Courtney Silverthorn is one of our newer teachers on the staff. She first started practicing in Frederick MD, and then completed her teacher training at Flow Yoga in 2013. She’s also an expert in both Yin and Restorative yoga, having studied with Kellie Adkins at the Wisdom Method School of Yoga. We’re excited to learn more about her, so here goes…
1. What kind of savasana music do you keep on your playlists? Any recommendations?
I sometimes use more ‘traditional’ music for savasana, either instrumental or with muted vocals – some of my favorites are Shanti (Peace Out) by MC Yogi, Sahasrara by Vive, and Morning Theme by David Gray. But one of the most memorable savasanas I ever experienced had “Heavenly Day” by Patty Griffin at the end of the class. So sometimes I will use more interesting songs like Imagine (covered by Jack Johnson), Aqueous Transmission by Incubus, or Song for a Winter’s Night by Sarah McLachlan – music that still sets the right atmosphere but carries the student in a completely different way.
2. We know you’re a yogi and a runner, what are your favorite ways to combine the two?
I’m picking up my mileage in preparation for my second half marathon in October, and I love rolling out my mat after my long run and really spending some time working into the lower body. It’s amazing how some poses feel completely different immediately after a run (hello, hamstrings in half splits and hips in gomukasana!) You’ll also see me popping into more yin classes – not only does it help keep the joints healthy, but higher mileage running can increase stress hormones in the body and the quiet meditative aspects of the yin practice really help keep things balanced.
3. Any funny yoga stories lately?
What happens at Flow Training stays at Flow Training 😉
But I’ve been playing with acro yoga a lot recently, which has been an interesting experience in a lot of different ways as you revisit very familiar poses (like crow and locust) in a completely different way as a flyer. I was working with my base on a tricky spin, and we were very focused on where various feet and hands needed to move, and all of a sudden the spotter says “Is ANYONE breathing here??” Of course neither of us were, and we both started laughing, which quickly crumbled the pose into a heap on the ground 🙂 But it was a good lesson for us!
4. Who are some of the teachers that have inspired you most and why?
On a broad level, I’m inspired by Dave Romanelli’s philosophy and by Briony and Dice’s physical agility. But the teachers that have inspired my own teaching style the most are the teachers at Sol Yoga and Flow Yoga. Dorcas Quynn McWilliams taught the first yoga class I ever took, and I learned so much about breath focus and the practice as a moving meditation from her. And at Flow, the first class I took was with Coleen Clement. She and Marcia Hoffheins have contributed the most to my practice and my teaching, both in my personal experience and in the wealth of knowledge they imparted through Flow Teacher Training and beyond (Tori too!) I’ve heard it said that every yoga teacher is a blend of the teachers that came before them, and I like to think that I have a little of all these wonderful ladies in my teaching.
5. Tell us a little more about Yin and Restorative? What are the differences and benefits of these two styles of practice?
Sometimes I think Yin and Restorative classes can be harder than vinyasa classes, because in our hectic DC Metro Area lives we’re completely not used to stillness. While somewhat similar in style, the goals of yin classes and restorative classes are different. In a yin practice, the postures are used to introduce ‘therapeutic discomfort’ to the body in order to create deeper openings in the joints and connective tissue, areas that we don’t typically access in a movement-based class. After finding the posture, the practice uses stillness and time to open these deeper areas of the body safely. In a restorative class, however, the goal is comfort and support – the practice uses props and grounding postures to essentially take the body out of the posture and heal on a more mental and emotional level. They’re extremely beneficial for balancing out any kind of stress – physical, mental, or emotional, and they provide a space to approach meditation and mindfulness from something more than just sitting. As a teacher, I really enjoy leading these kinds of classes because they flow very naturally from my soothing and supportive personality.
6. Are there other new classes, trips or just random things you’re hoping to do to continue growing as a teacher?
I consider myself to be a perpetual student! I’ve had several wonderful opportunities this year to do continuing education at Flow, and I’m hoping to attend some programs at the Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy in Pennsylvania later this fall. I’m working my way through the book ‘Teaching People, Not Poses’ by Jay Fields and find it to be a wonderful resource for a new teacher. And I’m also very excited to be teaching several different kinds of classes on the current schedule (Slow Flow, Flow Express, and Mixed Level) because I think it helps me to grow into a more rounded teacher.
7. What should we expect when we take your classes?
I really enjoy thinking about complex poses and breaking them down into the different openings that need to be created in the body, and I try to incorporate that into all my classes. You’ll pick up the different pieces of the ‘puzzle’ throughout the sequence and then put them together into something bigger – especially in arm balances and inversions. You’ll also get lots of focus on the breath (a super important part of the practice!) and a little nugget of an idea that maybe you not only fit into your practice, but take with you when you step off your mat. My goal is for you to leave with a calm mind and a smile on your face – the gifts that my own yoga practice and yoga teachers have continually given to me.
8. We heard you went to school in Baltimore, what’s your background in a more general sense?
My background is actually very scientific – I have a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and a PhD in pharmacology. So I have a very analytical mindset, and for me the benefits of yoga had to live up to that rigor…they have! I really enjoy learning about the research that’s being done with regards to yoga and meditation and how they literally change both the body and the brain. One of my favorite facts was learning that your brain doesn’t know the difference between a real smile and a fake one – it responds to both by improving your mood. So keep smiling in navasana, because your brain can’t tell that you’re faking it
9. Let’s end with a music question since that’s a passion of yours. What makes the perfect playlist? And again, if you have any specific recommendations, we’d love to hear them?
To me, the perfect playlist balances fun, meaning, and focus – it provides so much more than just background noise. Building a playlist is mostly intuition. A lot of times I’ll just shuffle my ipod and a song will pop up that makes me think “This would be perfect for a yoga class!” The music sets the mood and the emotional connection of the class. My entire life I’ve experienced music creating memories and feelings. And one of the biggest compliments is when a student finds that same connection and feeling and says “I loved your playlist” after class!
I love unexpected covers or unplugged versions of songs – some of my current favorites are an acoustic version of Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer, a live acoustic version of Rain King by Counting Crows, and the Glee Cast versions of Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide and Bruce Springsteen’s No Surrender. I mix everything from the 60s all the way through to today’s pop hits, but you’ll always hear a lot of Counting Crows, David Gray, and Van Morrison making repeat visits to my playlists.
Awesome interview. Thanks again for catching up with us!