We experienced yoga as one more thing to try to be good at the thing that changed most quickly was my relationship with myself. So I learned really early on just how much pushing doesn't work
have this body that I can move around this mind. What do I want to do with my time?
Like play and fun? Just like not something that comes so naturally to me
your God, please help me see reality. Okay, hello and welcome everyone. So happy to be joined today by Francisca cervera. And a little bit about Francesca. She has been a full time yoga teacher since 2005. Her teaching is inspired by her foundational training with Cindy Lee at own yoga center. The year she spent as a dancer and the subsequent years she spent in physical therapy, or teaching is also influenced by her love of Buddhist teachings and a constant curiosity about anatomy and biomechanics. She is in private practice teaching a full schedule of one on one clients, mentors, yoga teachers in the science of the private lesson. And host the podcast, the mentor sessions, support and strategy for yoga teachers, as the founder of the adjoining community, the mentor sessions, Sangha, oh, my goodness, Francesca, you do a lot of things?
I do. Yeah, I do.
So thank you so much for taking the time to be here. I want to kick it off. By asking you this question. What do you love about yoga?
The thing I think, that I love the most about yoga is how fast it is. It's such a wide, diverse practice. There's so many pieces, there's so many parts, there's so many different ways to engage with yoga. And I think because of that vastness, it's really able to, to me, it's always felt like a very soft place to land, no matter what was going on in my body, no matter what was going on. In my heart mind, there was something in the practice that could support me sustain me. And I found that true with my students as well, because there is so much inside the practice, it can really be a beautiful support for people no matter what their physical ability were what's going on with them mentally, emotionally, there's just so much to it. It's so rich, and it never you know, you never stop learning. It's never boring. There's so much to it. And I think that's what keeps bringing me back.
Do you consider like yoga as more of the physical practice the asanas? Or do you now see yoga as something more than that?
I certainly was introduced to yoga as mostly about Asana. Living in the West, living in Philadelphia, in New York City as a dancer, that was what I knew of yoga. But relatively quickly, I think, especially being an own yoga center was Cindy Lee, that had such a strong Buddhist studies and meditation component to their practice, I understood that there was so much more to it than just physical. And so I really love and see value in all the different parts. There have been some times in my life when the physical practices been more exciting, more important, and sometimes I've had a lot of injuries in my life. And so there have been times when I really couldn't do a physical practice at all, and then used that period to really dive into a meditation practice. And so there, it's all equally important to me, I would say,
when I when I heard you answering the question about what you love about yoga, and speaking about, you know, the vastness of it, kind of like the comfort side kind of thought about like this, like motherly embrace, which is how I feel about it too in my life. And the word acceptance kind of came through. It's like a place that that accept accepts us for how we are and is here to help us grow. Is that how you feel about it too? Is that like a word that comes to mind acceptance?
Absolutely. And I think that the way, yoga is so often portrayed in the West as mostly a physical practice, and often as a practice of self improvement and self betterment. I think a lot of us in the West, quite unintentionally, often were trained and then those of us who are teachers have trained others to engage in yoga in a performative way. I think there's a lot of just performative nature, in our culture, and so we experienced yoga as one more thing to try to be good at. So I find in my teaching, it feels very important to emphasize the idea that this isn't Not a performative practice, it's not even really something that you could be good at or not good at. It's just a practice to engage with. And so I find there's a lot of unlearning for students around that idea.
Me too, I'm so glad you brought this up this performative aspects of yoga. I know that you, you've been a dancer before, so you kind of had that, that drive a little bit. And for me, I was really into sports always. And what I loved about yoga so much is I found it to be a refuge from that sort of mentality, a competitive mindset, very ego centered, how good am I doing this? And I'm sure you hear all the time speaking to people? I certainly do. It's like, I'm not good at that. I can't do yoga, I'm not good at that. Which is like, once you experienced that, it's almost like a jarring statement. Like I find it a little bit jarring. Like, I'm like, a car like, this is not the place for being good or bad. Like it's so beyond that, that notion, how do you answer that question? Even whenever, when people make that statement to you? What do you say?
