VIDA Instructor Spotlight: Chris Parkison
Chris Parkison has been exercising and playing sports for as long as he can remember- from childhood to high school and beyond. After graduating law school and entering the Washington DC legal world, Chris turned his focus to weight lifting and triathlons. It was during this time that he found something lacking from his exercise routine- a sense of purpose beyond lifting heavier weights and running faster. It all clicked when he found yoga- he really saw how athletics can be more than just exercise and competition- it can also be about lifelong health and happiness for both body and mind. Through Yoga Chris found an outlet for the physical intensity his body craved but also a calm and focus that was lacking not only in his athletic endeavors but also in his job as an attorney in Washington DC. Soon after discovering the benefits of yoga, Chris decided to teach the practice to others as a way to help everyone find a peaceful place in their lives even if that is only for an hour a day.
How long have you been with VIDA?
In May I’ll have been teaching yoga at VIDA for two years. And back in October I was brought on as the group program manager at The Yards.
What’s your story of how you got in to teaching yoga?
So I got in to teaching yoga after many years of doing sports that were hard on my body. I utilized sports, such as weightlifting and triathlons, as a way to get out aggression, but I found that after awhile the activities I was participating in were reinforcing my aggression rather than acting solely as an outlet.
For example, every time I would go to lift weights to get out aggression, it just made me more aggressive. There was a link between the negative feelings and the physical actions, so I needed something different.
I tried running, but again, the whole time you’re running you’re trying to beat your own time…it’s very self-competitive and I was trying to break out of that. Then someone suggested yoga, so I went to a class and liked it, but I was still approaching it with that competitive mindset. I was trying to get in to poses I wasn’t ready for, but after about a year or so of practicing I really learned and adopted a more intuitive mindset. That mindset is what made me realize what yoga really is about, and it’s just grown from there.
I took my teacher training, which lasted about 8 months, and shortly thereafter VIDA brought me on to the team.
What can people expect when they come to your class?
A vigorous physical but mentally relaxed practice where students are encouraged to work with their bodies and not in spite of them
These days, which yoga pose is your favorite, and why?
How about two? Parivrtta Trikonasa- Revolved triangle. No one likes this pose and neither did I until I learned to make the pose work for me instead of trying to fit my body into some idealized version I had created in my head. And Handstand- it is a constant refining of getting almost every muscle in your body to work together.
What have you noticed is something many of your students have gained or found through taking your classes?
The people who come to my classes, I have found, are looking for two things:
1.) They’re looking for a vigorous class. That’s why I like to make my classes hard, but not difficult. For example, there isn’t a single pose you couldn’t try to do…we’re not doing handstands or arm balances, those poses are difficult. All the poses I give aim to give you the opportunity to try them, but in order for you to step out of your ego, I have to make the class hard and challenge you. Then it’s your challenge to not do everything. Your challenge is to know when your body has reached a limit, but in order to get you there the class has to be hard.
2.) People are looking for a relaxed and psychological practice. My goal is to give you a vigorous physical workout and a relaxed mental workout. That’s why I try to keep things light with humor and I relate yoga philosophy to life examples because I want to get across that yoga is approachable for everyone and it can relate to everyone’s life out in world.
How should a student approach his or her first yoga class?
Take your shoes off, grab a mat, tell the teacher it is your first class and see what happens! I was really apprehensive before my first (and even my 10th yoga class) because of all the preconceived notions I had developed over the years about yoga (and, in fairness, the yoga community continues to encourage)
Anything else you would like to add for anyone who hasn’t tried a yoga class at VIDA?
The yoga world is kind of insulated. There’s this fake “yogi” lifestyle of being vegan or having the right yoga wear that’s all based on marketing. I want people to know is that here at VIDA we don’t fall in to that marketing scheme.
We hire the best instructors from around the city, and we have some of the best programming. Not to mention, all of our instructors are so friendly and don’t fall in to that marketed “yogi culture” where it’s unapproachable.
You’ll be challenged whether you’ve been practicing yoga for a total of 6 minutes or 6 years, and we’ve got a great supportive team amongst the VIDA instructors and the members as well.
Finally, tell us something we don’t know about you (embarrassing moment, fun fact, favorite unhealthy food, childhood trait, etc.)!
I used to fall on other yoga students in class trying to do poses I wasn’t physically or mentally prepared for even though my ego certainly was. But most of the time I get encouragement from the yogis around me instead of criticism. Which says a lot about the practice and the people who do it.