Connie Habash

Connie Habash

How did you get into teaching yoga? 

It was 1991, and I had been curious about yoga for a couple years but knew little about it. I decided to find a teacher, and surprisingly came upon a flyer for a class that was just down the street from me! The first class completely hooked me.  I loved how I felt and knew right away that I wanted to become a teacher.  Two years later, my teacher began to ask me to sub her classes when she was out of town, and my teaching career began.

How many years have you been teaching, and where can people find your classes?

I’ve been teaching since 1993. While I no longer teach weekly classes, I incorporate yoga into my workshops and retreats throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, and I also have taught yoga philosophy and Sanskrit pronunciation for yoga teachers in 3 yoga teacher trainings – currently at Mind-Body Zone in Fremont, CA, where I have been teaching for almost 10 years.

Tell me about the studio you currently teach at.

I taught in yoga studios in Walnut Creek area for about 7 years, and then on the Peninsula of the San Francisco bay for another 12 years until 2012, when I shifted to more meditation groups, teacher trainings, workshops and retreats. Yoga practice has always been a part of those programs. Now, I lead day-long retreats in Half Moon Bay and Palo Alto, and a weekend retreat at Mount Madonna Center in the fall. I also lead Awakening from Stress and Anxiety workshops that include yoga practice, too. Right now these are the in San Francisco Bay Area, but I will be expanding beyond there soon and offering online courses.

What do you love most about teaching yoga?

Yoga philosophy is one of my passions. It’s the heart of what yoga practice is about, and a way of living yoga in every moment of our lives. My classes have always integrated yoga philosophy and self-awareness into the practice. My psychotherapy practice definitely influences the way I teach, encouraging insight and personal growth on and off the mat.  Likewise, I weave universal spiritual principles from many traditions into my classes from my interfaith background.

What do you love most about practicing yoga and yoga itself?

Over the years, I’ve come to love my solitary practice on the mat even more than being in a class. It’s my own time to go within, become present, and feel what’s happening in my body. Practicing alone is wonderful self-care; I can simply focus on what I need and what is arising for me in the moment.  Self-practice teaches me a lot about what is happening in my mind, too. I can clearly observe what thoughts and emotions arise during those quiet times on the mat, and then bring myself back to being present in the moment.

What is the greatest challenge you have overcome because of yoga?

The skills I have developed in yoga, like mindfulness, pranayama, and the ability to focus my attention on many levels simultaneously has helped me in many other areas, especially in dealing with fear.  I have struggled with a fear of flying for about 15 years and part of why I’ve been successful in overcoming it is not only being able to breathe mindfully, but to practice Isvara Pranidhana, or self-surrender; trusting in the Divine to carry me through a flight. It’s a cornerstone of yoga philosophy that also helped me through surgery and childbirth. Yoga philosophy has supported me through many challenges in my life.

What in your opinion are the greatest health benefits of doing yoga? 

On a physical level, I think one of the greatest health benefits is maintaining flexibility and mobility all over the body. It’s also very empowering to know what to do to rebalance my back when it’s tight, or to help my digestion when it’s sluggish.

Mentally and emotionally, yoga has made a bit impact on my life and with my clients. I learn both on the mat and off how to embrace whatever is, even if it’s uncomfortable. Yoga philosophy has given me great peace of mind. In particular, the practice of Santosha, or contentment, has been so helpful. To aim for contentment in any situation, rather than always trying to find what makes me happy, has brought me inner peace. Yoga philosophy helps tremendously with calming stress and anxiety, and I share that in my book, Awakening from Anxiety.

What advice do you have for people who have never tried yoga?

There’s nothing that you have to do. Everything presented in a class is an opportunity to explore, learn, and grow. No need to force anything. Try what you are able to, and let go of your expectations.  I know that’s easier said than done, but yoga isn’t about performance or “getting somewhere.” It’s about deeply being here, where you are, and finding your joy and aliveness in exactly how this moment is. The poses will come over time – just try to enjoy what’s possible right here, right now.

What tips can you offer for avoiding injuries in yoga and getting the most health benefits out of it?

Your body has wisdom – every cell of it. Learn to listen to it. When you find your mind wanting to keep up with everyone, to push hard, or to compete, try to ease up and pay attention to your physical sensations rather than dictates of the mind. Every cell of your body is intelligent and it communicates through sensation: learning the language of the body and heeding it’s wisdom will help you prevent injury and experience more well-being from the practice.

Anything else you want to share?

I’m delighted to share some of my inspiration from yoga philosophy in my new book, Awakening from Anxiety: A Spiritual Guide to Living a More Calm, Confident, and Courageous Life. It brings together over 25 years as a psychotherapist, yoga teacher, and interfaith minister to help people release and transform stress and anxiety into spiritual awakening. I’m looking forward to bringing the gifts I’ve received from yoga, meditation, and the path of awakening to many more people through the book!