Rachel Swanson, a Chicago-based creativity coach and yoga instructor, takes us with her on her journey from "weird yoga" to trauma-informed yoga certification. We talk about post-partum depression, Kundalini yoga, body neutrality, and creative classrooms.
This is a special Christmas Eve release (because you have a long drive ahead or a chill day without any new podcasts).
Rachel 0:00 Hello, my name is Rachel Swanson. And my favorite thing is doing embodied yoga practice.
Announcer 0:08 Welcome to the Finding Favorites Podcast, where we explore your favorite things without using an algorithm. Here's your host, Leah Jones.
Leah Jones 0:20 Welcome to Finding Favorites. This is the podcast where we learn about people's favorite things and we get recommendations without using an algorithm. Tonight, it's a late night. It's not late, it's just *dark* like it's super late. It is 8:30 on a Monday and I'm like it's midnight, we're cozy. I'm here tonight with Rachel Swanson. She's a creativity coach, she works on Creative Technology Solutions. She works with schools and businesses to develop high impact uses of technology and helps people be more creative, efficient, meaningful work. She does one-on-one coaching, creativity jams, visual storytelling. We were introduced by my friend Amy Guth, which means that Rachel is a good person from the get-go. Rachel, how are you doing tonight?
Rachel 1:15 I am doing so well. I also am feeling the cold, dark, November weather, but I'm doing very well.
Leah Jones 1:26 Yeah, I think -- did it snow today? Did snow for you, today?
Rachel 1:30 I think it did.
Leah Jones 1:32 I looked outside briefly and I was like, "Do I need to clean my glasses? Or is it snow?"
Rachel 1:39 Yeah, it was a sad moment for me, but I'm adjusting slowly.
Leah Jones 1:44 How was your fall then? Do you get into spooky season, are you a Halloween person?
Rachel 1:50 So , I am a Halloween person, now. As a child, we weren't allowed to celebrate Halloween. So I'm making up for lost time by just going full-on for Halloween -- matching costumes for my family, really getting into all of the spookiness, the witchiness, you know, just the full pendulum swing from my upbringing.
Leah Jones 2:15 What were your matching costumes this year?
Rachel 2:16 This year, my two sons were Mario and Luigi, and my partner and I were the two sides of a Switch controller.
Leah Jones 2:25 Oh my gosh, that's so clever.
Rachel 2:30 We wanted to give the illusion that we were in control, even though that's rarely the rarely the case.
Leah Jones 2:36 How old are your boys?
Rachel 2:36 They're eight and two ... almost three.
Leah Jones 2:42 Very fun ages. All I know is that we both know Amy, how do you know Amy?
Rachel 2:50 So Amy and I met because we were doing yoga teacher training together. And I saw her in the room and she has such dynamic, wonderful energy. And I was like, "I need to know that woman." And we became friends over the course of our six months or so of weekend trainings. And, I was not wrong, she's one of my favorites, for sure.
Leah Jones 3:16 Yeah, she is. She's a blast. We met doing comedy many years ago. Many, many years ago, we went to the same open mics.
Rachel 3:26 I could see that. Yeah, that sounds like Amy.
Leah Jones 3:29 And then we ran into each other at synagogue a few years later, and I was like, "Wait, don't I know you from the Tequila Roadhouse?"
Rachel 3:35 [laughter] I wish that could be how everyone knows me.
Leah Jones 3:44 Just from the Tequila Roadhouse, it was a wild, little bar in Old Town a million years ago. And do you teach yoga?
Rachel 4:03 Yes, occasionally, but I really took the yoga class, because I wanted to become better at doing yoga. And I like to understand how things work. And I just loved yoga, which is exactly what I was planning to talk about tonight. So it's the perfect segue. But I decided that I wanted to stretch myself and get certified to be able to teach.
Leah Jones 4:29 Interesting. Well, we'll just jump right into it. And if we circle back on other chit chat, it's great.
Leah Jones 4:44 One of the things I like to know, are people's origin stories. So when did you take your first yoga class or when did it like cross your radar as something you might want to do?
Rachel 4:57 So the honest truth is that I hated yoga for a really long time. took a couple of yoga classes at various studios, and it felt like a sort of thing that I should like, kind of like eating healthy. And you know, like doing the right thing. It also felt like something that was for other people, and not for me. As a child, I enjoyed doing some physical activity, I danced in jazz dance classes. And as I got older, I wasn't really into organized sports, I didn't really like working out that much. And it was kind of a revelation that I could enjoy moving my body in any kind of way, because that just generally hadn't been a positive experience for me. PE class was the bane of my existence. I took it as an independent study in high school. And that meant that I just basically had to write about PE and pretend that I was doing the workouts. Yeah, so it's pretty great.
