Oh, Gillian! We are so lucky to have Gillian Brown as a teacher at THYF. Easy breezy, and helpful at the front desk, she subtly brings out a whole different side when she’s on the podium or leading you through an Inferno Hot Pilates class or showing you how to shake it in a Buti class. She’s still trying be helpful, but this time by being a sturdy, knowledgable, encouraging presence in the room, showing you what needs to be done for you to get stronger, healthier, and happier. Low-key in her undeniable strength, she has truly earned her affectionately-given nickname, “The Silent Killer.”
Read on to learn more about Gillian and her yoga journey.
Tell us what you remember about your first ever hot yoga class.
It was with Terri Fry. I was 21 years old, and one of my friends brought me to class. I remember feeling like I could do a lot of things, but at the same time feeling like OMG, I have no idea what I’m doing. Probably the biggest thing I remember is being in savasana and feeling amazing, like something had been lifted off of me. I wasn’t sure I’d come back; I was at a point where taking care of myself wasn’t a big priority for me. But then I decided to go to take advantage of the intro. Every class I wasn’t sure if I liked it, but also felt something powerful. I had this inner voice saying “I feel like I should do this; stay with it, it’s gonna be something in your life.” So I kept coming.
What were you like as a beginning student?
I like to think that I was a good student in that I tried my best to listen and pay attention and understand what the teacher was trying to say, but I remember lots of times being i class and listening and thinking, “WTF do they mean? I don’t get it!” On the other side, sometimes I knew exactly what to do. I had been a dancer for a long time, so I think I came into the practice with a lot of body-mind awareness. My best then was just different than it was now. As I’ve practiced more, I’ve become more aware of things to work on.
When did you know you were “hooked?”
When Louise owned the studio, I think I’d been practicing for a year, and there was a poster up for teacher training in California, and I was looking at it. Louise walked by and said, “You going to teacher training?” I said, “Huh, not this time, but I know I will go.” I knew that when it needed to happen, it would happen.
When did you go to teacher training? What made you want to be a teacher?
I went in summer of 2017. In a way, I knew it was something I was going to do for a long time. This yoga changed my entire life. I was 21 when I started, and I wasn’t in the mindset at that time of really wanting to take care of myself and be the best version of myself. I was partying a lot, maybe doing some crazy things, but it felt like with yoga my whole world shifted. I wanted to be happy and and healthy and being more of my true self became a priority. How can you beat that kind of feeling? I feel like this yoga is so capable of giving that feeling to so many people, and being part of that, helping other people’s lives feel better, that is so awesome.
What do you love about teaching?
Being able to look at students and think, “This is the best part of their day, they look forward to this,” and being part of that. This doesn’t really have anything to do with me as a person, but being able to watch people grow and have such good experiences. Just being able to witness that, changing over time, and seeing that. Sometimes I watch students in savasana and a tear will roll down my face, a moment will catch me off guard, and I am amazed at what happens in class.
What do you still love about the yoga?
I love that it continues to surprise me. Every time I take class, I feel something new, but at the same time, everything is the same. I’ve never felt bored. You never have the same class; you have different thoughts that go through your head and your body does different things. When I was first starting, I wondered how I would sustain it, how can it be interesting and not get boring when you’re doing the same thing over and over. I’ve come to realize, that’s so far from the truth. We do the same thing, but class is never the same.
Even after all these years, what do you still struggle with in class?
Shutting my brain up. Not having things that don’t matter fill up my brain, things that have nothing to do with what I’m doing. Sometimes it’s way easier than others, and other days my brain just won’t shut up. And then other days I go in and realize how focused I was. All I thought about was stupid shit other days. It’s funny to think, why is it different from day to day?
What do you know now that you couldn’t have known without so many years of dedicated practice?
I thought I knew it all at the start, but now I realize I know absolutely nothing. At first it felt like, I’ve got this. I was flexible and strong already, and could basically do what the teacher said. But you have to keep your mind open. Just because you think you know what’s going to happen next, you actually don’t.
Do you have a favorite posture?
Lately, it’s been standing bow because I’ve seen such a change in it and I feel very strong in it now. I have always loved – and I think I will always love – fixed firm. I’m really able to relax but work hard at the same time. I love getting down there and bringing arms up and knees together and then just being still.
When did you go to the Inferno Hot Pilates training? What do you love about teaching that class? How about being a student in that class?
I went to the August 2016 training. I love taking the class as a student because it’s so hard and so much fun. If you let yourself, you can have fun and work your butt off at the same time. At THYF, I feel like every time I take an IHP class, It feels really supportive, and everyone wants everyone else to do their best. I like teaching it for the same reason – I love watching students support themselves. Seeing people get stronger and being a part of motivating that is really a cool thing.
Tell us something about Buti!
But is so much fun, and if you haven’t tried it yet, I don’t know why. I understand that people are scared. It’s a comfort zone thing. But if you actually come to class, you’ll see that it’s not scary. You can do it. It’s moving your body in a different way, and it opens your mind to something new. That’s what you want in life, to always be growing. Get on your mat and give it a try – who knows, you might like it!
Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
This is mostly for newer students. If you think that you shouldn’t be coming to class, that’s not true. If you really try and you make up your mind to just let the yoga or IHP or Buti do its thing, it’s like magic. Get over the hump of thinking, “Oh, this is hard, why am I here?” It can turn into something amazing. Give it a chance. If you give up when it’s hard at the beginning, you’ll never know!
Thanks so much, Gillian! Readers: hop on the THYF app and book a class with Gillian – you’ll be glad you did, and so will she!
–Ellen Olson-Brown, The Hot Yoga Factory, Chelmsford