Bad Yogi #NoFilter Interview: Stephanie Gongora
When I first moved to Austin, I was so excited about the yoga scene here. There was a lot of it that felt so different, edgier. A friend had introduced me to several of her favorite instayogis, and a fellow Austinite by the IG handle @casa_colibri really stuck out to me. It was “<3” at first “like.” She has a large mix of hobbies (that she completely rocks); she’s decorated with bold and beautiful tattoos (that I wish I could rock); she does yoga with her pups, too (yoga celebrities– they’re just like us). Stephanie just did Stephanie, and I totally dug it. That’s why I was SO excited when she was up for an interview for Bad Yogi! To top it all off, she could not have been any kinder, more welcoming, or more down-to-Earth when I met her (is that really even fair, Universe?).
I won’t bore you with my words anymore… Bad Yogis, here’s Stephanie Gongora.
Describe yourself in 3 sentences or less.
I am an avid Yoga and aerial arts enthusiast who loves nothing more than spreading the joy of creative movement to other like-minded individuals. While I currently don’t teach Yoga (or any other form of fitness) as my full-time job, I devote a good amount of my time to organizing community building events and trying to share my Yoga journey with others.
What’s the best and worst thing about your work?
The best thing about it is that it’s not work! I work full-time outside of the Yoga realm. Which means that everything I do surrounding Yoga is “just for fun.” So there’s no pressure to sell myself or to be anything other than genuine. The worst thing about it is probably that I do spend a very large amount of time doing it, and thus far, it’s all been pro-bono. That was 100% my choice, and is starting to change a little as I launch my first E-Book (The Beginner’s Guide to Handstand) and plan workshops for this Spring with my partner-in-crime, Erin Kelly.
It’s almost impossible to completely eliminate social media from our lives nowadays, especially if you have a loyal following. How do you embrace social media without being totally sucked in?
Gosh this is hard. I’ve spent the last 6+ years working as an executive assistant for 1-6 people at a time. So believe me when I say that I’ve learned a little about time management. I set blocks of social media time for myself, usually about 3-4 times a day for 10-15 minutes at a time. Maybe that means in the morning, as I’m waiting for the dogs to have breakfast, at the beginning of my lunch break, after work, and once before bed. Outside of those times, I try not to look at my phone and have notifications turned off as well. For my daily challenges, I pre-record those in blocks so that I don’t have to get into “film” mode every night and can just draw from my bank of videos and pictures. It’s possible to be active in the social media community and not let it consume you and your life.
Photo cred: Neil Ghandi @LifeInAnImage
On that note, do you ever have moments where you feel like you should “fake it” or keep up appearances for your community?
Sure. Who doesn’t? There are days when I’m grumpy and don’t feel like posting, but I get a sense that I “should” or that it’s “expected.” But lately I’ve found that I can just post a picture of me falling on my face and tell the world that I’m grumpy and having a bad day. The genuine response is almost guaranteed to get greater results. I’ve also experimented more lately with simply Not posting at all if I don’t have anything to say. It’s liberating and long silences can always be addressed when I hop back online. People like being filled in on tidbits of my life behind the scenes, and going dark for a day or so can actually give me time to process, think, and come up with more genuine and creative content.
Are you ever insecure?
Yes & No. I think everyone is a bit insecure, even if they say they aren’t. But I’ve always had a really tough skin about my body and appearance, at least for the last decade or so. There’s just not time to worry about what other people think of me. I have too much going on, and for every bad or “mean” comment, there’s 45 good ones. Throw in the fact that the vast majority of the Yoga social media crew is super supportive and kind, and I’m a happy camper. I am, however, a fairly new teacher, and I do worry at times about judgment from the more senior leaders in the Yoga community. I think everyone wants to portray accurate and helpful information, and so there is always the question of, “Did I give enough cues for that pose?” or “Did I explain that the right way to enter it safely?” Now that there is a much bigger audience, there’s a greater responsibility on my part to portray accurate information.
How do you snap yourself out of it? Do you have a ritual that brings you back to the reality of your badassery?
Most of the time I can just put the phone down and go pet my Yoga puppies for a few minutes, and I’ll be just fine. If it’s something that’s really bothering me, I’ll probably talk to some of my other Instagram Yoga friends about it. Chances are, someone has experienced something similar and has a word of advice to give. That’s one of the things that I love about this ever growing group of people. We support each other on and off of the app.
