Yoga Teachers: Phyllis Johnston


excursions_yoga copyEvery Body Yoga, Centreville — While in Centreville on spy business, I stopped to see the only actual yoga studio in the mid-shore area. Proprietor Phyllis Johnston and I have never met, but that doesn’t stop her from greeting me with a hug. Physically, she reminds me of Peter Pan, and I think I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see her hop up on a window ledge and fly off.  But when she starts speaking in a voice that’s one part wise old soul and one part kindergarten teacher, I decide she is far too calm and grounded for such antics.

She shows me around her 700 square foot yoga studio on the ground floor of this new, award-winning building (awaiting LEEDS certification) designed by her architect husband. The spacious main room has a maple floor, lavender blue walls, natural light, and a wall-sized window behind which sits a lovely Zen garden.

Phyllis sitting before her Zen garden

Phyllis sitting before her Zen garden

Well-being and stress reduction is the heart of Phyllis’s approach to yoga. Though very gentle and nurturing, her classes are not low energy. Bubbling behind Phyllis’s relaxed exterior is a full tank of Peter Pan-esque energy; and, I am about to discover, a hefty list of written-down goals to direct it.

SPY: What’s number one on your 2010 goal list?

PHYLLIS: My main goal is to teach yoga to everybody, hence the name, “Every Body Yoga.” Everybody can practice yoga. You just start where you are. Some people say they’ll start coming when they get in shape, but I say, don’t wait, just come now.

SPY:  “Everybody” is a lofty goal.

PHYLLIS:  It is, and I keep trying. I teach yoga to ages 3 to 90. I teach at a nursing home to dementia patients; I teach special needs children; people with cancer, disease, back pain, injuries, and of course, healthy people. What I’m about is trying to make it work for the person. I have a Masters in Education, so I’m interested in teaching as opposed to just leading a class. My students don’t need to meet my expectations; it’s about them: body, mind, and spirit—the whole person.

SPY: What style yoga do you teach?

PHYLLIS: I’m eclectic, but my training is in Iyengar, which is a systematic approach that uses props (belts, blocks, etc.) as aids in performing the poses. I think it’s the most helpful way for people to learn the poses. I haven’t seen people grow as much in the other styles.

Phyllis Johnston, M.Ed., E-RYT

Phyllis Johnston, M.Ed., E-RYT

SPY: How long have you been teaching yoga?

PHYLLIS: This is my tenth year of teaching, although I’ve been doing yoga since 1987. Since being registered with the Yoga Alliance in 2004, I’ve logged over 1000 hours of teaching. I have the E-RYT credential, which means I can train other teachers. There’s no teacher training available in the mid-shore area, so one my 2010 goals is to get a teacher training program in place.

SPY (eyeing Phyllis’s handwritten two-page list): What else for 2010?

PHYLLIS: I want to do an in-depth study on showing local people how they can use yoga to lower their blood pressure.

I also want to teach relaxation, focusing, and breathing techniques in the schools to help kids limit their test anxiety. Kids are tested a lot, and the pressure on the schools to perform at certain levels is really intense. I want to teach kids basic coping skills: how to breathe; how to relax their eyes, which relaxes the brain; how to sit properly, which reduces fatigue. If I can also teach the teachers, they will model the skills. When you’ve lowered the anxiety and stress level of the teachers, it trickles down to the students.

I feel I’m going to make a breakthrough next year on this.

A handout on Phyllis’s desk says, Reduce Stress Now: Breathe, Blink, Relax, Smile, Repeat above.  Just for fun I imagine everybody all at once following these simple instructions . . . oh, my, what it world it would be!

EVERY BODY YOGA AND WELLNESS, 205 E. Water Street, Suite C, Centreville. For class schedule and information call, 410-758-0403, or see, www.

Letters to Editor

  1. Thank you Kelly. I think you are very kind to portray me in such a postive way.

  2. I am a yoga beginner and have tried several different instructors as I traveled for work between NJ and MD. I very much enjoy the cadence of Phyllis’s classes. Afterwards I would always feel reconected with myself. Great article.

  3. Phyllis – She is not “portraying” you; she has described you to a tee! You are a great instructor and a great friend to many.

  4. Dorothy T. says:

    Phylliss – You are all of the above and much more – empathetic, strong and very loving. 2010 will be the year yoga takes off in Centreville!!

  5. What a delightful and true characterization of Phyllis! Her commitment to linking her students with the exceptional experience of yoga is just outstanding. I love her expansive and creative ideas. The community is so fortunate that she is here!

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