Leah Jones 6:02 [laughter] Like, I designed a special workout for myself called laun -- do stair stepping --which looks a lot like doing the laundry.
Rachel 6:14 I probably walked like, you know, a mile today, maybe?
Leah Jones 6:21 I hear you on that. I think probably the first time I went to yoga, it was kind of the equivalent of like brussel sprouts or broccoli? Like, yeah, I know, stretching is good. But it's such an intimidating activity.
Rachel 6:45 Yes. So, I am in a body that is not small. And that's always been the case, but especially as I've gotten older and had children, it also feels like yoga has been inaccessible for fat bodies. So I just stayed away from it, because every yoga teacher, I would go to was very skinny, and could bend her leg, you know, around her head several times. And I have a stomach. So when I fold forward, it doesn't fold the same way. Sitting on my knees is different, everything feels different in a fat body. And when you're only getting instructions from someone whose body is very different from yours, it can feel incredibly intimidating.
Leah Jones 7:32 Yeah. And someone who's only ever been in a thin body -- is really hard to take instruction from them.
Rachel 7:42 Exactly. Yes. Yeah. Yes. Yes.
Leah Jones 7:46 So did you find a teacher who was heavier? At what moment did you say -- what was the a-ha or the crescendo, maybe it wasn't a moment -- where you found yourself in a class that made it accessible to you and your body, or gave you the vision that it could become accessible to you?
Rachel 8:12 So I had my first son, and I had had postpartum depression. And yeah, after having my first son, and it was really hard for me to reconnect to my body after that experience. And then, I'd had several medical issues that meant that I had a whole year of surgeries. And so it really was hard for -- even more so then, when you're in pain, and it's chronic pain, the dissociation from your body is easy to do. For me, I just lived in my head, because it was too painful to live in my body. And I was in the recovery process, and one of my friends invited me to go to a yoga class with her. I was like, "Girl, I just don't want to." If I'm going to work out, it was like things that would be like weight lifting weights or something that made me feel powerful and strong.
Rachel 9:21 And you know, she's like, "Look, it's really weird yoga, I can't even really explain it to you, but I think you'll enjoy it, you should just come." And this is the like the true testament of my care for this friend, that I showed up to really weird yoga. She didn't remember the name of it. Eventually, I did find out that it was called Kundalini yoga, and that was kind of irrelevant the night that I went. So I went to this class, the teacher, her name was Karampal Kaur and I still take classes with her, she's wonderful.
Rachel 9:21 And the class is a little bit different from a traditional like Vinyasa yoga class, because Vinyasa you're moving from pose to pose, it's very much about a flow. Kundalini is about creating energy and working that energy up your spine. And so, there's bursts of intensity, and then you have times of rest, and just sitting and meditating. So I did this class, and it was totally weird. And also, it was a revelation. I remember thinking to myself, "How come no one's ever taught me how to pray with my body before?"
Leah Jones 10:40 Yeah, oooh, that's beautiful.
Rachel 10:42 It was just powerful, and I felt -- people talk about embodied living and embodied experiences -- I felt like I had moved from my head into my body. Like I was like sinking into my body again, after years of disconnection. It was such a powerful experience for me.
Leah Jones 11:06 Wow. And just that first class was that powerful?
Rachel 11:10 Just that first class was that powerful. And after the class, the teacher came up, and I was like, "What's going on? Like, I don't really understand what this yoga is." We did some chanting, that felt super weird. And I wasn't sure how I felt about that. And the teacher was so kind, and made everything accessible and talked through everything we had done, and kind of explained the science about it. Which I'm a pretty cerebral person, as we've already established, and so that was really helpful to me. Invited us to come back, and at the end of class, every class, you sit and drink a cup of hot yogi tea. And so I did -- which, that too, is kind of goes against all of my warning bells, which is like "Ding, ding ding -- new people, weird people? I don't know?" But I did it, I did it.
Leah Jones 12:04 You had your tea, you chanted.
Rachel 12:06 All the things, that I would definitely have side-eyed if somebody else had told me about it. And from there, I kept going, I went about once a week, for a really long time. Because it just felt so amazing in my body, and it was this totally different embodied experience.
Leah Jones 12:33 And was that teacher pretty good about making adjustments for people with different bodies?
Rachel 12:40 Yes, so she's really wonderful because she is incredibly accommodating of all sorts of body experiences, and is a trauma-informed practitioner. And so, she's even aware of how different poses might be difficult for survivors of sexual abuse, or how different poses would be challenging for people of different kinds of bodies. One of the things that she would consistently say in class ,and still does, is "Whatever is accessible in your body today." And I love that phrase, because yeah, it's every day is different. Some days, I can do some poses, and some days, I can't, because sometimes things are accessible on my body, and sometimes they aren't. And it's a it's a fluid thing. It's not like, "if you can't do that," which is how things had been phrased before, " Like, you're gonna sit like this. If you can't do that, maybe try this," is a very different conversation.
