Get to know Team Palyniak

Modo Yoga San Diego Yogis,
I hope all of you are enjoying summer. One of our goals here at Modo Yoga San Diego is to create a sense of community both on and off the mat.  With that in mind, one of our students recently conducted an interview with us to dig deeper into our yoga life especially focusing on our why.  Without further ado, here is Part 1 of 2 of the “Get to know Team Palyniak” interview!

Q: How and why did you start practicing yoga?

Frenny:  My best friend took me to a yoga class at her local gym back in the late 90’s. I kept giggling and rolling my eyes and goofed off but I enjoyed the class. Fast forward to December 2007 – Andrew and I moved back to Canada after 2 years in sunny Australia. I wanted to start in hot yoga in the winter so I googled “hot yoga in Edmonton” and came across Moksha Yoga. The heat was amazing and I had never sweat like that before that day (even those hot Australian summers!). I started a daily practice and felt the benefits right away.  I was more flexible, stronger and breathing more smoothly. Every class blew my mind and my body was capable of doing much more than I ever thought possible. I also noticed how yoga affected the other areas of my life by improving my performance at work, handling challenges with more tact and grace, and approaching situations with more compassion for the other person.

Andrew:  I started practicing yoga because Frenny introduced me to the studio where she was practicing. She had been practicing for about 8 months at a Moksha studio in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I was curious because I noticed her sweaty laundry in the basket several times a week and I love to be challenged in different ways and being exposed to new things. During her first 8 months of practice I was working a lot, like 60+ hours per week so I never got around to it until August of 2008. We got married shortly after my first yoga experience at the end of August and spent the beginning of September on our honeymoon. Soon after we got back from the honeymoon we both started going to yoga several times a week and from that point we didn’t stop.

(Interviewer’s Note:  I would do hot yoga twice a day to survive an Edmonton winter!  I love how Frenny’s yoga practice spilled over to make her more effective in other areas of her life and how Andrew’s open-mindedness and desire for challenge led him to embrace his inner yogi.  Also, it all started with a Google search!)  

Q:  What is your mindset when you step onto the mat?

Frenny:  My mindset turns inwards and I focus on my breath.  Initially, I might be thinking about my day or my “To-Do” list, but after a few breaths, build my focus to become present in my body and take my practice one pose at a time.  And no matter how I start my practice, I always feel better afterwards.

Andrew:  Through the ups and downs of life while practicing yoga consistently, I’ve found that the practice helps me stay tuned to myself. To be clear, the mat is where I come back to being grounded in the most basic way; it’s just me and my breath and it reminds me of how important it is to know the meaning of our inherited gift of being alive. From this place I can appreciate all I have been exposed to in my life experience from the most basic understanding of the foundation of the breath.

(Interviewer’s Note:  I admire how y’all are able to break yoga down to the simplest action and mindset.  Reading the words makes it sound so simple and maybe even easy but I know it’s not!)

Q:  There are so many types of yoga to practice – What attracted you to the Modo/Moksha practice?

Frenny:  The heat! The radiant heat panels that we use are so energy efficient and such a direct form of heat that you literally feel the heat immediately.  I also love that the heat is consistent throughout the class.  Modo Yoga is taught with a focus on alignment and the holds are long enough that you can challenge yourself or back off and find just the right pose for you on any given day.  I also love that all Modo studios are environmentally friendly with cork floors, plant based cleaning products and low VOC paints.

Andrew:  Yes there are many choices out there. Modo was our first long term experience at a studio. We’ve tried a bit of yoga elsewhere but never really opened up to it until we moved back from our experience in Australia.

In the Modo Level 1 training we are encouraged to practice at other studios which was a great experience. It helps to see the different approaches, practices, emphases and so on that occur in any lineage. It is always good to expose yourself to something different, to know a possible different approach to the same practice. I think this really adds to a personal practice and the teaching practice.

(Interviewer’s Note:  I ALSO love the heat!  But, I’ve loved this studio from Day 1 for the vibe –you have managed to open a studio leaving ego and judgment out of the yoga room.  I feel Modo Yoga San Diego is a place where anyone can practice and make progress on their practice whatever foundation and whatever current fitness level they bring.  I’ve practiced a couple different forms of yoga over the past 15 years and the focus on the alignment makes me feel as if this practice is more restorative than what I had practiced previously.)

Q:  How and why did you become a yoga teacher?  How long have you been teaching yoga?

Frenny:  After practicing regularly for a year there was an opportunity in 2009 to take Moksha Yoga Teacher Training in India – funny enough one of my job offers after working in Australia was to work in another satellite office in Pune, India. I turned the offer down but found myself being drawn back to India for a different reason – to become a yoga teacher. I wanted to expand my knowledge of yoga and deepen my practice, explore meditation and the history of yoga. I was really nervous about becoming a teacher and was worried that I wouldn’t be good enough. The Moksha Teacher Training is 500 hrs and includes a 30 day intensive – that was exactly what I needed to change my mindset and learn about yoga. I’ve been teaching yoga since 2009.

Andrew:  I challenged myself to take the Modo Level 1 teacher training to deepen my practice and understanding of yoga. Frenny mentioned to me one day after noticing a bulletin at our home studio about the next teacher training being in India of February 2009. She really wanted to take the training and for me, being about eight months behind her in starting a practice, I felt I wasn’t ready to teach.  However, I didn’t feel a need or intention to teach but rather just learn more. Plus, I like to travel.  Since I hadn’t been to India, it seemed like a perfect combination for adventure and yoga.

