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 Casey Vrla.

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED WITH YOGA?

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Casey Vrla:

Initially, I thought it was a silly fad and didn’t think it would be beneficial at all. I figured that if I was going to be that opinionated against it, I should at least go to a class. After my very first class, I knew that I not only loved it, but I wanted to teach it

WHAT KIND OF TRAININGS HAVE YOU PURSUED?

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Casey Vrla:

2020 was going to be my year to find my specialty. I have a deep respect for service members (Military, Police Officers, Fire Fighters, EMTS/Paramedics etc), so I had scheduled training in injury prevention, yoga for PTSD/Stress/Anxiety/Depression. I’ve also found that yoga sometimes is not physically available for every age and body type, so I have been pursuing learning more about yoga for older adults and those who have more athletic/curvy/muscular body frames. As an athlete myself, learning how to take care of my body prior to possible injuries is very important, so learning about yoga for injury prevention and alternative ways to help heal the body through yoga is something I am very passionate about. However covid-19 had other plans, although I have not been able to pursue these courses and classes in person, I have been doing my own research and study on my own. The information is out there, you just have to dig and be patient.

HOW HAS YOGA INFLUENCED YOUR LIFE AND WHO YOU ARE AS A PERSON?

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Casey Vrla

Yoga has taught me how to “let go”, and, instead of allowing moments of discomfort and challenge to hold me back, to use those moments to help motivate towards a positive outcome.

 

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE LACK OF INCLUSION OF BLACK AND BROWN PEOPLE IN YOGA SETTINGS?

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Casey Vrla:

To me, yoga is one of the most inclusive activities. You don’t need to have anything or be anything to participate in yoga. All you need is you, and your breath. You don’t need a studio, a gym, a mat – just sit down, move (or be still), mediate – it’s YOUR practice. No one can dictate to you how that is supposed to look, and no one can take away from you what you hold internally.
If we’re looking locally, according to the 2020 American Community Survey Seattle is 68% White and 7% Black. So naturally, given those statistics, you will not see as many Black Yoga teachers or students, not because they are being discouraged from practicing or participating in teacher training but because the demographic structure of Seattle is predominantly White. However, should you travel to Atlanta where the demographic breakdown is 40% White and 52% Black you will see more individuals of color in the yoga community.
If we’re looking globally, taking India (the birthplace of Yoga) as an example, we will see almost all yoga being practiced by brown or black individuals with little to no White practitioners. Depending on where you go, and the demographic makeup of that area will determine the dominant/minority structure.
I say all of that not to belittle someone else’s experience but to explain that whether it be yoga, or every day life, the last thing I take note of is the colour of someone’s skin. What I find more important in the content of their character.
I think the biggest lack of inclusivity that happens in Yoga is the lack of different body types represented, especially when looking for yoga wear. You are hard pressed to find someone curvy/thick/athletic etc represented in marketing for yoga. I have such a hard time finding yoga wear that fits me, and when I see nothing but thinner bodies it’s very discouraging. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of focus, if at all, towards women and men who don’t fit into the traditional small, medium and large – instead they are stuck hunting for the select brands that cater to different body sizes and shapes.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE I HAVE FACED AS A BLACK YOGA TEACHER?

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Casey Vrla:

I have been very blessed in my yoga journey to have been able to work with studios that are ALL inclusive. Get Zen Hot Yoga, my very first studio, built their community around inclusivity and acceptance of all. The owners make sure that no matter your race, gender, sexuality, religion, preferences etc that you feel welcome. Pineapple Life Yoga and Barre is another great example of a studio that promotes ALL inclusivity. I love the community of students and teachers, the studio owner made it her mission to make a space that was a safe haven for her members and teachers.
I can’t say that I have faced any challenges based on my skin color. I’ve been faced with challenges, yes, nothing worth pursuing comes easily. However, I’ve had the privilege to have a great community and support system. I can’t even begin to express how important it is to have a strong support system. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today in my yoga career.

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

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Casey Vrla:

Most inspirational moment as a student:

During the close of one of my classes (prior to savasana), we had a John Denver Sing-Along to “Leaving on a Jet Plane” – It was so amazing. Everyone was singing and just…present. It was so powerful because no one was worried about the “what if” they were just happy and vibing to John Denver.

Most inspirational moment as a teacher:

One of my favorite teachers, Vanessa Estes, was leading a Yin class – she had me so relaxed and calm that I fell asleep in a block assisted fish pose. She’s amazing..

WHAT HELPS YOU GET BACK ON YOUR YOGA MAT WHEN YOU ARE FEELING DEMOTIVATED?

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Casey Vrla:

Remembering that middle splits are a bear to recondition…losing them and then having to condition them is an absolute nightmare. It’s better to just stick with your practice.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE YOGA RELATED BOOK?

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Casey Vrla:

Anything regarding anatomy and how the body works.

OTHER THAN PRACTICING YOGA, CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT SOME OF YOUR WELLNESS & SELF-CARE HABITS?

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Casey Vrla:

“Phone detoxing” is a biggie for me. I have to make time to go to the beach, or a hike, somewhere where I can turn my phone off and just be me without social media, phone calls, text messages, emails. I find that taking time to disconnect from my phone makes a huge difference in my perspective and how I see myself.

WHO IS THE YOGI WE SHOULD FEATURE NEXT?

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Casey Vrla:

Vanessa Estes – She is a fantastic yoga teacher. She’s empowering and motivational. Every class I get to take with her, I leave feeling lighter and happier. She is also a Buti Master Trainer – she is one of my absolute favorite teachers she is one of my absolute favorite teachers. Instagram: @vanessasana_
Shay Huff – she has such an amazing energy. She knows how to connect with her students. She’s a challenging teacher, but in a way that makes you feel empowered. Instagram: @teresalasha_ @sheheryogi

Casey Vrla’s Bio:
RYT 200 Cert
Hot Yoga/Hot HIIT/YIN/Flex/Yoga for BJJ
Aerial Instructor (Pole)
I found yoga later in life and fell in love with the process. Yoga has not only helped me physically overcome challenges, but mentally. I know it sounds silly, but the basics of yoga “letting go” and finding your breath have become my core mantra to help motivate me through life’s challenges.