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July 24, 2023
This week, Inspired Teaching continues our exploration of how curiosity manifests in the lives of interesting people. If you missed last week’s interview with Dr. Cecilia Diniz Behn, a professor of applied mathematics in Colorado, you can listen to her insights into circadian rhythms and the diversity of curiosity on the Hooray For Monday podcast here or read the full transcript of her conversation with Jenna here.
Marcus Lee, a yoga instructor and co-founder of PureFire studio in Bethesda, MD, spoke with Aleta about his journey from football to yoga, how social media networks can help you discover your own practice, and the high school teacher who helped him feel more confident in his writing.
Read the transcript of their conversation (lightly edited for clarity) below!
Aleta: Tell us who you are and what fills your days.
Marcus: Hey, Aleta, I’m Marcus Lee. I am the co-founder of Pure Fire Yoga, located in Bethesda, Maryland. We are a hot yoga studio for the community. Thankfully, I’ve been in this world for 14 years, so I would still consider myself new. But if you would ask a lot of people who I get a chance to interact with throughout the day, they would say I’ve been around the block a time or two. But I’m very happy to be.
I’m a local kid to the DMV area. Grew up playing sports. Football was my sport, and I do share that with people because it’s a big part of who I am and how I see the world. Being in a number of team dynamics and different levels of play, I got a chance to play at the D-I level for football. One of the students at PureFire said, having a cup of coffee at the NFL level. I was like, yeah, I like that: just a brief cup of coffee at that particular level. And it’s really shaped how I see the world and how I move in the world and how I work.
I actually ended up falling into this yoga thing when sports didn’t work out and have loved it ever since. I love the physicality of it. I love the tradition of the yoga practice, and I think sharing that tradition and sharing how it can be current is very important.
I love to sweat. I sweat at least once a day. I’ve been doing that since I was five years old, and I don’t think I’m going to slow down anytime soon.
Aleta: So, if somebody wanted to learn more about yoga or the traditions of yoga or mindfulness, what would you encourage them to do?
Marcus: Well, a couple of things, really. I think if they’re interested in taking a class and having a really live experience, I would search your local yoga studio, your local mindfulness practice areas, and try it out. And I would say try it out for whatever their intro offer is, whether it’s two weeks, 30 days, and really commit to that. Because thankfully for me, my first experience kind of grabbed me. But I’ve heard so many stories of experience, instances where it just wasn’t their cup of tea, and what they later on found was it just wasn’t the right teacher or the right practice. So this is why I say commit to the two weeks or the 30 days, whatever the intro offer is, and try it out because, for me, it was the teacher and the practice. So, yeah, go to your local yoga studio.
But also, too, we live in a new world where the Internet is so powerful and everybody has at least one social media channel. Ask the people who follow you, put a post out saying, hey, I’m interested in getting into this. Does anybody have any recommendations? And people would probably be surprised at how many people just want to help people that way.
Aleta: Marcus, what role does curiosity play in your work? I know as a student in your class, I often hear you say, especially in a challenging moment in the class, “Get curious or be curious,” which is a lovely way to focus my mind away from getting frustrated. I want to hear, what role does curiosity play in your work as a yoga instructor and studio owner?
Marcus: I think a significant amount. How you’re describing how I mentioned in the actual classroom often in challenging moments, I invite students to get curious. It’s very much like that in the ownership world. Or for me, my brain is going this way: Where I’m an introvert, once my extrovert-ness is done, I’ve reached my limit, I’ve just become really quiet. And I’ve pushed the boundaries on that through curiosity, of maybe one more interaction, maybe one more message, maybe one more interview, whatever it may be. So I would say curiosity often breaks down invisible barriers that I’ve already placed on myself. So it plays a huge role.
Aleta: I think I’m hearing you say you’re expanding your comfort zone when you may feel like, my introvert quality is very strong right now, but I want to or I need to reach out beyond myself. Curiosity seems to expand your comfort zone. How do you feel like curiosity helps in that moment?
Marcus: Well, it’s hard for me to remember myself as a younger person, like a kid being curious. But from time to time, I’m walking around and I’ll see younger kids get curious, high school students get curious. There’s energy around it, there’s energy in being curious, like solving a problem. How can I overcome this or how can I learn more about that or how can I help this? There’s some sort of energy around it and I use that particular energy that that curiosity gives me to then go an extra step.
And not in a way that I’m pushing myself, but in a way I’m like, hey, I can actually move the invisible boundary that I’ve set for myself a little bit further out. So I have a little bit more room now to play. Perfect example: wheel pose or flip dog into wheel. Maybe I can’t go anywhere more, but if I get curious, there might be a place where I can settle into, then open and access something that gets me a bit closer to it.
Aleta: What are you curious about right now and what are you doing to pursue that curiosity?
Marcus: Well, I find myself thinking a lot about how I can spend more time at home, with my fiance. I start to get curious about how I can spend more time individually with the PureFire team, because there’s really cool things that open up when we spend time individually and then as a group. A lot of what I’ve been thinking about currently is how I can spend more time with the people that are already in my life and hopefully dive a little bit deep. Doesn’t need to be anything crazy, like, tell me your deepest darkest secret. Not that, but how we can support each other, how we can play an impactful role in each other’s lives.
Aleta: That sounds like really being intentional about the way you’re engaging with the people who are already important to you. That makes a lot of sense. So thinking back to when you were a student in school, whether as a child or a young adult at any time, can you think of a time when your curiosity was piqued at school? When something happened that made you curious, whether it was officially part of the curriculum or not?
Marcus: Yeah, actually, I saw this question and I had to smile at this because it took me back all the way to high school. To this point, I never thought I was a good writer. I think I’m a pretty decent writer, but I took this what was it called? It was a creative writing course, an English course my senior year.
And Ms. Pelleteri was my teacher and I remember her giving us a couple of assignments and her taking the time after class to just acknowledge the work that I’ve done, but she’d ask me really interesting questions which then sparked my curiosity to then think about the same topic very differently or write it again in a way where I see this point. Are there other lenses or points that you see the same topic?
I remember thinking just I don’t want to do this more work but for whatever reason I felt really comfortable around her. I trusted her, she spent time with me and it really got me really interested and curious about how to formulate words together, how to describe certain things, describe my experience, talk about the topic, whatever.
So I think that would be my first initial as I look back on it level of curiosity that I really dove into and got really excited about and gave me energy around maybe I am fairly good at this but to be honest I think the environment she set helped it out.
In the past, the coaches who spent more time with me got more out of me because they knew how to push me and where to pull back. Because for me personally, if you push me too far, too soon, I have this thing, I’ve always had this in my entire life. I don’t know where it comes from, but I can cut people off really quickly and not even bat an eye. It’s really wild. But if you spend time with me, you’ll get to understand that side of me a little bit more and then push me. Ms. Pelleteri was amazing in sparking that curiosity for me in high school.
Hooray For Monday is an award-winning weekly publication by Center for Inspired Teaching, an independent nonprofit organization that invests in and supports teachers. Inspired Teaching provides transformative, improvisation-based professional learning for teachers that is 100% engaging – intellectually, emotionally, and physically. Our mission is to create radical change in the school experience – away from compliance and toward authentic engagement.
Working with a partner or as a whole class students construct a narrative “one word at a time.” The challenge is to create something cohesive while depending on the creative input of each individual.