Occupation: Form Fitness Yoga Instructor
Place of Birth: Mobile, AL
Education: B.A. Advertising and Marketing
Creds: 200 Hatha Yoga Teacher (Vinyasa Flow)
“Our movement doesn’t control our breath…our breath controls our movement. Life in balance.”
Hello, Melanie Jeansonne. Your name sounds French?
Jeansonne. Yes, I married a Louisiana boy, but his family moved to Mobile, AL, right before he was born. But don’t worry, he still bleeds LSU…he cannot help himself. His grandmother was born on Bourbon Street—and his mother can cook like nobody’s business. I do, too, which is fun. Michael is six years older, and we’re from the same Alabama town, but we actually met in Tokyo.
How many years have you practiced yoga?
Seven years, and decided in 2015 to get my Vinyasa Flow certification.
Life in balance. I started in college like everyone. I went to the extreme, exercising to lose weight, and through that I learned, when I was skinniest, that’s when I was the most unhappy. Life is not about living inward, but living outward. I started [yoga] seven years ago, after my third child, to sweat and destress. Through time, I started to appreciate the beauty of slowing down and realized that the physical, emotional, and mental practice of yoga all play a very important role. You have to find balance in life. It is very important in this fast paced world. We are all living 100 miles per hour, multitasking, and if we don’t learn to slow down and check in with ourselves, we are doing more harm than good.
We are trying to be everything to everyone at all times, and when we are spread this thin, we truly cannot do any of it really well. That is why I think being in savasana (lying on your back) is still one of the hardest poses. Because it is so “not our nature.” However, this is the one pose where you reap all the benefits from your hard work. Because in being still, we have to listen to ourselves, our bodies, and that is where you really learn and grow the most…in the quiet and stillness…we can hear what we truly need. So, we need to slow down and just take inventory from time to time…daily, if we can! Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually to keep life in balance, because if we don’t, that is when we start to feel overwhelmed.
That is why breath is so important in yoga. It makes us be present. Our movements should not control our breath, but our breath should control our movement, and then, you learn to listen to what your body needs. Every day our body needs something different. When you walk in [to class], it is not about anyone else. It is not competitive. It is you and your mat, your breath and your movements. Really pay attention to what your body needs in that hour. When you walk into that yoga room, you leave everything else outside those four walls. This is the one hour your get to do something totally for you. That is the funny thing about yoga and all of its benefits, they sneak up on you. Then, other people start to notice. You seem a little more relaxed, more focused, a little more at ease.
What’s your vision as an instructor?
There’s a creative aspect to yoga. “Do they need stretching and lengthening? Do they need something slow, or fast with more arm balances, or hip openers, because they’ve been under stress that week?” I want them to let the week—or the day—go, and just come into themselves without any labels. Learn to let go of any ego. Who cares what the person next to you is doing? That is one of the most beautiful things about yoga…appreciating the people who are next to you and respecting their privacy.
People need to come in and know it is you and your mat. You are your best teacher. I am not in their body, or in their head to know what they need that day. To come in as their guide, to help them find the correct form and foundation, and to push them to places they may not be familiar with, when needed; but, they will ultimately be their own best teacher. They will learn to listen to themselves. And, I will learn from them, as well. My hope is that they will find a place of “being present” and of balance, and they can take that off their mat when they leave.
What’s unique about teaching at Form Fitness?
I love the smaller scale. I feel like I can be more creative and tailor my classes to the clients’ needs.
We talk a lot at Form Fitness about fitness journeys. What is yours?
Life in balance from here on out. I am not into fad diets or short term exercise goals. I am in it for the long haul…not for just a season or this year…but for life. Eating healthy, exercising, getting enough sleep, drinking water, and giving yourself grace…and giving yourself space to grow…Life in balance. There will always be room for improvement, and if you know where you “want to go” in life, you can always redirect the ship when it starts to feel a little off kilter. Whether it is in yoga, diet, health, or something else, I want to learn to be quiet and be “in tune” with what is going on with me, so I can, in turn, give that much more to what is important and use that to serve others. This is why I try to keep close to God every day…We have to make time for ourselves so we can put those things that are important to us first, and prioritize from there.
I have always overcommitted, and then, when my dad died, I thought, “Why am I running frantic, trying to do it all?” You cannot live a deep, meaningful life that way, and do it well without something falling through the cracks. So, when I hit the Big 4-0, I took the approach “less is more.” One of the most beautiful things I have learned in my yoga practice is to be in the moment. I heard once that people spend 58% of our day thinking about the past, and what we are planning in the future, which means we live over half of our lives not fully in “the present moment.” That is so sad to me, because we are going to miss out on God’s greatest blessings. We can learn to change that though…to be in that moment, to be in that conversation, be with whomever you are with, fully…and see how that works for you. The sad thing is in this day of age, we never slow down enough to try it, until something huge or catastrophic grabs our attention…how about we not wait to change our journey…
Yoga and life are a practice. What are your top three favorite poses?
Mountain Pose. It’s powerful, lengthening, energizing.
Extended Child Pose. To me, it is the beginning of getting in touch with yourself, your breath, your practice. It is the start of a beautiful class and being able to give yourself the next sixty minutes out of your entire twenty-four hours. In taking time for yourself, you can give to others better for the rest of the day.
Savasana. It is that place where you are still and reap the benefits from all your hard work from your practice. It is where you listen to your body, because in listening, it is where you grow.
How do you accommodate physical limitations into your instruction?
Ask!!! Before I start class. “Is there anyone needing something?” “Have they been traveling a lot?” ‘Have an injury/ surgery?” I try to be mindful of that. I will give alternate poses to accommodate their injury or physical limitation. And, I tell them to please feel free to sit out of any pose too, if they need to. They know what they are feeling. This is THEIR practice, their time, and to honor that. Give yourself that gift of knowing when to take a break. It is not about anyone else in that room.
Health…Balance. Intention. [Laughs.] I’ve got a lot.
Originally published 3/6/16 on Form Fitness “Success Stories” and corresponding FF social media platforms. Form Fitness©2016.