Izzy Van Hall. Her name is kind of epic, right? Well, so is she. Izzy's an artist and a yoga teacher that absolutely practices what she preaches: slow down, be present, love yourself, and have fun. She took some time to road trip and explore this summer in her own reconstructed bus and ended at Burning Man. This woman is seriously inspiring and reminds us – if you’re not enjoying this life, what are you doing?
Izzy gets real and raw with us about her own worst critic (herself), her daily fight to stay present, and how it’s all #worththefight in this week’s Lovers & Fighters journal spotlight…
MATT DOYLE FOR YORK ATHLETICS: What does the word fight mean to you?
IZZY VAN HALL: To take a stand for something and to know that it's worth your energy.
DOYLE: Some folks have a physical fight, while some have a personal fight. What is your most important fight? Your most personal, important fight for you?
IZZY VAN HALL: To constantly bring myself out of myself. To bring myself into just giving, to peel away the layers or walls that we put up. Peel those away so that my loving and open, bubbly self can come out and support not just myself but also the space and the people in it.
DOYLE: So trying to be a little bit more open? Be more trusting, more open with yourself?
IZZY VAN HALL: Definitely. As a yoga teacher, I think it's important for people to connect with themselves. And through connecting with themselves to be open enough to connect with other people and support them in that way. The only way that I can do that is to bring myself out into that vulnerability, into that state of openness, into that state of play, almost, versus forcing it.
DOYLE: As a yoga teacher people are looking to you to give them guidance on what to do and how they should go about it. And if you're feeling closed off or just focused on yourself, you're not able to connect and resonate with people. That's probably a challenge as a teacher, right?
IZZY VAN HALL: Definitely. We're all human so if I'm having a human moment and getting caught up with whatever's happening internally for myself, that fight of bringing myself out of that so that I can be present and be there fully for the people around me.
DOYLE: How do you go about doing that? How do you fight in that way?
IZZY VAN HALL: I mean, just bring play, joy. I think that playfulness is something that I think we can forget, especially when we're in work environments. Because we want to do the best job or we want to do things perfectly. And so being a little goofy, especially in my line of work, in yoga, people want to get the pose perfectly and they want to look good doing it. But to mess it up and to actually feel a little bit can bring a sense of joy into it. Because if you're not enjoying it then why would you do it?
And then on the counter side of that, putting your energy in, waking up when you need to, getting out the door and making sure that you're prepared putting in those hours…making playlists and thinking about the sequence and how one pose is gonna flow into the next pose…if I can think about all those little details and almost give them to people, so they don't have to think about it or make it happen -- they just have to allow it to happen. Those are ways that I help others come out and be in themselves and be in their fullness.
DOYLE: That makes so much sense. So who helps you in your fight?
IZZY VAN HALL: Definitely my parents. They are two people that are incredibly creative themselves and have definitely been there for me in so many ways. We definitely went through a time as a family that was really a struggle. My parents have been separated, back together, separated, back together, divorced and now they're re-engaged. Going through that with them, being so open and vulnerable with me through that experience of love and appreciation.
And then my mom has been an incredible force in my life, emphasizing the worth in finding yourself and that sense of bringing joy to it, bringing love to it. And my dad, he's one of those people who is a watcher, a listener. So when he does say something, everyone is like: “Oh damn.” They both have brought these aspects to my life: joy, play, listening, paying attention to the details, and the idea that you don't always have to add to the experience, but when you do, make it good.
And also, my friends and my community. People who show up. That's the biggest thing I think. People who are willing to show up for you. So that could be students, that could be really good friends of mine, my boyfriend. It could also be myself. Bringing myself out of a moment that I might be in my head or listening to music and looking at something on the street or someone and they smile back at you. There are so many different ways to show up. In a way, I think the people around me are always a mirror to show me or teach me or just be a mirror. They're almost like a guide. Everyone guides and brings me out into my fullest self. And when I'm being my fullest self then it pulls others into that as well.
DOYLE: I love that. Why is your fight worth it?
IZZY VAN HALL: I think it's human nature to express ourselves. It's human nature to want to give and to put something out there, to express, to feel. So my fight is worth it because I'm human. Because I have that desire to offer, to engage, to create and be my fullest self. It's fucking worth it.
