Featured Teacher: Cynthia Koch


You might have seen this ray of sunshine smile past you in the lobby or have led you through a yoga class in the studio. For those of you who haven’t met Cynthia, boy do we have an incredible yogi for you to meet! She wears many hats here at Yoga Garden SF such as our Admissions and Enrollment Director. She is passionate about hearing student’s stories, the path they’ve been on and helps them take the next step into their yoga journey. Sometimes, you just need a friend to cheer you on along the way. Cynthia is THAT friend to many. But today, we wanted to share her story and her journey. Here goes..

(YGSF) Tell us about Cynthia before yoga

(Cynthia) I call Cynthia before Yoga the Canadian Queen of Distraction.
I grew up in a small town in Canada called Washington Ontario, population around 21, plus a few scattered farms 5-10 minutes away. Yup, I’m a country girl. I grew up with very young parents and a family of farmers and literally owned a pet raccoon named Snuffer. I have no brothers or sisters. I was always seeking out more adventure and knowledge, and because of this I moved out of my family home very early at 15 years old. You can imagine that my naive nature allowed me to get into some pretty hefty trouble and so at a young age, I developed some intense habits that caused some deep seeded pain and trauma in my body and mind.

I was always looking for ways to distract myself from what was happening, find the next big and bright shiny object. Make another friend. See another city or another part of the world. More than that though, before yoga, I hadn’t found any healthy way to deal with these issues, look at them or begin to heal. I just wanted to keep plowing forward and “get more”, because of a deep sense of unrest that had always been with me.

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(YGSF) When was your first “aha” moment when you decided to pursue yoga full time?

I remember my first yoga class. I was completely hungover from the night before and laughing obnoxiously (and disruptively) in the back of the class because I couldn’t do any of the poses the teacher was asking the class to do. My cell phone went off two times during the class, and the teacher just smiled at me and told me to keep coming back. I felt great afterwards! I loved that class.

I fell head over heels for the sensations that started coming to my body. I experienced a deep feeling of freedom, of joy and of self efficacy that I could control my breath and could sit with all of my internal discomfort. I had finally found a modality that helped me to face my fears, my past, my trauma and my habits without having to deal with another person’s judgement of them. It was all up to me! This was power I’ve never felt before, and I started developing an internal platform of self confidence and pride. My self hatred was turning into curiosity, and it was brilliant!

It was decided, and since then, there has been no turning back. I was going all in and jumping both feet into this “yoga” thing. I walked into that same studio 1 month later (after a total of 3 yoga classes), assured them I was a yoga expert and started my teacher training the next week. Intense is not even the WORD for what happened during those 3 months! You can’t fake a Yoga practice, that’s for sure! I balled my eyes out every time I got on the mat, my body hurt like it had never hurt before and my past came hurtling at me like a cannon ball.

It was transformational, scary and really tough. However, the feeling of pride and joy I had within my body, mind and spirit was so strong and glowing I wanted more. I wanted to keep learning about why and how yoga was working! I had never felt so passionate about anything up to that point in my life. That’s when I found Yoga Garden SF, and the incredibly astute and quality teachers we have here. I soon signed up to study my 500 Hour Teacher Training Certification and will graduate in November!

First Class

(Image above: Cynthia crying after teaching her first yoga class!)

(YGSF) How has becoming a yoga teacher changed your life? How has it shaped you?

I’ve heard it said that change happens when staying the same is more painful then changing. I couldn’t agree more! Being a yoga teacher allows me to be completely honest with myself on a daily basis. I can’t hide as a yoga teacher – or, it’s more painful to do than it is being honest. My defects and strengths (which sometimes are the same!) are so glaringly obvious that I must deal with them. Teaching yoga allows me to continually grow and learn.

I learn something new every time I teach. There is always a student in the room who teaches me something that causes me to change. It’s terrifying to be so raw and vulnerable all the time, but so darn gratifying as well.

Since becoming a yoga teacher, I’ve realized that I can do anything I put my mind to! I’ve learned to sail, I’m taking dance lessons, I sing and play guitar whenever I get the chance. I’ve traveled Europe all by myself., and most of all, I am working to accept myself for exactly where I am in this moment, always. Radical self-acceptance.

(YGSF) What would you say has been the most challenging aspect of your journey? And what have you learned from that.

It may sound corny, but the most challenging aspects of this journey have also been the most liberating. The idea of being responsible for myself, my feelings, my actions has been both scary and freeing, to say the least. The acceptance of myself and my environment has made my mind a little more calm (I say a little – because anyone who knows me would not describe me as ‘calm’), but life has not gotten any simpler.

Two of my grandparents passed away while I was out of my home country last year. I experienced a really severe back injury in November (annular fissure between my L5 and S1), and my ex fiancee and I separated in March of this year. These events in my life have been so incredibly difficult to deal with and have also offered amazing opportunities for growth and change. Before yoga I had no tools to be able to process, to feel, to move past the broken bones life had thrown at me.  I can say with no doubt, that yoga has saved my life during this past year. I’m also about ready for 2015 to be over. Haha!


(YGSF) In contrast, what is the most gratifying part of your journey, or your day to day?

Through my role at yoga Garden SF as the Enrollment & Admissions Director, I have the blessing of witnessing a student’s journey before they enter teacher training and watching them transform afterwards. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve said to a future teacher training student “you may cry, so be prepared” – to which they laugh at me and say “okayyyyy”.

I’m not saying everyone cries, but the transformation is always there. Watching the awareness, the sadness, the happiness, the freedom and the liberation come in a different way to each of these students is not only gratifying – it’s life fulfilling! I’m so grateful that a place like Yoga Garden SF exists. A place that teaches yoga from an authentic, safe place and allows the chance for anyone to get in touch with their inner power.

Through my role as a yoga teacher, I get to watch this transformation in a similar way right underneath my own eyes!  The other day I had a student come up to me after class and tell me that since she begin taking my classes, a certain aspect of her past that had been stuck for years had completely transformed, started moving and processing.

In my classes (as taught to me by my amazing teachers Nicole Fortier and Jean Mazzei) I heavily emphasize the agni, the fire, the internal power. This internal fire assists us in burning up the past “junk”, and begin to feel the energy moving again in areas where it was previously stagnant. I am eternally grateful for this process, the tools that yoga gives us.

(YGSF) What would your advice be for someone looking for something different in their lives, but just not quite sure where to start. The one’s that say, “I don’t know what I should do, but I know it’s not this

The first step is always to “know thyself”. Yoga is a great way to do this! I’ve heard it said that “unless you know what is happening in your big toe, how will you know what is happening in your mind?”.  I’ve seen hundreds of students come through Yoga Garden SF to take the teacher training in order to have some space and self study time to figure themselves out.

Not all of them end up wanting to teach others, but all of them end up transformed because they learn to teach themselves.  I may suggest taking a few more classes than 3 to begin your journey into a teacher training!  However, it is a place and a practice like no other that reconnects you with your highest and your deepest self.