Yeah, well, that's what I mean, there's so much I'm learning because so much of our culture is, is seen in binary, good, bad, you know, just hard and fixed rules about what that looks like in a universal sense of progress. So it's just I think, for a lot of people, for me, as well, a lifelong practice to, you know, unwind that kind of thinking. So it happens very slowly. You know, I mean, I think as a teacher, in the beginning, all you can do is plant a seed, that it's possible, that not everything has to be a competition, not everything has to be performative. Some people it's so ingrained in the way they were raised, that it's like you say, it's jarring, it's a huge shock. And so just even the simple statement of like, this isn't something that you could be good at, or you could be bad at, I think starts to plant the seed. I talk a lot about yoga and its practices being tools, tools for embodiment tools for awakening tools for sensing the interdependence of, of our world. And a tool is not something that you could be good at. Or you could be bad at, right? Like, you wouldn't say, Oh, I'm so bad at hammer. That doesn't make that sentence doesn't make any sense. The hammer is the tool, the yoga practices are the tool. And so I think when I share it in that way, it starts to creep in. But it's a lifelong learning, I think
was like the coming to mind is like maybe the possibility of shifting the attention to Okay, if we need to be good at something. They'd be we can be good at not focusing on good or bad.
Yeah, exactly, exactly. Hmm.
Maybe that's easier to have, like, even even like the ego, I think I noticed like my ego, like, it will always be there to a certain degree that it wants a job. If I give it a job, that it's going to be more satisfied than just trying to like pretend like it doesn't exist. So even if I give the ego the job of like quieting itself, it's like, okay, now I have something to do.
Yeah, and it's really about seeing beyond binary, which I think is so hard for our culture. Which is why good thing, we have the whole rest of our lives to engage in this practice in some way. We need it, you know, we need our whole life to unwind some of that either.
Yeah. I mean, do you feel feel that way about yourself, like personally, that like you've really needed it, that there's been like a before and after and you've observed a certain amount of changes, maybe growth in your life, as you've taken on these practices?
Oh, absolutely. I think that initially, the thing that changed most quickly was my relationship with myself. I grew up in a very competitive, very type A environment. And I only knew engaging with myself from a place of, of trying to be better of trying to improve, of trying to work harder. And I just had never held myself tenderly, you know, and I feel like practicing yoga, and especially studying Buddhism and practicing meditation in particular, shifted that quite quickly. The idea that you could make friends with your own mind, you know, the idea that you could regard yourself with unconditional friendliness. It was brand new. It was brand new and Right pretty quickly, it was like, well, this feels so much better. And actually, I have the sentence that I can do more of the good work that I hope to do in the world, if I am sustaining myself with, you know, a tender and gentle and loving relationship with with my inner life with my inner self. And so I wanted to do that I wanted to have the energy to do good work in the world. And to be able to be the person I wanted to be, I just had to be kinder to myself. So just a little glimpses of that, that I got of that very early on, shifted things quite radically inside myself.
Thank you for sharing that. I could feel it a little bit. Yeah. Yeah. I love what you said, about through these practices through being more than be tender with yourself. Maybe slowing down, that that will actually allow you to do more good in the world. I'm really interested in this notion, because I think many people who have not experienced maybe these practices, they, they look at they also want to accomplish a lot. Do whatever they feel feels good. To them, the best way to do that is Go go go, right. It's like a matter of speed, and continuous effort. And being maybe hard on the self like that, that's how I get there. That's how I do do good. And, and maybe their perspective is of, of someone who does these practice, okay, like you're just being lazy, right? Like, that's just like, that's just laziness that you're doing. And they don't seem to see the benefit that of like, going further by slowing down, doing more good, by treating yourself better. Any thoughts on that?
