Meet a Teacher: Molly Dahl

Posted by on Oct 2, 2018 in carson city yoga studio, meet a teacher | 2 comments

Molly Dahl at CCYMany of you already know Molly. She is a long time teacher, having been part of Yoga Sol, and now a favorite teacher at Carson City Yoga.  We are happy to feature her as our teacher this month.  You can see Molly’s bio on her teacher page here, but we wanted to dig a little deeper.  Read on to learn more fascinating facts about Molly!

CCY: I know we have your bio on the website, but lets start with just a quick background, something people might not know about you –

Molly: Well, it’s interesting, I started yoga because I was running marathons, and my body just would not relax at night. I was super tense. I spent a summer in Grand Junction, Co with my sister, and we did all of our running on trails. It was awesome. She was doing Anusara Yoga there, and her teacher had gone on vacation, so she just started teaching me right there in her living room.  I got hooked – it was the first time in at least 3 years that I actually slept through a whole night. We practiced all summer, and then I went back to Virginia where I was living. I was living in a small town, where there was no yoga, so I went to the library and checked out videos by Lilias Folan!  For months, it was me and Lilias in my living room after school. It was so great.

CCY: Yoga by Lilias! What a great introduction to yoga!

Molly: Yes, that was my very first instruction.  Then, I was teaching at a catholic school, and one of the nuns, Sister Cecilia, had a trip planned to India. She knew that I had been doing yoga, because I was having some of my kids do the yoga that I had learned with Lilias. Sister Cecilia went to our sister school over there in India, and she came home and had been doing all this yoga, and she said “Oh my goodness, you have to create a yoga class…”

Well, I had been looking at certifications anyway, and she said “well you must create this class, and we will pay half.”  The one that I was most drawn to, because I was training so hard at the time (athletically), was the most chill yoga ever: Satchidananda – the Integral Yoga. There is no vinyasa, no planks, and I had never even done that kind of class. But I did a tiny bit of research, AND it was only 3 hours from my house, so I registered for the month long training. I lived in the ashram for the month, and it was awesome. I totally loved it.

After I got that certification, I started teaching at Notre Dame Academy. My first class that I taught was yoga as an alternative to P.E.  I was coaching then, so half of my class were my athletes and the other half of my class were my academic students who hated P.E and it was just a really great group of kids. The first semester, I had about 30, and then the second semester I had about 60, and then the following year, which was my last year, I had 60 and then 60 again.

I was teaching community yoga at the community center in Leesburg, and I had about 40 people coming there. It was so fun. And then I taught a little bit at this really gorgeous studio in Leesburg, a dedicated yoga studio. It was beautiful, and Judith Lasater came and taught there. I don’t know why, but I got really shy in that setting, and so I only taught a 6 week series there. I thought – I need my teenagers!

CCY: Did you study with Judith Lasater at all then?

Molly: No, I didn’t. I was doing a lot, we ran races and cross country training on the weekends, so I always missed her teachings. I was kind of bummed about that.  But that’s it, that’s how I got started! Me and Lilias in my living room!

CCY: You are not the only one who got started with Lilias, I’m sure! That was back before there were yoga studios on every corner…

Molly: Yes, that’s right, this would have been 2001, 2002. I got my certification the summer of 2003. And then I came out here; I came home to Nevada. I didn’t teach yoga for a couple of years, but then I started teaching at The Studio in Reno, on Virginia St. I taught there for a couple of years, and then I taught at Pure Yoga for a while. But I never taught another PE yoga class, because it doesn’t matter if you are a certified yoga teacher, in the public education realm, you just have to be PE certified.

CCY: This is fascinating. I love how people find their way into yoga. There are so many different doorways! In your exploration of yoga, and as you headed into teaching yoga, were there particular teachers who were really influential for you? Yoga related, or not….

molly downward dogMolly: Well, its interesting. I didn’t really have any teachers, so to speak, the whole time I lived in Virginia. It was just Lilias and me. And even after I did my certification, it was still me and Lilias. I just loved her style, she was so gentle, and it was what I needed most. Then I got some other tapes…. I got some Rodney Yee, and that was good, and I tried Shiva Rea, and I thought, oh I don’t like this vinyasa stuff at all, my body already knows how to do really vigorous stuff and get a workout. I need the relaxation component.

The thing that really got me hooked in there with Satchidananda, was his whole approach that yoga should be easeful, peaceful, useful. He says if its not easeful, then you are doing it wrong. And its not about getting your cardio up, or your this and your that, and that really resonated with me.

