For Amy Armstrong, a yoga teacher at Yoga Bhoga in Portland, Oregon, the best part of her job is sharing yoga with other people. “I love watching my students move, breathe and get more comfortable with themselves,” she said.
Armstrong knows the benefits of yoga from personal experience. The practice has been integral in her becoming comfortable in her own skin and improving her self-confidence.
This impact became even more integral after Armstrong had her first child. “The transition to motherhood is intense for any woman, and I experienced the added stress of a traumatic birth and my newborn son being almost immediately diagnosed with a developmental disability,” she said. “The experience impacted my body and my mind profoundly, and by extension altered my relationship to yoga, how I relate to students, how I relate to myself.”
Armstrong explained prior to her first child’s birth, she had absorbed a lot of ideas from yoga culture that weren’t rooted in true principles of yoga philosophy. Today, Armstrong is trained in Integrated Movement Therapy (IMT), a yoga therapy method with an emphasis on spiritual work and learning clinical techniques. IMT therapists are asked to do intense and thorough self-study, to break down layers of assumptions and social conditioning.
“There is no limit to who can practice,” said Armstrong. “You don’t have to have a certain ability, body type, history or background. Yoga is as inclusive as we make it, and I bring that belief into every class. Does the language I use communicate self-acceptance and connection, or does it make a student feel they don’t measure up or don’t belong? These are things I think about every single time I teach.”
On the clinical side, Armstrong has spent a great deal of time studying neuroanatomy, stress physiology and sensory processing. “While I don’t talk about these things overtly in group yoga classes, my understanding of the brain’s role in how we experience our bodies and our world permeates how I do my work,” she said.
Sometimes, Armstrong wonders why she does what she does. But then she receives a card or email from a student saying how yoga has transformed their life. “And then I remember why yoga matters, and I feel so grateful to have had even a tiny part in that student’s journey,” she said.