Leah Jones 13:41 Go to the corner, do Child's Pose, and wait until you can rejoin the class .... Yeah, I think I've been to that.
Rachel 13:55 I think I've been *only* that yoga class prior to this experience. Where it was just like, "inhale, exhale," and I was like, getting angrier and angrier, the longer the class is going. Like, I'm supposed to be feeling some sort of inner peace, and mostly, I'm just feeling inner resentment and anger.
Leah Jones 14:13 Yeah, not great, not great. Yeah, we have something that we say at my synagogue for certain prayers, where it's like "Rise in body *or* spirit." You know, like as you're able. And I think it's really important to help people learn to honor what their bodies can do on a particular day. And that days look may look different.
Rachel 14:38 And they do, and what is accessible in a body is always different. And there's also a conversation about -- she'll say, "If this isn't accessible to you today, just visualize yourself doing the pose, and you'll still get the benefits of the pose." And that's powerful, too and it's true. When you look at the science of it, our brains are so powerful and can create bodily experiences for us, even if we're not moving our body, so it checks out from a scientific standpoint. And it's also making the whole class so much more accessible.
Leah Jones 15:18 Right? I mean, now that you say it, it makes sense to me because I, the only team sport I did -- I did two team sports, I guess in high school, like I was on the swim team for one year, and then I was in marching band, which I consider a team sport -- we were always in the locker room, visualizing our races. Always, "You're on the starting block, how does it feel, you hear the buzzer, you hit the water, you go in smooth, you take your first stroke." And so, in that one year of competitive swimming, we always visualized the race and winning the race, before we got in the water. But, I've never heard anyone in an exercise class, say, visualize yourself doing this. And that really speaks to me, that's really interesting.
Rachel 16:16 It is. And visualization is such a powerful tool, it's something I use in my coaching work too, because if we can imagine it, then we can start to create it and put it into our reality.
Leah Jones 16:38 When for you -- did it go, so you're studying Kundalini with her? Did you branch out and try other teachers? Or what does exploring yoga start to look like for you?
Rachel 16:53 I did, I branched out, I tried other teachers and tried other classes. And then, I also tried other kinds of yoga. So it wasn't just this class, or this kind of yoga. And the permission I had to be able to do the Kundalini Yoga, gave me the confidence to do other things. So, I think there was a shift happening in me, at the same time that this was going on, from "I'm not the kind of person who can do yoga, I'm not the kind of -- my body is not the kind of body that can do this." And I think for me, my story also included a lot of limiting thoughts of -- "I will be able to accomplish business success, when I lose 50 pounds. I will be able to have another baby, when I lose 50 pounds. I will be able to do whatever thing it is, I'm going to be able to do all of that at some future date, magical future date when my body is acceptable and good and right."
Rachel 18:01 And I started to have this shift in me, which is, "Why am I waiting to start my life? Why am I living a life that's halfway there, for some distant point that is not even guaranteed to me?" And when I started going to the yoga class, I started embodying my body. I had this awakening in my body of, "My body is good. My body is good. My body has done incredible things. My body has survived incredible things. I can stop waiting, I can stop waiting to start my life, and I can just live my life." So, that opened up all kinds of things. Because when you stop waiting for permission from some external force, and you're just like I'm going to just go and do the things that I want to do, and other people can feel however they want about a fat person walking around in yoga clothes doing yoga, --that's their deal. That's not my deal. And it really has changed everything in my life.
Leah Jones 19:17 Yeah, I have found -- a few years ago, I was preparing for a hysterectomy, and so I went to Pilates for like six months before the surgery. Because I was like, "I know I need stronger core, a stronger core will help the surgery." And then I was like, "Oh my gosh, even though I'm tall and fat, and in a big body, I have Pilates." I went to this amazing studio where they were -- I wrote them before I went and I was like, "No weight loss talk, no body, no summer body, no bikini body talk -- this is the body I have, and like body neutrality, or I'm not coming in. I'm not motivated by being yelled at."
Leah Jones 20:08 And they were phenomenal. It was mind, body, maybe it was Mind, Body, Spirit. And they've since closed shop and now there's a new Pilates studio a couple blocks away from me, but everyone there trained with the woman I had been seeing. And so, now I'm currently being treated for breast cancer, and they've been doing research to figure out how to make a safe Pilates practice for me, that'll help with like, lymphatic drainage. How can I keep my body strong, like go through this, but that's not about, like pink ribbons, warrior stuff, because that's not the experience I'm here for. So, it's so important to find the teachers that can make the space for our bodies, and then to get comfortable taking the space our bodies take, you know, like not to be made small anymore.
