Teacher of the Month: Jennifer Brilliant


In the honor of the launch of y4c in Brooklyn, we sat down with Jennifer Brillant to learn more about her practice, motivation & classes.  To learn more about her y4c classes, click here.

Q: What originally inspired you to be a yoga teacher?

A: Teaching yoga is a continuation of my love of working with the body. I was a professional dancer for many years, and eventually began to teach dance. Then I realized that teaching yoga would open up the possibilities of who I could teach because anyone can do yoga.

Q: What inspired you to teach yoga for cancer survivors?

A: The first motivation for getting involved with Y4C was losing my mother many years ago to breast cancer. Then recently another close family member was diagnosed with breast cancer. She has undergone treatment and is currently doing very well. Finally, knowing Tari and the amazing impact she has made on the lives of settled it for me.

Q: How do you bring your own teaching elements into the y4c classroom?

A: I think (and hope) that experience has made me sensitive to people in difficult situations. I bring my passion for yoga and a gentleness to balance it to the y4c class.

Q: Has y4c training/teaching impacted you in any unexpected ways?

A: When I signed up for the training, I was not intending to teach. I wanted the general knowledge to improve my teaching. But within the first hour, it was clear to me that teaching y4c classes was something that I must do. During the intro circle, I realized what a huge influence this work had on people and I wanted to be part of that.

Q: What is your favorite asana and why?

A: How can a mother choose between her children which is her favorite? I love Warrior 2. I like doing balance poses. Seated poses are great. And I must do shoulder opening.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I am honored to be working with Tari and 6 other amazing teachers on the Master Y4C Teacher Pilot Program. We are learning, writing, watching each other teach, offering/receiving feedback and talking about Y4C. I am committed to supporting the expansion of the work that Tari has created.

I am still working on my New Years resolutions: meditating and marketing.

I am also a Mom with a regular teaching schedule and enjoy singing once a week with the Brooklyn Community Chorus.

Jennifer Brilliant teaches a weekly y4c class at her studio, Jennifer Brilliant Yoga, in Park Slope, Brooklyn Thursdays at 5:45pm. Click here

Eric Pettigrew – Teacher of the Month

Eric Pettigrew first fell in love with yoga in 1998, and as a dancer, noticed how practicing asana engaged his body in completely new ways. Within a month, he’d enrolled in a teacher-training program at OM Yoga Center, in New York, and has been teaching yoga ever since. He also practices at various studios near his Greenport, NY home, often following the likes of Rodnee Yee and Colleen Saidman at Yoga Shanti, and Claire Jannuzzie and Heidi Fokine at The Giving Room. “I believe it is important for yoga teachers to practice amongst each other, as we can always learn new approaches to instruction we had not thought of before,” Pettigrew says.

In 2009, while finishing his last year of study in homeopathic medicine, Pettigrew happened upon Tari Prinster’s yoga for cancer survivors. “My practice changed over the years and my teaching changed with it,” he says. “Yoga has moved from a more athletic approach to one focusing on the gentle restorative qualities that can benefit those who suffer from physical limitations and injuries.”

And yoga for cancer survivors falls right in line. “I wish this knowledge of yoga that is now more accessible to cancer survivors would become a standard part of any program or institution geared towards healing,” Pettigrew says.

Of course, he is doing his part. Here he answers a few questions for us:

1) What do you love most about working with cancer survivors?

Giving cancer survivors a sense of empowerment is beneficial in physical, emotional, and spiritual ways that reciprocate to me. I bask in the afterglow of their achievement. It also helps me engage with others in a more compassionate way on a daily basis. The sense of community we generate in the studio is awesome: Through the open forum of the class, the students develop stronger relationships with themselves, their bodies, and with others who have walked similar paths.

2) What has the work taught you?

The work has taught me the importance of being present and connected to life, regardless of the limitations and pain we may encounter. It doesn’t take much to bring relief in progress towards health.

3) What are your goals for your work and what’s next?

In teaching yoga to cancer survivors facilitated with the Fighting Chance organization, I see that most of the students who participate are women, and I would love to see the practice extend to the male community. I want to create a venue to include all who have been affected by cancer. Tari and I have been discussing the development of “Partner Yoga,” a class that would bring both the cancer survivor as well as their partner/caregivers, to experience the benefits of yoga together. Even if they have not experienced cancer within their bodies, the effects of the disease spread to them, as well.

4) What is your favorite asana?

Supta Baddha Konasana: Reclining Bound Angle Pose with a blanket rolled underneath the spine. In this pose the head is supported along with the thighs, allowing the hips and heart to open in a gentle and relaxed way.

