Teacher Talk Tuesday: Meet Tiffany Prior


How did you begin practicing and teaching yoga? 

I began practicing about 16 years ago, when I pressed play on a yoga VHS in my bedroom. At the time, it felt so worldly and exotic, which really appealed to me being from a small town with few cultural outlets. My love for yoga expanded while I was in college in Chicago. I wanted to live at my local Bikram studio, sometimes doing 2 classes a day. I would scrounge up whatever extra money I had to go. When I wasn’t there, I would lay out one of my 3 well-worn copies of Yoga Journal on the floor and piece together a practice. It was shortly after that I discovered a video of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois instructing Ashtanga Primary Series, from 1993; my first foray into the world of Vinyasa. I desperately wanted to get my yoga certification then, and though it wasn’t able to come to fruition, my dream held on. I continued fervently practicing, learning as much as I could, until I moved to St. Louis in 2010. In 2011, after settling in and becoming more familiar with the yoga community, I found a training I was willing to try. I had my first teaching opportunity in October of 2012, at Joy of Yoga. At the time, it was a cute little startup in Midtown. I’m really grateful for that support and belief because it’s brought so many experiences and wonderful relationships.

How has yoga been transformational in your life?

Something I have learned about myself, through yoga, is that movement is essential to my mental and emotional well-being; never mind the physical benefits. I have to move my body every day. Even saying “move my body” seems reductive, it is too perfunctory a descriptor for the actual process taking place. It’s proprioceptive, psychosomatic healing. Where else in our lives are we able to freely express with every ounce of our being and know that what we are feeling is true? No one can negate the experience we have through movement, or the neurogenesis that takes place as a result. It truly is mind, body, and spirit. This practice has been a source of great strength for me. Yoga allowed me to feel strong and graceful simultaneously, to feel like I owned my body, and that I could do just about anything I set my mind to. Through yoga, I believed that I could birth my 2 sons at home, and I did. It allowed me to have the most powerful and transformational experiences I could have ever hoped to have. Everything else in life is relative to that now. Yoga allowed me to recognize the amount of power I have, especially as a woman.

What’s your favorite part about teaching yoga?

My first instinct is to say the creative and emotive aspect is my favorite, which it is. Guiding a room of people through this beautiful process of feeling and experiencing something both individually and together, in entirely unique ways, is incredible. But if I’m honest, I’ve recently had to start believing that people believe in me, and not just the students. I mean, wholly crap… an entire room of people just showed up to my class, and it wasn’t by accident? I don’t know why it’s taken me 8 years to get to this place, but I suppose it’s good that I’ll never take that for granted. So, I’m trying to be more open to the love of it all, and not feeling like a giant imposter. I will forever be a student.

What do you do to prepare for class?

I will usually do a little movement myself, to feel what is happening that day. I think about the people who I know will be there, and how I can best serve them. The students inspire me to be more creative and think outside the box; I never want to let them down. I seldom pre-write a flow and bring it to class. It makes me incredibly nervous and completely stifles my presence. If something isn’t landing, I want to be observing everything that is happening by being in it with them.

Do you have a favorite pose or movement?

Before kids, my answer would have been totally different. Pinchamayarasana (Forearm Balance). But these days, I live for Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold). Parsvottanasana (Pyramid Pose is another go to in my morning movement. My physical practice is simple in this phase of my life.

If you were a yoga pose what would you be and why?

 Funky pyramid or flamingo pose. It’s approachable, yet challenging. Requires focus, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. It has second chakra connection, creativity, and is introverted but expressive.

What’s your favorite type of music to play while practicing? Do you have a playlist you’d like to share?

I am all over the place musically. It completely depends on my mood and the class. In my personal practice I like Bhakti, DJ Drez, Janis Joplin, 60’s kind of stuff, Erykah Badu, and reggae. In class, I can sometimes play the same, but I really like to keep it moody, artsy, and independent. Valerie June is my current love. She is absolutely from another planet and I can’t get enough.

Does your personal practice differ from how you teach?

At the moment, completely. I’m still trying to bring-it-for-the-people in the studio, but at home my practice is 100% in mindfulness with my children and husband. I want to peacefully parent with every ounce of my being and I’m moving my body purely for necessity. I am walking myself through meditation everyday, all-day, focusing on non-reactivity, positive thinking, healing and continuously evolving. Teaching is such a creative and sensitive endeavor for me, always striving to intuit what the students want and need. Teaching gives me the opportunity to get my fiery side out, a retreat from my mommy-space. It has been a wild ride from where I started 8 years ago, through 2 pregnancies, postpartum, and now. I’m grateful for the people who have stuck with me through it all!

Recommended reading (yoga and/or non-yoga)

Non-Violent Communication, by Marshall Rosenberg.

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, by Dr. Laura Markham. (Get the workbook because we have all been children, have been parented or are parenting, and almost certainly have healing to do.)

How would you describe yourself? What do you want people to know about you?

My students have described me as “a fierce and commanding teacher,” which I suppose shows up in other areas of my life as a projection of confidence. In all actuality, I’m an incredibly sensitive, highly emotional, and deeply feeling person. If you’re familiar with Myers-Briggs, I’m an INFJ - The Advocate, and in the Enneagram I’m a 4w5. Supposedly, I’m this rare type of person, which would make sense considering how awkward I usually feel. People assume I’m extroverted, especially when I’m approached after class, but once I’ve given my offering, I’m ready to rein it back in. I’m enthusiastic about what I’m interested in, want to learn about, or feel comfortable sharing.