Rachel 21:05 Yes. That you have permission to take up space. And when I was like, "I have permission to exist in a body that weighs 260 pounds, I do. I have permission to exist in that body, and to live the life I want to live in that body, and to be loved in this body and to be whole in this body, and not need to be constantly shrinking myself." And what happened, for me, anyway, is then it bleeds out into other areas of your life. Where for me, it was like, "Oh, well, I'm going to take up more space at my job. And I'm going to take up more space in my relationships with other people. Because I have permission to be big and bold and confident and loud, and take up space."
Leah Jones 21:56 Yep. Did your coaching business come after yoga?
Rachel 22:01 The coaching business came after yoga, yes. I, I think what's also been powerful is that the coaching business -- so that was always something that I had thought about doing. I started as a public school teacher in Chicago Public Schools and went on to do coaching in schools for other people. And, I had this desire to work for myself, have my own business, be an entrepreneur, be my own boss. And it was scary to let go of some of the ties to the security that comes with a job that pays you every two weeks, no matter what.
Leah Jones 22:50 Direct deposit is a beautiful thing.
Rachel 22:56 Yes, and necessary. And a lot of times, like, you know, thinking about health things and wanting health insurance, and as someone who's had her fair share of health issues, that's a non-negotiable for me, things like that. So, what happened is over time, I started to take little steps to build a client base while working another job. And people started -- so it turns out that when you bring your light and confidence and bigness and boldness into the world, people are like, "Hey, what's going on for you? Talk to me, I want to know what juice are you drinking? Like, I want to drink the juice, too."
Rachel 23:37 And I'm like, "Yeah, it's this crazy thing where I just gave myself permission to show up to live my life. That's all it is. You don't have to pay money for it. Nobody, you know, I stopped waiting for someone else's approval." And so I started building that on the side. And then it was probably four or five years and then eventually had enough business that I quit my day job and my side hustle became my day job.
Leah Jones 24:11 So exciting. And where in that did you did you go to the yogurt -- yogurt training -- see, yoga training? When did you learn how to make your own yoga ?s
Rachel 24:25 I will say, though, isn't yogurt the kind of thing that you would think yoga people eat?
Leah Jones 24:31 Yes, of course they do.
Rachel 24:35 Like yogurt commercials are just yoga people. I don't like yogurt, either, for the record. I won't eat it. Okay, so then I think it was -- it was before the pandemic -- so it would have been in 2019 that we started. And my teacher, Karampal had been saying that they were going to have the yoga teacher training at the studio. And immediately it was like, "I want to do that." And I thought that teacher training was going to be, maybe I'll have to quit my job. I don't know. But I'm gonna go, I'm gonna do this teacher training.
Rachel 25:18 And also, I still, I was signing up to do the class, it was on weekends, one weekend, a month for six months. And as I was signing up -- you apply -- and I was like, "They're not going to accept me because I'm too fat." Like, I was sure of it. I was so certain that -- everything was cool, it's cool to go to the studio -- but there's still that like, limiting voice. So the teacher would just call everybody just to check in and be like, "Hey, you applied and let's talk," and she was like, "Hey, Rach, you applied. Talk to me about your interests." I'm like, "I've really been wanting to -- " She's just like, "Great! Okay, so here's the payment ..." but there's no talk, no talk about my body. This is not an issue for anyone, but for me. So I was like, "Oh, okay." So we started doing the yoga teacher training and got through almost all of it, and then we had the lovely global pandemic.
Leah Jones 26:24 I remember the pandemic, like it was still ongoing and part of our lives forever and ever. Did you find that the the training helped you with the cerebral side of it? Did it get real, like technical anatomy stuff? What did you learn in teacher training?
Rachel 26:49 Yes, it helped a lot with the cerebral side of the classes in understanding the science behind the poses, understanding the history of the yoga, understanding the anatomy, and the different the different systems of anatomy, which is really involved when you're talking about yoga. Also understanding some of the logistics if we were wanting to teach, and what we had to consider, in having a class of people and how we could create classes that were safe for all bodies, and all cultures, and all experiences of people that might be coming to our class.
Leah Jones 27:32 So was this everything from liability insurance and finances through to what the words that come out of your mouth?
Rachel 27:45 It kind of was. And there were some like lifestyle stuff that I was like, "I'm not doing that." People would. I come from a Fundamentalist background as a child, and I am really wary of fundamentalism, and all of its many forms that it shows up in in life. And so I was like, "I am not trading one kind of fundamentalism for another. So you keep your yogic lifestyle to yourself, and I'm just here for the extracurriculars." [laughter]
Leah Jones 28:21 Amazing.
Rachel 28:22 I mean, but I appreciated knowing about it.