Supta Baddha Konasana: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/663

For more information on Eric Pettigrew and his schedule, please visit his website: www.holisticlifeworks.com

For information on Fighting Chance, a nonprofit organization that facilitates services for those affected by cancer, please visit http://www.fightingchance.org/

Amy Dara Hochberg – Teacher of the Month

Five Questions for Amy Dara Hochberg, E-RYT 500, Y4C, BSHS, MS-HPM

Amy Dara Hochberg is more than just a yoga instructor; she’s a testament to survival and overcoming adversity. She had been studying to be a doctor of physical therapy, and was forced to withdraw from school due to a hearing loss she’s had since she was a toddler. “If I were 15 years younger, I likely would have pursued a lawsuit,” she says. “At this point in my life, I needed to get back into the workforce. I returned to teaching yoga full-time. Now, I apply my six years’ worth of academic knowledge through yogic modalities and lead by authentic example.”

Hochberg teaches yoga and yoga for cancer survivors in Washington, D.C. She counts New York City as her hometown (since “…that’s where (she) resided the longest,”) and also spent significant amounts of time in San Francisco, London, Catalonia (Spain) and Israel. Please visit her blog at www.amydara.com and find her on Facebook at her “Yoga with Amy Dara” page.

1) How did you come to be a yoga instructor?
Yoga formed an integral part of the childhood gymnastics classes I attended starting when I was four years old! I was hit by a car in my mid-20s, and several teachers at Integral Yoga Institute guided me to a complete recovery. This therapeutic experience reinforced my interest in yoga. Later, I received my first teaching certification with Alan Finger (ISHTA Yoga) and Lisa and Charles Matkin, in 1999. I then trained with OM Yoga Center for the Advanced Certification in 2001, studied Restorative Yoga with Judith Lasater and Roger Cole in 2003, Prenatal Yoga with Bec Conant in 2010, and was finally able to register with the Yoga Alliance as an E-RYT 500 thanks to OM Yoga’s 300-hour program in 2011.

2) What inspired you to specialize in teaching yoga to cancer survivors?
I took Tari’s first OM Yoga for Women Cancer Survivors Teacher Training in 2009. Over the years, women cancer survivors consulted me as a teacher with a therapeutics background. Although I had academic knowledge of the pathophysiology and treatments of cancer, I had been questioning myself regarding an appropriate yoga practice for this particular group. Tari’s course provided me with the missing pieces, so I could help the women cancer survivors in the Washington, D.C. area.

3) What is your favorite part of teaching yoga to cancer survivors?
The amazing students. I frequently wonder who teaches whom!

4) What is your favorite asana and why?
There are two: Titibhasana (firefly), which balances grounding and lightness, and Stonehenge, a restorative pose that relieves my legs and feet after a long typical 4-class day of teaching yoga.

5) What’s next on your horizon?
I look forward to creating a strong network of D.C. area Y4C teachers with regularly scheduled classes at multiple locations through the week. My Yoga for Women Cancer Survivors classes are Sundays 12pm-1pm at Circle Yoga and Fridays 6:30pm-7:30pm at Lil’ Omm, both in the Upper Northwest section of Washington, D.C. My students and I are deeply grateful to Tari Prinster for her devotion to yoga as a vital healing modality.

Nancy Adams – Teacher of the Month

Photo by Dan Bishop

I recently caught up with Milwaukee-based yoga instructor Nancy Adams, who participated in my Yoga for Cancer Survivors teacher training, last June, and my advanced training, in February. Nancy is a retired family therapist and has been teaching yoga for those who’ve been touched by cancer at the Elmbrook hospital, in Brookfield, Wisconsin, twice per week on a volunteer basis. Please read what she had to say and prepare to be inspired!

What inspired you to teach yoga for cancer survivors?
I thought, “If I teach, that would be another way to learn.” I decided to do the cancer teacher training, and I wanted to do it yet didn’t know why. I felt compelled.
I haven’t had cancer myself, but many of my dear women friends had, and I thought it was something I could do.

Do you bring your own elements to class and if so, what are they?
I do some chanting, and I always give the option of using therapeutic oils. People love that part of the class. Yesterday I used Young Living’s Citrus Fresh. I just place a drop on the students’ palms, or put it on the crown of their head to bring in inspiration. I’ll tell them to imagine golden rays of joy and sunshine filling them, or the green of spring, and they love it.

I also do mudras as a centering part of the practice. It takes me a long time to think about my classes and prepare them, and I like to create a little theme for each; a spiritual theme. Yesterday my theme was Springtime and I link that as Tari does to cancer. For example, yesterday when I did bridge pose, I did three variations and talked about the bridge between one life (before diagnosis) and the next life (treatment) and the next bridge (beginning treatment and finishing treatment) and finally the bridge to a new life. It’s about focusing on the asana and what it means to a survivor. It’s challenging to think about and it deepens my own practice, too; my experience of the yoga.

What is your favorite yoga pose?
I’m interested in restorative poses and want to learn more about them. But I would say one of my favorites is the Staff of Brahma. (Click here for a version.)

What do you find most rewarding about your class?
The best thing about this from my perspective is the community that it’s built. Any type of critical illness can be so isolating and so lonely, and the people who come to my classes are crazy about one another. One woman brought her scarves for another woman who lost her hair. They encourage each other to take their wigs off during class. They’re a community and the support they have for one another is the best.