If you’ve taken a yoga class in town, it’s more than likely you’ve encountered Michelle Seifert’s wonderful, welcoming practice. Michelle takes a friendly and form-based approach to teaching yoga.
She’s been teaching since 2004, when she became a certified yoga instructor. Since then, she’s accumulated more than 1,750 hours of teaching.
We chatted with Michelle, who always has a smile on her face, about what first brought her to the area, what she loves about teaching at the Pavilion, and what you can expect when you roll out your mat with her.
What brought you to the area?
We first discovered Seaside in 1999 while on a family vacation to Destin. We spent a day exploring and stumbled upon 30A. 30A, and especially Seaside, became our vacation destination ever since.
My love for saltwater and the beach began when my family moved to South Florida when I was a child. After meeting my husband, Matt, in Dallas we were transferred several times and ultimately wound up in Iowa for over 20 years where our beautiful daughter Meghan was born. All the while our little family visited Seaside each year for our one-week vacation with dreams of one day living here. In 2017, we took a leap of faith and significantly downsized our lives including corporate careers and moved to 30A.
Over the years, I’ve tried different fitness activities from jogging to spinning and nothing felt natural to me. In 1999, my love for yoga began. After seeing an advertisement for a yoga class at our local community center, I decided to give this yoga “thing” a try and was instantly hooked. During that first yoga class I remember standing on my bath towel in a junior high library in West Des Moines, Iowa and the instructor gently guiding us into tree pose and that internal voice saying “I’ll never get this balance thing down.” Another yoga lesson - sometimes that internal voice is wrong.
In 2004 I had the opportunity to take my very first yoga teacher training and never looked back. I’ve continued learning, practicing and teaching since then.
When did you first start teaching here?
I started teaching in Seaside last summer during Covid-19 with Melissa Davis. I have to pinch myself every time I teach at the Seaside Pavilion. It’s been a dream of mine to combine my two loves, yoga and the beach. I’m truly a lucky yogi.
What do you like about teaching in Seaside?
I love the look on people’s faces when they first walk up to the beach pavilion for class. It truly is a special place, from the healing energies of the quartz sand to that beautiful emerald water. Where else can you practice yoga and watch dolphins, manatees (yes, manatees) and stingrays play in the water?
What sets your teaching style apart?
The focus of my teaching has always been safety and alignment first. Lately, I’ve also been focusing a lot on opening up the heart, because with a steady, dedicated yoga practice, it will eventually translate to having that awareness of an open heart off the mat. Yoga is sneaky that way.
I’ve learned over my 20 plus years of teaching and practicing to take baby steps in challenging postures. Always listen to your body first and foremost, breathe, and then let the breath work its magic on the body. Let it open or lengthen organically without force.
What’s your approach to teaching?
My favorite yoga quote ever (and I reference it quite often in my classes) is: “We don’t practice yoga to get good at yoga. We practice yoga to get good at living.” That in a nutshell is yoga to me.
What should people expect when they come to take one of your classes?
Lately, I’m really enjoying a long and slow warm up with the class. Getting the body ready for the bigger postures or standing postures. My goal with each class is to work the full range of motion in all body parts which can be challenging in a 60-minute class. I like to hold poses longer to really build strength in the muscles. I also focus on moving from the core, nice and slow.
My hope for everyone is that they finish their practice feeling better than when they began. That’s it. No competition, no judgment and no expectation. Just yoga.
[Photos by Matt Seifert]