Nora’s YTT Story: “You have permission to take care of yourself.”

Nora: Yoga Instructor at Mind the Mat in Alexandria, VA

Nora is a natural comedian. In fact, Mind the Mat gets consistent reviews on Nora’s humor in class. Of course, they rave about her compounded teaching skills, too: she has completed both our signature 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) and our HAWT Pilates Teacher Training. This Alexandria native is a triple threat: yoga, Pilates, SNL. Her humor skills lie in her timing; she’s quick, witty, and reactive. In fact, when she’s taking my class, everyone around her knows they’re in for something special. Most of the time is a “that’s what she said” joke inserted in the most random moment.

Which is why, when I read this post, it made sense that Nora’s reactive timing had everything to do with her decision to join YTT: it was a quick-witted gut feeling and so in-the-moment. This fleeting decision changed her life…for the better. Are you ready for a change?


Here’s Nora’s YTT story:


It’s a story as old as time. Girl falls in love with boy, but boy cheats. Girl breaks up with boy. Girl freaks out, goes blonde, and signs up for Yoga Teacher Training at Mind the Mat. Wait, you haven’t heard this one before? Well, let me tell you all about it.

I thought that I had found love; he was handsome, it had been more than a year, he was spending time with my kids…you know, all the things…but deep down I knew it wasn’t “it.” I had slowly, over the course of the relationship, become a different Nora. A Nora who wasn’t happy. I had been trying to fit the mold of what (I thought) he wanted and let’s just say, it showed. The breakup made me sad, it hurt, and not even because of the boy so much as because I knew deep down I knew that I had lost my Nora-ness. I needed to get back on a regular routine and re-find the things that made me feel like me. After fits and starts and lots of sleeping and eating and days without showers I (shockingly) still wasn’t in great shape. So one night after a bottle of wine I saw the email saying “Become a Yoga Teacher.” I can do that, right?

I walked in to the first night of Yoga Teacher Training to see a bunch of women lurking on the sidewalk outside the studio, some familiar to me from MtM and some not. It was the first time I really thought about what I had gotten myself into, and, whoa, did I feel nervous. Oh snap, there’s all these people I’ve seen doing handstands in class, oh no, why are they so beautiful? I can’t handstand much less crow! What have I done?!

And then, to make matters even worse, we had to introduce ourselves and say why we chose to become Yoga Teachers. These beautiful handstand people had put so much time and research and thought introspectively about it, and had weighed the pros and cons of other programs, and I had just freaked out over a break up and figured, “I like yoga so why not max out my credit card?” Clearly I was screwed. But I couldn’t get a refund at this point so I had to come up with something quick (and funny, obviously) about how deeply I had thought about this choice before they caught on that I had no idea what I was doing and I didn’t know if I even wanted to teach yoga.

I started doing yoga while I was going through my divorce circa 2010. (Yes, I went blonde then, too, but stay with me.) I  was seeing a counselor across the street at Vital Mind & Body and there was a Mind the Mat flyer in the lobby. I had maybe done some Tai Chi videos in my dorky high school days but never any yoga. But in true Nora fashion, I decided to try it. I went to Deb Jackson’s Thursday night class and IT CHANGED MY LIFE. Yes, I said it. Get this, she told me I had permission to take care of myself. What? Me? I have permission to do that? That’s allowed? Whhhaaaaattttt?

I went religiously to her class and then others and then over the course of years, I just became better. Not at yoga though, just at being myself. It had become the place where I could be myself, to move how I need to move, to take care of myself, and to not have to be anyone but me…and to not have to be “funny.”

Now, why I couldn’t have come up with THAT on the first night of YTT we’ll never know. What I did find out over the next five months of eye gazing, holding hands, trance dancing, meditating (so – much – meditating), anatomy and philosophy lectures, doing 108 sun salutations in business casual, was why my impulse led me to teach. Yoga had changed me. During that five months I learned to sit with myself, practice the pause, think about what served me, how to meet people where they are, create a safe space for others, and it just overflowed out in to my life. If I never taught a yoga class, I would still be a happier, more mentally clear, better person. (Even though I still couldn’t handstand.)

I keep coming back to teaching yoga because yoga is so damn important. And not because you become a kale-eating vegan who drinks hot water with lemon in the morning or because you have a killer shoulder stand on the Instagram that got a bunch of likes, but because we all need somewhere safe to go. Somewhere to be ourselves.

Nine years after my first yoga class, I’ve settled in to being a single mom, I love my day job, and I volunteer to do crazy things like be the troop cookie mom (never do that by the way, never), and yes, I decided to teach. I still make time for my personal yoga practice, but it’s a private practice that still doesn’t involve handstands, and it’s still making me better.

The reason, though, the reason I couldn’t come up with on that first night of YTT, the reason that took me years of teaching to come up with about why I showed up to YTT, the reason is because someone out there needs to hear “you have permission to take care of yourself” and maybe, just maybe, it’ll change their life, too.

I want to be there for that person and for whoever walks in to my class. What does yoga mean to you? Could that be the reason you change your life?


We have two Yoga Teacher Training sessions coming up:
The Summer Immersion in July and our Fall Semester program.
For more information, visit our YTT site and/or
sign up for our next Q&A with the directors, Julie and Caroline.
Don’t miss our Early Bird deals!


  • The latest from Megan
Megan Brown, physical therapist, Pilates instructor, mother and co-founder of Mind the Mat Pilates & Yoga in Alexandria, VA, likes to goof around. Yet her commitment to her students and her skill set in the field is no joke. After graduating from University of Virginia with a degree in Sports Medicine, Megan went on to receive her Masters in Physical Therapy and eventually her Doctorate in the profession. Although Pilates was never part of the plan, the method changed the way she treated patients, positively re-directed her career path and enhanced her own active lifestyle. Customized Pilates instruction is her specialty–she designs classes based on clients needs: athletes, new moms, rehabilitation or just for fun (why be serious all the time?). Pilates + Yoga is the best of both worlds, hence the creation of Mind the Mat studios providing classes for all—in every walk of life.

Mind the Mat Pilates & Yoga was founded in 2008 by Megan Brown, Doctor of Physical Therapy and Polestar Certified Practitioner of Pilates for Rehabilitation and Sara VanderGoot, Nationally Certified Massage Therapist and Registered Yoga Teacher (e-RYT 200, RYT 500). In their private practices as physical therapist and massage therapist respectively Megan and Sara observed that many of their clients were coming in with similar needs: relief for neck and shoulder tension and low back pain as well as a desire for more flexibility in hips and legs, stability in joints, and core strength.

Together Megan and Sara carefully crafted a curriculum of Pilates and yoga classes to address needs for clients who are pregnant, postpartum, have injuries or limitations, who are new to Pilates and yoga, and for those who are advanced students and are looking for an extra challenge.     

2214 Mount Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22301


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get your daily dose of all things fashion, beauty, fitness, and design. Locally sourced and locally styled!