Jen Duggan, Director of Merchandising at The Clymb, has taught many sunrise yoga classes here at the office. Sleepy-eyed employees shuffle through the doors of Clymb HQ way earlier than necessary and, for an hour, the office transforms into a place of total peace. Jen’s calming voice leads us through a morning routine, and all the deadlines, projects, and craziness of the upcoming day takes a backseat as the class focuses on one breathe at a time.
To accompany this yoga collection, we asked Jen to offer you a little bit of the yogi wisdom she offers us on a daily basis. We’ve asked her a few questions about her practice, and got a few tips to improve our own. Here’s what she had to say.
1. How did you first get interested in yoga?
I’ve been doing yoga now for 6 years. I started it right after I ran my first marathon, and came down with a horrible case of plantar fasciitis. It really ended that whole running thing for awhile, so in the interim I started practicing yoga, and it turned out I really liked it. Coming into something that I wasn’t immediately good at put a sense of self-competition in me, which kept me coming back because I was determined to get it. Knowing what I know about yoga today, that’s completely the wrong way to approach it, but nonetheless, that’s what propelled me to keep going. Things like figuring out what style worked best for me, what time of day I liked to do it, and how far I could push my body all kept me motivated.
So, an injury led me to yoga. And during that first year a lot of old injuries came out. From my days playing tennis, to old skiing accidents, all these injuries started to surface and remind me that they were still there in some form or another. If I paid attention, I got the sense that yoga would help me work it out.
2. How did you go from that initial interest in yoga to wanting to become an instructor, and what did that path look like for you?
I found a studio that I really loved, and I connected with the other teachers there, and the owners of the studio, and it was really the owners that put teacher training in my head. Teacher training is a way to further your practice even if you don’t end up teaching. There’s still so much to learn, you can take your practice in a whole new direction and start to understand the philosophy of yoga, dig deep into the roots of its origins, and learn how its progressed in the United States. Then I decided that I really wanted to commit to the intensive 200 hours of practice, and that I really thought it would benefit my life. I was encouraged by a lot of people along the way, and that encouragement made me feel like I was on the right path following a natural calling to teach.
3. How does yoga help you in your day-to-day life?
Oh, so many ways. My practice is typically at 6AM. So I start each day with an intentional act for myself. It is an uninterrupted time where I can come into a space that allows me to be physically active, and helps wake me up. During the practice I typically set an intention. And whether or not I succeed in keeping that intention throughout the day, it’s helpful just to try. Whether it’s calling for more patience, strength, or understanding, it helps set the tone for the day. I just come into my breath, and come to that basic understanding of what it means to be alive. It helps me be present in the moment. So it really sets the tone for my day, and the physical strengthening helps in so many ways.
4. What tips do you have for maintaining your practice even when your schedule gets busy?
Maintaining a good practice is really committing to a routine, whatever that routine may be. Some people really might not like starting at 6AM, so finding a time that is easily adhered to is the best way. Finding a studio that you really like going to, one that’s easy to get to, is important. You need to avoid anything that might produce excuses not to go, whether it’s on the opposite side of time, or if its an aggressive time of day, so basically you just need to make it as easy as possible to fit into your schedule.
I have very recently gotten into home practice, just because of a recent move I’ve been finding it more difficult to get to my usual studio. I’ve been finding that my home practice is really nice. It might be harder for a beginner, because you need to know what you’re looking for and what your body limitations are. A live teacher really helps put you into position in the right way so you don’t hurt yourself. Whether it’s yoga, running, or crossfit, you need to just commit to it and make it a part of your life. If that’s a discipline you want, do it, commit, and just show up knowing it’s ok that some days you won’t be at 100% and that’s ok. Some days you’ll be 110% and other days you’ll be 80%, but you’re doing your practice not to compete with anyone but yourself.
5. Do you feel like becoming an instructor is pivotal to people’s learning process in furthering their practice, and would you recommend that path to everyone?
Part of me says yes, if you’re interested in it then take it to the level that fulfills you the most. I would say that about anything. If you like something, a drive to understand more, take more classes and become a teacher. When you teach you develop a certain level of mastery. That said, I don’t know if everyone wants to take that path or to get up and teach. It takes a huge time commitment, and you have to figure out if it fits into your life long term, or if it’s just a fleeting wish. Part of being a teacher is dedication to your students and being there for them in a mentoring role. There’s also the time you have to give up from your own practice. When I first started teaching I was leading 5–7 classes a week and also working a full-time job. What I found was that I was teaching so much that my own practice was taking the back seat, but that was something I just had to learn how to balance. But yeah, I recommend it to anyone. It’s a great opportunity to stand up in front of a group of people and lead them.
6. What is the one thing you are most excited about for the future of your yoga practice?
I’m most excited that this is something I can do for the rest of my life. It has infinite potential because of how many varieties there are, and in the true yogi world, your yoga practice is measured in decades. With that, I’m only an infant. In a way, I’m finding that the more I practice the less I know because there’s so much to it. The ultimate path of a yogi is to achieve that place of enlightenment. I have no idea if that’s in my path, but the ability to think that I can rest in a place of presence and peace is very motivating. The idea that i can inspire others to live this lifestyle can truly change the world, and before yoga I’d say I never thought of myself as an overly optimistic person but I definitely believe that there is a place where we can get to that is peaceful once we recognize and appreciate life, the world, and practicing yoga is a way to that.