Yoga Basics recently had the chance to catch up with Martia Rachman, E-RYT 500, LMBT, and co-founder of Black Mountain Yoga in North Carolina. Her unique therapeutic approach to yoga comes from her background in bodywork and Ayurveda, and her passion for supporting students on their paths to healthy living and spiritual wellness. Martia is also the author of Yoga’s Touch: Hands-On Adjustments, Alignment and Verbal Cues, and is the founder of YogaTouch Methodsm.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to Yoga Basics. How did you find yoga? What inspired you to dive into the practice and become a yoga teacher and studio owner?
I found yoga in my teens as a mild athlete and fashion model. I remember packing up for a modeling trip to Europe, and before leaving, I met a girl who taught me a few yoga poses and meditation practices that her mom had passed down to her. We started incorporating yoga poses in our daily workouts.
In the middle of my modeling career, I was in a traumatic car accident, and fractured my spine in two places, leaving me in a back brace for months. I took the yoga tools I’d been introduced to, and used them to help heal this unfortunate injury, and it changed my life forever. I soon turned toward Ayurveda and other natural ways of living, and began listening more deeply to my inner Self for healing and solitude to avoid falling into depression and a weakened physique. This became my inspiration for wanting to pass yoga along to others. At that time, yoga wasn’t quite as mainstream in the Southeast as it is today, and there were very few yoga teachers or studios. I guess you could say I was on the cutting edge of my profession and my personal healing journey.
In 2000, I completed a yoga teacher training and began studying Ayurveda more intentionally. Soon after, I started teaching at a local YMCA, the (only) flow yoga studio in Asheville, NC, and organized a yoga schedule at a gym in Black Mountain, NC.
Anyone who has taught at a gym likely knows how challenging it is to teach in a setting where comfortable room-temperatures and clean floors are not deemed important by the managing staff! This was the case at the gym in Black Mountain. My husband and I could see the need, desire and love of yoga growing in our community, but the lack of care and concern for yoga students was also obvious, so in 2007, we opened Black Mountain Yoga. Shortly thereafter, in order to acquire a like-minded teaching staff—and to maintain a conducive schedule without burning ourselves out by teaching all the classes—we started a yoga teacher-training program.
Black Mountain Yoga’s teacher training focuses on the therapeutics of yoga, with an emphasis on anatomy, physiology and pathology, as well as gentle yoga. We opted for this type of training because of our own education and experience, and through recognizing that yoga therapeutics is not just a niche—there’s a need and demand for this type of yoga. Our training is intended for teachers who want to help their students slow down, go deep, learn their own bodies and recover from injuries through yoga—and it’s been enthusiastically received in the Black Mountain area.
As a mother, wife, studio owner and author how do you stay grounded—and how do these things influence each other? Has being a mother, wife, studio owner and author changed the way you think about yoga and teaching?
Becoming a wife during my ‘career’ as a yoga teacher has ultimately been helpful for a number of reasons, but mostly because my husband is also is a yogi. We have a similar lifestyle from food to beliefs. This is huge!
I’d suggest to anyone with a spiritual practice but without a partner in life, to aim for finding someone on a similar spiritual path. I’ve witnessed so many challenges faced by friends and students in when they don’t feel supported by their partner spiritually. I even tried it myself a couple of times—with fail. My husband, Brad has been a great teacher for me. He’s attended my classes and offered valuable feedback, which has enriched my yogic teachings. Brad is naturally a sattvic (balanced and grounded) guy, which is extremely grounding for me and our two young children, Vivian (5.5) and Fiona, (1).
Becoming a mother as a yogi and studio owner has deepened my practice and inspired me tremendously. I have matured more in the last five years than ever before, and am much less egocentric. Caring for others’ thoughts, feeling and needs, I focus less on me. I get to see God every time I think of or look at my children.
I lost both of my parents at an early age, and like many, also lost a baby in the womb. These things have led me to truly live in the here and now. Every time I’m with one or both of my daughters, if I catch my mind wondering to my phone, emails that need responses—or anything else—I bring myself back. The time I have with them now, I’ll never get back. And I take this practice of being conscious and in the moment into most everything I do. I think this is the true act of yoga: to be present, mindful and fully awake.
Balancing being a mom, wife, householder, studio owner and author is not always easy. I can’t say I do the best job at all five things everyday. Some days I fall short at being creative and staying on-top of the best ways to keep the doors of the studio open, or coming up with new marketing efforts for my book. Somedays my daughters just take all of my attention. But I work, on a daily basis, to meet each of these matters with ease. If I look after myself with good food, a yoga practice and meditation (sometimes the last two are very short) this helps me to stay clear for what is most important in the moment: Do we have groceries? What will be the spiritual and physical intention in the next class I lead? Is there a workshop to create text for? Do my daughters need my attention? Do I need to write material for book sales? I admit that at the days’ end, I’m often tired and the one who lacks—but these five creations are a blessing. I love what do. I love my family. And so that means I’m also doing all of this for myself. Fortunately, I live just a few blocks from our yoga studio, and have a great studio manager. I’ve got a lovely home office and have help with our children at home. These are luxuries that not everyone has, and it certainly helps create a sense of ease. Everyday when I wake up, I say, “thank you!” for such a wonderful life before my body even leaves the bed.
I have been teaching yoga since 2000, and knew right away I was a good teacher—mostly because people kept coming back (that’s always a good barometer!). Like anything we do, if we love it, it serves others. And if we work at, and continue to love it, we’ll invest time and energy and continue to get better. Every time I come to the mat or teach a class, I become a better yogi and teacher. But through being a mother, wife, studio owner and author I experience life more, and I’ve come to recognize that when I teach, students are not there for me, but for themselves. This authentic realization has helped me get out of the way—and even though I speak and lead students through classes, the real work is executed by them. Over the last few years, I have grown not only as a person, but as a teacher.
Where do you want to go from here? What are your future plans and projects?
A few years ago I created an umbrella, YogaTouch Methodsm under which my first project was the book and poster I’ve written: Yoga’s Touch: Hand-on Adjustments, Alignment & Verbal Cues. I’m working on other similar books and projects that assist teachers with skills they don’t always get from a 200-hour teacher training.
I continue to lead a Yoga Therapy & Teacher Training at Black Mountain Yoga twice per year. As of this year, I’ve been having a great time teaching as a guest teacher in other teacher trainings and stand alone workshops throughout the country. I’m also excited to be teaching YogaTouch Method at Kripalu this January, 2016.