Then I did my Tibetan Heart Training with a gal named Kimberly Lafferty, and Mira Shani. She is amazing. If I had a teacher, I would have to say it was her. She is in Durham, NC now. But other than than, no. I really like the idea that you become your own best yoga teacher. That’s where I really learned. I like to pay attention. Being a school teacher, you have to pay attention to what is going on in you – because no matter what you are teaching, you teach who are.

CCY: Yes. Absolutely.

Molly: You gotta do a lot of self reflection, because you are affecting 200 teenagers a day, and if you are not happy and on the ball, you can create a lot of havoc for teenagers who are already in some tight spots. So I had that really strong anchor in my background. And, you know, as an athlete, you have a different awareness of your body, so its easy to learn how to make your own adjustments. And then when you have teachers who tell you to make an adjustment, it just clicks, and you go, oh yeah I got it!

CCY: Yes, because you know how to listen to your body.

Molly: Yes, that listening part is so important.

CCY: How would you sum up, in a brief paragraph, which I know is hard to do, how yoga has made a difference in your life? What has made the most difference for you?

Molly: Hmm. You know, I have to say, that it was Bikram Yoga. When I was a Bikram student, because of their methodology, it teaches you to listen and it teaches you to stop the shit that goes on in your mind, because if you are not listening in a bikram class, you are going to hurt yourself. And you are not going to make it through the practice. Because its hot, the postures are pretty intense, and its not a standard yoga practice so there is a lot of stuff that you don’t do anywhere else. For me, that was probably the most powerful part of my yogic life – I did a 60 day challenge when I first started with them, and in 60 days I did 57 classes. And it was amazing. AND – That is when I started becoming a really good school teacher.

CCY: Wow, that is really interesting. I personally have a a such a resistance around Bikram, and I know there is a lot of controversy about it, and so it is really amazing to hear you say how powerful it has been for you.

Molly: It is such a great doorway in, because the American mind wants more. We really want to work hard, we really want to push ourselves, we really want that physical fitness. And Bikram gives you all of that. But here’s what I think: Bikram Chaudry was an amazing creator of this program because nothing in that class is by chance. Every single second is orchestrated to get you in your mind and in your body and on your mat. And if you are not, you are not going to make it through the practice. I mean, you’ve got 20 seconds in between these really hard postures, and your body is just shaking and quivering, and you are breathing so hard, and if you mess around in your 20 seconds, like if you don’t lay down and be still, and don’t wipe your sweat, and don’t fidget with your costume, and don’t take a drink of water, you are not going to make it to the next pose.

I think a lot of people can take this off the mat. That when you are uncomfortable, and you fidget, or try to escape, you make it worse. But if you are uncomfortable and the situation is not to your liking, which, that’s our life, right? And you try to fidget or escape, or blame it on someone else, or say the teacher can’t talk loud enough, and its too hot in this room, and why won’t they open the door and get some air, you are just ruining your mind. And it shows you that clearly.

That’s not a short paragraph! (laughs)

CCY: That’s ok, that’s powerful stuff right there! That is really powerful. I mean, that’s what yoga is all about, right? How do we take it off the mat? How do we make it useful?

Molly: Right. And I know there is a lot of criticism about Bikram Yoga, but for me it has been one of the best practices out there.

CCY: Do you still do it?

Molly: I do. We just started up again, and Steve has been going 3 times a week, and I have been going about twice a week. And I love it!

molly standing backbendCCY: This is so interesting to me, and surprises me!

Molly: I know, because its funny, I started yoga because I needed relaxation. I didn’t need more intensity, but when I started Bikram, I think I was in desperate need of – just get out of your own mind. Because you know those periods in life where we go through really crazy changes and challenges and we keep running the same stupid dialogue to ourselves over and over again, and we try to sort out a relationship, and all we can do is justify ourself in the way we behave toward them, and so… Bikram Yoga is magic because you can’t run your dialogue!

CCY: Thanks for all that! I have to tell you, it makes me think I have to go take a Bikram class now just to try it out! Just because it is so outside of my box.

Molly: Yes, and there are some really amazing teachers out there… if you find the right ones.

CCY: Ok, moving on from Bikram, why do You teach yoga?

Molly: Oh gosh, straight away, I knew that I wanted to teach yoga. I didn’t have to be a student for a whole bunch of years, and I think part of that was because just being a teacher anyway, when you find something that makes you feel really good and helps you connect the dots in life, it is what you naturally want to give. So for me to be able to, first of all, share it with the athletes I was coaching, and then have an opportunity to teach it to kids who know nothing about their body, and who hated PE, it was really powerful.