Yeah, I mean, it's, it's so counterculture. And I totally empathize with that, because I felt like that, too. You know, as a young teenager in my early Well, yeah, because I started practicing yoga. When did I really start practicing, I think I was 19 when I started practicing seriously, but prior to that, I knew lots of other dancers who practice yoga was common. And I 100% thought that they were lazy, and that I just was tougher than them and stronger than them and a harder worker than them. And I just didn't want to like sit around. If I had free time, I wanted to do something that I felt like was very obviously productive. It was a very immature, aggressive kind of mentality. And then, but I had a lot of injuries. I have hypermobility, which I only learned later. That affected me significantly as a dancer and as a as a yoga practitioner, as well. And one of my early physical therapist recommended yoga. And so I started practicing yoga. And like I said, it just happened so fast that this there was this inner shift in myself. And I felt ashamed and embarrassed of how really immature I had been in thinking that people who took time to care for themselves was lazy. It's just, it's just immature. That's the only way I can describe it. And I had, so I had a pretty quick shift around that. But I empathize with that sense of like, wanting to make big change and do good things and work hard and push. I was raised like that, too. So I get it. It just doesn't work. That's the thing doesn't work out effective. Okay, let's talk about it. But it doesn't work. It just doesn't some people burn out when they're 50. You know, I had shredded my hip socket, by the time I was 22. So I learned really early on just how much pushing doesn't work. It just doesn't. I just know that it doesn't. So you know,
you having this experience, I imagine, though, has benefited you now working with clients? Because I'm sure that many of them have have a similar mindset. And maybe you're the gateway for them to start moving in a new direction. Yeah.
I think so. Yeah. And, you know, like you listed all the things that I do. I do a lot, I have a lot of energy. I do work a lot. I love my work. And I think people can see that both. I take time to care for myself. I engage in my practices daily. And I'm soft with myself. I'm tender with myself, but I also accomplished a lot. And I think you know people take note of that. I think just that modeling is probably helpful as well.
Yep. That accomplishing is so interesting to me. It's like, What is this about? And what do I actually want to accomplish? In my life? It's like we're here. For we're gonna ask a deeper question, like we're here, we've been born into these situations. Okay? Now how do I want to spend my time is this like, as simple as that I have this time, I have this body that I can move around this mind, what do I want to do with my time. And think like a big obstacle, and using time Well, can be needing to prove something to someone else. Like, if I need to prove my value my worth to other human beings, then I might choose very different activities to do with my time than if I feel whole, complete. And myself, I don't need to prove anything to anyone. But I just see time as an opportunity. And it makes sense to do some good, therefore, I'm gonna accomplish a lot. Because I like to accomplish a lot accomplishing things feels good.
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that it's really a lot of late stage capitalism that has trained all of us to only believe that we're as worthy as what we produce. And that's garbage. It's just garbage. It's just that's not real, you know, you can, there's so many ways that people bring so much value to the world, what that have nothing to do with what they create, or what they produce or what they make, but just by, they're surviving, they're thriving, they're engaging with their community, I think we have a lot of work to do in our culture, shifting around that, you know, when I talk about things that I've accomplished, a lot of it is, are just things that I am so proud to be an inquiry around, like, my podcast is a lot of like, it's just, it's really for yoga teachers. And the questions we ask or like, what we engage in the question about what, how we can improve our craft, and what good quality teaching looks like. And there's so much to that. And they're just questions I'm so thrilled to be asking, you know, and so I feel just so happy to get to do that kind of thing. But it's not, but I still am working on this, I think our whole culture has to work on this idea that we bring value by what we produce, it's just not true. You know?
Maybe we bring value by how we feel.
Yeah, and I think how we engage with each other, I mean, that's really why we're here, I think, is to I mean, there's so many reasons, and everyone has a different sense of this, but to, to get to experience love, and community and, and care. And there's so much that our world needs of that right now just being good to each other taking care of each other. And there's really nothing more valuable than that, in my view.
