Brigitte Snyder (E-RYT-500) is a master yoga teacher living on Oahu and has been teaching yoga for over 23 years. Her classes combine the fluidness and creativity of vinyasa with crystal clear understanding of alignment. Brigitte’s style draws from a blend of influences including her studies with B.K.S. Iyengar, master teachers in the Iyengar lineage and her time spent with Rodney Yee. Her love for meditation began in 1992 with the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda.
Brigitte is the director of Aloha Yoga Kula which was voted “Best Yoga Studio” by Honolulu Magazine in 2016 and 2017. She leads their Advanced Yoga Teacher’s Training Program established in 2007, teaches weekly classes and offers workshops and private lessons for students wanting to deepen their personal practice and refine their understanding of yoga.
What was your first yoga experience like?
My first yoga class was extremely intense for me. I wasn’t naturally flexible and couldn’t even reach my fingers below my knees in a forward fold. After seventy-five minutes of Bryan Kest’s vinyasa class, I was drenched in sweat, my wrists hurt, I was mentally exhausted, and I felt like the awkward new girl amidst a sea of fit bodies. But then, something extraordinary happened. In Savasana (final relaxation pose), I found my mind was effortlessly quiet and my body weightless. It’s brilliant that yoga classes end this way. It was an incredible feeling—like someone had lifted 50 pounds off my body and mind. I felt so light, peaceful, and clear. That’s the moment I fell in love with yoga. After that, I started going to class twice a week, and I can say without a doubt that going to that first class changed my life.
How would you describe the focus of your teaching, both for students and teacher trainees?
If I only had two words I would say “alignment” and “love.” All of my classes are infused with these two principles, as both are necessary and healing for yoga practitioners of all ages. Understanding body mechanics creates alignment, which is key for long-term mobility and health. Studying with teachers in the B.K.S. Iyengar lineage has deepened my understanding of and appreciation for precision in technique and greatly inspired me as a student and teacher.
Yoga, however, isn’t just about having a perfectly aligned body. There is an inner alignment as well, and each supports the other. That’s why love and meditation are also essential parts of my personal practice and teaching style. Finding love within ourselves is the ultimate key for a joyful, fulfilling life. Too often we look for our joy outside of ourselves and let our thoughts and emotions drive us. We can end up feeling like something is wrong or missing. We might try over and over to fix this feeling from the outside, only to be disappointed when our happiness doesn’t last. What I try to share through yoga is the ability to find center—the place where contentment and love isn’t an outer destination, but an inner destination that has always existed. In our advanced studies programs we thoroughly explore the roots of yoga, which are all about aligning body, mind and spirit.
What would you say to someone that’s new to meditating?
Meditation isn’t a place that you’re trying to get to. It’s an underlying vibration that’s already there but is typically masked by thoughts and activity. Meditation is about being present in the moment, a state of being that naturally happens when the mind quiets. A good yoga practice helps us find this. You can’t meditate with your mind—you just have to soften into it, let go into it. It takes focus and commitment to be still, but you also have to relax, and let the energy of meditation take over. It seems paradoxical—it takes focus and it also takes surrender. Be patient with yourself and stay in your heart. Feel the perfection of the moment just as it is.
What would you tell someone who is hesitant to try yoga?
The first thing is you need to find the right class. There are so many different levels and styles. It’s important to find the one that works for you.
The second is to be aware that a lot of media depicts yoga as a practice for young, fit, flexible people. I think there’s a false concept of what a yoga body should look like and how it should perform, which can cause people to feel overwhelmed or discouraged.
Yoga is for every body, regardless of age, size or flexibility. First and foremost, it’s intended to promote health and well being for the body, mind and spirit. I’ve seen first-hand how yoga helps people find their natural vitality and to know an underlying state of peace and self-acceptance.
I work daily with students of all ages and body types. I have watched these students heal themselves of injury, become stronger, more flexible, and overcome challenges. Many of these students will never do a vinyasa class, or even an advanced yoga posture, yet they have some of the most beautiful yoga practices I’ve ever seen.
An advanced yoga practice is not always about the shape you’re in, but also about the state of consciousness that you practice it in. Yoga is not about being perfect, it’s about being present.
How does Yoga affect your relationships?
I recently married my partner of seven years. Any relationship comes with challenges, especially a romantic one, and yoga has shown me how to take responsibility for my own thoughts and emotions. On my yoga mat, uncomfortable and intense feelings may emerge both physically and emotionally. There is no place to go but inside to face them. I am reminded to breathe, and to allow the moment to unfold, without judging it as good or bad. This shows me that I have some control over how I feel. When tension arises, it’s easier for me to step back and take responsibility for myself, rather than being so quick to point a finger. Yoga helps me realize that the source of happiness and love is within me. The less I need my husband to make me happy, the more I get to enjoy our time together as companions on this incredible adventure.
Yoga means union. Understanding the union of yoga relates so much to the union of marriage and any relationship. I have to know a harmony, love and union within myself to really know that with another person.
What would you tell a student that wants to advance their practice?
Practice! Get on your mat every day, no matter how briefly, and remember that there’s no such thing as a “bad” practice. Find classes that help you understand your body and deepen your asana. Most important, love where you’re at. Start a meditation practice—it will help take the ego and striving out of the way, so you can love every moment of the journey.