Born in California, and born to travel – that’s Jenifer Parker. And you can blame Lord of the Rings for her and her husband’s interest in New Zealand – Ryan was obsessed by the movie series so a trip to New Zealand was deemed imminent.
As a result, in 2007, Jenifer answered an advertisement online to come and guest teach at a studio in Nelson. She loved NZ from the beginning, and in particular fell in love with Wellington, but unfortunately that trip was only for a short time.
It was just enough to whet the appetite though, and from the moment Jenifer and Ryan got back into the US, whenever Ryan felt stressed, he would say:
I want to live in Wellington!
Plans to buy a Wellington studio in 2008 fell through, but that nagging feeling persisted – Wellington was the place for them.
Finally the persistence paid off when a TradeMe search turned up another Wellington business for sale. It prompted a second trip to New Zealand in 2008 to check it out in person, this time with eight month old Hawk along for the ride too. Success at last – it was the right business, at the right time, and in March 2009 Jenifer, Ryan and Hawk all arrived to put down roots in Wellington, setting up their new business Healium.
1. What style of yoga do you practice and where do you teach?
I teach an intuitive flowing form in the Krishnamacharya lineage with primary influences being Iyengar and Astanga. Every class is unique because people are coming to the mat completely different every day, and, of course, different students are coming every day. So, some classes will be intense vinyasas, others slow and steady, and others more restorative or yin-inspired. It just depends upon the class!
Currently, I’m really excited to be exploring AcroYoga, and i’m working toward my AcroYoga certification!
I teach at Healium, the holistic health collective that I run on Lambton Quay. I teach both classes and private lessons, and also practice Thai Yoga Massage.
2. How did you come to yoga?
I was raised doing yoga, but started taking it seriously as a practice when i turned 14. I met my first teacher (outside of my family) when I was 18, and started teaching with and for her at 19. It’s really just always been a part of my life!
3. When did the yoga bug really get you?
Yoga has always been a part of my life and I loved the sense of peace and connection it would bring. Yet, I would say that I really “caught on fire” when I started practicing vinyasa yoga – Baron Baptiste Power Vinyasa and Astanga yoga – because the movement was exhilarating. I felt a sense of deep, liberating power coming from within!
4. How has yoga transformed your life?
I feel really blessed to have yoga in my life, and always have. As a kid, I knew that I had something to rely on when I felt upset or stressed: yoga just helped me feel better. I was also quite an active kid and, unlike many of my peers, I’ve never had a major injury from sport or yoga, so that’s a real blessing too.
But once I “caught on fire,” yoga really propelled me to new places – physically, emotionally, intellectually. I love moving into new spaces of self-knowledge and awareness!
5. What is your home practice like?
First, parenting is an intensive yoga practice. It requires deep focus and awareness. Most of the time, it’s like falling right out of handstand. Everything seems to be going well, and then *kerplunk* you are on the ground! But, that’s ok. Just like with handstand, with parenting you can just try again the next moment!
Because of the demands of parenting and running a business, I break up my practice throughout the day. I get between 30 minutes and 1 hour of asana/pranayama practice, and 30 minutes of meditation divided up into two 15-minute sessions. The study/contemplation tends to be even more broken up – ‘catch-as-catch-can’.
And of course, I still take the time to refine my teaching practice and continue my education! It’s just more contained. I have to take it more slowly – about half an hour each evening after my son goes to bed. And when I take workshops or teacher training, I have to plan that in advance too, so that I can prepare my family to manage without me for the long days!
6. When people ask you, “What is Yoga?” what do you say?
It is the practice of Being. Like most people, my mind is very quick – jumping from idea to idea – sometimes called ‘monkey mind’. Yoga helps me to calm and focus my mind so that I can simply Be.
7. What can people expect from one of your classes?
In each class, the postural sequence as well as the philosophical and inspirational teachings arise out of the group dynamic – where all of us are in that moment, and what we need and want in common.
Yet, because the class size is kept small (15), even within this group process, each individual gets hands-on, personalized instruction and teaching. I use modifications, props, and hands-on assists to make sure that students are safe and receiving the maximum benefits of the posture for their own bodies in that moment.
With this, to help make yoga even more accessible, I teach classes for 45 minutes so that it can easily fit into the busy lifestyle that so many of us have.
Also, it’s going to be fun! I really love to laugh and have fun, so all of my classes have the element of laughter and joy!
8. What do you love most about teaching yoga?
I love watching people achieve their goals – personal, physical, what have you. It’s just a real joy to watch that unfold and to have the privilege to be a part of the process!
I also really love it when a student does a posture better than me. It’s so exciting! Then, I have to ask them how they do it – so the teacher becomes the student!
9. What do you wish everybody knew about yoga?
One way or another, we are all already doing yoga. Most people don’t realize it, but when they take a deep breath when a situation is intense, that’s yoga! When they spend some time contemplating some great matter, or get up out of bed and do a back bend – no matter how slight – they are doing yoga.
I find that once people realize this, it’s much easier to join a community. Trying a yoga class is much less intimidating because, after all, the person is already an experienced practitioner! Now, they’re just exploring other aspects of yoga that they haven’t practiced before!
10. What role do you see yoga playing in our world?
In this question, i’m really drawn to the word ‘playing’. I see the question more as ‘how is yoga playing in the world’? Yoga brings joy. Yoga brings that sense of child-like wonder back, because we are simply being. We can engage things as new – just like a little kid – and play and explore. We become open to the world, and new ways of Being joy, peace, and love arise for us. And thus we become the agents of change and renewal in our world!
11. Anything else?
I would tell anyone interested just to give it a try. You are never too old to start or return to your yoga practice!
12. And finally, how do people find you?
It’s easy, really: visit our web site and check out our class schedule and private lesson packages. You can book online, drop an email, give us a call, or just stop by, and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have! I look forward to seeing you!