Leah Jones 28:29 Can we talk about what are some of the things you do to make yoga work for your body?
Rachel 28:35 Definitely. So I am, I am a big proponent of using props at any point. So, whether that's straps to make a post more accessible, or blocks ... there was one class where a woman actually brought me a block in the middle, which I was like, "Should I be offended? I don't know if I'm offended." But it was actually just really nice, because I clearly couldn't do the pose. And she was getting a block for herself, and she just grabbed one for me too. And, it was really sweet. And blocks to make the pose -- to make the angles work out, because so much of yoga is about angles and having the right angles. And I realize I don't have to be in a lot of pain in the poses. The poses can become much more accessible if I'm willing to use some of those props and the tools that are there for that very reason. It also was helpful to me to realize that there were ways in which -- there are poses that I could do that people in smaller bodies didn't have access to, there were poses that --
Leah Jones 29:46 -- ha-HA! Like what, like what can we do? What do we get to do that the little people can't do?
Rachel 29:56 [laughter] I'm amazed at the number of people that really -- their hips are really tight, and so when they get into just an easy pose, you know, with your legs kind of crossed, a lot of people's legs kind of go or their their knees go up really high, and they use blocks to prop and support their knees, because that's an uncomfortable position for them. And I can cross my legs all day, every day. So I was like, great.
Leah Jones 30:22 Yeah, I can, I can still do crisscross applesauce or, or butterfly pose, right? It's such a nice stretch. I mean, my legs go to sleep. I can't do it all day, because I do get those tingly legs. But I can get into them.
Rachel 30:41 I also have found that there's, for me, I have a little bit of -- if someone else isn't doing a pose, like if I'm in class, and a skinny person isn't doing a pose, it's like, oh, they must be going through something that they're just breathing or it's whatever. And in my mind, if a fat person is in class and not doing a pose, it's cause they're incapable of doing that pose, or they're lazy, or there's some sort of whatever it is, that is stigma there.
Rachel 31:11 And so, I remember, I had been doing yoga for a long time. And I would just work so hard in the classes, because you know, I was representing every fat person everywhere, right doing yoga? And there was this one class, I just really wasn't feeling it. And I sat, I just sat down at one of the poses, an easy pose. And I was like, "I have permission to not do, too. I don't have to prove anything." And that was an experience that came after several years of doing yoga. Where I gave myself permission to actually be responsive to what was happening in my body instead of, again, that external message and the external voices of how I felt like I should be.
Leah Jones 31:58 The idea that if you slowed down, then all fat people are lazy.
Rachel 32:03 Exactly.
Leah Jones 32:04 Yeah, yeah. I feel that -- I feel that when I'm, like buying groceries or eating food in public, I'm like, "Oh, do people want to see a fat woman eat a hamburger?". You know, like, what does this say about about us, to everyone?
Rachel 32:20 It's just proving someone's point. I'm like, I'll just eat the hamburger at home. I'll eat a salad while I'm out in public. Yeah, that's bullshit. But it's in my head.
Leah Jones 32:29 Total bullshit. Yeah, it's some of that stuff to get that you have to overcome. We can't all be women laughing with salads.
Rachel 32:39 Yeah. You know, what are those salads saying that's so funny?
Leah Jones 32:44 Nothing. It's the waiter who dropped off the salad that said something funny. Tried to take it away from them before they were done -- no, this is my public salad."
Rachel 32:54 Wish someone would. [laughter]
Leah Jones 33:05 What did pandemic yoga look like for you? So were you like a studio person who then had to create a home practice, or did you always have a home practice?
Rachel 33:15 I was a studio person that had to create a home practice. Some of the home practice, I would practice some at home. And also, that was not my preferred, it still isn't my preferred way to practice. And I went into that moment of like, "It's probably -- you're probably better if you do yoga in the morning, first thing." You know, I have, again, fake stories that I create in my head. And without fail, my child, my son, who's almost three now, but at the time was maybe about one [year old] -- I would get up, I would start my yoga, I'd be like in some sort of meditational bliss. That's kind of a lie. But you know, I'd be trying to get in the meditational bliss, and my son would wake up. I'd be like, "See, it just isn't meant to be, this isn't supposed to happen." [laughter]
Rachel 34:08 So, early pandemic, I actually had like a major mental health breakdown. And I was freaking out because of the pandemic. I am someone who deals with anxiety, anyway. You know, see also: postpartum. And so at that point, I was having a really hard time calming my body down. And so it was helpful to have some of these yoga tools. And also, I went and got on Zoloft. And I think that's a really important thing to talk about, which is that I think that people, everyone should have access to all of the tools available to them to be healthy. And for me, that's yoga and essential oils and you know, crystals and cards and all the things and Zoloft and the Western medical system. I think for me, it all works together.
