LHC- Hello there and welcome to let's make a health connection. Your local health connect podcast series in Vancouver Washington. In this series we interview and showcase the many healthcare providers and resources that are featured on our website localhealthconnect.com. For those of you who don't know us yet local health connect is a hub where our community can easily search local resources and connect with providers for mind body and spirit health. Thanks for listening today. I'm Jennifer Barber, licensed clinical social worker in Washington and Oregon and I practice right here in Vancouver, Washington
Today I am introducing you to Heather Jolma Fray. She is a student and accompanist of yoga.
HJF- Hi Jen, how are you doing today?
LHC- I'm doing good today. It's a beautiful sunny day and I'm happy to have the time to chat with you here. Thank you so much for making the time to do this I'm really excited to jump in and ask you some questions and have our community get to know you a little more.
HJF- Thanks Jen I'd love to.
LHC- I am just going to jump right in and say what the heck! I'm introducing you as a student an accompanist of yoga and not a teacher, a yoga teacher? So explain that to us...
HJF- Thanks so much Jen. I identified myself as a yoga teacher for 15 years and it was really through covid and the extra time that I got at home to dive deeper into my own yoga practice and considering myself as a yoga teacher really started to come up for me in terms of the training that I had. So if you think about a grapefruit and an orange mixing together you get this beautiful fruit called an ongello. Something like this. So the way that I was taught yoga is a very western style. I got a stamp of approval from an organization called yoga alliance. Yoga Alliance sort of came into the west came into america and became the governing body of deciding who was qualified to be a yoga teacher and who wasn't based on different trainings that they went through here in America and that was all that I knew about when I decided to become a yoga teacher.
There wasn't much talk in my training about the fact that yoga in its truest form and in its honest form was born from hindu people, from the indian diaspora and that this is where that analogy of the orange and the grapefruit start to come together because what I was taught to teach was this beautiful crossbreed of this onjello so it's neither yoga from its traditional roots of Hinduism or Buddhism or taoism. Not Taoism from the indian diaspora noris it western exercise and breathing, it was a blend of the two. And so, what the last year has been for me is about discovering the roots of what i was taught in my yoga alliance certified teacher training program and what I have discovered is that i don't, I wasn't taught yoga from a lineage-based perspective, meaning I am detached in my understanding of yoga from it being a hindu practice. So it's no longer, I feel, correct for me to say that I am a teacher of this really vast, really ancient practice that I literally just know, like imagine me wiping my finger across the Icing, you know a little sliver of icing on this huge cake. That is what I understand is just this tiny sliver of what the practice is now that little bit is fantastic and highly beneficial. But... I don't feel like it's right for me to claim to be a teacher of something that I truly know so little about especially without the stamp of approval, really, of someone who should be giving me that stamp of approval, someone who comes from a hindu tradition. Does that make sense?
LHC- Very much thank you so much and you know what I'm taking from all of that for you personally, is that you are diving deep. Deeper right, yeah. I know you as a pretty deep person and you are taking this and you are really going there.
HJF- It really felt like and you know I had this time to spend doing some studying and I felt like I had this wonderful opportunity that wasn't maybe would have never been afforded to me in terms of time to really do what I wanted to do for hours, several days a week where I wasn't running off to work, taking care of young children and so it started to really feel like a responsibility that I had to be a representative of the practice if i were to call myself a practitioner or a teacher of yoga, I just wanted to do good by that and I appreciate you saying that yes i am going deep. It does feel like that's what it is but there's thisum this sort of quality of honesty and there's a refreshing sense about it, kind of knowing how little I very know and understand and so I'm excited to continue to offer the little bit that I know with the caveat that you know I am not a true representation on one little piece of of my understanding but there is this vast body that is incredibly wise and rich, um and I want to continue to point to that and to point people toward that as myself, i learn more about it as well so great.
LHC- Okay, so for people who are listening to this podcast and we do this podcast to to help people decide and kind of get to know the practitioners here in our local area. So if someone is contemplating maybe changing up their current yoga situation you know they've been with someone for a while and they want to find somebody else, we're giving them an opportunity to really get to know you and decide maybe they want to see you.
