Gina Caputo Talks Social Media, Festivals and Why Teachers Shouldn’t Offer Free Yoga (Interview)

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Gina Caputo is a Boulder, Colorado-based yoga teacher with an international reach. Known, respected, and loved for her incredibly knowledgeable yet down-to-earth teaching style, Gina leads classes, workshops, and retreats around the world.
 
Gina specializes in what’s called Integrative Vinyasa, which is, as described on her site, “rooted in intelligent, natural evolutionary patterns and emphasizes the subtle inner work we access via our physical bodies and movement.”
 
Her unique teaching approach and her inspiring, inviting and relatable personality are what keep students coming back for more Gina.
 
We had the opportunity to interview Gina on everything from how she found yoga, to who her biggest influences are, her thoughts on yoga and social media, where she’ll be teaching next, and more . . .
 

Meet Yoga Teacher Extraordinaire Gina Caputo

Let’s hear more from this amazing yogi!
 

1. YA: You have a rich background in teaching yoga. What first brought you to the practice?

Gina: I first began practicing yoga purely by “accident”! This was back in 1995, I was completing a required half unit before college graduation and opted for a PE class called “Weight Training” and there was a woman in the class who asked the coach if she could begin our sessions with a bit of yoga.
 
Keep in mind, yoga wasn’t the juggernaut it is now so the fact that she suggested it and he said yes feels nothing short of miraculous now, considering how important this practice is to my life 23 years later!
 
I wish I remembered their names because I’d look them both up and say THANK YOU.
 

2. YA: From the time you first found yoga, what led you from student to becoming a teacher?

Gina: Also an accident! I was taking daily classes at a little local gym and the three yoga teachers were also aerobics instructors who were all going for a weekend of continuing education in another modality.
 
Left without anyone to teach yoga, they asked if there was any chance I’d fill in since I was there everyday anyway. In the spirit of helping out, I said yes and had a lot of fun that weekend! When they returned, they got positive feedback from the students and asked me to continue. The rest is history!
 
After that, I set out to get the best education I could and found my first teacher, Max Strom, shortly thereafter.
 

3. YA: You name some of your biggest influences in yoga as Shiva Rea, Max Strom, and Erich Schiffmann. What is one major aspect from each teacher that most impacts your teaching today?

Gina: Max Strom was my first teacher and I credit him with teaching me, directly and by example, the moral and ethical foundation of being a yogi and, especially, being a yoga teacher. He gave me a foundation rooted in clarity, simplicity and emphasized meeting people where they are.
 

As I look back on all I learned from my first teacher, I realize how these teachings continue to unfold within me, decades later.

 
Shiva Rea was the Shakti to Max’s Shiva for me. For me, she was and is the Fire Starter. Simply put, she LIT ME UP. Under her guidance, I began to understand Prana, the great current that flows through all living things. How to access it, shape it, distill it, direct it and transmute it.
 
She taught me how to craft classes in intelligent, logical ways that were also rich with meaning and bhava. She ignited a passion for matching music to experiences, rather than just slapping good songs onto good classes. She challenged me to find my Self and my voice.
 
Erich Schiffmann taught me about honesty and openness and showing up for my students. By example, he showed me how to have healthy relationships with my students that includes both access and boundaries.
 
He taught me about showing up exactly as you are, with no pretense and in the spirit of service and sharing insight. He’s also the first teacher I learned about mindfulness and meditation from, in a way that really made sense to me and felt accessible.
 
gina-caputo
 

4. YA: You wrote a powerful, thought-provoking article on The High Price of Free Yoga where you get into the ultimate cost of teachers not being paid what they deserve, and free or low cost classes not being offered to the demographics that really need them.

Gina: Thank you for your kind words on that article. My big ask of the yoga community is to the teachers: please consider the impact of your choices on your fellow teachers and the community at large. When we’re working to make ends meet and bring a dream or goal to fruition, it’s easy to get myopic.
 

To expand on this question, what do you feel the yoga community as a whole can do to support teachers, spread yoga to the masses, and do so with integrity and authenticity?

Gina: If we care about this practice more than just our role in it, we must consider the broader impact of what we implement and what we agree to support, whether that be free classes offered by retail stores to an upscale demographic, adding farm animals, intoxicants or any other exotic elements to our classes or glorifying or even sexualizing asanas above all other aspects of the practice on social media.
 
I’m not even necessarily saying DON’T do those things, I just want teachers to circle an idea a few times, from all sides, and decide if the idea really holds up and is of broad benefit.
 

We’ve got to realize that the choices we make today will impact the yoga of the future, our fellow teachers and our students.

 
I’d also ask teachers to create time, space and opportunities in their teaching schedules to offer yoga to underserved communities, and to do that by asking and listening first and foremost. Rather than impose a vision, ask first how you can support a community.
 
And to students, I’d ask that you be discerning about what you choose to engage in and support. I hear a lot of emphasis on convenience over quality, like “The classes aren’t that good but it’s close to my house and it’s cheap.”
 
I get that, I really do. But I also want so much for them to recognize how impactful it is to be inconvenienced some times to support a teacher or studio that is trying to survive without offering the “low hanging fruit” or pandering to people’s neuroses around their physical bodies.
 