Leah Jones 35:05 Yeah, put it all together. I also, well, it was after my breast cancer diagnosis -- I was trying to get an ADHD diagnosis this summer and got breast cancer instead .
Rachel 35:21 I'm so sorry.
Leah Jones 35:22 Yeah. And the psychiatrist I had lined up to try and work on the ADHD stuff. He was like, "Well, let's start with the Lexapro -- treat depression and anxiety -- let's start working on that, let's get you through this, like acute -- you are in an acute crisis, right now, you've just been diagnosed with with cancer..." And he had like, agreed with my oncologist and my oncologist, what he would say is that the level I'm at -- stage one --is not a *healthcare* crisis; he was like, "But it's a mental health crisis. It's an emotional crisis." So you've got to, like, find ways to work on that. And so Lexapro has been phenomenal for me. And I don't know how it took me so long to get a prescription, you know?
Rachel 36:20 Yes, I do. Because I once I started going on my SSRI, I was just like, yeah, "What was the deal?! Why did this take so long?" You know, I love the stories I created about why, no, no, that's just if you know, it's an emergency. Now, and it turns out, you don't have to live with just a general low level of anxiety, depression all the time.
Leah Jones 36:41 Mm hmm. Yeah. No, yeah. Nice. It's nice.
Leah Jones 36:54 So did you ever find a way -- like an afternoon home practice, or you just were like, give me my mask, get me back in the studio. That's where I gotta be.
Rachel 37:04 So I did, I found a home practice. The yoga studio that I go to had virtual classes, they they switched to virtual. And, it took a while in early pandemic to get to a point where it wasn't like me kind of weeping between Zoom calls. I was still working my DOB job at the time and trying to parent, two children who were doing -- one who was just a baby and one who was in virtual school. And then it was just like, kid pass off -- I think back about that time, and with, it's just kind of like, I'd rather not think back. Better for us if we just kind of like let that part of our life go. I had a lot of nachos and watched all the way through Parks and Rec. So that was my yoga practice for a couple months and then, I got back itno it.
Leah Jones 38:02 I've ordered a lot of pizza. I watched a lot of Glimore Girls, I'm right there with ya.
Rachel 38:07 I also watched Gilmore Girls. So, yep, I hear ya. So, once we got into a little bit more of a rhythm, I would take the space and time to come downstairs to my office. I have space, I got it all set up the way I wanted. And then I can do my yoga practice. And so it's not just yoga, I actually have found that I love doing all kinds of workout experiences. I go by the motto of "Do what feels good." And so some days I just want to walk, and some days, I got a FeetUp Trainer. So a lot of days, I like to do my upside down headstands in my FeetUp Trainer.
Leah Jones 38:52 Oh, wait, is that that little -- it kind of looks like a Squatty Potty, [laughter] but it's to help you do like headstands? Yes. I see it on TikTok, I see it on TikTok all the time.
Rachel 39:05 It's exactly that. And I got my FeetUp Trainer to do my headstands, which was another thing that I was like, "Oh, I'll never be able to do a headstand ... Nope, that's a limiting thought -- I don't buy it." I'll get the tool and the prop to help with that.
Rachel 39:19 And I love it. I love going upside down. It gets me out of my head, puts all -- so if I'm in the middle of something that's bothering me, and I'm getting a little over, like my wheels are spinning and I can't stop spinning, I'm like, "Okay, I'm gonna go do a headstand." And that's what I do. And I just get upside down and it kind of brings me back to a center space.
Leah Jones 39:42 So, is it -- because what it does, based on what I've seen (on Twitter and TikTok) -- it's getting the weight off of your head and hands and it's putting it on your shoulders? Is that why it's helpful?
Rachel 39:55 Yes, exactly. So it has a hole - it has a cushion that you put your head into -- into the like Squatty Potty, the middle of the Squatty Potty. And so your shoulders are where your weight is resting. And since you've got -- it's strong -- I use the FeetUP version which is made in Germany and it can hold up to 1,000 pounds, so I'm not worried that it's gonna crash on me. So, you kind of jump up your feet into a crouched position and then you can put your feet up. And I could do it after only one or two -- like I think I tried once, and the second time I could get my feet up. It was amazing and so empowering.
Leah Jones 40:45 Wow, cool. That's so cool. Yeah, I've seen that and I've seen there's there's also some wonderful like fat yoga instructors on TikTok.
Rachel 40:56 Yes, I follow Jessamine Stanley who I love and a lot of other general people talking about embodied living, like Sonia Renee Taylor who wrote "The Body is Not an Apology." That book was really influential to me. Virgie Tovar is amazing and talks, her book, "You Have a Right to Be Fat," or "You Have the Right to Remain Fat," maybe about 100 pages and so worth reading. And so my whole Instagram feed is really a lot of body positive images and just a lot of fat people on my feed. Because I wanted the pictures that I have in front of my face to be people who look like me or who make it okay for me to be in the body I'm in.