The Modo Level 1 training is a 500 hour course of 300 hours one month intensive and 200 hours of distance learning through various projects. In order to spend one month away from work I had to quit my job as my employer at the time would not allow me to take four weeks off at one time. This was understandable since I was working in construction and I knew there was more work in the future when I get back so I took the leap. It was worth it and it is definitely one of the most life changing things I’ve done.

It actually took me around 5-6 months to warm up to the idea of teaching. I tried the practice teaching part of the course as best I could after arriving home from training to help retain the exposure to all the new information. I hated to speak aloud in front of people my whole life as well which didn’t help the situation. This really stagnated my growth to teach but luckily the owner of the studio helped me along by introducing a silent class where I would lead the class by doing all the poses with very limited cueing only necessitated by the switching of sides for asymmetrical poses or moving into the next pose if vision was limited to catch the next pose such as lying prone.

I started officially teaching in June of 2010. By this time, I completed all my projects and had gotten used to teaching through the combination of silent classes and further practice through community classes. In total, I’ve been teaching for about 8.5 years. I still feel like a beginner.

(Interviewer’s Note:  Wow!  I love that you two got your teacher training at the yoga source in India and made some significant life changes to expand your yoga minds and become teachers.  Andrew, I don’t think any of us in class would ever guess you were shy when you first started teaching.  I personally appreciate the dry humor sprinkled throughout the your classes )

Q:     What is the most rewarding part of being a yoga teacher?

Frenny:  There are so many!  For me the most rewarding part of being a yoga teacher is when a student wants to further their own practice and take the teacher training.  The teacher training course, as discussed previously by Andrew, is 500 hours and it’s a life-changing experience.  We made life-long friends around the world and have such an amazing world-wide community of talented teachers and leaders.

Andrew:  The most rewarding part of being a teacher is witnessing the development of awareness in practitioners, the transformation from one of certain doubt to a sort of awakening to the ability to coordinate breath and movement. Just as important is to hear feedback that has complemented the physical and/or mental well-being of anyone the participates at our studio.

(Interviewer’s Note:  I imagine that it must be so affirming to see progress in folks’ practice.  It must also be amazing to know that folks feel better physically and mentally.  And I bet that some days you get to witness breakthroughs that must leave you feeling stoked that you got to be part of something like that).

Q:  Inquiring minds want to know – how did you two meet?

Frenny:  Andrew and I met in high school in the early 90’s – we went to different schools but lived in the same ‘hood. One day he started talking to me (I was wearing Doc Martins and a Chili Peppers shirt), and he had a skateboard and a Dead Kennedys shirt. Not much has changed hahaha! That meeting didn’t take us very far, we crossed paths many years later in 1999. It was Reading Week (Canadian spring break because it’s still winter in March haha!) and I was at a bar with my friends. I recognized him and went to say hi – the rest is history!

Andrew:  Frenny and I met at a bus stop that we both used to use to get to school. There was only one public bus that would travel through our neighborhood to get to the nearest terminal to transfer to another route. I remember seeing her occasionally whether before or after school and always wanted to talk to her but for the longest time I felt too shy to get into a conversation. One day I finally got enough guts to talk to her after getting dropped off at our usual stop to go home. We dated for a short while at the beginning of our last year of High School in September of 1993.  Coincidentally, Frenny knew my older sister from a part time high school job and my younger brother played on the same hockey team as Frenny’s brother since we lived in the same community.

After a couple of months we drifted apart, since we went to different schools and had packed schedules.  We wouldn’t meet again until a few years later at a bar on a popular strip in Edmonton’s south side when I was celebrating from finishing my second year apprenticeship in Carpentry and Frenny was out with friends from the nearby University of Alberta.

(Interviewer’s Note:  Ha!  Hardcore punk rock and Psychedelic punk rock are like two sides of the same coin so I can see how that initial impression would make it easier to strike up a conversation!  Frenny, you are much smarter than I am because I was holed up studying my booty off during my “Reading Week” as opposed to kicking it at a bar!)

Q:   At what point did you decide – we want to open a yoga studio?

Frenny:  I knew early on that opening a yoga studio was definitely something I wanted to pursue. My formative years as a yoga student were in Edmonton and this was an incredible studio with a strong community and excellent teachers. The vibe at the studio was inclusive, energetic and fun. I knew this was something I wanted to take on and after training I was definitely humbled and decided I needed more experience as a teacher. Fast forward a few years and a few more yoga trainings later, we decided that we were ready and applied to open our studio.

Andrew:  It wasn’t until sometime in 2012 that we decided that we should consider opening a studio. It’s funny because upon entering into the journey of yoga and my first teacher training, even teaching yoga was not entirely considered, let alone the opening of a studio.

(Interviewer’s Note:  I think it’s safe to speak for the San Diego Modo Yoga Community here – We are SO GRATEFUL you decided to open your studio here.)

Q:  Why San Diego?

Frenny:  Living in Newcastle, Australia was such a huge influence in our lives. We wanted to live in a beachside community with a stable economy and medium-size population. Win-win-win. When we thought about our future, raising kids and eventually retiring we liked the climate, economy and opportunity that San Diego provided, all while being within a 4 hour flight to visit family.

Andrew:  San Diego made the most sense to us because it is a coastal city with easy access to the beach for surfing, a year-round mild and relatively balanced climate. It also has the benefit of being located in the state of California which seems to be more progressive in relation to world affairs, political and social philosophy.

(Interviewer’s Note:  I’ve not ever been to Newcastle, Australia, but if it’s anything like San Diego, it must be amazing.)


Stay tuned for Part 2 of my interview with Team Palyniak where we get to know what types of careers they led before becoming yogis, who they consider their yoga mentors, their favorite books, authors and quotes as well as some other interesting tidbits.