Yoga and meditation instructor Ashley Turner shares how she overcame body insecurities & her best advice for new teachers
Q: What’s something that you’ve struggled with and what helped you overcome it?
A: I’ve always struggled with my body image. Bryan Kest’s Power Yoga, which I started going to religiously in 1996, was the first thing that began to change the negative tape running in my head. Slowly, I reconditioned my mind to be grateful for how much my body can do and how far we’ve come together. I began to breathe and feel what it really needed and learn how to give it that. Negative body image is a constant battle for me, even today—although less and less. I’m curvy and don’t have a super slender physique. I was really self-conscious about this when I started teaching. I actually thought I should lose weight before I would be “ready” to teach. I still catch myself comparing my body to others or stuck in a negative spin cycle in my head about what I think I “should” look like. I’ve had to build up many tricks over the years to bring me back to center and stay compassionate, loving, and self-accepting.
Our bodies are so precious, wise, and strong— our temples. It’s up to each and every one of us to do the diligent inner work to rewire our thought patterns and practice radical self-love! Yoga is helping to change the absolute pandemic of negative body image. It’s also one of the main reasons I co-founded our URBAN PRIESTESS training—to empower women to feel good and happy in their bodies and through the aging process. Yoga can be glamorous and sexy—especially if you’re doing sophisticated yoga gymnastics. It’s visually appealing, awe-inspiring, and engaging. The "instayoga" phenomenon emphasizes the physical prowess of yoga and contributes to the misperception of what yoga really is. It’s important that we and mass media like Mantra Magazine focus on translating the deeper practices of yoga.
Q: What do you see as the biggest trend in yoga? How do you feel about it?
I see a big trend of people who’ve been doing yoga long enough that they are asking different questions—wanting real-life, tangible transformation, not just physical strength and exibility.
-How do I take my yoga off the mat?
-How do I create lasting change and finally transform detrimental patterns?
-How can I show up more fully in my relationships and be more loving?
I got my Master’s in counseling psychology and became a licensed psychotherapist because so many people were coming up to me after class or on retreats wanting to do deeper work and I didn’t know how to help them. I needed to understand how to truly change mental and emotional patterns. I formed my YOGA. PSYCHE. SOUL. Yoga Psychology Training to reclaim the root teachings of yoga as a science of mind. The aim is to give people tangible tools and strategies to master the mind, and build emotional intelligence while getting physically fit.
Q: What are you most passionate about in your work?
A: Currently, I’m really obsessed with 3 things:
1. Nada Yoga: Using sound, mantra, and music as heart medicine to demystify mantra and chanting for psychological health.
2. Conscious Relationships & Sacred Sexuality: Romantic relationships are probably the most difficult yoga. I think this is the next frontier in the yoga world—to design thriving, inspiring, conscious relationships and use sex as a vehicle for consciousness.
3. Leadership, Personal Development & Business Training for Yoga Teachers: This is the #1 training I wish I had received. It can be difficult to make a good living teaching yoga—but it is entirely possible. I am super passionate about helping teachers break through financial blocks and set up systems in their businesses to build the vibrant career of their dreams and make great money doing it. My experience is that it takes a lot of inner work to get there.
Q: What is your biggest vice?
A: I love wine, chocolate, and great tequila. Clase Azul is my current favorite—exceptional sipping tequila.
Q: What’s your best advice for a new yoga teacher?
A: Practice. Practice. Practice. Everything comes from there. Find an incredible mentor who has created a life similar to what you desire and sit by their side. Watch them. Study with them. Stay humble. Serve them. Help them in any way. Ask questions. I call my mentor all the time and ask her questions from business contracts to love advice, and it is one of my most precious gifts in this lifetime. Yoga is all about relationships. Focus on building the highest quality relationships with yourself, God, your students, colleagues, teachers, and peers. Social media can be a great relationship builder—but nothing substitutes quality time and energy investing in people you love.