As a Yoga teacher, Maeve McCaffrey is both generous and kind. She greets students with a smile when she teaches challenging yet clearly-instructed and well-paced classes. Maeve teaches at YogaWorks and Equinox.
What inspired you to begin teaching yoga?
I was exposed to yoga by my mother, as young as I can remember. But that wasn’t what inspired me to begin teaching, it merely made it familiar. Like most teachers, my desire to teach was born from how it made me feel. I was teaching a lot of intense group fitness classes — think step aerobics and kickboxing — during my final two years of college and my body was wrecked. I started a regular yoga practice to help my aches.
Of course my body felt better, but my mind was truly the beneficiary of my practice. I had an eating disorder at that time, like so many women in college, and in fitness for that matter. The clarity, self-love, and confidence that yoga provided for me was the tool that helped me move forward. This was very profound for me.
During this time, one of the studios where I was teaching offered a yoga teacher training. I love education, so I decided to jump in, not sure of my intention. Then I took another. I still wasn’t teaching yoga, but I was an enthusiast! I was teaching fitness classes at the Federal Reserve corporate fitness center in Boston and the director asked me if I wanted to introduce yoga to my students. That was my first regular yoga class. We all learned together in a way.
I tell new teachers to teach anywhere they can, to anyone they can. It prepares you for more advanced students and it’s infinitely rewarding to pass on knowledge.
How is yoga part of your overall mind-body-spirit fitness regimen?
There are clear physical benefits I attribute to my yoga practice: Finally holding a handstand, becoming stronger in a pose, or for me, gaining more control over loose joints. I used to be very flexible with very little control. I still hyperextend in nearly every joint and I’ve conceded some flexibility in my muscles but I am substantially safer in my body thanks to asana practice.
With that said, I do not approach my practice as my physical workout, even though it can include that. I do fitness workouts most days of the week and in that there are elements of yoga and the end result can feel similar (yoga is everywhere!), but for me they are unique. Yoga is my safe house. The breath. The slow down. The mental playground that happily stills. Quieting to stillness to be more in myself and love that person there.
What keeps you motivated in your classes?
The student-teacher relationship. Without the students, I wouldn’t be a teacher or have classes! What a gift that people show up and want to learn from you. In striving to create a safe space for them to develop and explore, you earn the trust to teach them new poses and concepts and witness a new level of love and self confidence.
I truly love teaching and I show up with an openness for something magical to happen at any moment. Whether it’s being the teacher in someone’s very first yoga class, guiding them through a change in their body (injury, pregnancy) or seeing them bring their friends or family with them to practice together, it is a truly special place to be. Flipping that, I love to be a student and hearing how a teacher explains a pose. How they sequence a class can send me skipping into my next class.
Who or what are some of your inspirations?
There is inspiration everywhere. I love animals. When I say this, I’m aware that I may I sound like a five-year-old and I don’t care. I love watching animals’ capacity for play, love, forgiveness, self care, their general beauty.
In people, I’m inspired by selfless acts, honest speech and kindness. I’ve had some amazing teachers whose love and passion for their subject matter swept me up in their momentum.
What are some of the songs on your current playlist for your own practice?
OM by Hippie Sabotage, Together by Phaeleh, Corners of the Earth by ODESZA, Immrama by Stellamara, Surrender by Purl, Take Off Your Cool by Outkast, Didn’t Cha Know by Erykah Badu, Deathless by Ibeyi.
What is your go-to practice that you do even when you don’t have time for anything else?
Pranayama. I love breathing. I practice everywhere. Dentist, in traffic, seated in private or on a plane. No props needed.
How do you start your day?
My day starts early and it is timed down to the minute. I sneak out of my bedroom by the flashlight on my phone so I don’t wake up my boyfriend, while one of my cats leads the charge to the kitchen and the other one is weaving between my feet as I try to make it down the stairs with my life. I feed them and then make myself tea, eat a small bite. Then I head back upstairs for general self-tidying to get out the door in 30 minutes or less. There is nothing superfluous in my morning routine. I sometimes engage the dream of decadently slow mornings. Someday perhaps, but for now it’s early morning classes and private clients.
What are some of your go-to places in LA when you want to recharge?
Cliche LA answer: The beach. I’ve been in LA nearly 15 years, and the our beaches simply never get old. I also really appreciate being home. After jumping around between classes and clients, I love being in my space with my cats and my man. It feels like a really gratifying exhale.
Where do you go to practice now?
I’m currently five months pregnant and for whatever reason, whether it be desire or schedule, I’ve primarily been practicing solo. When I get to class, it’s usually at YogaWorks.
What is your meditation practice like?
It is daily, even if it’s for five minutes. Sometimes themed like on gratitude or love or simply mindfulness. Other times I use an app or a recording of Yoga Nidra. Heaven.
What advice do you give to beginners?
Practice with lots of teachers and try different styles. You will find a teacher (or a few) and a style (or a few) that resonate with you. Stay open. Listen. Learn. Allow yourself to be a student. Have fun.
Where do you teach?
YogaWorks and Equinox.
More information on Maeve McCaffrey
For more information on Maeve McCaffrey, visit her website: http://www.maevemccaffrey.com
Photo Credits for Maeve McCaffrey
Photo by David Young-Wolff on the Santa Monica Stairs.
Clothing by Spirit Activewear.