Same with teacher trainings. All too often I see people chose a training by the tropical location over the quality of the teacher and a resonance with their offering. And I also hear a lot of disappointment from students who have done so.
 
Honestly, sometimes I think I care way too much. But much like my commitment to environmentalism, I’m thinking about my fellow beings and the future.
 
I want the subtler practices of yoga to stay intact. Current behaviors make me worry that yoga will be fully usurped by the fitness/modeling industry and will lose some of the subtlety and power it has to resource people to move through life with less suffering.
 

 

5. YA: For all the yoga teachers out there trying to make it doing something they love and believe in, what’s your biggest piece of advice?

Gina: PLAY THE LONG GAME! In an age of instant gratification, we seek what we want on the shortest timeline possible. And I get that too. But I’ve also learned the value of experience and riding the waves.
 
Know thyself, know your whys and play the long game with teaching. If you love the practice enough, you’ll do what it takes to make your service sustainable. But finding your voice and unique offering rarely happens quickly.
 
Please don’t be seduced by the fast track of just using your physical gifts to become an influencer and instead, invest in your teachings and the depth of your own practice so that you can serve well beyond your tenure of visibility and be valued for the breadth and depth of what you teach, both directly and by example.
 
gina-caputo
 

6. YA: You founded the Colorado School of Yoga – a popular Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) and continuing education program. What’s your favorite aspect of running this program? Was it a big shift from teaching yoga, or more of a natural transition?

Gina: My favorite aspect of directing the Colorado School of Yoga is, essentially, a feeling of alignment with my dharma, to teach others and pay it forward. I deeply believe in the value of these practices to navigate the challenges of life.
 
I am so profoundly grateful for all of my teachers and what they filled my vessel with and feel it is my spiritual obligation, if you will, to offer these inner resources to all who are interested.
 
It wasn’t a big shift to go from teaching classes to offering trainings. I’ve been part of teacher trainings since 2003 and led my first solo training in 2008. The desire to educate those with the appetite to learn and the desire to become servant leaders has been a part of me for a long time now!
 

7. YA: What’s your perspective on social media and yoga? Some people love it; some people feel like it’s causing a decline in the practice. Where do you stand?

Gina: I’m firmly in the middle on social media. I see how it supports offering teachings, wisdom and creates human connection more broadly than we can ever do in person. It can absolutely create accessibility and opportunities for resonance.
 
On the other hand, I also see how it can minimize and trivialize the practice of Yoga because the deeper dimensions of the practice don’t photograph well.
 
And, I’ve also seen how it can detract from the human connections you’re currently having in person (for need to document and share it via social) as well as nourish a skewed sense of self, impact and importance.
 
Honestly, I can’t even comprehend the pressure some yogis must experience to post a click-worthy asana EVERY SINGLE DAY.
 

What is now click-worthy has escalated to Cirque du Soleil levels!

 
My 2 cents would be that we look for ways to share a living yoga practice, meaning, we highlight not just the asanas but how that work impacts our lives off the mat too. More balanced presentation of our humanity.
 
gina-caputo
 

8. YA: Favorite quote that most embodies your concept of the yoga practice?

Gina: Oh man, that’s a really hard one because I have so many favorite nuggets of wisdom from great teachers. Right now I’ll go with this one:
 
“Awakeness is found in our pleasure and our pain, our confusion and our wisdom, available in each moment of our weird, unfathomable, ordinary everyday lives.” – Pema Chodron
 

 

9. YA: Favorite song for an upbeat Vinyasa class? Favorite song for a relaxing flow?

Gina: Oh man, another impossible “favorite” question! In general, I prefer instrumentals for regular yoga classes. I’ve always loved the dynamic vibe of “The Way Through” by Shaman’s Dream when I want to support a more active or upbeat practice. And for a steady, slow, downtempo beat I like “Lamplight” by The Album Leaf.
 
I don’t know if these are my “favorites” per se but definitely have made many appearances in classes. The main thing for me is that the music is completely congruent with the vibe or bhava of the class and doesn’t pull you out of the inner experience but supports you going further inward.
 

10. Last but certainly not least, you’re teaching at Hanuman Festival this summer! What can festival attendees expect for your classes? Any other fun updates or events to mark on our calendars for Gina in 2018-2019??

Gina: I’m excited that this year my classes [at Hanuman Festival] are outside – Boulder in June is glorious and we’re next to the Boulder Creek! The overarching theme of my three classes is wholeness and integration so students can expect a balanced mix of effort and ease, celebration and quietude, connecting outward and turning inward.
 
All of the things, I’d say I’m known for being accessible and am proud of that. So students of all levels are welcomed and encouraged to come, I want you to come JUST AS YOU ARE!
 
Want to take a class from Gina at the Hanuman Festival? Check out the full teaching schedule here
 
And Hanuman Festival is just the beginning of a Summer and Fall that are jam-packed with fun festivals all over the country as well as some continuing education for students and teachers alike.
 
Oh, and I’m leading a retreat in October to SPAIN! I used to live there and this will be my first trip back – to bring old and new friends along on this trip is so meaningful to me.
 

A Big YogiApproved THANK YOU to Gina Caputo for Her Amazing Interview!!

Everything Gina is up to is on her website, so please explore and be sure to catch her at a yoga event soon!
 

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