So I want you to be able to describe to me, sometimes people are like you know the last thing I want to do is move my body today, right? So, from a yoga perspective, why can it be helpful for us to use our body in yoga?
HJF- Thank you so much for asking this question, because I feel that oftentimes, myself, the last thing I want to do after either scrubbing the toilets or just kind of being in a depressed state and lounging around, one of the last things I often want to do is to get up and move. And, we know scientifically, that when we start to move our body whether it's hopping in the pool for a swim, going out the front door for a walk or standing up to do some stretching the muscles in our body have these incredible hormones that are automatically released into the bloodstream by any sort of simple movement that we do. We also know how it feels, most of us have felt a little endorphin release that we get from taking a jog, from getting our heart rate up by climbing stairs, there's a moment of exhaustion but then we get this kind of little buzz or this feeling of like oh that's all good, and there's this lasting impact of those hormones in the body for several hours after we practice or we exercise that can help change our mind, clear our mind, or give us a better perspective than what lounging can often do. So, I almost always try to imagine how I'm going to feel when I'm done if there is that hesitation to want to move, that's my body that's a motivator for sure. Imagining that you're going to feel really good afterwards, yes, or just trying to remind yourself I'm going to feel different. I could have a different state of mind, simply by moving my body based on the amazing chemistry that's already there. I don't have to ingest anything, you know. I don't have to, I mean I'm not saying that those might not be other good methods, but simply moving my body is oftentimes enough to help me, um, have a new idea or or again kind of change my mind about something, and it can be as simple as as shrugging your shoulders. We're not talking about doing 20 push-ups, we're talking about this experience of becoming embodied, shrugging the shoulders, noticing your arms you know lower arm bones rolling in your arm. There are some really fantastic ways to get to know yourself better that can come with simple movements that help us feel better for longer periods of time.
LHC-... and that leads right really well right into this next question. I'm a little curious about what classes have looked like in this year and a half of the pandemic and as we begin to come out of it. What would a typical class look like, a class or a session with you?
HJF- Thank you, Jen. For the last 14 months since Covid closed the studio and I made the conscious decision to close permanently, the middle of last summer when I realized that things weren't going to be able to be quote unquote normal for some time. So I have been teaching four classes, virtually, each week that are really sweet. They're gentle classes. Some of the time we flow with a little bit more heat. There are times where we can spend 5, 10, 15 minutes sitting and chatting about how we're doing and we almost always rest at the end of class and that is my plan going forward as the weather gets nicer. I have a little spot downtown Vancouver, near officers row where I teach outside under this beautiful tree. But I will for as I prepare to enter nursing school be offering these four virtual classes that anyone can attend and then also offering outdoor classes if the weather is nice one week. Instead of me meeting virtually we'll meet outside so you can expect that to be my schedule for the next four or five months.
LHC- Excellent, okay, thank you. That is excellent and that space that you're talking about down off of Officers row is a gorgeous space, big beautiful park area.
HJF- Yeah we're pretty lucky to have that space and that I don't have to rent it. I don't have to get a permit to go there so we can just show up. It's pretty special.
LHC- Yes, so if somebody were to want to show up for that class how would they sign up for that?
HJF- Yes, yeah thanks so much I have a website that I update weekly. I check email regularly, I get texts and voice messages on my phone and I do some social media. So the best place to figure out where I'm at at any given time is to check my website and I'm sure that when people listen to this podcast they'll see it there. So I have a schedule that's listed on the home page. You can read the description of the class and then it will let you know right there we're meeting outside click here to send me an email and rsvp your place or click here to join the class. There are no pay walls that would prevent someone from being able to attend. If you want to make a donation or pay for class there's that option there but during this time anyone can come to class for any amount. So it's pretty self-explanatory once you get on the website you can sort of see, okay, this is where she'll be. I'm going to click here and let her know that I'm coming or I'm going to click here and join virtually.
LHC- Perfect, and we will put your web address in the show notes at the bottom of the broadcast but um before we do that can you just let people know what your web address is?
HJF- Absolutely it's my full name which is kind of a mouthful even for me to say so it's just Heatherjomafray.com, and again if you're like, wait what is she talking about? I really am only right now seeing maybe 25 or 30 people and when you call or email like it's just me it doesn't go to some you know outside source so you can just call me and say I don't understand i'd like to attend just know that you're just going to get me on the end of whatever correspondence there is and I'm happy to walk you through whatever you want to be walked through.
