It’s that time again! This Q&A with Brendan Rooney is sure to be entertaining and enlightening. I work with Brendan, but he has written a great bio, so I’ll let him introduce himself and go from there!
After over 20 years of training in various forms of dance, Brendan’s fascination with movement of the human body was already in full force upon moving to New York City in 2010. Shortly after he began running and training for races and half-marathons, Brendan discovered his passion for the grounding, centering experience of Hatha Yoga. His interest in the physical, asana practice soon broadened to incorporate the philosophical aspects of Yoga while under the guidance of Jodie Rufty during his 200-hour Teacher Training program with YogaWorks in NYC. Brendan went on to complete his 500-hour Teacher Training with YogaWorks and furthered his studies by completing Jillian Pransky’s Restorative Yoga Teacher Training and TRX training under Maeve McCaffrey. Most recently, Brendan became certified in the YogaWorks method, created by Maty Ezraty, and assisted several 200-hour Teacher Trainings with YogaWorks led by Caitlin Casella and Julie Mellk (formerly Marx).
Considering Yoga to be just as much of a ‘work-in’ as it is a workout, Brendan’s alignment-focused classes encourage students to move mindfully as they explore the potential they have in their bodies and minds. Brendan truly believes Yoga is a personal practice that is specific to the individual’s needs and hopes to inspire his students to think less of the picture and more of the moment.
Q: So what exactly are you trained and certified in?
A: In addition to 20+ years of dance training, including ballet, modern, and jazz, and TRX training (not technically certified) I am a 500hr RYT. I’m also certified in Restorative Yoga (level 1) and the YogaWorks Method.
Q: What drew you into fitness and teaching?
A: I was a very (over)active child, and my parents put me in dance classes at the age of 6 to provide an outlet for my excess energy. After moving to NYC, my interest in Yoga began to peak as a calming counter to all of the frenetic energy in the city. Although I had taught dance classes in high school and college, I never had a strong desire to be a dance teacher. I originally planned to start teaching Yoga as a side job while I continued to audition and dance in the city; however, about halfway through my certification process I realized that I was developing a passion for teaching Yoga. I felt that I had received such a precious gift in developing my Yoga practice and found new methods to work and appreciate my body in ways that dance couldn’t offer. My goal as a teacher is to offer this experience that so profoundly changed me to others, so that perhaps they can find a moment of serenity in this chaotic city and come to discover a new respect for their body.
Q: What would if the up-side to having knowledge of so many fitness methods?
A: Everything can be overdone, including stretching and strengthening, so I’m a firm believer in bringing balance to the body and mind. The upside of being well versed in so many modes of fitness is that I’ve been able to fine-tune my listening skills when it comes to my body. I listen to what my body is telling me on any given day and adjust my regiment to suite what I need at the moment, whether it calls for strengthening and cardio work, stretching and Yoga, or resting. I personally believe the most important concept in teaching Yoga (and fitness in general) is the Law of Compensation. Essentially, when dealing with a lack of flexibility or strength, the body will still find a way to do whatever it is you are asking it to do and shift that work into other areas of the body, regardless of how safe it is. Being able to listen to the subtle clues my body gives me allows me to discern what I’m trying to do from what I’m actually doing.
Q: How do you integrate various techniques when planning a class?
A: When incorporating other forms of fitness, like dance or TRX into a Yoga class and vice versa, I first think of my component parts of my class. In other words, what needs to be stretched? / what needs to be strengthened? / what is the MOST important concept? From there I decide if there are specific exercises or stretches that highlight that concept. For example, in most TRX classes I teach, I spend some time at the beginning of class highlighting the alignment points of plank position (Ardha Chaturanga Dandasana)- specifically the subtle action of lifting the hip bones to the bottom front ribs to help engage the core and prevent the pelvis from dropping and causing strain to the lower back. This is an important action to highlight early on because plank is the foundational pose of nearly exercise in TRX, and the tendency in the majority of students is to allow the low back to sway and become excessively lordotic, losing the engagement of the stabilizing core muscles.
