I once walked out of my Boston office, and directly into to my doctor’s office, convinced I had a brain tumor. Over the month prior, I would have random dizzy spells, terrified I was going to pass out in a very public and likely dramatic way, probably when I was wearing a skirt. My anxiety was a little demon perched on my shoulder all day, every day, telling me I was likely dying. After a consultation and follow-up appointment, I learned that I was grinding my teeth enough to jack up my inner ear and give myself symptoms of vertigo.
In addition to recommending a night guard to help with the teeth grinding, my doctor recommended stress management for the anxiety – “something like” yoga or meditation.
A quick google search, and I decided to go to the closest class I could find: Jenny Smyth’s compassionate yoga in a dance studio on a Thursday night. When I arrived, I wasn’t sure where the instructor was, until Jenny welcomed me with a big smile and introductions to everyone else in the room. Jenny wasn’t what I expected.
What I expected was a repeat of my yoga experience in Washington, DC. In my twenties, I tried a yoga class with a friend at a somewhat fancy gym. I wish I could say I was hooked immediately – but I wasn’t. The class felt like a competition to see who could be the most zen.
So, while I’d read all the articles about the virtues of yoga, I was skeptical it was for me.
Jenny’s class was totally different from those gym yoga classes. In that first class, Jenny coached us through a position she herself couldn’t do “perfectly” (eagle pose). She joked about not being a skinny-minny yoga pretzel woman. It made my plus-sized-self feel more comfortable about trying things I wasn’t sure I could do – because trying means you can’t be failing Jenny’s class.
In the 6+ years I’ve attended Jenny’s classes, I’ve learned that she used to work in corporate America. She knows the realities of office jobs, the dangers of sitting down so much, and gently reminds us to stretch and move all week – not just in her class. She found her way to yoga because she needed yoga. She learns – and then shares what she is learning with her students.
Jenny approaches yoga not as a workout, but as a journey. Her teachings aren’t just about warrior poses, but about clean eating, new music, running her own studio, meditation and how she interacts with the people around her. She’s using her positivity to raise the vibrations of everyone around her.
I’ve wondered – more than once – if Jenny is psychic, or if she has some mystical training where she watches us all walk in before class and can tell what we need that day. The weeks where I carry stress in my shoulders, we always seem to spend more time in poses focused on our shoulders. When I am feeling the need for a little more fellowship, Jenny seems to talk a little more in class. There is power and inspiration in witnessing someone do what they were clearly meant to do. Sharing yoga is Jenny’s calling.
Jenny tells us we’re wonderful – and because she is wonderful, we believe her. Her classes run long, because she wants to share the joy she finds in yoga with us for as long as she can. When she says namaste at the end of class, she looks each of us in the eye, and means it. Yoga seems to make Jenny come alive, and she encourages each of us to find what makes us come alive, too. And while that go-to Howard Thurman quote can feel like self-help mumbo jumbo, yoga with Jenny is a reminder that we have to look inward before we can see what the world needs.