When I started studio teaching, its kind of the same thing. It gives people a sense of, oh this is my body, and this is what I can do. Our body is our first doorway in. Its what we can see, and move and live with, and so our body… we can live all day long and not even think about our body. I mean we can sit, and open a car door, and yet never think about our body. We are not aware that our body is moving. So to be able to teach that awareness is powerful. And then I started with the Positive Psychology, and layering over with that, then it just gets richer and richer in experience the more we teach. When we can layer over the fact that the way that our body posture is directly affects our nervous system, our attitude, and our mood, then the quality of your mind determines the quality of your life.

When you can be in your body, and physically stand up straight and put your shoulders back, it affects your neurochemistry. You start being open and available, and you just start paying attention and things start to change. All because you are standing up. Your neurochemistry changes, and we dont realize that. So to teach people how their body works, and what it does to their mind – this is why I teach it.

And I have to! (laughter) I can’t not teach it! When I wasn’t, I was just like, oh something is missing, and then when I get back in the yoga studio, I think, oh, this is what’s been missing.  I think the world is searching for a different sort of truth, if we can say it that way. Not the religious sort of truth. I think the era of church and religiosity of life is kind of moving in a different direction, but it doesn’t mean that people aren’t looking for something that they can call their truth. It’s just a shift. And so to be able to offer to people that ultimately, you clear some stuff and you are the source of your own truth… I kind of am compelled to teach that to people. I just really want people to be happy!

CCY: There’s the bottom line, right there!

Molly: Yes, that’s it.

CCY: Can you speak just briefly to the positive psychology aspect and how you weave that in to your teaching?

Molly: Oh yeah. A lot of it is the neurochemistry, and my favorite positive psychology researcher is Barbara Frederickson. Her research is all about positive emotions. Why they are critical for us to live a life of thriving and flourishing is because when we experience positive emotions we have these residual skills that we develop. So for example, when we are having fun, we want to be engaged. And when we are engaged, we create relationship. So she does this really great chart about these different positive emotions. Like gratitude – when you experience gratitude, it lays down a skill, a soft skill, an interpersonal skill. When you experience fun, you are engaged in life, and when you are engaged, you see people, and you want to help. She goes through this whole list. And love is the underlying one that weaves through all of them. When we have the heart-felt emotions, (this is not her work but another researcher) and our neurochemistry starts making the adjustment to the these neuro chemicals that are flowing through our system on a regular basis, that is actually what determines how are genes activate. The science is super, super fascinating. Because the genetic predisposition isnt as powerful as people once thought it was.

Which is super cool, because when you start changing your attitude and the way that you move through the world to positive, it starts changing the way your genes express. And that is part of what happens with yoga, that you are creating an internal environment in which you love, appreciate, have compassion, have gratitude.  I always say, the more yoga that you do, the more yoga you have to do, because it is affecting your neurochemistry. That’s why its one of the things that helps heal people so much, because it determines the way that your genetic code manifests.

CCY: This is very cool stuff.

Molly: It is so cool, the science that is out there! And you know, its so fun being in all these different fields, because of what you hear and can connect. Here are these authors that don’t know each at all, but they are all saying the same thing. Here is Barbara Frederickson, who is very scientific – she is studying love and positive emotions, but very lab coat scientific, and then these guys over here, also very into the scientific, they are in the genome, they are looking through those microscopes, and the bridge to what we are doing is right there. You are creating the positive internal environment.

CCY: And we all know this on an intuitive basis. But bringing it into the awareness just opens it up more.

Molly: It opens it up, and then it becomes more real, and somehow, this gives us permission to actually do it, you know? Its so fascinating.

CCY: So tell me a little about your style of teaching. Maybe describe your class to someone who has never been there.

Molly: I teach gentle yoga, but gentle is not wimpy!

CCY: I love when you say that!

Molly: You know, our body has so much stress already, all day long, and we store so much emotional stress in our physical bodies. So when we can move slowly and pay attention to our breath and pay attention to where our body is finding our alignment, then we are in a place where the posture can work its magic on us. Your muscles and your connective tissues and your organs are all involved. We know that all of the yoga postures directly affect our internal systems, so we move slowly. You don’t need to hurry. There is no reason to hurry, and no reason to add more stress. You are going to be finding a lot of balance. Not just “don’t tip over” balance, but the balance between flexibility and strength, balance between grounded and lifted, balance between the rigidity of where your bones have to be, while also finding a softness and a fluidity in your bones. So that whole idea of balance is key. And our outer worlds are busy busy busy while our yoga is gentle and slow and quiet.

