The Hot Room Leadership Institute provides opportunities for dedicated practitioners to be trained to teach the modalities offered at The Hot Room, gain a deeper understanding of their personal yoga practice, and cultivate the skills to be a powerful leader in their community. The Hot Room Leadership Institute Scholarship for People of Color is a full-tuition scholarship opportunity that is open to any self-identified POC who would like to deepen their yoga practice and gain the skills necessary to lead inspiring and powerful classes in their community.
We asked Sarah McManus, one of our 2020 Fall Hot Power Vinyasa scholarship recipients, a few questions about her experience and her why behind her decision to become a yoga instructor.
Why did you enroll in the training?
I enrolled in this leadership training because I needed to make a positive change in my life. I was at a point where I had a lot of “stuck” energy, and I wanted an opportunity to continue working on my personal and professional development. I started practicing more regularly this past summer and began to get more involved in The Hot Room community. Because of this, I gained confidence in my yoga practice and could see myself as a teacher. As I got to know the teachers and staff at The Hot Room, I loved their positive and welcoming energy. I felt like this training could help me channel that “stuckness” into something more productive and powerful.
What compelled you to apply for The Hot Room Leadership Institute’s People of Color Scholarship?
When I first read the description of the scholarship, I had two thoughts: First, I noticed that there are not a lot of Asian Americans represented in the yoga space, especially here in Indianapolis. Historically, Asian Americans are overlooked as the model minority, and I have always wanted to eradicate that stereotype through my leadership development. Second, as I considered the level of accessibility of yoga to underserved populations, I realized that I was in a position to bring this practice to others. I am a high school English teacher and know firsthand the impact this past year has had on my students; because of that, I thought that the training could complement my skills as an educator.
How has your practice changed since the start of your training?
One of the most meaningful tools that I have learned from this training is to do the inquiry work about myself. In terms of the physical practice, I never realized how limited I was on my mat. I used to be too prideful to ask for help with a certain pose, and I didn’t know how to create functional alignment in my own body. I had to shift my focus from looking for what is wrong to looking for what is possible. What would happen if I twisted my rib cage more toward the ceiling? How could I access more if I tent my fingers on a block during half moon? Now that I’ve created more possibilities within myself, I like to think about how I can up-level my practice during each class I take. Another important takeaway that I learned is that asana is only one layer to the complexity of yoga.
This training has challenged me to think about my way of being. I’ve been in inquiry about areas in my life where I might be inhibited or challenged and how I show up in the world. While yoga may seem to start on my mat, it is everywhere: my breath, my mindset, my ability to connect with others, and my ability to connect with myself.
What advice would give future trainees?
Do the homework. You learn a lot of information during the training sessions, and the facilitator team has a plethora of knowledge to share. The true transformation, however, occurs when you walk out of the room and apply those concepts to your own life. Everyone has their own learning process and journey and some things might click faster than others. The breakthroughs that you have on your mat are powerful but the breakthroughs off of your mat are what make this practice so transformative.
As part of your training, you were assigned a final service project. Share about your project and what you will do.
My final project is to create an after-school program to bring a vinyasa program to my school. Many of my students have endured multiple traumas from this past year including the pandemic, institutional racism, food insecurity, violence, and the instability of virtual learning. Because of this, I want to bring these practices to my school community. I’ve started incorporating breathing exercises and fun stretching postures into my classes as brain breaks, but I’m excited about the idea of what a regular yoga practice could give my students.
Additionally, I want to expand the practice of yoga to support educators. Mental and physical health are two components of wellness that can be difficult for teachers to balance—especially those who are new to the classroom. This past school year has been so inconsistent with a lot of stress and change as schools try to navigate virtual, hybrid, and in-person learning, so it’s important to me that teachers are recognized and respected.
What is one big takeaway from your leadership training?
Yoga means “to yoke” or “to unite.” This is one of the first things we learned during our first training weekend. At first, I thought it meant everyone practicing in a room together. However, unity can come in a variety of forms. It’s the friendships that I have developed with the other trainees and the connections that I’ve made with the facilitators. It’s holding each other accountable when we’re struggling or hesitant. It’s practicing together and learning from one another. It’s understanding yourself and treating yourself with the same grace that you’d give to anyone else. Yoga has taken on a new meaning for me, and this leadership training has reinforced all of these facets in my practice and in my life.
Anything else you would like to add?
I am so grateful that Hye Jin and Ashish created this opportunity to diversify the image of a yoga teacher. It is inspiring to see two Asian Americans as successful business owners who have the impact to build such a strong community. Never underestimate the power of representation.