Leah Jones 41:54 Yeah, I felt more when I was on Tumblr. On Tumblr, I really curated like fat fashion, a feed of like, really diverse bodies and, and makers and creators. Maybe like eight years ago on Tumblr, I will say like -- in a post Universal Standard world, there's more clothing options now. And so even I'm getting fed better -- I'm not getting fed ads for like minimizing clothing. I'm getting fashion with fat models and in diverse bodies. And so that feels pretty good, too.
Rachel 42:41 It's great. I am really happy. There's been a shift even in the last five years, I would say, and it's much more of a conversation. You know, the show Shrill on Hulu. -- there were times when I cried just because it was like, "Oh, somebody is experiencing something similar to my experience, and they're talking about on television." And she's not just like the sidekick friend. So that was really, really empowering, too.
Rachel 43:17 I do follow body positive yoga instructors. And more and more companies are intentionally choosing instructors who aren't just the standard, very thin kind of yoga instructor -- which I love, and one of my when I was thinking about doing yoga, or when I was thinking about doing coaching, and I was in therapy, and I said to my therapist, "Who's gonna want to get coached by me? Like, they're gonna be like, 'Oh, she can't even get her own life together, because she's fat', you know?" And my therapist is like, no, you live fully in your body, and people want to be able to do that. And you are going to, there's plenty of people who don't want to be coached by someone who is in a totally different body shape and size than them. And they're looking for a coach who looks more like you and it was an empowering thing to hear that as well.
Leah Jones 43:17 Yeah, I think that's really true. I think that's really true. And when I looked for my new Pilates instructor to take one-on-one from -- I did look at all of them and I was like, "Who has -- who's the heaviest teacher?" You know, I want to study with like a heavier woman, I want to study with like an older woman, I want someone who's maybe like had an injury in their life and has come back from it, or has had a surgery. Like I have a I have a Peloton, but it's a very nice dryer rack for my towel. Very expensive. The nicest one I've ever bought.
Leah Jones 45:00 It's the highest quality model of dryer rack.
Leah Jones 45:13 Yes. Because I love riding my bike out in the world and I do really enjoy the Peloton, but I need -- I have to be really careful in the instructors I pick there, to pick ones that don't talk about beach bodies and don't talk about weight loss and don't talk about food restriction. So, I have to be careful picking my instructors. And then I just like, signed up for a challenge. And then after like, I don't know, seven days I had failed the challenge -- the self-selected challenge -- which was just to ride a bike most of March. Everyday get on your bike. It was a Facebook group with like internet friends. And by like March 10, I had *failed* and there was no way I was going to finish and win the month and I was like well, I guess I'll try riding again in April. It's some of those are the limiting thoughts are "Well, well, I guess just try again in a month." I do have a hard time with like picking myself up and like just literally getting back on the bike.
Rachel 46:34 And I can only do it on Mondays, because if I didn't do it -- I'm gonna wait till next week.
Leah Jones 46:41 Yeah. Oh, yeah. Week is blown. It's Tuesday morning. I'll try that habit next week.
Rachel 46:50 Well, I think that goes back to this idea of, there's this arrival point that that I'm waiting for. Mm hmm. And then I will be worthy or valuable, or whatever it is. Versus I'm gonna just do this because it feels good in my body today, and I'm never gonna have to do it again if I don't want to. That's a TOTALLY different brain space to take up. And I'm not always in that brain space. I feel better when I am.
Leah Jones 47:21 Yeah, yeah. Oh, man. And so you went through the training? Do you ever teach? Or is it just that it's improved your practice and it improves -- I imagine it has informed your professional coaching. But I'm curious if -- do you ever, are you ever in front of the Zoom or in front of the studio?
Rachel 47:50 Yes, and. I do teach and I have taught several classes and mostly via Zoom. And I had a Sunday afternoon class going for a while. Because my partner was like, "Look, if you're gonna keep taking these yoga trainer classes, I need you to actually train -- they're expensive. So, it's great that you know these things, but let's like do something with it ..."
Leah Jones 48:23 Can we even out the bookkeeping on training?
Rachel 48:27 I mean, I think right now we're at like a several thousand dollar expenditure in classes and I've maybe like netted, I don't know, 50 bucks on teaching classes. But you know, that's an income source.
Leah Jones 48:39 It is income. Yes. Yes.