Photo cred: Neil Ghandi @LifeInAnImage
What’s your personal measure of success?
Honestly, I don’t really have one. I guess you could say making it to the mat at least 4 days a week. Even if that’s just to sit there and contemplate what I’m going to have for dinner. I try not to set asana goals for my practice or any physical stipulations at all. I do strive to journal every morning and find some form of meditation or mantra practice in the evenings.
In your career and life, what’s been your greatest asset? And, if you care to share, your greatest hindrance? How did you overcome it?
I would have to say that my greatest asset is my propensity for ideas and the work ethic to carry them through to the finish. There are a lot of people who have ideas. Those are great, but if you don’t do anything about them, they remain undeveloped thoughts and brainstorms. My background, and just my personality, have made me organized, determined, and driven. I wanted a way to connect with yogis in person, so I put in the time and created @AustinYogaMeetUp. My friends and I wanted to work on spreading a message about positive body image, so we collaborated on #MyBodyMovement. I wanted to write an E-Book, so I sat down for hours and hours and hours and HOURS and actually did it. I’ve always been a woman of my word, and I don’t mind having to expend effort to get results.
My greatest hindrance would be my perfectionism. I like every detail to be in place. That can mean more time and effort than others or even than necessary. How did I overcome it? I would say that it’s still a work in progress. Teaching Yoga really helps with that though. I may have an amazing flow calculated out to a tee, but when I arrive to work with my client, I see that I’m going to need to change everything on the fly. Teaching Yoga is a continual test is flexibility and requires a kind of “fly by the seat of your pants” attitude that helps (forces) me to work with my perfectionism.
Which is true about you: usually you follow your heart, or usually you follow your logic?
Gosh. Another hard one. I would say that on smaller decisions, I almost always follow my logic. My brain is calculating, and I’m a big fan of lists. It’s part of the organizational side of me that is good at getting things done in a well-ordered fashion. For larger decisions though…I typically make all these lists and whatnot…and then my heart just crashes through and makes the decision for all of us. Haha. The heart knows what it wants, regardless of logic sometimes, and I try to trust those “gut feelings.”
On IG it appears that you dabble in just about everything: yoga, aerials (of all types of aparatus), pole, gymnastics, acro (even if was “pretty much the only time”). Everyone who is great at anything had to start somewhere, so was there anything that you tried to do that was a lot harder than you thought it was going to be? How did this type of challenge motivate you?
Everything is harder than it looks. I would have to say that pole and lyra (aerial hoop) were the hardest for me though. I started pole in college, looking for something reminiscent of my years in gymnastics. It was SO hard. I would get bruised, beaten, and disappointed with my lack of progress. But it was great for me to work on letting go of “achieving” something and just enjoying it for the fun of actually moving my body. It’s stayed the same way for me, and now I’ve added lyra to the repertoire. The same goes for yoga, to a certain degree. There are many things that did not come naturally, and inspired me to get on my mat daily and actually do the drills and strengtheners to get there. I worked on handstands EVERY DAY for a year before I was able to have any dependable hold time. Recording my progress, and also just learning to enjoy the journey really motivated me to continue my work on inversions.
Alright, just for fun: All food is “health food” and there’s no such thing as allergies and intolerances. What do you eat every day of your life?
Sounds like a trick question…. Haha. I’m actually fairly healthy. My husband is a Functional Medicine Doctor and PhD in Nutrition. Couple that with growing up in a healthy household, and I’m not a big craver of “junk food.” My ideal day is lots of vegetables, but especially avocados, sprouts, and artichokes. I would say that my “treat” foods are brie cheese and ice cream because who doesn’t like ice cream?!
If there was absolutely NO way for you to make any living doing what you do now, what else would you do?
Well… I think I addressed that. I actually don’t make a living from this and still do it. Hahah. So even if I didn’t have workshops and E-Books launching soon, I would still do it all– the meet ups, the challenges, everything– I would just need to make sure it never took too much time away so that I could continue to support myself and my family. Regardless of money, Yoga will always be a big part of my life, and that includes spreading it to others and cultivating a sense of community.
Be sure to leave some love in the comments below for Stephanie!