The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

On the Job: the life of a yoga instructor

Angela+Birnschein+finds+peace+and+stability+within+yoga.
Clementine Cunningham
Angela Birnschein finds peace and stability within yoga.

Rising before the break of dawn, Angela Birnschein enters the yoga studio before 6 a.m. While most are still waking up, Birnschein is ready to stretch out and teach others about her passion: yoga. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, she steps into the Yoga Health Center in San Carlos, Calif., ready to guide others into the mindful practice of yoga. 

Birnschein’s yoga journey began in 2018. Back then, she enjoyed high-intensity workouts. Weight lifting, CrossFit, running – if it made her feel powerful, she did it. While these HITT (high-intensity interval training) workouts are great for building muscles and getting your heart rate up, they are also known for their rough impact on joints. 

“I hurt my back – a lot. It got to a point where I couldn’t move anymore. For six months, I was so miserable,” Birnschein said. 

Birnschein felt that the competitive aspect of sports was challenging. Her improvement was at the expense of her body’s health.

“I was one of those who pushed myself so much that I hurt my back badly. I would push it and push it until my back was like, ‘Okay, here’s your pain,’” Birnschein said.

Little did she know, this injury had a silver lining. It was the key to her new future. 

“One day, someone told me, ‘Come on, you should do hot yoga,’ and I agreed. That’s how it all started, and I never looked back,” Birnschein said. 

Birnschein’s first class was hot yoga. Taught in the Bikram style, the hot yoga room is heated up to 105°F, and a humidifier dispenses moisture into the studio. As your muscles warm up, the workout begins.

“The funny thing is, I didn’t like hot yoga at first. I remember the first class, everybody was sweating, and I was crying because I could not do anything. But I did the intro class for a month and came every day. Now, I love it so much,” Birnschein said.

Birnschein recalls the positive mentality shift, as she no longer felt the pressure to improve constantly. Instead, she felt happy simply doing her best. 

The teacher said, ‘Just work with what you have today.’ I only had a little bit of flexibility, so I needed to work with that. That was a great inspiration for me, and after that month, I felt so healed.

— Angela Birnschein

“The teacher said, ‘Just work with what you have today.’ I only had a little bit of flexibility, so I needed to work with that. That was a great inspiration for me, and after that month, I felt so healed,” Birnschein said.

From there, Birnschein was offered the opportunity to start working at the studio as an assistant. She participated in the teacher training program, learning to become a full-time instructor. 

“It was a pretty easy path that the studio offered, and I took the opportunity. It was just great,” Birnschein said.

At the same time, Birnschein was working as a CAD designer in an architecture company. When she started doing yoga, she switched to working part-time. She felt her previous job was no longer as fulfilling, so her newfound passion for yoga led her to transition to full-time teaching.

“After my first teacher training here, which was very focused on hot yoga, I participated in two other training sessions. I wanted to do something more flexible with more variety. I did hatha yoga training and Pilates training. The goal is to keep learning. I always try to go to different teachers and take different classes. I really see that this is my path,” Birnschein said.

What Birnschein learns in yoga is what she applies to her every day. The spiritual aspect of yoga is a component that she especially enjoys. That feeling of mindfulness, of going with the flow, is her mindset in life. 

“The practice of yoga is also the practice of your own life. Sometimes the class is not going great, maybe you didn’t sleep well, or maybe you didn’t drink enough water. For example, today, the humidity in the classroom wasn’t working. Some people left, but then some people loved it,” Birnschein said. “Sometimes you just have to tell yourself, ‘Okay, I have to be content with what you have.’ Yoga brings me that sense of equanimity.”

Some students in Birnschein’s classes are dealing with injuries, just like her. Yoga emphasizes the importance of remaining connected with your body, breath, and movements. Each stretch is meant to be gentle, to support your body rather than push it. 

Sometimes you just have to tell yourself, ‘Okay, I have to be content with what you have.’ Yoga brings me that sense of equanimity.

— Angela Birnschein

“As a yoga teacher, I always say listen to your body. My cue is if it’s painful, it’s not good. There’s a difference between discomfort and pain. Especially in hatha yoga, there are going to be moments of discomfort. It’s all about finding a balance; how much to push and how much to let go,” Birnschein said.

Birnschein also enjoys the connections she builds with the people in the studio. Their shared passion for yoga and the peace it brings into their lives create a strong bond.

“Knowing that you are making a little difference in someone’s life. You are a part of that life that you’re changing. That’s very fulfilling, for sure,” Birnschein said. 

In the future, Birnschein hopes to continue to fuel her passion for yoga and perfect her skills through yoga retreats. She hopes to return to her home country and fulfill her love for yoga amid the scent of the coffee fields she grew up in.

“I’m from Colombia, so I would love to do yoga and coffee retreats there. It’s my dream,” Birnschein said. 

Looking back at the beginning of her journey, Birnschein believes that yoga is truly for anyone. No matter your flexibility levels, there’s something for everyone. Your intention is what really counts. 

“For me, my intention is always to be present. I take charge of my intentions through yoga. I have to be present with my breath and take good care of my body. With yoga, there’s always a beginning point. Wherever you are, you start there and see yourself progress,” Birnschein said.

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About the Contributor
Clementine Cunningham, Highlander Managing Editor
Clementine Cunningham (class of 2024) is a student at Carlmont High School, a staff writer for Scot Scoop, and a managing editor for The Highlander. She is passionate about covering a variety of topics that bring awareness to pressing issues in our ever-changing society. In her free time, you can find her dancing at Heartbeat Dance studio, obsessing over books, or testing out a new recipe. To view her portfolio, click here. Twitter: @clecunningham

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The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.
On the Job: the life of a yoga instructor