Oct. 1, 2014 04:51 PM

Rachel Hector returns home to cultivate a generation of yoga instructors.

Rachel Hector returns home to cultivate a generation of yoga instructors. By Walter Pierce

Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014

 
Rachel Hector  

Yoga is here to stay. Once a fad that gained popularity alongside transcendental meditation in the hippy-trippy '70s, the mind-body exercise practice is becoming an alternative to traditional fitness programs among an ever-growing population in the United States. And here in Lafayette, yoga is poised to become ubiquitous, thanks in no small part to Rachel Hector.

A 33-year-old Lafayette native who is completing her doctoral in yoga-related research at the University of Texas-Austin, Hector will begin leading classes in mid October centered around teaching others how to teach yoga. She will be, literally, an instructor of instructors.

"Yoga has proven itself to be beyond fad status. The last numbers I saw showed that over 20 million people practice yoga in the USA and about a million more join up each year. It's pretty staggering," says Hector, a 1999 alumna of Lafayette High who also attended UL Lafayette as an undergrad. "This means that we as a community need a lot more well-trained professionals. And they need to be able to serve everybody, not just the young and fit crowd.

"That's where this training comes in. It is very much a labor of love for me and the co-owner, Ana Pilar Cruz. We both started teaching in 2001 and have spent thousands of hours training teachers for other programs. The program we created benefits from all of our combined experience, and it is really tailored to individual needs and yoga styles. Also, she and I are like yin and yang. She is all about giving people a really powerful yoga experience, and I'm the detail-oriented one making sure no one gets hurt."

Which begs the question: Is yoga dangerous?

"It really depends on what yoga you are doing, why you are doing it, and how much you're paying attention," Hector says. "No one ever said that yoga is about flexibility, but that is what everyone heard. Students who are more mobile than strong run the risk of overuse injuries and joint instability due to repeated unsupported movement beyond the normal range and, unfortunately, a lot of yoga poses that are done in public classes require the body to bend in a way that is outside the normal range."

The emphasis in yoga, Hector adds, isn't in accelerating the heart rate as with aerobic exercise. But the poses can create stress on the body, although the overall long-term benefit of helping maintain range of motion in major joints far outweighs the short-term risk of pulling a muscle.

Hector says she has wanted to train yoga instructors in Lafayette for years but her hometown just wasn't ready for it. "I started asking around a few years ago, but interest in Lafayette wasn't quite there. In the late spring, Red Lerille's offered us a space. Training weekends are long, and Red's is perfect for that: endless parking, places to purchase healthy food, clean bathrooms and lots of props in the yoga room."

Hector notes that prospective yoga instructors who want to take the course don't need to be members of Red's. The course comprises 180 hours in class (noon-6:30 p.m. on Saturdays and 9 a.m.-noon/1 p.m.-6:30 p.m. on Sundays) and an additional 20 hours outside class for practice teaching and homework beginning Oct. 11 and running into June.

That makes for some pretty intense weekends - quite a stretch, natch, for someone who wasn't introduced to yoga until her teens and didn't really want to do yoga in the first place.

"I really came to yoga from a place of depression," Hector admits. "I honestly can't even say that I enjoyed it at the time, but it was the only thing that really made me feel whole. I'd go to class, kicking and screaming, and leave a little more put together each time."

By the time she was 20, Hector knew she wanted to be a yoga instructor, and she says there are benefits to learning to be an instructor that extend beyond simply taking classes with an instructor.

"Well, there is the whole bit about if you want to master something, teach it, which is definitely true of yoga, but there's a lot more to teacher training," says the self-described introvert. "The magic that happens from spending lots of low-pressure time with like-minded people is unparalleled. Plus, everyone is learning something new, which is also rare for adults. Most of us are content experts, learning creates vulnerability and breaks old habits. It is not unusual for people in the training to make large life changes as a result of the program - you know, stuff they've always wanted to do or change but couldn't take the leap."

"Teaching yoga is like doing yoga on the next level," Hector adds. "Focus and being present are really important to practice, but it is easy to think about dinner or tomorrow when you're participating in a class; I do it all the time. But when you teach, your mind changes; it's similar to that feeling of flow' that athletes experience. You're in it. You have to talk, help the students, design the class, walk around, watch the clock and cultivate an experience all at once. You don't have time to think about dinner. It's a high and a little-known secret: Often your yoga teacher leaves the room more blissed out than you."


Zingara Yoga
Teacher Training
Saturdays-Sundays, October-June
Red Lerille's
$3,200 up front or $425/month
To register log on to www.ZingaraYoga.com or email zingarayoga@gmail.com
or call (512) 297-4195