people who are teachers and practice, I definitely get a lot out of them and they are inspiring in their own sense. But since I feel like yoga is a lifestyle, I feel like my yoga is best practiced out in the world among people I don’t know very well. Being peaceful towards people you have absolutely no frame of reference around.”

How does yoga affect the rest of your life (diet, relationships, etc)?

“I definitely think about that. I grew up on a farm and we butchered our own chickens, we butchered a lot of our own meat. I grew up on a self-sustainable farm. I kind of struggle with the diet part. Plus, I was in hospitality and I bar tended for over 10 years. So it’s like I know I shouldn’t have this glass of wine but…I’m going to. I would say I have a similar relationship with my food as anyone wanting to go on a diet, but there are different elements that make me feel guilty at times. Which is my own thing which I am still working on.

One of the hardest things I have learned over the past year is that my biggest adversaries are my biggest teachers. I have a strong personality, and I can very easily make people mad. I’ve been trying to let things go and not let things sit on me. I’m not a grudge holder, but sometimes when things tend to trend it’s hard to ignore it. So creating that awareness and really educating yourself on the yamas and the niyamas, doing a lot of training, reading from teachers that you respect. All of those things have helped me put it down, and not hold on to stuff. I don’t know that it’s made me happier but I think it’s created space in my mind and body.”

What is your favorite pose?

“Postures tend to bring up different things for people so my favorite pose tends to migrate. I’ve been really loving warrior 1 and a low lunge. I like the strength in warrior postures. I always fall back into sun salutations.”

What tips do you have for beginning yogis?

“Don’t think that there is one place to start. You start where you are, you start with who you are and you give yourself permission to be and change. You want to challenge yourself some days, some days you want to educate, some days you want to read as part of your practice. None of it is wrong. Try to accept the fact that it is a journey with no destination. You’ll have ‘aha!’ moments and everything will be a little clearer but it’s a journey, it’s very much about the progress. You might never do dancer but that doesn’t make you any less of a yogi. Everybody comes from a different place but there’s a searching, there’s a curiosity.”

Thank you so much Carmen for agreeing to be interviewed!

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