LHC- Perfect thank you so much. Okay,I am curious, how did you learn about yoga?
HJF- Thanks so much for asking Jen and I sort of alluded to that a little bit and talking about why I no longer call myself a yoga teacher. It's kind of a fun story because I like the memory of it. I had heard about yoga. This was maybe 21 years ago or so and yoga was starting to get popular in the u.s and this was in the late 90s. i had just had my first child and my husband was working at the time in a gym as a personal trainer. And so, you know, as young parents of this little kid we were kind of gym rats. We would just bring our son with us and work out and there was a yoga class at the gym and I became a regular attendant at the yoga class because you know my son could hang out with my husband while he was training and one day the teacher moved away and they just said hey we need someone to teach it and because I was there so regularly, you know, they said you go ahead and teach and that was fine it was simply a routine that I was leading a group of folks through but as I months went by I started thinking about, hey I should actually learn what the heck it is that I'm doing and teaching people I liked it I really enjoyed doing it. I found at that time who I consider my root teacher. She opened a yoga studio in vancouver pretty close to that time her name at the time was Yvonne Ides. She has since changed her name to Sundari Sitaram and she opened the shanti yoga center. So I started taking classes from her, and we were broke at the time, you know, a young couple with a child. So I would clean the bathrooms and mop the floor for her in exchange for attending classes and i didn't really understand it at the time, looking back it was super obvious, but she was starting to kind of, you know, get me ready to begin teaching for her. Her business at the time was growing a lot so she needed more yoga teachers. Her and I had developed a wonderful personal relationship. She trusted me, you know. I came late at night and cleaned I did her money for her and so it was just a matter of time before she asked me to start teaching for her as well. so I had an interesting experience where I had only been practicing yoga for really just a couple of months before I started teaching, so... but for me it was really teaching and practicing. It became, you know, they were sort of one and the same and I kind of I like to think I grew up teaching yoga which it makes sense for where I find myself.. where I'm at now right in so many ways, kind of having the opportunity to go, whoa what was that and and what is it now as I enter my, you know, mid 40s.
LHC- You've come a long way from scrubbing toilets in a yoga studio to teaching and owning a business.
HJF- ... and I mean right..yeah well and when I say that yoga has given me so much in my life it's honestly true. It's given me this um whole kind of quote-unquote career um and you know and opportunities to to be brave when i'd rather be like I'm not ready for that or I don't want to do that so that's kind of when I say I grew up you know in the arms of yoga really you know that's what yoga has done for me.
LHC- Heather you are one of the bravest women I know.
HJF- oh yeah? yeah? Thank you.
LHC- You're feeling it because you are it. You are it...
HJF- ah... so it takes one to no one, right?
LHC- one last question... On your site it says anyone can do a session or class. Anyone. What do you mean when you say anyone?
HJF- i mean folks who may be in a wheelchair, you know like, oh I can't stand, I can't do that? We can modify anything uh it's more challenging honestly it's more challenging if you're Limited, if you're injured if you're unable to move like a quote-unquote you know a person across the street, it is more challenging but the sweetness that comes from it is so lovely. So when I say anyone I mean if you have a heart problem, we can work with that... if you have a frozen shoulder...if you have a tight neck...if you find it difficult to focus... if you don't like staring at a computer screen….a lot of folks will turn off their own camera. I teach primarily audibly, so if you are a person that can listen and can hear has that ability..if you're not a listening person that's that can be a challenge because I'm not a sign language person but I'm interested, like I would be willing to find uh and pay for an interpreter so that we could do a class together. A person who doesn't do much exercise or people always tell me I'm not flexible enough to do yoga and I remind them that's why we do it. You know, we practice sitting down and getting back up so that we become better at sitting down and getting back Up.
LHC- Yeah, so you're focusing on the physical piece and I'm wondering about people who I talk to as a mental health therapist and, you know, occasionally I will suggest a yoga class, um, and I hear things like... oh I'm not going to be perfect at it so I'm not going to do it or... i've had a history of trauma and if I'm quiet the quiet moments are scary, right, so when you say. How would you comfort someone who had that thought?