Rachel 48:43 So, I do really enjoy teaching in the class. But, within the Kundalini Yoga community, there has been a lot going on, because the man who started Kundalini Yoga, has -- it's come forward that he just was abusive and sexually abusive to his students. And in an effort to be thoughtful about victims of the whole community, which I'm coming into quite late to and not quite particularly involved in, I took a pause for a little while on teaching the class so that I didn't perpetuate harm to anyone who had been harmed by the experience.
Leah Jones 49:33 That makes sense. It was, now that you say it, it rings a bell. I do remember seeing that, that he that -- the I hate when people say he got "MeToo"ed. No, he was held accountable for his actions after a lot of abuse.
Rachel 49:55 And I think that there's going to be a way forward for the yoga, too, because I think good can come from less than perfect vessels. And also, as someone who is not a victim of the abuse, I don't know that I'm the one who gets to decide when that timetable happens. And so I'm putting a pause, I do still practice the yoga for myself. And also, I want to be respectful of the way that it may be traumatic or harmful to other people.
Leah Jones 50:27 You're so thoughtful in your practice and how you talk about yourself and your body and the community. And if people don't -- if people aren't saying that to you, you are incredibly thoughtful in your expression about all of this. It's really been wonderful to get to talk to you tonight.
Rachel 50:47 Thank you, Leah. That means a lot to me.
Leah Jones 50:50 So if people wanted to work with you creative coaching, find you online find you on TikTok. What sorts of folks are you looking to work with? Or do you want to be found by?
Rachel 51:05 Well, I love I do a variety of things. And so I have a couple of different ways that people connect. One is through one-on-one coaching, which is the most accessible to the most people. And in that way, I especially love working with people who are in transition moments of their life and looking to make changes. And in that setting, then I work with people to set goals for three -- we work in three month chunks of time -- let's set a goal for this time, let's let's figure out where we want to be three months from now. And let me help you get there. And that's been powerful to see the way that having a goal, having a path and having agency is what they say gives hope. And it's been really powerful to work with people in that way, and with a real eye toward what makes people come alive as they engage with their creative energy and what they imagine is possible. So that's the first thing.
Rachel 52:10 And then I work with schools, and my passion with schools is my belief is that every child deserves to learn in a creative environment. And so I work with teachers and principals to look at their curriculum to look at their learning opportunities and think about -- How do we make these experiences for students even more powerful? And for me, it's an equity and justice issue, and it's something I think about a lot and that every child, in every neighborhood, in every school, deserves to come to school and have their creative rights met in in their learning. And so I love working with with people in that way.
Rachel 52:52 And then I also have a card deck that I made with my friends called the Create Brave card deck. And it's available for pre-order, we just we got our Kickstarter funded and so they'll be available in the next couple months. And it's really cool. So, I designed the art for these. And every card has a different word on it, and the one that I'm looking at right now says: Teach -- I support others, I share my knowledge and skills. And so the cards themselves are kind of artistic and you can put them in front of your workplace. And then there's a guidebook that gives you prompts of how to live a more creative and brave life related to whatever card you pull for the day.
Leah Jones 53:41 Wow, Create Brave.
Rachel 53:45 And so that all those things are on my website, www.rachelswansoncoaching.com.
Leah Jones 53:51 Great and should people are you a Twitter, Instagram person, or they should go to your website?
Rachel 53:57 I'm on Instagram is @rachelswansoncoach, and I'm on Twitter as @RachelDSwanson. And I do Tweet and post on Instagram. And if you're a teacher, I have a Facebook group called Techno Coach that is all for people who are coaches and education working, especially around technology.
Leah Jones 54:17 Yeah. Great. Well, Rachel, this has been wonderful. Thank you so much. For folks who don't know, you can follow me at ChicagoLeah on Twitter and TikTok @ChiLeah on Instagram. Finding favorites podcast is @findingfavespod on Twitter and Instagram. And please like, subscribe, leave a review on Apple podcasts, because all the podcasts say that's important. So I have to believe it's true. [laughter]
Rachel 54:49 I do because they told me to, so ...
Leah Jones 54:52 Yeah, I should spend some quality time actually like go through my podcast list and leave reviews for people.
Rachel 54:58 I try. I want people when they click on my name, to just see a bunch of five star reviews. Of all my favorite things.
Leah Jones 55:05 Oh my god, I love it. I love it.
Rachel 55:08 Yes. So including your podcast.
Leah Jones 55:11 Thank you.
Announcer 55:13 Thank you for listening to Finding Favorites with Leah Jones. Please make sure to subscribe and drop us a five star review on iTunes. Now go out and enjoy your favorite things.
Leah Jones 55:28 Hello and welcome to Finding Favorites. I'm your host, Leah Jones. And this is the podcast where we were I forget what the podcast is about.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
To leave or reply to comments, please download free Podbean or
To leave or reply to comments, please download free Podbean App.