Meet The Teach: Deidra Demens
Seeking To Shed Pounds She Found Her True Nature
As a theatre major at DePaul University in Chicago, Deidra Demens had aspirations of performing in NYC and on the silver screen. It was there she discovered her love of yoga, while seeking a means to shed the weight she'd gained freshman year.
After graduating, Deidra moved to NYC to pursue her acting dreams. But the aggressive auditioning process proved daunting, leaving her unhappy and uncertain of her future. Stefani Jackenthal talked with Diedra about her journey to becoming yoga instructor and how yoga has helped her find the beauty of being comfortable in her own skin.
Stefani Jackenthal: When did you start practicing yoga and why?
Deidra Demens: I walked into my first yoga class in 2005, as a freshman in college at DePaul University in Chicago. Like many others, I'd gained the “freshman 15” and in attempting to lose weight I started taking fitness classes, such as cardio kickboxing, spin, boot camp, Pilates, etc., etc. Even before I took a yoga class, I knew that I wanted something that was not just physical – but emotionally and spiritually healing as well. I was looking for a particular path and I soon found it in yoga.
SJ: When and why did you decide to pursue Teacher Training?
DD: During my senior year of college when I was exploring my next step, I briefly thought about becoming a yoga teacher and quickly shut the thought down – thinking I wasn't good enough, didn't have a strong enough practice and hadn't been practicing long enough.
But after moving to New York City to pursue an acting career, I became fed up with the whole acting-theatre-film scene. At the time, I was working at a dead end job. I wasn't happy and felt like I was going nowhere fast. I don't know how or why, but it became clear that I had to pursue teaching yoga. Upon being denied an internship at Yogaworks, which would have subsidized 50% of the teacher training tuition, I decided to save up for a year and do my teacher training at Greenhouse Holistic – the first studio I practiced at in New York.
SJ: When you were growing up, did any of your friends and family practice yoga?
DD: I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. Growing up, I didn't know anyone who practiced yoga. I didn't even know what it was. Yoga kind of found me.
SJ: How would you describe your teaching philosophy?
DD: “Tada drastuh svarupe vasthanam.” When I was in my 200-hour teacher training, I was flipping through the Yoga Sutras and came across this verse, meaning "Then the seer abides in his own true nature." There is something beautiful about being comfortable in your own skin, residing in our own true nature, being open to giving and receiving love and expressing our own divinity.
My classes are alignment based, but that doesn't mean we all will look alike in one particular pose. Reside in your own space, be where you are, be present and feel bliss in that moment.
SJ: The NYC teaching scene is pretty white. Do you feel like you are breaking down barriers?
DD: I don't know if I am breaking down barriers. Barriers have been broken and that's how I am able to be here. I am very thankful to all the teachers that came before me and paved the way. They have definitely helped me feel comfortable in my own skin and have been great inspirations for being that person that I can look up to.
SJ: What is one of your favorite things about teaching yoga?
DD: I love looking out at my class and seeing my students in supta baddha konasana - goddess pose. It’s my favorite pose. When I put them in that
SJ: What's your motto? pose I can feel the relaxation, letting go and surrender, which is so important for us New Yorkers who are in need of rest and restoration.
DD: "My motto, as I live and learn, is. Dig and be dug. In return" - written by the poet Langston Hughes
- Stefani Jackenthal