A candid interview with Jessica Boyd, the zero-bullshit yoga instructor

Vanguard: Do you always teach introductory classes?

Jessica Boyd: Beginner friendly? Most of them, yeah. I like making yoga accessible for everybody. I like teaching at a gym and it being all levels because then anybody can come in and not be scared of it.

VG: What’s the most advanced yoga classes they have here at the Rec Center?

JB: Well, all the vinyasa classes are not beginner friendly. You’re moving constantly and you don’t hold anything for more than a breath. You have to be able to keep up with what’s happening by just listening to what the instructor wants.

VG: Do there tend to be less guys in those classes, then?

JB: There’s pretty much always fewer guys, but in my classes sometimes there’s half guys. I tend to have more guys in my class. I don’t know if it’s because my boobs are always out or because they like my style of yoga or, like, the music’s good…

VG: Well, you are pretty straightforward, which I assume appeals to a lot of guys.

JB: Yeah, I want a shirt that says ‘I’m not THAT kind of yoga teacher.’ I’m not, like, ‘Alright everybody, let’s set your intentions for the day.’ There’s none of that. Instead of ‘tilt your pelvis down’ I say ‘Bring your taint towards the floor.’ It’s accessible. I’m not going to have you ‘blossom your anus’ or anything like that.

I think that people in general tend to think that yoga is easier than it is, so I think the thought behind it for guys is that they think working out should be hard. Like, gay porn hard. In general, guys tend to do lifting and intense cardio. But I think that yoga’s hard, and most people that think [it’s easy] haven’t done yoga.

I do some isometrics in my classes, and it’s hard holding a lunge. It takes a lot of focus. You have to mentally push through it. Sometimes I taunt my students when they’re in the middle of one of those really intense isometric poses, tell them, ‘Oh it’s okay, guys, it’s just yoga, it’s fine, it’s totally easy,’ and they’re like, ‘Die.’

VG: Why don’t you think more guys do yoga?

JB: I think men value bulk over flexibility. If all you do is lifting and cardio you’re shortening your muscles and making yourself less flexible. The fact that men do these things means they should really be doing more yoga. The link between flexibility and injury rates is there. If you’re playing football or whatever, and your foot is planted and you’re falling, if your hip can take that movement your knee won’t. If that rotation can happen in other parts, where it normally should, then you won’t get hurt.

I think, also, there’s an idea of what yoga culture is and that’s off-putting to a lot of men, too, like we were talking about. This flitty fucking attitude, there’s a lot of teachers who, you’re like, ‘Are you being genuine with that?’ Those who are genuine, you can tell. It’s their whole universe, I guess. But there’s a lot that are not, and that’s not good for anybody.

VG: What about one that bucks the trend and appeals more to guys? Would you do a yoga class where we listen to Isis and drone metal?

JB: [Laughs.] Actually we were talking about that at KPSU for a fundraiser, where I could teach a metal yoga class. Actually, I just subbed a hip hop yoga class. It was really awesome. We had the Pharcyde, Tribe Called Quest…making the playlist was so fun. And it’s really no different, it’s just the soundtrack. But yeah, I’d love to do a metal yoga class.

I did a vagina-focused yoga class in March. For Women’s Month the gym did a whole week of women-focused classes. So my normal classes that had men in them were the same except that my soundtrack and the words that I use to describe things were more female-empowering.

But I did do one called ‘Yoga for the Yoni,’ and it’s all talking about periods and cramps and boobs and kegels. And having conversations about it, not just doing yoga. There’s a warning in yoga that you’re not supposed to do inversions while you’re menstruating, and I always wondered about it. It always sounded like an old wives’ tale, like such an antiquated idea. I mean, yoga is over 5,000 years old, so there definitely is some history to the idea. But I do inversions when I’m menstruating and I haven’t exploded. The blood doesn’t come out of my eyes when I’m upside down—it just doesn’t work that way. There’s an end to that system down there, you know?

Finally one teacher told me something that made sense, and it’s that women tend to be more tired and need more self care during that time, so that’s why. That makes sense. But that goes for yoga or for anything, right? If it doesn’t feel right or you’re too tired, just don’t do it, or hold the pose for less time. So we talked about stuff like that in the class. Because it’s really rare that people will stop to ask about it, even if they might be wondering. I once had a class with all girls, and this one girl did ask about it, and I was all ‘Yes! There’s no dudes in here, we can talk about our periods! Let’s do it!’

And there’s stuff that’s good for the prostate that I don’t talk a lot about either. Sometimes I’ll mention it, because in the long run it’s good for everybody. It gets more blood flow to their [sarcasm]root chakra[/sarcasm].”

VG: Certainly that’s something that a lot of guys could be more in tune with, yeah?

JB: Yeah I think a lot of men just need to get over themselves. There’s this sensitivity and pride in them thinking, ‘That’s too easy,’ or whatever. If you’re doing yoga and it’s too easy, you can always make it more difficult. Go deeper, do it a little faster.

VG: Stretch further, yeah?

JB: Totally. But stretching shouldn’t be one of those things where you’re like, ‘I can do this harder.’ You can’t force it, and if you do, you tear connective tissue.

Jessica Boyd teaches classes Tuesdays at 6:15 and Fridays at 2:15 at the PSU Rec Center for the rest of the term. During summer, she will be teaching Tuesdays at 5:30 and Wednesdays at 11.