In that process, it is slow enough that you can really observe. You watch yourself over time, and you do the consistent “over time without ceasing” thing, and then you become your own best teacher. You can still come to your classes, and come participate in your studio, and yet now you know – you know how deep you can go today, you know where you need to open a little bit more today. It’s so good.

CCY: I think you have answered this in several different ways already, but I am going to pose the question. What does yoga mean to you, or what is yoga in your world view?

Molly: Oh thats a good question. I just found this article on Yoga International, and I will never be able to remember the author, but its an article called “Yoga Means Union, but Union of What?” And the article is so beautifully written. It talks about this idea that yoga is the union of our physical body and our mind, through the breath, but the practice is so that our mind doesn’t own us. Like with Satchidananda – his whole thing was: sure, the yoga practice has a physical part to it, but its only so that you can sit in meditation, and free your mind from the grasping and the aversion, and find your true potential. So for me, that meditative aspect of yoga is a key component.

So what does all that mean? It means that you have to slow down and listen on the inside. Full Stop.

CCY: Full Stop. Love it. Ok, so how do you live your yoga off the mat? What does that even mean? Its kind of a big question.

Molly: Its so interesting. Right, what does that even mean? I feel like my life has always been spiritual, and it has always been the most important thing in my life. Having been born into a religious family, and sticking with that, and learning through the really scary parts to trust yourself to expand your understanding of spiritual practices and traditions…. So for me, its a tricky question because there’s not much difference. If that makes very much sense?

CCY: It makes complete sense. That is often the way I describe it, that there is no separation between yoga and life.

Molly: Yes, thank you.

CCY: To talk about yoga off the mat is almost a trick question, but many people have very specific answers to that. And for some of us there may not be specific answers. What we do on our mat is a reflection of what we do in our lives and vice versa.

Molly: I think so, because I wouldn’t be able to tell you that it looks like this. I dont know. It’s the air I breathe.

crescent lunge mollyCCY: So you are teaching in different places and doing some different things, so tell me a bit about that.

Molly: Oh, I teach anywhere I can! Again its what I do. I have been teaching since I was 16. The tradition I grew up in turns out amazing teachers. Not just spiritual church teachers, but university professors and school teachers. Its a very big component of that tradition, so they put you to work teaching when you are 16 years old, to teach the 5 year old Sunday school classes, and then you have a mentor…

CCY: This is the Morman tradition?

Molly: Yes, and so you have a mentor, and its pretty structured, and so you learn to drive on road. You learn your vehicle, and you learn how to listen (that listening thing keeps coming up). And so…. (laughter) what was the question?

CCY: I am giving you the opportunity to plug all the places you teach.

Molly: Oh right! Thanks, I didnt want to lose track. So I teach at TMCC, a course called Authentic Happiness. I teach at Awake n Networks, which is a little place in Reno, where Allison Sagewind does Aston Patterning postural alignment work, so its movement education, and I am teaching a meditation there. And I teach at the high school, which is really fun because I teach entrepreneurship skills through my own curriculum called Youth Positive. Its all about having a positive mindset, and how positive psychology helps you be a successful entrepreneur, super fun. And then here at Carson City Yoga. And right now that’s about it. Oh, and I do education conferences around the country, and in various locations in Europe.

CCY: To promote your curriculum? Say something about that…

Molly: Youth Positive is mindfulness and positive psychology and social emotional intelligence for teenagers, so it is everything I have studied through the course of my life that I feel has made me a pretty decent loving human being. Again, its one of those things that you teach who you are. I think the teenage years are critical, especially these teenagers. When I was in the classroom for 15 years, it was a different story. These teenagers nowadays are different, and I think they are ready for spiritual stuff earlier. So I have created this curriculum. And its for the public schools, so its all things yogic and dharmic and (should I say this outloud?) all disguised so it can be taught in public schools, so its under the umbrella of positive psychology. But its the stuff that matters, that kids miss in school, because the education world is so funny.

CCY: Is it being used here in the schools locally?

Molly: Yes, its here in Carson High, and I have a school in Fallon, and a school in Susanville, and a couple of schools in San Jose. A couple schools in Reno. I picked up a new school in Boston this year.

CCY: So when you say you are in those schools, are you going there? Do you act as a consultant on the curriculum, or how does that work?

