Jessica Bellofatto is one of those teachers who you just want to hang out with…
At least we do (!). Devoted mamma, yoga studio owner, triathlete, surfer and SUPer Jessica Bellofatto is constantly inspiring yogis to get out and explore our world. We are so excited to have her first collection Yoga Fix up on the site. But first, let’s get to know the teacher behind the video…
Hometown: East Hampton, NY
Home Studio/s: JB Yoga Studio on land and JBYoga and SUP on the water!
gy: Why do you teach yoga?
JB: I teach yoga because I have seen what this practice can do over the past 23 years of my life and I believe in it. It has nourished me, sustained me, and healed me on so many levels and throughout so many phases of my life, from being a college dance student through marriage and three pregnancies, the death of my father, a divorce, the loss of my business, and various injuries. Yoga always, time and time again, picks me up when I fall, recalibrates me and sets me back on course wiser and more grateful each time.
gy: What first brought you to the mat?
JB: What first brought me to the mat was a dance teacher/mentor way back in 1994 or 1995 when I was an undergrad dance major at New York University in NYC. I wasn’t looking for the yoga and I wasn’t at any difficult period of my life, but my dance teacher was incorporating a lot of Yoga into our classes and I was intrigued by the shapes and forms that I had never before seen or felt in my body. She sent me to the original Jivamukti Yoga Center in the East Village. I walked into this funky place, with purple walls, incense burning, pictures of every saint, sage, God and Goddess and even the Beatles on the walls, and several of the teachers and students walking around in saris with bindis on their heads and I was, to be honest, pretty freaked out. But then class started. And the teacher’s voice guiding the breath in the very first sun salutation of my life was like a coming home.
gy: What yoga teacher(s) has most influenced your practice and teaching?
JB: I would say the Yoga teacher(s) that has most influenced my practice and teaching would be Sharon Gannon and David Life- my first and main teachers at Jivamukti. They were really influential, as were many of the other Jivamukti teachers at the time, such as Katchie Ananda, Adrienne Burke, and Cliff Shuman. A few years later, I got really turned on by alignment and wanted to explore more. Genny Kapuler at the Iyengar Institute was like a genius to me- her descriptions of poses so poetic and exquisite, her sequences brilliant. Also Richard Freeman, Tim Miller, John Friend and most recently Todd Norian of Ashaya Yoga.
gy: How would you describe your teaching style?
JB: I would describe my teaching style as really an homage to all of the amazing teachers and styles I have studied over the past 23 years. It is a distillation of the meditative and breath focused aspect of the ashtanga and vinyasa traditions blended with the intelligence and clarity of the Iyengar and alignment based systems. I also like to think that I weave in just enough philosophy, poetry, and the dharma to inspire my students without turning anyone off.
gy: What’s your go-to yoga pose when you only have a few minutes?
JB: My go to pose when I only have a few minutes has to be a bent kneed Uttanasana (standing forward bend) with hands clasped behind the back, reaching my hands up to the sky while simultaneously releasing my head towards the floor. I think it’s my go to because it is easy to do anywhere, anytime. I seem to always need the shoulder opener as well as the neck traction I get from this pose. The fact that it is a standing forward bend also makes it an inversion, which gets me out of my head, shifts my perspective, and allows me to press the re-set button.
gy: Where do you most tap into inspiration? Any resources you could share with us?
JB: I most tap into inspiration through movement in nature. Paddling in the bay or ocean, running barefoot on the beach or through the trails, surfing. The vastness of Mother Earth and Mother Ocean is where I can breathe, where I release stress, and is the best way for me to tap into a wellspring of inspiration. Also, any poetry by Mary Oliver!
gy: What would the soundtrack of your life sound like?
JB: hmmmm..a combo of Tracy Chapman, Norah Jones, Mumford and Sons, Robert Bruey, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan and Neil Young just about sums it up.
gy: Describe your life ten years from now . Where are you living? What are you doing?