Yeah, that I like to question. It's like, what is the root? What is it? What is the root of thing so that it's, you know, again, the the tendency to focus on external things and controlling external things around me in life, as opposed to having faith in the byproduct, the effect of doing the internal work, right. So it's like, even if we take love, okay, like there are the notion in our society to love ourselves is kind of maybe seen as selfish or doesn't have the best, you know, to love others is to sacrifice. And I love how you just blatantly said earlier, you know, that it just doesn't work. To me, focusing everything on outside of myself and not looking inside, like, that just doesn't work. What I think does work is having faith in the work that I'm doing inside, keeping my mind healthy, growing my body strong, flexible, like, just that the ripple ripple effect there that like, if I do that, if I feel love for myself, then naturally I'm gonna feel love for other people more. And those connections are going to grow and it's not a love that competes with anyone else. You know, I think maybe that doesn't even need to be said there's no comparison. It's just a genuine love and appreciation for this being and the experience of being alive.
That's beautiful. Yeah, absolutely. And I think a lot of that in my teaching, I hope that in that cultivating a tender relationship with themselves, my students, really that what we're building is a resilience to do the work we need to do to make our world Or just, you know?
Yeah, right. And the same thing more just, it's like, if I become more just inside right now, it's like not the quick fix, I think, which is the frustrating thing that we look at it like, you know, like a movie, like some event is gonna happen that that's unrealistic, right? The quickest fix is to become the example ourselves. And if everyone does that, then the world becomes more just. But so I wanted to ask you about, you know, something that you said about interdependency earlier, like fostering this like understanding of, of interdependency. And maybe you mean, like, you know, feeling connected to something larger than than myself? Is that something that was also kind of startling for you when you began to explore that? Or what is how do you feel about inner interdependency and your relationship between yourself and everything else?
Yeah, it's a vital part of my foundational view of the world. And that definitely came through my Buddhist studies most directly, in a meta, like a loving kindness meditation, where you, for those of you listening, if you don't know this practice, you send kind of care and warm wishes to usually you start with a teacher who's been supportive of you on your path, or like a person who's very easy to love. Sometimes it's a pet, you know, child, and then you offer that you start there, because usually, that's when you offer it to yourself. And then you offer this care out to everyone in the room that you're meditating with, and everyone in the building, and to ever widening circles until you get to all beings everywhere. And just very powerful experiences, really, every time we do that practice. But those first few times were really wild. I always had a sense, I think of our global world, and the fact that our choices affect other people, but to really purposefully train my mind to wish health and safety and care to specific groups of people in ever widening circles. It just rewired my brain. And so extremely powerful practice, I
think. I think so too. I think so too. You know, I've you know explored getting more serious about wishing other people well. Right, like first there was just like a pop up question. Like, okay, like, that's nice. Maybe I heard someone else mentioned it, like, you know, wishing all beings well, wishing everyone well. Okay, that's a statement. But now to actually feel feel that way to wish everyone well, to send everyone love that I come into contact with and that I don't everyone, everyone. What a practice that is a really humbles me. Because I realize how often I can't do that. Or I'm trying to do that, you know?
Yeah, yeah. I mean, it's huge. Again, like, thank goodness, we have our whole lives, because it'll take many lifetimes to really take it all in fully, I think, but it's a really important start. And I think that when you get your brain rewired in this way to truly, like, spend time, sending care to all beings everywhere, it should affect our choices, you know, it should affect how we live our lives so that it's not just something that we're saying, but small, tiny actions that we take that can make that true someday, you know, that really all beings have safety, we have a lot of work to do in our world to make that possible. So we're just baby steps, you know,
baby steps and also is it important to accept the fact that there's no like end destination that is just progress. It's never ending growth. And that I could be okay with that, you know, that you don't because like at another part of the culture is very, like destination based, like, to a point where it's like, okay, we reached utopia, and then that's it. Everyone's peaceful, happy. It's like, I don't personally believe that like, I think there will always be more work to do and we can love love the work, but to make progress along the line. That's enough for me.
