We are so lucky to have Melisa in the M.Power family! Melisa is one of the most experienced teacher’s in Baltimore City and has so much passion and knowledge to share! You can catch Melisa at M.Power on Saturday’s at the 5:30pm M2 and 7pm Music In Motion classes!
What led you to become a yoga instructor?
My teacher was getting ready to go to Mysore, India for four months. That’s a trip authorized Ashtanga teachers make every year. This was in the late 1990’s or early 2000 — before yoga was mainstream in the United States. This was before Yoga Alliance and before organized teacher trainings. He asked me to teach his classes while he was gone. He trained me for several months, two to three times a week. I didn’t pay him, I didn’t have any money. Neither did he. We both just loved yoga and he saw something in me that told him to teach me. It changed my life. We didn’t study anatomy or perfect alignment. He taught me a traditional sequence, the importance of pace, breath, minimal cueing and consistency. He helped me find joy on my mat and in turn, how to help students find their own peace. His teachings are still at the foundation of every class I teach today.
What yoga posture challenges you the most right now?
Anything prone because my hip-flexors are tight from teaching and taking barre. So cobra, locust, and bow pose variations are especially challenging for me right now. In my home practice, I can spend ten minutes in ardha bhekasana, half frog or supta ardha virasana, supine half hero pose to stretch my hip flexors.
What is your favorite thing about teaching?
I love balancing traditional yoga, which was tough and strict, with modern yogis. How can I take this traditional practice and make it accessible to all different body-types, personalities and types of people? I’m a pretty strict teacher, I don’t allow shortcuts or sloppy asanas, but I love meeting people where they are and figuring out how to combine tradition, with modern American bodies and temperaments, stresses and other conditions. I love seeing the joy in students faces when they’ve reached a new level of their practice, whether that’s a specific asana, or staying focused longer periods of time, or not letting something throw them off balance. I have one student who hadn’t been on the floor for more than three years because of an autoimmune disease that caused made her joints so painful she could not get up off the ground. Can you imagine not taking a bath because you didn’t think you could get out of the tub by yourself? When I have someone’s who’s been living in the dark so to speak for years out of fear, pain, or whatever and they get a few rays of light – it’s electric. That is what I love about teaching!
Teaching is like gardening. I prep the soil, plant seeds, give them sun, water and time. A few days or weeks later, I see a little sprout pop out of the soil, and with more sun, water and time, the sprout will grow and blossom. Students are the seeds. I won’t see new growth in every class, or in every student. But when I do, it’s awesome! I can provide sun, soil, water, and maybe, just maybe something grows. It’s inspiring and humbling at the same time.
Another favorite thing for me is seeing how it influences my kids. My ex sent me a video he took of my daughters doing yoga in their bedroom at his place. They were in their jammies getting ready for bed. They laid their blankets on the floor like yoga mats. My nine-year old guided her six year old sister through two sun salutations. She even adjusted her sister’s plank and down dog. It was really cool to watch. Sometimes I think, I’m not reaching anyone. I teach, but are they getting it? Seeing that video made me realize, that I am making a difference. You can see it on my FB page. Melisa Uchida Casses at https://www.facebook.com/melisa.uchida/posts/10153944370328672?notif_t=like.
Where would you most like to travel, and why?
Bali to study with Matthew Sweeney. That’a my goal for 2018!!
Outside of teaching, what do you like to do for fun?
I’m pretty much a yoga junkie. For fun, I take classes and workshops, watch yoga DVDs and read as much as I can. Even when I take my kids to the pool, I bring a copy of the Bhagavad Gita with me. I also enjoy hanging out with girlfriends, playing with my kids, and watching DareDevil with my husband, Nate.