Megan Goldberg: Being your authentic self

I met Megan Goldberg through Three Sisters Yoga in Manhattan, NY. Megan immediately struck my attention with her genuine nature and confidence. She was one of the first people to offer support for Setu before knowing much about it. I knew she had a powerful yoga story and enjoyed talking with her for this piece.

Hi Megan, will you introduce yourself to the Setu community.

My name is Megan Goldberg. I’m a yoga teacher and an Executive Director for an immigration law firm. I love both jobs. I’ve been a freelance legal writer for the last 4 years as well. I’m Jewish, culturally more than religiously. I am bisexual and identify as a plus size woman. My pronouns are she and her. It’s important, even though I am a feminine identifying person and I look feminine, that I point this out and create a space where others feel comfortable disclosing their own identities if they so choose. This is an intro I give in my classes as well.

Why did you choose to teach yoga? What attracted you to it in the beginning?

I grew up with yoga. It’s something my mother did when I was a kid and I got roped into it. I was the 10 year old at the back of the class thinking ‘why am I here?’ In high school, I played a lot of sports and royally fucked up my knees. I wanted the same adrenaline rush sports gave me without causing the damage. Everyone and their mother recommended yoga and I got back into it.

I did my yoga training before I took my current position as Executive Director. Having my yoga training and my self practice gave me the confidence to even accept the post in the first place. It’s extremely stressful. There are literally days where I sit down in the middle of the office doing breathing exercises with people walking around me. Yoga helps me manage my staff. Everyone who works in our office deals with a high stress position. I truly believe if I hadn’t done the training, if I wasn’t practicing yoga, I wouldn’t be able to do this job as effectively as I do.

Yoga is breathing, it’s a tool I take into every aspect of my daily life. It’s not even about the asana, which is important and is definitely something I do everyday. I know if I’m breathing, other people are breathing. I talk a mile a minute. It’s something I’ve always done. As much as a yoga has helped me calm my inner self, I’m still doing three things at once at all times. It’s important to remind myself to breathe, so other people can breathe. I will take a deep breath [deep inhale, deep exhale] and go, ‘ok let’s start this over and find a way to work together.’

In your Setu profile you say, ‘As someone with PCOS and PTSD I know what it’s like to feel like yoga “isn’t for you.”’ Do you feel comfortable sharing more on this?

Yeah. It’s important people recognize the things I deal with because maybe they’re dealing with them too. Maybe they need to know I get it.

PCOS, is polycystic ovarian syndrome. Poly meaning many, cystic meaning cysts, ovarian meaning ovaries and syndrome meaning syndrome – that’s my little mnemonic. Basically it affects everything from my weight, hormone production, menstrual cycle, fertility and unwanted hair growth. It affects 1 in 10 women. It’s much more common than we think.

It took me 2 years to get a proper diagnosis. I went from exercising all the time and being in sports. Then I gained weight very rapidly and didn’t know what was going on with my body. I’d go to the doctor and be told the weight gain is causing all the hormonal stuff and if I lose weight my body will go back to normal. I’d try to lose weight and diet. Finally, I went to an endocrinologist who said ‘you have PCOS and that’s why it’s so hard for you to lose weight.’

Unfortunately, there is no cure to PCOS. There is treatment and one of the ways is losing weight. It’s one of those really awful things where the weight is causing the PCOS but the PCOS prevents you from losing it. Yoga is great for it – it isn’t a cure but it’s a tool on my tool belt. It also means my yoga body is different than everyone else’s yoga body, not just aesthetically, and that’s completely fine.

As far as my PTSD, it doesn’t manifest as obviously as my PCOS, but it informs my teaching just as much. There are days when I need to opt out of poses or exercises because of one reason or another. I think it’s important to mention, so that students know it’s there.

Are there any poses or postures that really make you feel at home in your body or benefit your body?

There are yoga teachers – Dianne Bondy, Jessamyn Stanley – with differently abled and/or shaped bodies who’ve done this before me. They’ve given me a great roadmap of how I want to teach myself and people with bodies similar to my shape.

I love legs up the wall. I truly love it.

Anything in a straddle is gratifying. Poses with my legs open accommodate my belly and give me a greater range of motion. I understand it can feel vulnerable to some people. I had a teacher tell me, ‘if your belly is in the way, go ahead, pick it up and move it, it’s fine.’ For me that was so eye opening. I’m able to get further into poses if I just grab my belly and shift it. You can move different parts of your body like this and not feel ashamed. You can think, ‘Yeah it’s there, how am I going to work with it?’

I have knee issues, sometimes I need more support when getting into poses where my knees are bent deeply. In child’s pose, I’ll put a block in between my ankles and use it to sit on or I’ll grab a bolster. I love props! I don’t care if I’m teaching a general population class, advanced, beginners or restorative, there will be props. It’s like “There Will Be Blood,” but way more fun!

You say in your Setu profile that you teach from a place of joy and humor. Do you have any tips for teachers who would like to bring humor into their classes?

Not to toot my own horn, but I think I’m a pretty funny person. Some people like teachers who are serene, who can calm and relax them – that’s not my personality. I think every teacher needs to find their own personality. There’s different kinds of humor. I’m someone who likes to laugh at myself. If I make a mistake my response is to use humor to say, ‘well shit I fucked that up.’ Humor allows me to relax and shine through. I don’t know if everyone needs to be out there making jokes, but when you find the thing that allows you to relax as a teacher while still holding the room, that will allow you to teach from a place of joy.

I love teaching, there’s automatic joy there. I’m a performer and at the end of the day my teaching style can be a fine line between teaching, imparting truths, helping people find their yoga path and a little bit of entertainment.

I look for the enjoyable part of the day and recognize where the students are at. I find something I’m teaching for, something in the room and bring people along with me. I’m a big believer in finding your own humor and your own joy and not trying to be anybody else. There are going to be people who need you and your kind of teaching and they’ll find you.

Who are 5 teachers you’d recommend Setu readers take a class from?

Thank you Megan. It’s wonderful hearing your experience as a yoga teacher and student.

*Photos by Anna Bouma and  the Yogi and IMegan is currently an honorary Setu member.

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