Jay Fields is not your ordinary yoga teacher. As the author of the book Teaching People, Not Poses, Jay is praised for walking her talk and for supporting her clients in showing up authentically and unapologetically.
Tapping the vein of guidance and integrity that arises from a life dedicated to embodied spiritual practice, she guides others to unearth this same vein within themselves. She has spent the last 15 years teaching yoga, leading vision quests, and helping people fall to pieces so they can come back together whole.
My personal practice is…
From the outside, it would appear that my personal practice is taking a walk on the trails near my home every morning, and then returning home to do yoga and meditate. But really my practice is using my intuitive guidance to make decisions—mundane and significant—in my life. And in order to tap in to my guidance I need to get out of my head and find my presence in my body. The walking, yoga-ing and meditating are all in service to that. As are dancing and punching a punching bag and curling up with a pillow on the floor to have a good cry when necessary.
How did you discover your practice?
It’s been clear to me for a long time that my head gets in the way of me truly knowing just about anything in this world that is wonderful and real. If it was up to my mind only, most of the decisions I made about my life would come from fear, habit or other peoples’ expectations. I’ve found from experience that that doesn’t make for a very satisfying existence.
That’s why I started doing yoga and going out into nature from a young age; I found that when I had a moment of profound presence, whether on my mat or deep in a canyon, it was always accompanied by the steadfast calm of inner clarity. As someone who has struggled making decisions because I’m so concerned with doing right by my life in a sacred kind of way, this inner knowing was the elixir I had been looking for.
Once I found it, I committed myself to doing all of the things that helped me to access this presence. As my presence became more reliable and strong, I started checking in with my guidance about all sorts of things, from what to eat for breakfast, to where to go to grad school, to what to call my business, and on and on…
Why do you practice?
I practice to stay with myself. I practice to ensure that my life is really my own and that I’m engaging with and giving back to the world in the unique way that only I can.
How frequently and for how long do you practice?
I do the practice for my practice (walking, yoga, meditating) every day in some capacity. Fifteen minutes when that’s all I can muster, hours and hours when I can, but usually between one and two hours.
But as for actually checking in with my intuitive guidance, I do it all the time. When I write emails, I pause to check in about how to communicate something efficiently and effectively. When I teach yoga, I pause to check in about what pose to do next. When I’m snuggled under the blankets in bed in the morning I check in to see if there’s anything important I should know about my day. It usually just takes a few moments, and I’ve gotten familiar enough with the feeling tone of my own knowing in my body that I often can check in on the fly without having to literally pause and close my eyes.
What’s something that gets in the way of your practice and how to you move through it?
All the uncomfortable emotions that I’d rather stuff are by far the most gigantic impediment to me connecting with my guidance. If there is something under the surface (or even right on the surface!) that I don’t want to feel and that I’m resisting, I stay in the spin of my mind and I can’t get to the feelings of clarity.
In order to move through it I absolutely have to move the emotions. Those are the days when punching bags and snotty pillows are a part of my practice. The other thing I do to move through it is have a session with my mentor. She has the strongest connection to her guidance that I’ve ever experienced and she’s wonderfully skilled at helping me to navigate the inner shitstorms when they’re brewing.
What supports you in staying committed to your practice?
Deep down what supports me in staying committed to my practice is my belief that each person’s life is a collaboration between the individual soul and the soul of all that is, and that it’s our responsibility to tune in to the places where the gross meets the subtle and to get our instructions from there. You could say that it’s about finding purpose or meaning, but really it’s about feeling connected and fully alive.
What role does your practice play in your work?
My practice is everything when it comes to my work, since really what I do is support others in finding, trusting in and acting on their own inner guidance. In that way, my practice is both what affords me the sensitivity required to serve my clients and students as best as I can, and it’s also what allows me to do so with integrity. How can I ask someone else to follow their guidance if I don’t know mine intimately from the inside out and have a fierce commitment to it?
Describe someone you know whose practice inspires you.
Emerald North comes to mind. She is a friend of mine who has also been a mentor and colleague during the times when I was guiding vision quests. Aside from being one fiery lady, she is also a gifted artist and ceremonialist. Her practice inspires me because she simply lives her practice. When I stay in her home and I don’t see any difference between her painting, her walking, her sculpting and her gardening—all of it is sacred communion. This inspires me because ultimately I believe practice is life.
My yoga teacher, Julie Gudmestad, also comes to mind. She has been committed to physical alignment through over 40 years of being a teacher and practitioner of Iyengar Yoga, as well as a physical therapist. I appreciate the way she brings together modern day research with this ancient practice, mind with body, the ordinary with the ineffable. She is a woman who exudes integrity and heart, which I believe is the natural consequence of a solid practice.
A practice I’d like to explore is….
I’ve always wanted to learn a musical instrument, particularly cello or piano. My excuse has been that I don’t have the dedication to learn to play an instrument…which I realize is just a total load of bull! I have the dedication, I simply have chosen to channel it into other practices. Maybe one day…
Anything else you’d like to share about practice.
Learn more about Jay and Grace and Grit Yoga here.