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, certainly, like in our lifetime, you know, I mean, I I try as a practice to picture a world that doesn't have white dumb, white dominant supremacy, ruining everything. It's not going to happen in my lifetime, but I feel like I have to be able to picture it to do work that needs to be done to make the changes we need to make
about negativity bias to, right, because I think that's another like subtle part of this is that like, for lack of a better word, like I use the word cool. Like, if I find that it's kind of cool to be negative in our culture, right? I felt that when I was a kid a lot, like, okay, that's like, behind, like making fun of other people or, you know, being upset with your school or being upset with everything. And it's just, I, you know, you can do it for so often, then you take comfort in that, and you don't even know how to positive anymore because you have that social safety that has come from just being someone who sees the negative. So what's our obligation to, like, balance that out between like, Okay, I see how maybe something could be better here and different. But at the same time, I'm also appreciating the positive aspects.
Yeah, I think it's, I think it's so important to try to see everything clearly. And so to be able to name the systems that are, you know, and the situations that are harmful, and also to be able to see what's good and what's beautiful. And I think practice has really helped me with that balance. Because the other thing that I see in our communities a lot and like the yoga and wellness communities, is a positivity bias, you know, where people only want to focus on what's good focus on the good feelings, you know, think positive thoughts, which is just totally spiritual bypassing. And so they're these two extremes. Of course, like that's so our culture to have these two extremes, like either only focus on the positive only focus on what's good, only think, good thoughts, or just be so mired, and how terrible everything is. And of course, neither of those things are true, right? It's always, almost always somewhere more in the middle. And so the teachings or middle path and Buddhism, I think, are a good antidote to either one of those sides of the spectrum that people find themselves on.
I agree completely. It's like, sometimes offer a prayer, like, Dear God, please help me see reality. Yeah, it's
totally right. I know. Let me let me see and understand the truth, you know. So yeah, it's all there, all the good and all the ugly, but our world has lots of birth.
I want to ask you about, you know, teaching students one on one, and I listened to you tell some of your stories about getting started and all of that. And one thing I noticed that I think was really essential for your success, maybe that I observed was your ability to be present for your student, like, right? Like, we could be in these situations, I'm a teacher, there's a student, and I can still be stuck in my own up in my own head, if I'm stuck in, okay, this goes actually right to what we were talking about seeing reality, like helped me to see reality. And if I'm stuck up in my head, my own stories and how good I am performing thinking about myself, I don't have much left to really be present for the student and see what's going on with them. So is that something that you've just felt like you've naturally had always this ability to be present? Because I sensed that even when you first started going with helping people one on one, but I'm sure that it's advanced from from there as well, but just anything to say on like, being present for them and seeing what is going on? And once I'm really present there, then the answer, I imagine, opens up, it's like, Okay, once you see see what's happening, now I can see what they need.
Yeah, it's one of the most important pieces, I think of working skillfully with students one on one is, is being fully present. And one of the things I think that I see most distracts teachers from present is when they're stuck in a spiral of self doubt. It's just like the fastest way to disconnect from what's really happening. And it's, it's, it doesn't work that well then when you're teaching so when, I mean I, when I started teaching when I was so young, I was 22 years old when he started teaching. And he started teaching private clients quite quickly within the first six months of starting to teach. And so I wasn't so deep in my own spiritual practice my own meditation practice and had certainly deepened over the years. But you know, how I only had three years from when I really started practicing to when I started teaching, so there's only so much depth that can be there. It's so that's certainly increased over the years, which has made me enter into my one on one relationships, I think more commonly, but what happened I think with that first private client was I was so unsure of what to do with her that I sort of force me into presence just by virtue of like not, not feeling like I had any other option other than to pay very close attention, and try to figure out what should come next. I didn't have experience to go on, I didn't have any training and teaching one on one lessons to go on, I had nothing supporting me, I had no foundation. So all I had was my ability to pay attention. So I do think that that happened to come kind of naturally, sort of out of necessity out of almost fear and panic. But as my, my own practice has continued to deepen, that became more natural, and easier and less exhausting to do. In the beginning, I think I had a lot of presence with my clients, but it took a lot out of me. And then as I deepened in my own practices, and got more experience and sort of created a framework for teaching private lessons, it took a lot less energy to have that kind of presence.
