FEATURED TEACHER OF THE MONTH
Jaya Gen McDonough
Interview by Dharani Diana Diaz
Jaya Gen McDonough, RYT 200, a certified Accessible Yoga teacher, has a personal practice of 20-plus years and studied with Tao Porchon Lynch, cited as the oldest Yoga teacher in The Guinness Book of World Records.
My training and experience enable me to make Yoga accessible to all, lovingly and compassionately. By removing intimidation and misconceptions about Yoga, I help my students learn asana with clear and careful instruction meant to mitigate fear or injury. My dharma is to encourage students to develop a personalized Yoga practice that they will continue throughout their lives. Students experience immediate positive results, such as calmness and improved flexibility. Long-term effects from a Yoga practice may allow them to manage stress better, breathe better, and move their bodies better. They will also learn meditation in my class. As a result, my Yoga students may enjoy an improved quality of life and a connection between mind, body, and spirit.
What was your individual journey to IYI?
I was exposed to Yoga as a child, as my mother used to practice asana. I started to practice Vinyasa Yoga in my mid-20s at a local studio but always wanted to take classes at IYI. Finally, in 2007, I learned that IYINY was hosting a workshop taught by Tao Porchon Lynch, who at the time was 89 years old. I continued to return to IYI annually for Tao’s workshops and a few others. I’ve always loved IYI because there is real spirituality here, and that is what I was subconsciously searching for. In 2020, the opportunity was presented to me to apply for the 200-hour Teacher Training. I was accepted and received my certificate in August, in the midst of the pandemic. Ours was the first class to be held completely online. It was an excellent and victorious experience.
I’ve taken classes with you online and in person. What do you hope your students will receive from your class?
I hope that students have a safe and personally fulfilling Yoga experience. One of the gifts of our Yoga practice is the ability to deepen our mind-body-spirit connection. It is about “making peace” with the body and the mind. The body is our vehicle in this lifetime, and the mind is what drives it. In our society, we become so preoccupied with thoughts—citta vritti—that we often are not “in” our minds and bodies, and therefore we’re in turmoil. Through our Yoga practice, we can get closer to peacefulness.
One thing I appreciate about your teaching is how you humanize the experience and offer adjustments regularly. What skills, expertise, or experience do you bring to the classes you lead?
Every person is different from other people. That is, the physical body, as well as the psychological and emotional experience, is unique to each person, so I don’t believe in a cookie-cutter approach to Yoga. Some asana will be more difficult for some than for others, but that’s not a reason to quit or beat ourselves up. Rather, we have a good opportunity to work with who we truly are in this body. That can offer a very powerful lesson in self-discovery, which is part of the human experience. Personally, I believe everyone could practice Yoga because as long as we are alive and are breathing we can move the body in conjunction with the breath.
What has helped you through the pandemic?
YOGA (practice), YOGA (training), YOGA (teaching).
My family and friends.
My involvement with Integral Yoga Institute as a teacher and part of the IYI sangha have helped tremendously. Pre-pandemic, I never imagined that I would become a part of this community the way I have, and I’m so happy for it.
What has surprised you about yourself during this pandemic?
That I could pivot my life and finally do what I was put on this earth to do.
What is one of your hidden talents?
I’m pretty intuitive about things. It surprises people sometimes.
Anything else you’d like to share about yourself?
I love to read and do a little writing. I’m an avid cyclist. I have been involved in cat rescues and have recently adopted a kitten. I live in Queens with my boyfriend, who does not practice Yoga but is very supportive. I’ve managed to teach my friends and members of my family Hatha and Chair Yoga, and they love it!