Q: Why is this integration important? Can’t we all just do one form of workout and be in shape?
A: Integration of various forms of movement and exercise is important because, in my experience, nothing does everything. Yoga is great for stretching the hamstrings, but there are no asanas that strengthen the hamstrings as effectively as running does. We do a lot of pushing in Yoga, working the triceps and serratus anterior, but there are more opportunities to work our pulling muscles like the biceps and lats in TRX (not to mention grip strength!) When students ask me if Yoga will help them lose weight, I hate to break it to them, but as great as Yoga is for finding more range of movement and developing a stronger sense of proprioception, it doesn’t really count as cardiovascular fitness (sustained aerobic exercise). Those students are better off going for a jog, swim, or bike ride.
Q: What’s it like in “a day in the life” of a New York City fitness instructor?
A: “A day in the life” with me would look different depending on the day. My schedule is constantly fluctuating, depending on what private clients I have that week and what additional classes I might sub for another teacher. Generally, each week is a bit different from the prior week; some days I start teaching around 9am and will teach up to 5 classes before finishing my day 12 hours later, and other days, I may have just one class and have the whole rest of the day to do as I please while everyone else is at work. It can be a very sporadic schedule, but it keeps me stimulated. Change is always good- one of the main requirements of my job is being able to easily adapt. Just like each day’s schedule may be completely different from the last, each group of students is different from the ones before and may require a different approach.
Q: What are the physical demands of teaching fitness class(es) and what do you do to stay in shape- ready to demonstrate in class?
A: The physical demands of teaching fitness classes can certainly start to weigh on the body. Predominantly, I teach more beginner-level Yoga classes, which tends to require a good bit of demonstration (as does most every TRX class), so when I practice on my own, I tend to work on countering all of the demonstrating that I do throughout the day. I have a brief morning ritual that I repeat about 4-5 more times throughout the day (usually while waiting for the subway in between classes) that consists of shoulder openers, side stretches, and twists. Teaching can take a lot of energy, both mentally and physically, so fitting in my own workout regime (Yoga, running, gym, TRX) requires some planning and negotiating. There are also times when I’m assisting a Yoga Teacher Training or just teaching so much that I can’t always adhere to my own fitness schedule, and those are the times when I try to cut myself some slack and do more Restorative Yoga.
Q: When you are not teaching what are you up to?
A: When I’m not teaching, I spend as much time reaping the rewards of my hard work as I can. I absolutely love NYC, and I spend much of my free time exploring the city and discovering new places. My ideal day would consist of a nice walk with my dogs, some time resting outside at a park, and spending the evening cooking dinner with my man and watching our shows on TV.
Q: What are your long term goals?
A: I don’t really set many long-term goals. I’ve worked very hard the last few years to get to a position where I can teach full-time, and it is such a rewarding experience that I don’t imagine I’ll be changing career paths anytime soon. Now, I’m starting to focus more on anatomy and Yoga therapeutics, so I imagine the next step will be a deeper dive into more specific teaching methods. Eventually, I would love to lead my own Yoga Teacher Trainings, and pass on all that I’ve learned to new, eager teachers. On a personal level, I’m beginning to physically and mentally prepare myself to run the NYC Marathon in the future.
Q: Give me some words of wisdom!
A: “We are what we think” ~Buddha~ We will always have ups and downs, good days and bad days, but the one thing that we can rely on is that the only constant in life is change. So it’s important to be kind to ourselves during those rough patches. What you think about yourself can build you up or tear you down. That’s why the brain is the most important muscle to exercise.
And I’m still looking at the puppy picture! But really, I take classes with Brendan at least twice a week (yoga and TRX) and he is one of the most inspiring and encouraging instructors I know.
Learn more about Brendan, what he’s up to and when he’s teaching on Instagram @_brendan_rooney_ and on Facebook here!
Have a great Memorial Day weekend, ya’ll!