What does AJ stand for?
Alexandra Jaye. I’ve been called AJ all my life. No don’t call me Alex.
Where did you grow up?
Born and raised in Manhattan. Went to Ithaca College so left NYC for 4 years. Then lived in Australia and New Zealand for 2.5 years and now back in NYC, currently living in Brooklyn.
How did you get into yoga?
One of my favorite questions because it’s so not linear. I tried Bikram one-time sophomore year of college and that same year I started dating a guy who loved yoga. I thought he was crazy for liking such a strange thing. But it did always intrigue me. Mostly our conversations on self-awareness. Then my senior year I took the Alexander Technique my last semester and I started to observe my body and found it really difficult to relax. I’ve always been drawn to studies of the mind in all capacities but what the AT gave me was the ability to study the mind through a somatic experience that didn’t make me feel like I had 2 left feet (ie dance, running etc). After college I started waitressing, working 60 hours a week minimum and would come home from long shifts and stretch. Across the street from my restaurant was YogaWorks. I passed it almost every day and finally one day I literally fell into the studio. I was really unhappy and I didn’t know why but every time I got on my mat I felt better. So I would say it was a 3 year journey before yoga became a part of my daily life.
When did you decide you wanted to teach?
My best friend and I decided about a year after college to quit our jobs and go backpacking through South East Asia. All my life I had wanted to be an actress for two main reasons. 1. I loved how an actor could hold space for someone else’s emotional experience. How art could be truth or a mirror to a society. 2. I felt undeserving of being seen and thought I could only express myself under the cloak of some character. It was almost a year out of college that I realized a truth about myself. When I want something I do everything in my power to get it. And I wasn’t acting, I wasn’t reading plays, I wasn’t even watch movies. I clearly didn’t want to be an actress. It broke me. Shattered the perception of my identity. Who was I if I wasn’t AJ the drama queen?
While I was in Asia no matter what country I was in I found yoga. I was obsessed. One night I was in the hostel with one of my oldest friend, I started teaching her poses. “Feel this, did you get that? How does this feel? What if you tried it this way?” she turns to me. “AJ, you really seem to like this yoga thing.. maybe it could be a career option?” I laughed it off. No way was I going to be a yoga instructor.
But she planted a seed within me. And like weeds it grew quickly. The more I thought about it the more sense it made. Yoga has absolutely everything I loved the most. Spirituality, self-inquiry, healing. I decided that I was going to move to Australia, save up money and do my teacher training. Well actually it wasn’t really a decision. It felt like the only option which after a year of feeling so unsure about what I wanted to do with my life was the coming up I had been searching for.
Where did you do your training and why did you choose it?
I tell my students who are interested in teacher trainings all the time, it really doesn’t matter where you do your training as long as you believe in the company and love what they’re offering. While in Australia my intention was to save money and go to India or Bali for training. Because that’s what you do when you want to be a yoga instructor! Power Living was offering 2 weeks for $20 so my friend and I went to our first class at 12:30 with Masha. She played Higher Love by James Vincent Mcmorrow during savasana and my friend and I held hands and cried. We walked out of class transformed. I’ll never forget it. I went to get a chai latte from what would become our favorite café and after 4 sips I dropped it; and for the first time in my life I didn’t hear the voice of shame “how could you drop it, you’re so clustey, wasteful etc.” there was silence. Even acceptance without judgement. The next class we took was with the owner and creator Duncan Peak who happened to be in from Sydney. By the end of class he knew my name and I knew I was going to study there.
What was the most pivotal moment that propelled your teaching career?
That’s easy. Her name is Jessie. Jessie and I met in Bali with my best friend who I was traveling with. Jessie and I decided within a few days of knowing each other that we were going to move to Australia together. That’s kind of how it works when you’re traveling, you trust your gut and let it navigate your decisions. Jessie and I went into Power Living and both fell in love. My dreams were to do my teacher training, she wanted to save money and have fun. We worked in cafes next door to each other and she asks me to come outside and sit with her. She told me she wanted to do her teacher training also. My heart sank. I knew Jessie could afford it and I couldn’t and I felt afraid she was going to “get there” (you know the “there” that means you’re successful, accomplished and sexy as) before me. She then continues. “And I want you to do it with me, I want to pay for your training.” I refused. I cried. I yelled at her. She sat there and said “it’s not an option, this is what’s happening.” She gave me my first true lesson of yoga; learning how to accept love. No one had ever given me something so unbelievably generous with no personal gain or ulterior motive. She believed in me and believed I would ultimately heal and inspire others and she wanted to make sure I wasn’t held back from my purpose. Every single class I teach is in honor of her. Every success or new venture I take is because she pushed me to believe I was worthy of it.
What’s your favorite yoga pose?
Downward dog currently I’m really digging downdog with blocks.
Who do you practice with or learn from?
I’ve been training with Leslie Kaminoff the co-author of the Yoga Anatomy book that’s literally in every teacher training. He’s also the co-owner of The Breathing Project. He is absolutely the most influential person in terms of how I teach.
Abby Paloma the restorative teacher goddess.
Yoga teachers that I really love in NYC: are Ali Cramer at Laughing Lotus, Jess and Nathan at Yoga Vida, and Molly at Modo.
None yoga teachers that I love: Patrick at Barry’s bootcamp, Sherica, Emily B, and Josh Arden at Flywheel, and Danielle T at Bar Method in SoHo.
Studios I love: Yo BK specifically for their hot pilates! My newest obsession. Daya Yoga Studio in Brooklyn has such a beautiful space.
Fun AJ facts?
- I am and will always be a devoted Harry Potter fan.
- I have a compass tattoo.
- I have a phobia of Ketchup and my friends have to hide it from me when we’re out to eat.
- I don’t like to practice yoga right before I teach because it makes me too relaxed.
- I walk around 20,000 steps a day on average.
- At home I listen to Carole King Pandora and sing sappy love songs in the shower.
It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.– JK Rowling
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.– Marianne Williamson
We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.– Dr Suess
If you think you’re enlightened go spend a week with your parents– Ram Dass