My favorite part about this project is being reminded that being a human is a full experience. As much as we might want to tiptoe across the surface, life has other plans. Something that Jianna consistently reminds me of is that joy and sweetness doesn't come from a place of ignorance. Rather, it comes from a place of deep wisdom, delving into the murky waters of everything we are, and allowing ourselves to actually experience the full spectrum of the universe we find there. We aren't perfect. We aren't supposed to be. Everything we are is all things all the time and all of it is magical. So much gratitude to Jianna for reminding me that being afraid isn't the same thing as being weak, that you can hate the word patience and still need to hear it, and that love really, truly, actually is the answer. Now, Jianna in her very own words....
I am Jianna. I am a teacher. And I am… A yogi, a climber, someone that will explore new things even if they’re hard and humbling, always learning, quietly fierce, sometimes just quiet, brave, an impatient patient person, an accidental optimist, intuitive, and always growing.
“Being a teacher is my job and has been for several years now. Teaching yoga has become part of my identity. Who I am in this world is to teach yoga and teach people how to get in their bodies and out of their heads. I identify with it in a lot of ways because I love it and because it is part of who I am, but at the same time I don’t because I’m a student and learning just as much as the people I’m guiding in yoga classes. All I do is say a couple of words and open the space. I am learning with them. The teacher aspect comes really loaded as if I have all the answers and I really, really don’t. More than anything, I’m willing to say that I don’t have the answers, but am willing to go find out. There is a really lofty expectation that being a teacher means you have all the answers to fix everyone’s problems. While I do have the answers to a lot of things, I’m also still human.
The world comes with this idea that their teachers always have to be mindful and ultra compassionate and full of love and light and everything nice. Those are really good things to be, but don’t mean that there aren’t periods of life that are really dark and hard. When I’m going through something particularly difficult, it’s hard to be the teacher that exudes nothing but light. That’s not yoga. Yoga is light and dark. I think the best teachers are people who have been through the thick of it, through the mud. The compassion piece comes in when, even in the darkness, they can compassionately relay those lessons to their students. My job is to be open and real and show the world who I am as a human being in a really raw way. When I broke my foot, it was a really transformative moment. Just that! It meant that I went from this lifestyle of going, going, going, and constantly moving my body to all of a sudden being told to stay still. And even when I kept pushing, I wrecked my car, and the universe said “Hey! You’re not listening. Stop.” I was forced to listen, to be a student.
For a long time, I definitely made assumptions about myself, but I don’t think that’s the case for the last couple of years. That isn’t to say that I haven’t struggled with it, but for the most part, I’m pretty okay with where I am. I realize, too, that I won’t be here forever or be this person forever and that’s okay. I try not to attach myself to the things the world tells me I’m supposed to be because I realize that it isn’t healthy. I think that everyone knows innately who they are and what they’re actually supposed to be doing because life responds to you. It’s what we do with that information that matters. If it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t right. Your reactions matter. Even if it’s punctuated by a big question mark of ‘Who am I?’ or ‘What am I supposed to be doing with my life?’ you already know. Give it time. Magic has a way of happening the way that it needs to. Just listen and be patient. Which is funny because I’m the most impatient person, but it’s true. Be your own human.
We learn who we are through figuring out what we’re not, yes, but I also think that even in those moments, those things we transform out of are also true for us. Like, you can date someone for a long time and after the fact see that they were SO not right, but at one point that’s very much what you wanted. Realistically, those experiences shape you and they’re going to happen in the ways they need to happen. Eventually, they lead you toward life in a way that does feel good and you’ll know that it’s the right thing. If you can be really honest and true with yourself, you’ll learn how to tell what’s sweet and what isn’t. If you can learn to feel into it, you’ll know exactly who you are and why you’re here.
In a class recently, the teacher reminded me that the only thing we’re meant to be in this world is love. We walk in love, we are love, we thrive in love. Everything we are is made of love. The human part of me wondered why I am so hard on myself and to force my way through life when, really, things kind of just change on their own. Things are going to fall into place. Why would I waste time rushing this process, compounding stress onto myself, and getting smaller and smaller like I’m in a trash compactor? The weight of it all is our interpretation of the world.
I often find myself stumbling on things that bring me joy and light up my life. I allow them to happen. It might be somewhat of my intuition, but I wind up in things because I’m just willing to listen to what my body and heart wants. I explore movements until the movements fit. I wind up in relationship to other people because humans are great. In all forms of relationships and friendships, I get drawn to the people that I need to have in my life. They arrive because I’m open to them arriving and I let them stay because these people feel good. So they are. I really just pay attention. Stay open to being an open vessel and letting yourself always be learning, good things are going to come. They just are. See the shadows and greet them with as much care and sweetness as you do the light parts of you, too. Be vulnerable with yourself and leave the doors you find open."
What does love and connection mean to you?
"Love and connection can be the exact same thing, but love is the heightened form of connection. I’m connected to the people I have experiences with. Once you have connection and experiences and memories with someone, that can transform into love for someone. And that love is all encompassing. It’s being able to trust that all humans on this earth are innately lovable and knowing that the more love you put out there, the better the world is going to be. Honestly, just don’t be an asshole. That’s good, too."
What would you tell your younger self?
"You’re gonna be okay. Everything is going to work out perfectly imperfectly."
You can see some more beautiful photos of Jianna over on the And I Am... Project gallery!