HJF- Yeah it's such a great question and this is where I sort of say, you know, it may end up being where you're like this is actually not for me and it could be possible that even that is an insight that I don't even want to say necessarily starts healing but that that insight gives power or recognition.Right?.. and it's also true I like a class setting for folks who are feeling a little bit less comfortable because one-on-one can oftentimes be a little bit more intense. It can also be extremely healing. But being in a setting where you know eyes are not only on you and you're not being judged by your movement. Being in a community whether it's when we're outside in person or virtually can sometimes just be like, oh my gosh like it's so easy to feel like I'm the only one who feels this way. I'm the only one who feels uncomfortable in her body. I'm the only one who feels like I can't touch my toes. I'm the only one who's nervous when it gets quiet.
Many of us have those same experiences and so what I might say, for example, is lie down if that's a good choice for you. If it doesn't feel good to lie down, here are two other options. Close your eyes if it feels good to close your eyes and if you don't keep them open but just see if you can let your eyeballs find a spot just out in front of you down near the ground that feels easy to look at. It's through that exploration of what works for me and I'm talking about me as a practitioner or not me as a teacher, right? So my job is to help give a variety of cues that sort of grab our attention in a way and it's that grabbing of the attention that starts to heighten our awareness of the moment. So each time we practice, we're not just going through this routine, you know, that makes us feel better or gets us stronger. It's really about coming into the moment helping the brain remember how to focus on a single point. Especially when that point is your forearm rolling. You know you have two forearm bones in your arm that roll when you move your wrist. What is it like to experience that so it doesn't but again I do, you know, I take a great responsibility and if I say I welcome everybody. I think actually there should be a caveat because it could be true that you say to me this doesn't work. I'm not comfortable and if that ends up being true, hallelujah. Let's move on to plan B. Maybe I could find somebody else that works for you or even give you an exercise to do at home by yourself that you would check in with me and that's also the heart of yoga. That it's about relationships and it's about being flexible with what is.
So we learn how to be in the world in a way where we can start feeling more comfortable to adapt. We can start feeling a little bit more comfortable that I can trust this person or they can trust me and give up ideas that perfection exists. But rather falling in love with that moment where you feel a sense of release or relief and we try our best. You know this to not grab and hold. We try to remind each other that life isn't about, you know, this idea of kind of bliss being 24-7. You know we feel sadness and we feel grief and we are reactive to our trauma and there's also the possibility often that we can feel glimmers of hope and sweetness and in community that we’re not alone.
LHC- Thank you so much Heather. That’s a good place for us to stop. Just that idea of you're not alone.
HJF- Right none of us. Thanks Jen.
LHC - Yeah we're ‘doing this all together
HJF- And if Covid has taught us anything or me personally. I'll speak for myself. It's taught us what it's like to have people that we can show up as we are with you know that we're doing this together.
LHC- Okay. Thank you so much for talking with us today. And people again can find you at... tell us the website again?
HJF- Heatherjolmafray.com. You can also find me at thebreathingroomyoga.com. You can Google the breathing room. That website will be up for a while longer to help direct all of our folks to myself and then finding Julie and Deb. Maybe some people listening here are familiar with them. They were also teachers with me at the Breathing Room. So you can find me at either one of those two websites. The Breathing Room or Heatherjolmafray.com.
LHC- Awesome. Thank you so much, Heather.
HJF- I appreciate it. Thank you, Jen.
LHC- I appreciate you.
HJF- Thanks darling. Bye-bye.
Thank you again for listening to Let's Make a Health Connection. Find us on the interwebs at localhealthconnect.com. Also search for us on Facebook, Instagram and twitter. Links and show notes for this interview are available on our podcast page.
I really enjoy putting these interviews together and I hope you made a health connection.
We'll talk again next time.
Let's Make a Health Connection, copyright 2021, all rights reserved is the exclusive property of MBS Therapy LLC, a Washington-based company. Local Health Connect is inclusive and does not endorse any political or religious group thank you again for listening and we'll see you next time on localhealthconnect.com
By Local Health Connect 5-20-2021