JB: Ten years from now, I may be living in a very remote part of the country, or possibly out of the country entirely. Once my older two kids (from my first marriage) are on their own, that’s the plan. I love my home in the Hamptons, but my partner and I are really craving more open space, less development, more solitude, and a quality of life that is not so easily provided here in this resort community of haves and have-nots. I will be living off the land, teaching retreats worldwide, taking more time for my own practice, and probably homeschooling my then 13 year old third child!
gy: What is your favorite tradition or ritual?
JB: My favorite ritual is the blessing we do every night at bedtime with our 3.5 year old. We have a gratitude song that we made up (“thank you for our day, thank you for our day, thank you for _ insert anything_…. we are so grateful….OMMMMM”) She sings it out loud in her sweet little toddler voice and we list all of the blessings in our lives, blow out a candle and do ‘sleepies.’ I love having this nightly ritual with her and infusing the sacred into the every day from a young age.
gy: You have a Sunday all to yourself. How do you spend it?
JB: Wake up, offerings at the alter, pranayama, meditation, yoga practice, followed by some nice hot organic coffee with raw milk. Then a run to the beach, check the waves. Surf for several hours! Lunch, read, hang out. Spend the afternoon at the beach or in the garden. Make an amazing dinner with all local organic veggies and fresh caught fish, some wine. Early to bed !
gy: What do you value most in your relationships?
gy: Tell us about your first love. Five words or less.
JB: Giddiness, Passion, Obsession, Oneness.
gy: What’s the picture on your phone’s background? Why did you choose it?
JB: My boyfriend and my 2 year old at the beach. He is holding her, she is naked and tan, and they both have the same exact expression on their faces. I chose it because it makes me smile every time I see it, whether they are with me in the same room or not.
gy: When you’re gone, what do you hope people remember about you?
JB: I hope people remember that I was a gifted yoga teacher, loving momma and partner, and a great athlete with a passion for life!
gy: Any particular yama, niyama or sutra that speaks to you right now?
JB: “Sutra 2.33- Vitarka Badhana Pratipaksha Bhavanam- When Disturbed by Negative Thoughts, Think the Opposite. I love this sutra because it gives us this simple formula for shaping our own reality, moment to moment, day to day. I have actually been taking this course about ‘the business of teaching Yoga’ and it speaks to this sutra as well. Life is happening whether we are consciously designing it or not. We really need to ask ourselves the question about what we desire, what we envision for ourselves, and then look at our daily activities and see if they are in alignment with our vision or not. But more so than our daily activities, we must first check in with the state of our minds. Are our thoughts in alignment with our highest vision? If not (and the answer is all too often not) then we can employ this sutra and ‘turn it around.’ And begin living the life we have always dreamed of.
gy: In your parallel life, what are you doing? Any other callings that have taken the backseat to yoga that we should know about?
JB: In my parallel life, I might have been an interior designer! It was actually what I thought I wanted to do as a kid, but I had zero skills in that area and am not at all artistic in that way. When I bought my first house and got married, I realized how much I loved to decorate and re-decorate the house, paint and re-paint, move furniture around, etc. I love creating a beautiful, harmonious space to sleep in, eat in, read in, practice Yoga in…. Or, I would be a midwife. I have been in awe of birth since I was about 13 years old when I had the privilege of witnessing the home birth of one of my cousins. I then thought I would be an OB/GYN and then got sidetracked with dancing. After the very intense and somewhat traumatic birth of my first child 15 years ago, I decided I would become a doula. Not only be around birth, which I LOVE, but to also assist in empowering women throughout the journey of pregnancy, birth, and the sometimes even more vulnerable postpartum experience.
gy: If neither time nor money were a concern, what would you do?
JB: Travel all over the world and volunteer my time and skills, mainly in the area of Yoga and birth!
gy. What is your astrological sign. What do you most identify with about it?
JB: I am a Gemini… I think I do identify with the twin thing, I can be a bit Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde in my worst moments. ☺
gy: What is your spirit animal?
gy: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
JB: To not take anything personally, because we have no idea really what the other person has been through, where they are coming from, what they are projecting onto us, what their karma (or ours) is. To be the best that I can be and do the best I can possibly do, to continue to work on myself and let the rest take care of itself.
You can practice with Jessica Bellofatto in the comfort of your own home, while traveling, or even on the SUP board! Check out her video collections on Gather.