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From outer stories to inner journeys: Interview with yoga teacher Jennifer Safrey

Jennifer is wearing our Unity Tank with Power Girlshort ~  Photography by Cassandra Kelly                  

Our “Your Chakra Is Showing” influencer series highlights remarkable women chosen for their unique voice and commitment to female empowerment. Our champions demonstrate feminine strength, personal growth, and a commitment to themselves and the planet every day.

Jennifer Safrey invested several years in a successful career as a journalist and award-winning novelist before making a daring change. After listening to a still, small voice, she generated a more peaceful and redeeming life for herself by creating stories in the lives of her students through yoga. She takes a bold, lighthearted approach to her deeply transformative yoga practice – often using laughter and music. Jennifer loves to help students succeed in every way, and she wholeheartedly shares her secrets to that success with us today.

Q: What made you decide that you wanted to support women with your voice?

A: It's funny; I knew for many years that I wanted to teach yoga because of the way yoga changed me from the inside out and outside in. I wanted to teach others this alchemy, but I felt like such an impostor because I didn't think I was anyone's idea of who a yoga teacher should be. I worried because I thought had it all together in my personal life, and I struggled with adopting "yoga voice" - that sing-songy, spacey, ethereal tone of voice that yoga teachers are associated with. But I couldn't manage it - I'm an Italian girl from Long Island, so I'm a bit loud and a bit brash and a bit in-your-face. And I have plenty of stuff come up in my personal life every day that I struggle with. I can't tell you the day this all changed, but I did realize fairly early on in my teaching career that I couldn't teach from an inauthentic place, and, as a studio owner, I couldn't build and lead a thriving yoga community from an inauthentic place. So I dropped the act and decided to be myself. To be honest, I did not expect the positive response that followed that quiet decision. The studio community grew and grew, and became so special and unique. If I'm not feeling great, I just say to the class at the beginning, "Hey, I'm feeling lousy today. I had a fight with someone I care about, and it's really affected me. Let's all work with forgiveness on our mats today," or whatever, and I know that everyone in the room have felt like this at some point. I'm able to use it to show everyone that we are all just normal people, and yoga is a great tool for us. We also spend a lot of time laughing in class, and I take a lot of good-natured backtalk in class. I love it. I've been known to shoot rainbow Nerf balls from a plastic unicorn at students, trick them into doing pushups, and encourage sing-alongs to pop songs during our sequences. I can now use my voice to encourage students to be in the moment, laughing and engaging self-awareness, and that's everything to me. The demographics in my suburban studio are mostly women, though a few men come to class and have fun. It's a chance for me to be myself and inspire the women in there to use their voices to help people and create change.

Q: Was there a specific moment when you said, “I’ve got to do something now”?

A: I can't think of one. I really believe our lives are on a trajectory of growth. I didn't always do yoga or want to be a teacher or an entrepreneur. In fact, I went to journalism school and worked in newspapers for a decade and a half. Teaching and entrepreneurship were absolutely foreign to me. I hated the first yoga class I ever took as a student. HATED it. I also dropped out of my first yoga teacher training, because I thought I was too much of a weirdo - that I'd never be able to do it. And it was that small, still voice inside me as I moved forward that said, "Do this, now do this, now do this." that led me to where I am today. So, no, not a specific moment, just a path I decided to follow that was sometimes rocky, sometimes filled with wildflowers.

Q: Was there a time in your life when you needed support? What was it? Where did you find that support?

A: Humans always need support. Even the most introverted of us. Otherwise we'd all be living alone on mountaintops throwing rocks at the mail carrier. I have needed support many times in my life: at the ending of rough personal relationships, when my feline companion of 18 years died, and when I felt attacked in professional relationships. My greatest support has been my parents, and, definitely, my students. One turns a major corner in a teaching career when they realize they learn as many things from their students as they are trying to teach. When I need support, I teach. I come to my mat. I show my students that I come to my mat at difficult times, so they may be inspired to do the same, and they show me what I need to learn at that time: compassion, patience, friendship.

Q: Did you intentionally decide to be an influencer or did it happen as a result of something you did?

A: No, I never intentionally set out to be an influencer. I still often see myself as awkward, unpopular, and dorky like I was as a kid. I would never have presumed to think anyone would care about what I have to say or what I do. But when I made that decision to build my studio on my authenticity, it just happened. I started to post on social media the healthy meals I make and the fun places I occasionally go and the random thoughts I have about making the world better, and I'm happy that people are relating to me. Students stay after class often and talk to me about what's going on in their lives, how yoga at Emerald is making them stronger and happier, and that they are grateful to know me and grateful for our community. I'm so very humbled and overwhelmed by it. It makes me want to work harder, give them more, and expand my offerings.

Q: What does it mean to you to be an influencer?

A: Just a couple of weeks ago, I was about to pass a stranger in a parking lot, early in the morning. His head was down - maybe he was just cold - but his body language communicated weariness and heaviness. So I wordlessly held out my hand for a high-five as I passed him, and he slapped my hand, and I said, "You got this." Neither of us missed a stride. This, to me, is being an influencer. We're all in this together, right? We're all on this Earth together, and we all need each other. At Emerald, I lead a 200-hour teacher training program - a curriculum that I wrote and tweak every year - and I'm extremely proud of it. I teach nearly every hour of the program myself. I get to know every student well, and I teach him or her everything I know to succeed. I teach them how to find and use their unique voices. I teach them all the business strategy I have ever learned. I believe in the saying, "A rising tide lifts all boats." I mentor them for free forever after they graduate; I want them to be successful. And most of them have gone on to teach classes, workshops, private lessons and charity events, and I look at pictures of them and all their students and I think that - by extension - their students are kind of my students, too: that what I've decided to do is spreading yoga “out and out”.