Outside of yoga what is your passion/Where can you be found?

Moving my body, I only sit if I have to. I’ll be lifting in the gym, hiking, running, swimming, walking, or just generally busting it. After I had my second son, I felt the weakest I have ever felt; entirely broken. I never want to feel that way again. Aside from that, I spend nearly all of my time with my 2 boys and husband. If we’re lucky enough to be on the occasional date night, we’ll be seeing a show or listening to music and having great food.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself!

I love to travel. Particularly, with my husband, van travel. Prior to having children, we drove all over the country in our giant white passenger van. It had a bed platform in the back, kayaks, bikes, yoga mats, our dog, and whatever else we would need. We would camp anywhere and everywhere, bathe in mountain streams, hike, and be free to explore. It’s the best. It’s allowed me to practice yoga all over the country, go to Wanderlust 2 times, and experience the simple essence of life through being very minimal. It’s a core value of ours that we hope to pass along to our kids.

Anything else?

I teach at Blue Sky because Annie and the students have been so good to me. You all are family and I am grateful to have St. Louis to teach and practice yoga in. We have an amazing community here.

Why Meditate?

Dhyana, the seventh of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, is meditation and concentration. The word dhyana comes from the Sanskrit word dhyai, which means “to think of.” The first six limbs prepare us for deep meditation, but we don’t have to start at limb one to gain the benefits of meditation.

Magazines, TV and internet are full of articles about meditation. I’m sure many people read these articles and are interested in learning more about meditation, but daily meditation takes time. I often hear people say something like, “I’d love to meditate but I don’t have extra time in my schedule, plus I’m pretty happy most of the time anyway, and why should I add meditation when I’m already overloaded?” 

You may want to re-think taking time to meditate when you read what I have to say: Hear me out. 

According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. And more than 75% of all physician office visits in the US are for stress-related ailments and complaints. 

We are all subject to stress. It has been estimated that stress costs $300 billion every year due to loss of productivity in the workforce, medical expenses, accidents and related social problems. 

A few common causes of stress are: 

  • loss of loved one 

  • loss of job 

  • work related issues 

  • money issues 

  • divorce 

  • marriage 

  • illness/injury — chronic or short term 

  • The list goes on and on.

Simply said, the cause of stress is not getting what we want. You may not like that definition, but if you really think about it, it’s true. Either because we did something that keeps us from getting what we want, we didn’t do something to get what we want, or circumstances out of our control interfered and we got something we didn’t want. In one form or another, we are all subject to stress. 

When we encounter a stressful situation the amygdala, an area of the brain that contributes to emotional processing, sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus. (see illustration below) 


The hypothalamus is like a command center, signaling the entire body through the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system controls things like heartbeat, blood pressure, breathing, constriction of key blood vessels and can dilate or constrict airways in the lungs. Two components of the autonomic nervous system are sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic is like hitting the gas pedal, kicking on our fight or flight response. The parasympathetic is like rest and regroup, calming the body after stressful situation has passed. 

Upon activation of the sympathetic nervous system, the adrenal glands respond by pumping the hormone epinephrine (adrenaline) into the bloodstream. Epinephrine brings on a series of physiological changes: heart rate increases, pulse and blood pressure go up, breathing rate increases, and airways in the lungs open wide allowing more oxygen to be carried to the brain increasing brain activity. Epinephrine also triggers the release of blood sugar (glucose) which, through a series of events, supplies more energy carried by the bloodstream to the body. 


Chronic low-level stress keeps what is called the HPA axis activated. The HPA axis is the networking between the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands. Chronic low-level stress results in physical problems such as heart attack, stroke and weight gain just to name a few. 

Meditation is an effective way to deal with chronic stress. Meditation has been around for thousands of years practiced in many traditions; almost every religion has a system of meditation. Currently a method of meditation with roots in Hinduism, Yoga and Buddhism called mindful meditation is the most researched and well known. Mindful meditation in the United States has increased in popularity since the mid 20th century and continues to grow to this day. 

The primary reason mindful meditation has become mainstream is because research and personal experience with mindful meditation shows that a consistent mindful meditation practiced improves physical and emotional health and changes areas of the brain (neuroplasticity) that are tuned to chronic stress response. Over a period of time the brain adapts to the HPA axis response, and the HPA axis becomes more easily activated. 

Neuroplasticity is generally accepted as one of the most significant discoveries of the 20th Century. Dr. Michael Merzenich in the 1970s was conducting experiments attempting to prove that the brain is compartmentalized and fixed. Dr. Mersenich inadvertently discovered that the brain is not compartmentalized nor is it fixed. Some areas of the brain are subject to structural change (neuroplasticity). Response mechanisms to chronic stress can be changed by using mindfulness — non-judgmental awareness in the moment. 

Functional MRI technology has verified theories regarding meditation and the brain. Using FMRI technology, researchers can see structural changes in the brain after just a few weeks of meditation. 

Additional studies have found meditation enhances our ability to empathize without taking on others’ negative energy. Also, mindful meditation increases our ability to nurture ourselves and facilitate a greater sense of well-being. Research also indicates mindful meditation increases density in gray-matter in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory and structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. 

I wish much love and success to everyone who has taken the time to read this article. Please begin a regular meditation practice today. Information is everywhere, guided meditations can be found in apps and on the internet and books. 

Our website is mooncrestyoga.com 

We are offering meditation workshops almost monthly. 

written by Emmet Schmelig

Source: https://clients.mindbodyonline.com/classic...