Molly: Yes, usually its the first year that I do the teacher trainings and then the second year its kind of a train the trainer model. When I get the training time, they take it and practice with it, then they regroup. This year I only have one school that I am still consulting with, because the rest of them are all off to the races on their own. And then the school in Boston, we just had a conversation at the start of the year, and she is really competent and totally gets it, so it just depends. Some schools need a little more guidance than others.

CCY: So that must be very exciting to see that come to fruition.

Molly: Yes, thanks, it is exciting. Its cool. I just want teenagers to be happy. Its such an exciting time of life, and yet the poor babies have so much to deal with that they don’t find it fun at all. I want them to see how fun it really is, and how cool they are. They are so cool. I love them.

CCY: So Molly, is there anything else you want people to know about you as a teacher or as a human being, anything we haven’t touched on?

Molly: Well, I am really nice. (laughter)

CCY: Molly, we know that!

Molly: Most of my life people have been really intimidated by me, because I am tall, and I can look very serious, and I know what I am doing, so a lot of times people tell me “oh you are so much nicer than you looked!” I’m always like, oh what does that mean?? So, I am not intimidating, and mostly I am just shy. So, you know, I am nice. I like to have fun. I think we take ourselves way too seriously as human beings on this planet, and so I try to make people laugh in my yoga classes. Sometimes it works and sometimes not… but really, honestly, we just need to lighten up and have more fun. I’m nice and I’m fun!

CCY: Both really important qualities! And so… just for fun…. what is your favorite yoga pose, and what is your least favorite yoga pose?

Molly: My favorite is triangle pose. I love triangle. And I feel like whenever I am in a class and they do triangle pose, its never long enough! I’m always like no, dont come out, it wasnt long enough!

CCY: What do you love about it?

Molly: I think because my legs are so long that its actually one of the only folds I can get into and get into what the shape is suppose to look like. And it just feels so good to get your whole rib cage from your hip to your arm pit long, I just love it. I love it.

And my least favorite… I dont know. I like them all.

CCY: Ok, how about your most challenging pose?

Molly: Oh, the most challenging… yeah, Camel Pose. And its probably because the only place I ever do it is in Bikram, and its always after all these other hard poses and so I’m already exhausted, and then you have to open your throat, and I always feel like I’m about to pass out. Yeah, its challenging. And you know, we all know it is the challenging ones that we usually need the most!

CCY: Anything else you feel like we should talk about? This has been a really fun conversation.

Molly: It has been really fun. You’ve pretty much covered what people want to know about their yoga teacher. Its such a fun way to do this, and I am loving reading what the other yoga teachers have to say as well.  Because you do, you get to know the teachers in a different light, and its so fun!

CCY: Alright, so lets finish with one final question that I have asked everyone else so far… what do you love best about teaching at Carson City Yoga?

Molly: Oh, I remember when you asked us this before, and I still have the exact same answer. Its because this is where I can be most authentically who I am. Which actually brings a little tear to my eye, because in so much of our lives, its so unfortunate that we can’t be, you know, or we feel like we can’t be anyway, who we really are. Because people don’t understand you, or whatever. But my life is a spiritual life, and I like it. Not every arena of life affords the opportunity to really allow that without using cryptic words. And here, its just what I do, and its safe to do that, and if people aren’t up for that, they just don’t come back to my class, which is ok. And those who are ok with it, and even like it, just keep coming back.

CCY: As I talk with everyone here, and ask this questions this seems to be the underlying theme. I mean, everyone says it in different words, but its that idea that what we have here is authentic, and real. Its more than just exercise.

Molly: Yes, and people want that. We can go to the gym to workout and get strong. There are some spaces, like here, where we can get what are really hungry for. And that makes it a really special place. Thank you for holding the space for that.

CCY: And, Molly, thank you for being a part of it. We are so glad you are here! Is there anything else you want to say before we wrap this up?

Molly: I love Yoga! That’s all.

CCY: Thanks so much for this fantastic conversation, Molly!  And if you all want to know more about Molly, come on in and try out one of her classes. She teaches Gentle Yoga Mondays at noon, Wednesdays evenings at 5:3o, and Thursday mornings at 9am.  She leads our Yoga Nidra and Sunday Long Practice, and also has a meditation workshop coming up, so check that out as well!

 

2 Comments

  1. Oh, how I love you. You have taught me so much. Yoga and you have changed my life.
    Diana

  2. LOVE LOVE LOVE Miss Molly!

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