Q: How would you describe power for a woman?

A: The highest power for a woman is to be comfortable in her own skin. We women exist in a society that is constantly telling us we aren't good enough, our teeth aren't white enough, we aren't skinny enough, or whatever other crap. Once we are comfortable in our own skin and with our own inner selves, nothing anyone does around us or to us can ever affect us again. We don't NEED. When we know happiness is something we can easily give ourselves, we have no need to go looking for it in anyone or anything else. This is power. It's power to have agency. It's power to have self-awareness and a willingness to do deep self-study. It's power to have boundaries and invite others to step into their highest selves if they want to be around you. Be you, love you, give yourself what you need, and you will be free.

Q: Do you think vulnerability is an asset or a detractor?

A: I'm all about authenticity, and, if you're not vulnerable, you're not authentic. Even Superman has his Kryptonite, right? And no one is calling the Man of Steel a wuss. I mean, be judicious: Don't give yourself away to every person you meet. You need to protect yourself. But with people you love and with clients and students, I think it's powerful and authentic to be vulnerable. If you put up a tough front every second of the day, it's very difficult for people to relate to you as a friend, teacher, or boss. Be willing to be open. Be willing to say you don't have all the answers.

Q: How do you structure your day?

A: Before I owned a studio, I was freelance editing and writing books at home for a while, so I did get pretty good at an independent workday. I am a huge list-maker, and I tackle my most important tasks first thing. I make sure I do something every day for the business that is an actual revenue-generator. And I make sure to move my body every day, whether it's taking a yoga class, or doing strength training, or running. Last time I was trapped inside on a snow day with no electricity, I jumped rope to stay warm.

Q: How important is factoring “me” time?

A: Yogis are big proponents of self-care and the biggest part of self-care is "me time”. I do live alone, and I don't have children. I confess it's a little easier for me to find "me time” than others, but it's crucial to stay productive and sane.

Q: What does “me time” look like for you?

A: I have a lot of fun with my time off, and I try to take off at least one day a week completely. It's not always possible, but when I do, I often take myself to the movies, binge-watch something I'm obsessed with on TV, or color while listening to podcasts. Books are an old friend, so I read as much as I can - curled up on the sofa with my two cats, Kimura and Potus.

Q: Where do you look for energetic support?

A: I never thought I'd say this, because I consider myself a city girl having grown up just outside NYC and living in the heart of Boston for many years, but I look for energetic support in nature and from animals. Nothing revives me like a great hike. I feel supported by the oxygen the trees offer. I feel supported by the air and the chirping birds and the little squirrels and chipmunks that run by. When I get an opportunity to ride, I'll always take it, because horses are a great source of energetic support for me. And, by the way, crystals - which is why I love Chakra Intimates so much. Crystals are of the earth, and when I introduce one into my own energetic field, I feel charged and happy like I'm drawing from Mother Earth.

Q: How important is buying with eco-awareness?

A: For many years I just had to buy on the cheap, so it wasn't as important to me when I just needed to be able to afford something. But now it's really important to me. If I'm going to put my hard-earned money back into circulation, I want to know that I'm buying and supporting something that is good for the Earth and our future. I love eco-fabrics too. They are always so much softer and more luxurious feeling!

Q: How do you think we can impact this planet if we bought with preserving it in mind?

A: Listen, I'm a woman who loves to shop, so it's possible that I can single-handedly save the world if I choose to always be eco-conscious! Okay, that's an exaggeration, but honestly, if we buy with the Earth in mind, even some of the time, what a difference this will make.

Q: What are your top 3 tips for staying happy, whole and successful?

A: 1. Choose what kind of life you want to lead, and make decisions - even simple everyday decisions - based on whether the choice serves your vision or not.

2. Self-care for real. Sometimes this means bubble baths and soft blankets. Sometimes this means taking an online course to care for your intellect or shopping at a healthy supermarket to care for your body. Put YOU first.

3.Do the thing. You know what that thing is. The thing you've been thinking about. Do it.

Q: What is your wish for the woman that you support?

A: My wish for her, for YOU, is this: that if you want to go big, you don't wait until you're ready. Start before you're ready. Start when you're unsure. Start when you don't have a ton of cash. Start when you still have a lot to learn. Start smart, but START. Because here's the thing: you will NEVER be ready. Life will always get in your way. You will always have self-doubt and a lack of knowledge. You will always have naysayers and people expressing their disapproval of you. If you wait until the "perfect" time, we will be deprived of your gifts forever. Make a plan, get a mentor, and create a vision. Then lace up your sneakers and get on your path. You'll find scary things, and you'll find beautiful things. But you will find nothing unless you start.

Wise words from a storyteller who has walked the path before us. What’s one thing you take away from our interview with Jennifer that you would like to embody in your own life? Let us know on our Facebook page. Follow Jennifer and Emerald Yoga Studio on Facebook and watch for more from inspirational women on our blog, our newsletter, and on our social feed on Facebook and Instagram as we share their stories of challenge and triumph and find our own power along the way.

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