Teacher Feature: Valerie Costello

Valerie has been teaching at FYC for a few weeks now, and word of her extraordinary skills as a teacher is spreading like wildfire.  Get to know a little more about her here, and be sure to spend a Sunday morning with her soon for Yin Yoga at 10:45 in Freeport.

What drew you to yoga?

I took my first yoga class as a junior in high school and was immediately captivated by the union of movement, breath, and the moments of quiet and stillness of the mind the practice provides. In college, my yoga practice became my lifeline. I spent much of those years feeling lost, trying to navigate my place in the world, and it was the moments that I stepped on my mat that brought me back to myself and cultivated a sense of belonging. It was that period of time that led me to my first yoga teacher training in 2005, and within the first day of that training, I knew the practice of yoga would be a consistent part of my life going forward. Looking back at these past 12 years, I’ve changed and evolved greatly, but my yoga practice has remained constant and still cultivates a sense of coming back to myself.

What’s your favorite book and why?

Oh boy, I don’t think I could choose just one! Most recently, my favorite book has been When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, a memoir that chronicles Paul’s experience in attempting to answer the question, “What makes a life worth living?” after being diagnosed with IV lung cancer. His ability to write with such eloquence, vulnerability, and honesty as he is faced with his own mortality is nothing short of inspiring. As I read this book, I was forced to reflect on my own life, looking at my own purpose and what I feel makes a life worth living.

In terms of fictional reads, I adore anything by Jodi Picoult. I love how she tackles controversial topics and writes from the different perspectives of each person involved, allowing you as the reader to empathize with each and every character. A couple of my favorites of her books are Mercy and Nineteen Minutes, and I just recently picked up Small Great Things, which explores the topics of race, prejudice, justice, and compassion. I can’t wait to begin reading it!

Most recently, my favorite book related to the practice of yoga has been Teaching Yoga: Exploring the Teacher-Student Relationship by Donna Farhi. Not only did it help me better understand the relationship between teacher and student, but it allowed me to analyze other relationships in my life, further exploring the role they play and the common patterns I find myself in.

What inspires you?

My mom and travel. I grew up in a single-parent home and watched my mom tirelessly and selflessly provide for my siblings and I. She has always ensured the three of us feel cared for and loved, and is still our biggest fan! Everyday I thank my lucky stars that my mom was chosen for me.

I receive so much energy from traveling to new places. I love exploring and being exposed to different ways of living. I grew up in Alaska and have lived in Hawaii, Texas, Colorado, and now Maine. Each one of these places has played a role in shaping the person I am today. Every time I have the opportunity to go someplace new, I try my best to observe all that is around me, taking in every single detail. There is so much to be learned by other places, people, and different ways of living, as long as you are open to the lessons they can provide.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?

Binge-watching television shows on Netflix and coffee.

How do you stay balanced? How do you unwind?

My daily self-practice keeps me balanced and allows me to unwind after a full day with middle school students. That sounds much more glamorous than it is, but in reality it includes a lot of props, often in the form of bath towels that I use as yoga blankets, a shared mat with my Pomeranian, Brady, and sometimes only includes 20 minutes of shavasana.

What’s your favorite part about teaching yoga?

Seeing the transformation that takes place within the students I have the ability to share time with- whether on a physical level as students deepen their asana practice or have a better understanding of their body and its capabilities, or on an emotional and spiritual level. It is amazing to bear witness to the transformation that can occur in a student’s life, through their dedication to their practice and the time they provide themselves. I also love the connections you form with your students, and I wake up feeling grateful every day for what my students teach me about myself as a teacher and a person, as well as what they teach me about the human experience.

Best trip you’ve ever taken?

Before my freshman year of high school, my mom took my brother, sister, my little cousin, and I on an epic road trip from Alaska to Maine. We stopped in Montana to visit my grandparents, camped along the way, made a visit to The Mall of America, traveled through 17 different states, and stayed at our family camp on Madawaska Lake in Aroostook County, Maine for a month. To this day, that was the best trip I’ve ever taken and I am so grateful to have seen so much of the United States in that one trip.

What’s your favorite yoga pose and why?

Legs-up-the-wall pose (Viparita Karani). I spend my days as a middle school teacher, and my nights and a good portion of my weekends are spent teaching yoga or fitness, which means I am on my feet almost all day. This pose feels heavenly after a long day, and I try to incorporate it into my bedtime routine. I often use folded bath towels underneath my sacrum to elevate the pelvis, and I use my Pomeranian as a sandbag on my lower abdomen. Hey, you got to work with what you got!

The best thing about living in Maine is . . . .

Having 4 seasons! Although Alaska will always have my heart, I grew up with a lot of winter, a very short, fleeting summer, and an almost non-existent spring and fall. The spring and fall seasons here in New England are my most favorite, and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else during those months.

What do you love about Freeport Yoga Company?

The community. Every class that I have either taken as a student or taught as a teacher at Freeport Yoga Company ends with people not only staying after and chatting with the teacher, but chatting with one another as well. The connections between everyone at FYC are so special, and the sense of community runs deeply through the heart of the studio.

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