Body, Mind, Spirit Magazine

Interview with Stephanie Pafford, Yoga Teacher and Owner of Akasha Yoga in La Jolla, CA

By Jamie Koonce @charcuterielove
Interview with Stephanie Pafford, yoga teacher and owner of Akasha Yoga in La Jolla, CA

Stephanie Pafford, yoga instructor and owner of Akasha Yoga

  1. How did you get started practicing yoga?  What was your first class like?

I had a friend that was an Ashtanga instructor and she invited me to do yoga with her at her home and I was not all interested and sort of laughed it off…she is a raw vegan, well practiced from India, homeland Russia and very strict. Needless to say she challenged me a bit and well I took the bait…She took me through the full first series and I thought I was going to die. She pushed, moved, and put my body where it had never been before and all in her home which is environmentally friendly, hardwood floors, no TV, a mantle full of deities, and incenses~ WOW! I was sore for weeks but I was hooked and feel in love with this feeling of openness, connection to self, breath, I felt like I was home and my life has been transformed! I practiced with her for 6 months privately and a minimum of 2 times a week.

  1. When did you realize that you wanted to teach?

I am a personal trainer and have always been athletic but I honestly did the training as a way to go deeper into my own practice not teaching at least not at a studio. I thought this would be complementary for my private clients. I loved sharing the practice with others. I was in Kentucky visiting some friends and I would go to the wellness center to work out well the ladies found out I teach yoga and asked me to teach a class and I said “sure!” I walked into the gym there were 50 people! I was so nervous but did it. They didn’t have any certified instructors and were so open and willing that they inspired me to start teaching publically. When I returned to San Diego I went out looking and that was the start!

  1. Who are your most influential teachers?

I consider many to be my teachers but mostly my husband. I know it sounds a bit cliché, but he is an energy healer and an author. He has been a huge influence in my life besides a partner but a mentor, a teacher. He has taught me so much about myself and growth. Peeling the onion as I like to say to my students! It is a lifetime journey and I know some stuff but not that much. I just hope to go deeper and expand in all ways as a human being — a kind, compassionate, and loving soul who recognizes the connection in all people.

  1. How has the practice of yoga changed you or affected your life?

How has it not changed my life?! My life has been transformed in every aspect, all ways, from the depth of my being to outwardly ways and things. I am blessed to have found this path and thankful every day. I would not, could not, have even imagined where I would be today. I have learned self love, self respect, non attachment, and to honor others.

  1. Has your teaching style evolved since you first began teaching?  In what ways?

It has evolved in that I feel more confident in front of people and have truly found my voice in teaching. I was a bit rigid in the beginning, nervous and now I am just myself. A bit silly, more directive, and teach. I have an approach that is less talkative more of an internal practice. I encourage people to be with their practice what that is for them! I play with my music differently now in the beginning I wouldn’t use words.

  1. What styles of yoga have you tried and what are your reflections on the many different types of yoga available to the modern yoga student?

That is a fully loaded question but I have tried a lot. My reflection about yoga is that wherever people are drawn and feel comfortable that is right for them at that time and in that moment. If something is stirred in them and this sparks an interest to explore deeper in yoga philosophy then how blessed are they and are we as people.

  1. How is yoga different from Pilates?

I am not a Pilates practioner so I can only speak of yoga. Yoga incorporates poses (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation. Thus opening a path in the whole body and creating balance.

  1. What are the eight limbs of yoga?  Which ones do you think most students tend to neglect the most?

The eight limbs of yoga is Yoga philosophy divided into eight stages or limbs.

By the practice of the limbs of yoga, the impurities dwindle away and there dawns the light of wisdom, leading to discrimitive discernment.” YS II:28

I neglect them all at sometime because I am only human but in practice with student’s maybe asana (posture) many push through and won’t back off to breath, to just be with the pose scan internally~ which in many cases is a good idea. Practice, practice, practice and all will come!

  1. Though the practice of yoga is growing worldwide, many people still do not have access to a yoga center where they live.  What is your advice to those “geographically disadvantaged” people who are interested in studying and practicing the eight limbs of yoga?  How can they get started with their own practice?

There are so many ways to take the first step and the internet is so great a tool for reaching places that people would not be able to go. Yogaglo has online classes and discussions for beginners to advanced practioners. ITunes has tutorials also able to download onto an iPod and practice and then there are DVDs. Taking that first step can be a bit scary for some but once they do a whole new world can open up and there is something for everyone out there no matter religion, ethnic background or age.

  1. How can long-time yogis advance in their practice and study of yoga?

Oh, it is a lifetime journey. I always tell my classes be humble you have time because that’s just what it is — a lifetime of discovery and opening! Takes off some of the pressure!


11.  What are your favorite yoga-related books and other resources?

Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Yoga Sutras

Autobiography of a Yogi

Interview with Stephanie Pafford, yoga teacher and owner of Akasha Yoga in La Jolla, CA

Stephanie Pafford, yoga instructor and owner of Akasha Yoga

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