Do you feel that it's a meditation, sort of meditation for you and your teaching?
I feel like it asks a lot of mindfulness and presence, I wouldn't quite call it a meditation, I sort of have this feeling that, like meditation, to me, I try to differentiate between being mindful and having a mind, you know, just mindfulness, generally speaking, and meditation. I mean, meditation is a formal practice that I do sitting or sometimes lying down, or even walking. But it's not. I wouldn't say like doing the, you know, people are like, oh, running as my meditation, or cooking is my meditation. It's like, Well, no, those are lovely activities that make you feel good that you do mindfully that's lovely, and beautiful to have mindfulness practices around our daily activities. I wouldn't call it a meditation, I see that as my formal practice that I do separate from just trying to live mindfully, if that makes sense. makes total
sense. Yeah. His words. Yeah. And how, what our relationship is with them. I think that is an important distinction, too, because I think that what I hear you saying and how I feel, is that having a formal meditation practice is so beneficial, right? That we found it to be so beneficial. Sometimes I hear it almost feels like an excuse that someone doesn't want to go there and do that and explore that, because I have these other things cooking blah, blah, blah, which serves that is like that's, like you said that serves something that's beautiful. And that's so good. But this might serve you in a different way. Yeah.
Yeah, definitely. And I think more depending on how strict a formal meditation practice you're doing, it's not appropriate for everybody at all times of life, you know, so it's not like I think every single person should have a Zen sitting meditation practice where they're, you know, sitting one inch from the wall for 45 minutes. You know, I'm not saying that I think everybody should do that. But I do just differentiate between an intentional practice time where I'm not doing something else, and an activity that I do mindfully.
Back to the question, because I think the important aspect that I was getting at is like, when you're teaching, like, Do you notice that it puts you in a certain place that is special? in some kind of way? Definitely. To be present for someone else? No.
Yeah, for sure. I would say like, it's kind of like, being in flow being in the zone. It's a very focused, highly engaged activity. So it's certainly its own kind of special experience. I love it so much.
Good. Okay, last question I have for you. Are you having fun?
Yes, I am having fun. I am having fun. I will say fun has traditionally not been my strongest suit, like play and fun, just like not something that comes so naturally to me. But that's changing. You know, I hesitated a little bit when you answered because it's been such a hard year it's been such a hard 18 months for everyone. So I've had so much hardship just like everybody else, but I but there are some moments of fun, lots of little moments of fun. I very much enjoy my teaching. So that's really wonderful. And I have to say my husband really encourages he like brings out a playful side of me that was not so present for a lot of my life. So there are definitely lots of little moments of fun in my life.
Yeah, I wonder if that can be like a priority just like these other other things that we're we're speaking about like, you know, silence and, you know, Asana and love You know, what about fun and feeling light? Like taking this experience of being alive lately? I that doesn't necessarily come naturally to me too. But when I feel it feels so good, I'm like, yeah, this is important. How can I foster more of it?
Absolutely. I don't know the answer to that question. That's not my strongest. That's not my specialty, but I support it. I support it. I think it's good.
Well, same thing I think with the being present is just I find like the power of awareness is huge. Like, just to be aware, this is something that feels good that I'd like to have more of my life, because it's a good starting point. And then maybe the answers will come I don't need to find the answers right away. But the answer is just to notice. You know, itself. That's an answer enough.
Absolutely. Yeah. I love that. I love that.
Well, really great to connect with you. And I want to wish you continued success, and all your endeavors. And if if someone wants to be in touch with you, and I know you're doing so many different things, and we'll we'll put your links and stuff in the show notes. But what's the best way for someone to reach out if they, they'd like to be in touch?
Yeah, my website is just my name, Francesca cervera. calm. I have for any students who are listening, I have a virtual kind of small boutique yoga studio that I opened in March of 2020. And so you can find all about the classes that we have in our schedule by going to stillness and movement calm. So those are probably the best two places to find me.
Wonderful. Thanks so much again, have a wonderful day.
Thank you so much for having me.
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