Jessica Whittington has 12 years of yoga experience and prioritizes an open, accessible class environment. We asked Jessica to share her thoughts on all things yoga, from misconceptions to pet peeves, plus a few fun facts that might surprise you. Read on!
About 4.5 years, with a gap in the middle.
How did you get into yoga?
I had a martial arts background in Kung Fu, and I was trying to increase my flexibility. So I tried yoga and I thought, “Oh my gosh, this is really something!” I was amazed at how difficult it was. I thought I was in pretty good shape, but I was humbled very quickly. It’s the only discipline that fully integrates every aspect of you - every element pulls together at the same time. It’s a really beautiful thing that way.
What’s the biggest misconception about yoga that you want to clear up?
Some people think of it as just stretching, or they think you sit around and chant all the time. And it varies - there are 26 different recognized styles internationally and each one is different. That’s why there is a yoga practice for everyone.
What do you wish clients knew about your classes?
The one thing I want them to know is that I truly am comfortable with anybody who comes through the door. I know what it’s like to be apprehensive, especially for someone who is questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity and they feel very trepidatious coming to a class. This space truly is a safe space. If you can breathe, you can do my class, and you can do yoga itself.
What’s the most inspiring part about being a yoga instructor?
Seeing students not just evolve in their practice on the mat, but in their practices off the mat is really satisfying as a teacher. You take your yoga with you. You learn how to endure difficulties and breathe through them. And it’s a very powerful place to be - you’re not expecting or demanding the situation to adapt to make it more comfortable to you, as much as you’re adapting to it.
What’s your biggest yoga etiquette pet peeve?
When someone comes in before class starts and they slam their mat down really loudly on the floor. It very much disrupts the calm environment when people are just settling in.
What’s your favorite pose?
Lately, one of the poses I really like a lot is flying crow. It’s a really neat position because it’s both a hip-opener and a lift-off. I used to think you have to fight your way into it and then I realized you have relax your way into it. That’s the paradox of yoga – the more you relax, the deeper you get.
What’s your preferred superpower?
I’d want the superpower of creating wormholes from place to place without having to travel on the metro or drive my car through traffic.
What was your first concert?
What’s something that might surprise people to learn about you?
I am 6’1’’, so I can sometimes intimidate people in yoga classes because I have a certain physicality and build that can make people think I’m expecting them to do ridiculous advanced work. But I believe in approaching people where they are and being very accessible. I’m very much am okay with someone coming to me and being vulnerable. I’m also pretty irreverent. I take my practice and teaching very seriously, but I don’t take myself that seriously. You might find me wearing some interesting shirts.
What’s your favorite spot in DC?
I’ve always liked DuPont Circle. It feels very authentic DC.
What’s your patronus?
An elephant. They tend to be slower to react to things. If they need to react, it can be very powerful, but usually it’s more controlled. It’s almost like they don’t have to prove themselves. They are gentle giants.
What special purchase are you saving up to buy?
A Wonder Woman leather motorcycle jacket.
What's your life motto?
Be kind. Be aware. Be there.
What’s next for you?
At Freed Bodyworks, I will have a workshop coming up specifically about using yoga to deal with trauma and PTSD. This is based on the emotional/mental side more than they physical side of yoga, so look out for that.
One of the things I’m doing in 2016 to challenge myself is I’m going to work with some of the acrobatic schools in DC to become a teacher in the aerial silks. It’s a totally different discipline but very similar in terms of body control movement. I think it’ll be a really neat challenge.
Is there anything else you want to share?
I think I’m pretty authentic in terms of who I am. I’m very open to telling people that I’m trans. I used to be paralyzed by the idea of passibility, and it becomes paralysis by analysis. That’s why so many people become shut-ins during transition, because they are so afraid of the unknown or being judged or ridiculed, which is still very pervasive, and I totally understand it. Yoga really helped me to be able to deal with that in a healthy way.
***Take a class with Jessica!***