Interview with a Fire Spinning Yogini

Jessica Jane Smith taught the first yoga class I ever attended in Bozeman. She also taught on the very first retreat we offered. I was one of her first teachers when she opened Be the Change Yoga Studio. And lastly, we are 3 days apart in age. If you join us for our 5-day Cowgirl Yoga retreats in Bozeman this summer, you’ll get to take class from Jessica and spend time in her lovely space, and soak up her lovely spirit.

What was the catalyst that led you to yoga, and ultimately led you to make it your life’s passion?

I came to the yoga mat because it was a better alternative to where I was: in the dark, uncertain, and afraid about my life’s choices. I knew I needed to do something. So the first step was off the couch and into class. I was uncomfortable, inflexible and humbled; but felt called back again and again. The practice became the stepping stones that returned me to my passion for life. So my life passion became sharing yoga with others.

Tell us about your yoga journey.

How to say when the journey began is impossible. I can see now how my mother was laying a foundation just by being herself. I thank her daily as my first teacher. I did not expect to teach as quickly as I was called to. When I first started out, I was in studios and gyms. I needed guidance and found Baron Baptiste’s Teacher Training in Maya Tulum, in the back of Yoga Journal. That experience took me to my edge – and I flew! I went home and opened Yoga Power (which is still going strong. If you’re in Dallas look it up!). So as an ex-Deadhead, I figured I’d follow Baron. I worked as an Assistant for the Baptiste Bootcamps/Personal Revolution Retreats/Yoga Journal Conferences. That fateful step led me to Montana, and to my now husband, who was the chef at a Level Two Teacher Training in Helena, MT. Now we live in Bozeman, and I opened Be The Change Yoga Studio here in 2008. The journey truly continues to amaze me – as I am blessed with an amazing group of teachers, friends, and family who continue to believe in the power of dreams coming true!

What inspires you the most? in your teaching/your practice/your life.

Inspiration is in the wind – hoist the sails! In the classroom, it’s the students that inspire me. There are amazing people doing really cool things out there in our community. I get to be inspired by their joy, their struggle, their triumph and their presence every day. The practice inspires me simply by being so multi-faceted. Even though the journey started with emphasis on the physical, I am inspired to see that yoga is a foundation for everything. And like they say: it works, if you work it! Yoga has given me a path, a better road map for my life’s choices. In life, I am inspired by my amazing family. My mom, dads (both biological and adopted), as well as my brothers have all showed me how life is never what we expect, and yet exactly what we are meant to receive. My husband, Jed, is my greatest inspiration just in being completely himself – and reminding me when I forget. Each day of life is inspiration – just take a step into it and you’ll know.

Any advice for keeping yoga fresh?

To keep yoga fresh, I’ve had to let go of pre-conceived notions of what yoga is…and get back to beginner’s mind. I have taken this into my new practice of Poi/Fire Spinning. It’s something I saw a long time ago on a family river trip, and was reminded of recently. So practicing what I preach, I picked them up again and started to practice. I can hear all the teachers chanting Patthabi Jois: “Practice. Practice. Practice…All is coming”. But it is a little different with balls of fire coming so close to the head. So I visualize Shiva dancing through the ring of fire, and this is my dance. This is my other practice. (I was also trying to have skiing as a practice – but I wasn’t so fully committed. Next year…)

Fave yoga pose. Fave yoga music. Fave quote. Fave thing about Montana.

Let me preface by saying that I’ve never been good at picking faves, but… My favorite yoga posture these days is divided between handstand and forearm balance. I love to be upside-down, and continue to be humbled by impish fears. This summer will be fun to take this practice out into the soft grass and see what unfolds. My favorite yoga musicians are Krishna Das and Bhagavan Das. But I love the words of the Beatles, as well as singer/songwriter Alexi Murdoch. I could on about music (editor’s note: wait til you hear the playlist she’s got at the studio)…so I’ll go on to the next question. My favorite quote is by Shel Silverstein: “Listen to the Mustn’ts, child. Listen to the Don’ts. Listen to the Shouldn’ts, the Impossibles, the Won’ts. Listen to the Never Haves, then listen close to me…Anything can happen, child. ANYTHING can be.” My favorite thing about Montana…It’s The Last Best Place (and I’ve been a lot of places).