June 2017 Teacher Feature: Ann Panopoulos

Posted By Sarah on May 24, 2017 in News and Deals | 0 comments


Teaching at O2 Since: 2007

Ann’s Thoughts on Half Moon: “I love half moon! It’s the mother of all poses for me, strengthening thighs, ankles, core, and glutes while opening chest, shoulders, hamstrings, and the muscles around the pelvis.  Not to mention there are many fun variations to play with…”

Ann’s Current Teaching Schedule:

SOMERVILLE

7pm Mondays – Power

CAMBRIDGE

7pm Tuesdays – Intermediate

6:30pm Fridays – Rajas Hour

 

Of the lot of us, Ann is the hippie spirit in our midst.  She’s a master hula hooper, the one voted Most Likely to Teach a Stevie Nicks-Themed Goddess class, and used to follow the Grateful Dead.  “Those years offered an amazing lesson in the power of community,” she said.  “In some ways, and on a much smaller scale, this is replicated in the community we have here at O2, which is one of the many things I love about our studio.”

Ann had been practicing yoga since the mid-90’s following a crystal healing session when the therapist suggested she incorporate this discipline into her life as a way to further her lifelong pursuit towards a higher spiritual truth.  She started with an Iyengar practice that she truly enjoyed, but when she wandered by — and then wandered in — O2 Somerville shortly after it first opened in 2001, that’s when she found the yoga she could call “home.”  Ann said, “I grabbed a friend and went to an O2 class and was introduced to Ujjayi breath and vinyasa.  I’m movement-oriented by nature, so I never really caught the yoga buzz with the long holds of Iyengar but was captivated by the concept of linking breath with movement in that first vinyasa class and it quickly became addictive.”

Teaching came down the line for her a few years later in one of our classic “How I started teaching at O2” stories.  In the middle of a divorce, Ann treated herself to O2’s annual trip to Maya Tulum, Mexico, and it was on those glorious, sandy beaches that Mimi talked her into enrolling in that year’s 200-Hour Teacher Training Program.  “I came home from the trip, signed up thinking it would serve as a necessary distraction with no real desire ever to teach.  Along the way, something shifted, as I realized that not only did I enjoy teaching but was good at it, and the rest is history,” she said.  Now in her tenth year teaching at the studios (as well as many times on the Maya Tulum retreat, which she’s attended almost every year), Ann is one of the senior teachers involved in our Teacher Training program, helping to inspire some creativity and balance in our TTs as they learn to sequence O2-style classes.  Hers is one of the stories we often tell to our Teacher Training recruits who are either very certain they will (or very certain they will not) become a teacher at the end of the program — come with an open mind because you never know what core lesson you’ll take away from this in-depth exploration of O2 Yoga.  To Teach or Not to Teach, that is the question for many.  Let the answer surprise you — it surprised Ann in the best possible way, much to the benefit of our entire community.

Any student who’s had the joy of taking class with Ann knows the breadth and depth of her knowledge of applied anatomy, the chakra system, and the mythology of the poses.  Her classes are creative, challenging, awakening, and blissful.  Throw her any request you’ve got — she’s ready for it.  In the words of Stevie Nicks, she rules her life like a bird in flight.  Ann, we are so lucky you landed here with us.  Thanks for being a leader in our community and a mentor to so many of our up-and-coming teachers, not to mention our dedicated students.  O2’s just that much more groovy for it.

 

What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from Mimi?

“Be kind.  Also, Mimi had a profound influence on my decision to become vegan.  By 2012, she had been vegan for a few years, and while sitting on the beach in Tulum (Hmm, there seems to be another Tulum connection here), we were having a discussion about how the dairy industry supports animal cruelty.  She talked about having a vegan challenge at the studio when we got home, and since I had been vegetarian for 14 years at that point, I thought giving up dairy couldn’t be that hard.  When we got home, I found it easy to replace milk and yogurt with alternative options, but wondered if I could survive without cheese.  I have, and it’s been five years without ever, ever, looking back.”

What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from teaching?

“Fully show up and be present.  My professional life [as a clinical social worker and therapist] is spent emitting energy as well as absorbing the energy of others, which can be draining, and there are times when after an especially taxing day at work, I come to the mat distracted and can’t seem to get out of my head.  Teaching is an entirely different experience, as I have to be fully present, and engaged, so in a sense, teaching offers its own kind of therapy.”

What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from one of our other teachers?

“Carol once said that yoga is never perfected and there is always a new challenge.  That concept has always stayed with me.”

What’s your favorite pose to teach?

“I love looking at the shapes of poses and morphing two poses into something new and challenging.  Such as flying lizard. Or as Annie Kiel would say, ‘weird stuff.'”

What’s your favorite pose to do?

“Urdhva Danurasana [Wheel].  It stimulates the nervous system, opens the heart, and its challenge becomes a place to focus and pay attention.”

What’s your “dream pose”?

“Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana [King Pigeon Pose] — touching my foot to my head.  I can do this in my yoga fantasy!”

Do you have a mantra?

“Celebrate your uniqueness and don’t conform.  You are not normal — no one is — and that diversity is the beauty of humanity.”

Do you play music in class?

“I have strong opinion on this, and the answer is a resounding yes! As a guitar player, I’m aware that nothing effects as many areas of the brain as music, and research has shown that music can help us focus more than silence.  Music arose from the devotional practices of ancient cultures, and offers its own therapy in the visceral experience of oneness through rhythm and sound.  I once read a study on how sitar music lowers the level of cortisol in the listener’s blood, so I feel that combining music with yoga can create a sense of reflection, awareness, transcendence, as well as connecting us to something far greater than ourselves.  But the type of music played in class needs to be chosen carefully as it can easily serve as a distraction.  Driving beats increase our heart rate and dopamine levels, which isn’t what we want in a practice designed to elicit relaxation.  However if chosen wisely, music can affect our neurochemistry by telling our bodies to relax while the teacher is telling us to flow, and therefore has the potential to create a pretty powerful experience.”

Anything else you’d like to add?

“I’m passionate about hiking, hooping, and playing guitar…and my other mantra is ‘ask me about my cats.'”

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