Seattle Yoga News is on a mission to find and highlight all of the hidden, and maybe not so hidden, gems in our yoga community and beyond. We want you to learn about their experiences and perspectives, but also a bit more about their personalities, so we have a few fun questions for them. This week’s spotlight is turned towards Ali Valdez.

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED WITH YOGA?

Ali Valdez

Ali Valdez:

For quite a long time, I’d already been leading small groups on many topics commonly associated with yoga. Ironically, I became a “teacher” when I was living in San Francisco and the teacher was stuck in the traffic. The class unanimously asked me to do it, and so I did. Quickly upon practicing the asana aspect of yoga, I began to see how it bridged two things that brought me immense joy and fulfillment: physical activity and spirituality. Quickly thereafter, I started seriously studying yoga and got my first certification.

WHAT KIND OF TRAININGS HAVE YOU PURSUED?

Ali Valdez

Ali Valdez:

As someone who is fanatical about learning and personal development, there are many trainings that I have done: a mentorship in Hot Hatha, 200 hours in Vinyasa, 100 hours in Yin, another 500+ hours with my guru Andrey Lappa in the Universal style, Tripsichore and so on. In total, I have almost 3,500 hours of yoga-related training. Currently I am just about to wrap up my Masters at Johns Hopkins University for Healthcare Science Communication, where the bulk of my research has been on workplace productivity utilizing yoga and meditation. It’s been a blast and I never plan on stopping learning different aspects of this amazing science.

WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH TO TEACHING YOGA?

Ali Valdez

Ali Valdez:

I’ve never taught the same class twice and one of my life mottos is ‘unlimited creativity’- it’s as much art and it is functional movement. I try to teach a class rich in meaning and relevance that awakens each level of mayakosha. As I have matured as a teacher, it’s become less about asana mastery, and more about the personal meaning yoga has to the individual student.

WHAT’S THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?

Ali Valdez

Ali Valdez:

Advice has been around feedback. Set your ego aside, regardless of how many years you’ve been teaching. The criticism is equally as important as the accolades- care about them both. There are always ways to cultivate greater mindfulness and improve one’s skills, interpersonal or otherwise.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST INSPIRATIONAL MOMENT YOU’VE EXPERIENCED AS A YOGA STUDENT? AND HOW ABOUT AS A TEACHER?

Ali Valdez

Ali Valdez:

My most inspirational moment after 20 years of teaching? I have been blessed with many. I think the greatest inspirational moment is when anyone, regardless of what they are doing, has a ‘breakthrough’- when they are beginning to have their first aha moment about how powerful this practice can truly be. Meeting and working so closely with my teacher has also been a blessing. In the world of a dime a dozen yoga teacher trainings, to have an ongoing and deep relationship with your teacher well past a program has helped me continue growing. I do my best to do the same for my graduates any time they need me. Yoga isn’t a transactional thing for me; it’s everything. I have people that have been with me for twenty years now, no leg behind the head can mean as much as the enduring connections and rich friendships that get created along the way. I have a saying “Sattvists helping Sattvists” and it’s so true.

WHAT LED YOU TO OPEN SATTVA YOGA STUDIOS & WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT FROM OTHER STUDIOS IN SEATTLE?

Ali Valdez

Ali Valdez:

Opening Sattva Yoga Studios was quite random. I love yoga, but I don’t need to own businesses to do yoga. I loved the notion of creating opportunities for my teachers. So when one of my former students from almost fifteen years asked me if I would like to open one, I asked my daughter if she was up for the task. It’s easy to glide in, teach and grab a paycheck. It’s something else to operate a brick and mortar studio. Many do it exceptionally well, but it’s because they love business as much as yoga. I consider Sattva unique because of our principles around community being of service to others. Also, the level of innovation we aspire to is different than most studios. Our students demand growth, which pushes us to keep learning and growing in our craft. It’s an honor, either way, to be in service to a community of people passionate about the practice. That’s all that matters.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE YOGA RELATED BOOK?

Ali Valdez

Ali Valdez:

My favorite yoga book…hmmm, so many. Probably Kriya Yoga from Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Yogananda. But I also love the Vivekananda translation of The Yoga Sutras. In my philosophy and advanced philosophy, we read from a variety of texts, so texts like Awakening the Buddha Within, or The Great Work of Your Life, are great places to dip your toe in.

  • The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST DEFINING ISSUE FACING THE GLOBAL YOGA COMMUNITY TODAY AND WHAT SHOULD BE DONE ABOUT IT?

Ali Valdez

Ali Valdez:

This is hard to answer, because yoga has proliferated in many ways, some less savory than others. Sattva’s value prop has always been “we are a community of yogis dedicated to the evolution of the science of yoga.” I cannot then turn around and say but only if it evolves the way I want it to evolve. Then we bring in dogma, and that’s no bueno for anyone. So taking it to a level higher than yoga, I think our challenges in yoga are merely a reflection on larger societal challenges of equality. My advice would be that all students grow in their own personal power, and not hand it over to someone else. It’s offensive to me how power gets abused, or students become sexualized or manipulated, but we see these social ailments in other places and spiritual practices. Yoga should be safe and inclusive to everyone.

OUTSIDE OF THE WORLD OF YOGA, WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT?

Ali Valdez

Ali Valdez:

Writing and research are two chief passions of mine, but admittedly, spirituality is the nexus. My kid Mathilde and I have a shared love of the arts, so we’re constantly doing arts stuff. She’s very active, so like it or not, I’m a glorified Uber driver helping nurture and fulfill my daughter’s passions, which is fine by me.

WHO IS THE YOGI WE SHOULD FEATURE NEXT & WHY?

Ali Valdez

Ali Valdez:

I love the work that is being done in prison through the organization Yoga Behind Bars. I think they have a new Director and would like to learn more about how they are serving this vastly underrepresented segment of the population. It used to be Natalie Cielle, but not sure who it is now.

Ali Valdez’s Bio: Ali is a long-term fixture in the Northwest yoga community and published writer, leading teacher trainings (200 and 500 hour), workshops and providing personal and business mentorships to hundreds of students and yoga teachers|studio owners worldwide. She has certifications in a variety of styles with her studies taking her to Europe, throughout Asia and both coasts. A born book nerd, she also has over thirty years of academic work and studies in comparative religion, philosophy and spirituality and a long-standing meditation practice. This Fall she is offering her flexible in-studio and online 200 hour program and launching her next 500 hour Advances studies program. Learn more about this and more at: www.sattvayogastudios.com.