Terri Cooper: Blasting Fear, One Chakra At A Time

by Kemila Velan
November 2005

What are your earliest memories of practicing yoga (even if you didn’t know it was yoga)?
I was a very active child, and I loved to do backbends, splits and shoulderstand . Yet looking back I think the most profound memory of yoga in my past was when i was in the 6th grade. My friends and i were in the locker room, talking about our stomachs. They all had these huge bellies, just hanging out w/ no control. i couldnt understand why they didnt lift the belly from inside. i remember showing them, and saying “i always hold my belly in like this” and trying to explain that its not the same as sucking in to look skinny, but something deeper that pulls up. Later when my first yoga teacher was describing Udianna bandha, I realized that that is what I was doing as a young girl, and what I was trying to teach my friends…Wish it were still that easy!

How do you feel about Miami’s spiritual community?
I think Miami’s Spiritual community is growing at a spectacular rate. This is inevitable, considering the natural energy of the ocean, plants and wild life. People have been drawn to Miami to feel good, now more and more people are deciding that feeling good feels much better when it’s natural and spiritual.

Why Chakra Flow?
I am naturally drawn to the vinyasa flow style of yoga. I love the moving meditation, the ability to flow with grace, and to allow my body, mind and heart to open into a physical expression of my prayers. Chakra Flow is about creating balance between the physical experience and the whole intention behind it. Understanding the chakras helps us to recognize how yoga makes us feel, look and live better.

How do you prepare for teaching a class?
For me teaching a class is about opening myself up to allow divine guidance to flow through me, and to build off of the tools I have, principles of alignment, energy awareness and the serenity of breath. As I channel this guidance, it is exactly what I need to hear or understand in my own current life experience.

Where did you grow up? Is your family supportive of the path you’ve chosen?
My childhood was interesting, to put it simple. We moved a lot. My family is so supportive and proud of me. They all recognize the positive effect yoga has had on my life and on my ability to communicate and relate to each of them. My siblings all do yoga or at least have tried it and understand what I’m talking about. My parents are more reluctant to some of the philosophies, yet again they cannot deny the profound transformation they watched me go through.

What’s the most amazing thing that’s ever happened in a class — as a student? As a teacher?
As a teacher I am always saying in class that the answers are all found from within, and when we open ourselves up to hearing them they will come. As a student and a human, I still sometimes find myself looking somewhere else. One day I awoke and did my morning meditation, then was driving to work when it happened. I still worked as a bartender just once a week, but was afraid to let go of my financial safety net. Well, while driving to work I was thinking about Shores Yoga, my career and how I was going to create abundance to survive as a yoga teacher.
Without warning a surge of energy passed through my body. It was like a bolt of lightening that left my body covered with goose bumps and I immediately burst into tears.

The message was loud and clear, “You have to quit the bar.” As the sobs grew from wild and uncontrollable to a softer form of surrender, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I’ve had great moments in my life before, but this was different, this was pure. All I could say was, “Thank you, thank you, thank you” for the next three hours. I did quit my job that day, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared, it isn’t hard, or that I didn’t have any doubt. But I had to listen to my own inner wisdom. I believe that if you ignore your own intuition eventually you will stop hearing it. And I will not take that chance.

What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened in a class?
I had bought these cute yoga pants from Walgreen’s, yeah, that’s right Walgreen’s drug store. They were only $11.99 but they were a cute color and they fit perfectly — thought I had a real score. I wore them one morning to teach a class of about 25 people. I sat on the back of a student in child’s pose to give a little massage, when one of the ladies right behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said “Psst….Terri, your pants are split open.” Still sitting on the student’s back, I reached back to feel and not only were they split but the position I was sitting in had caused them to spread wide open. Lovely, right? Luckily we sell some great yoga pants in our retail area, so one minuter later I was back on track.

What’s your full teaching schedule?
My schedule will likely shift a little, because right now I am teaching 7 days a week:
Weds, Fri & Sat mornings 9or 10am
Every evening around 6 or so
Wednesday afternoons The Juvenile Detention center, usually 2 classes
and privates in the afternoons and weekends.

What’s your favorite pose?
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend). I love the feeling of my whole back side letting go, the immediate drop into pranayama and the way my mind just gets clear. I usually start my practice this way, then roll up and press my palms together in Namaste, for intention setting, prayers & dedication.

What do you see in your future?
I see a lifetime of education and service. There is so much I want to understand, and so many teachers I would love to learn from. And as I evolve and grow I understand at a much deeper level that yoga, for me, is not about how strong or flexible I become or if I ever reach enlightenment. Rather, it’s about how can I best serve? How can I take the struggles and lessons of my life and channel that energy into useful action? My teacher Seane Corn said it best, “Yoga is about what now? Now that I am flexible and healthy, now that I am strong, what’s next?” Seane is a Global Ambassador for Youth Aids, and leads the campaign “Off the Mat and Into the World,” encouraging yogis who have found more peace, understanding and acceptance to go out and be of service.