DOYLE: I love that you end everything you say, you kind of punctuate it with that great laugh. What would you say is the most difficult part of your fight?
IZZY VAN HALL: I am my own worst critic and I can ... You know those days where you feel down or you didn't give quite enough or didn't quite hit the mark and to know that, take a step back, take a breath and come back out and come back out to something, try it again. That realization of every moment, even if it can be the most difficult day, like everything went wrong, maybe you're late, maybe you said something awkward or whatever. You have, I don't know, something on your face or whatever it might be, that those are all just learning moments and not to get caught up in the little stuff. That it's really just showing up with that positive energy. That'll always bring you further.
I want to give the most and express the most and connect with people and sometimes I can get lost in my own internal corrections or perfections. And then I'm so caught up in the internal experience of it that I don't actually bring it out. And so for sure, that mental inner critic is my biggest battle.
DOYLE: So when you're in those difficult moments, you're dealing with all that difficult BS, why keep going?
IZZY VAN HALL: I think we all have that internal drive. That internal drive to create and express ourselves. The more creative I am the more I push myself, whether it's trying a new pose or being more present with somebody or trying something totally different, a new painting, a new canvas, a new color. That moment of fear and vulnerability and getting past that, there's that incredible high of: “Oh, I accomplished that. I got through that.” And then maybe I'm flying or succeeding afterwards but I think even if you didn't necessarily ... I think the biggest moments of growth happen when you do get past the moment of struggle and maybe you're not rewarded by external factors but you're really just aware of yourself. I just got through that or I just did that and recognizing that.
When it gets difficult, I keep going because I want to feel that aliveness, that moment of succeeding or integrating with my surroundings. I used to do a lot of competition-type stuff when I was younger. I went to nationals with gymnastics, was a state champion in rowing, and I think that moment of putting so much energy into something and then actually accomplishing it is the best high ever. You fight for those moments to feel that fullness, that accomplishment, that success for yourself.
DOYLE: That's why you keep going when things suck.
IZZY VAN HALL: Totally.
DOYLE: You put in all that hard work. What role does hard work play in your everyday fight?
IZZY VAN HALL: Hard work plays a huge role in my every day. I teach three classes a day and it's almost like putting on a performance in a way, creating an entire space for an hour or so. Or with my paintings, it's so somebody feels something or sees something that they've never seen before. And so hard work might be staying up a little later so I get that painting done but then still getting up in the morning, feeding myself and then coming into a class prepared and full of energy so that I can create the space for somebody else to feel something.
DOYLE: So what role does positivity and having a positive outlook play in your fight?
IZZY VAN HALL: People feel it. When you walk into a room and you're down or exhausted or whatever, your energy is read, right? When you walk into a room with positive energy, especially as a teacher, even if that person, say there's 10 people coming into my class, they are all coming in with something different, right? They're rushing from work or maybe they've had a day off or a casual something. Whatever it might be, if I come in with positivity and a sense of openness, that changes the entire energy of the room, right? If I show up low, we're not gonna get very far.
So if I come in, and sometimes I ... I used to do this a lot more when I was a newer teacher. I would literally take a moment, whether it was in the prop closet or in the bathroom stall or whatever it was and just take a moment to remind myself of how much I love what I'm doing or what I loved about practicing yoga. And literally imagine that I was filling myself up with that joy and then you walk into the room and give that over and share that energy.
And I think that yoga or any type of movement, whether it's boxing, fighting, yoga…moving your body is a way to express emotion. I think it's a way of having a conversation with yourself without needing to know the words. And I think when you walk in with that positivity, that openness, it allows somebody to drop needing to please you or drop needing to be anything and then can go into that state of allowing where they really are able to come out and express themselves. I think that's one of the biggest gifts that you can give as a teacher for sure. Positivity. It's the connector. It's almost like plugging in and giving energy to something.
Izzy VanHall is a yoga instructor and artist living in Boston, MA. Check out her work, find out where she's teaching, or to learn more about her here:
Izzy’s wearing a pair of Henry Mid Canvas she hand-painted. Get yourself a pair, get creative and share it with us @yorkathleticsmfg #worththefight.