We had the good fortune of connecting with Maeve McCaffrey and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Maeve, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
My earliest and probably most formative years were spent in fairly rural Vermont. Let’s be honest, most of Vermont is rural, but some feels more small town, some more cow based. My parents moved there from NYC to start an organic farm well before it was cool to do so. I was the last born of three older brothers, the youngest and I were both born at home, again, well before home births were cool. With that said, it was a pretty cool place to. be a kid. All four seasons in full effect and we lived according to that. In summer we ate vegetables from our garden and my mother would can fruits and vegetables for the winter. My parents ran businesses out of our home: a natural food store and my father took his love of literature and became a buyer and seller of rare books. We weren’t wealthy by any means, but we were happy and taken care of. My mother learned yoga from one of her friends who landed in Vermont from India, and in turn led other friends through posture and meditation practices. My mother was a former ballerina and movement was always part of her life and while she never wanted me to take dance, I was always exposed to movement of all kinds as well as the arts. Instead of dance, my brothers and I all studied music from a young age. I played classical piano and cello, the dulcimer and the flute. Music of all kind was a huge part of my life and I was a musical theater nerd, except that it was cool. Trust me on this. Before you go to school, you don’t know what norms are, so until I started kindergarten, I didn’t know that my parents didn’t have conventional jobs, or that they were doing things that my friends parents were not doing, like yoga. Then we moved to a small town: less cows, more commerce. Besides getting older, my world was getting slightly larger and I realized we were not like most of the families I met. Sometimes I wanted to be more like other families, other times I was very proud of our way of being. All of these things had a huge impact on who I am. I no longer play musical instruments and I never killed it on Broadway but music supports the vibe of my classes, both fitness and yoga. I most likely would have found yoga as an adult at some point in my life, but I believe my early exposure and familiarity gave me a head start on my path. I am passionate about eating local organic foods and getting others excited to do the same. My father’s love of words and books has always been in me and I do my best to document life in words and hit the digital scrabble board on the daily. As much as my mother didn’t want me to take dance, I am an avid dancer now. My parents never lamented going to work. I never saw them hate their jobs whether that was simply an attitude or by the choices they made. I never had much tolerance for career choices that made me unhappy.. More than anything else, after an immense desire to just fit in and have a “normal” family during my school years, I realized what was an unconventional upbringing (that is not that unusual now) led me to exactly where I am: comfortable not fitting in or living by social norms and a strong passion for living a purpose driven life.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have been teaching fitness for over 25 years, yoga for over 20. In that time, my classes, knowledge and focus have shifted and changed. There’s an ebb and flow to my instruction, I would bet many teachers feel similarly. Sometimes you are drawn to the minutia of alignment and form and other times you want to simply create a space that encourages people to safely move and explore without being nit-picked. I have worked to create a style of instruction that supports students to have a personal journey, an exploration in the body, the inner workings of their mind and their relationship to themselves and how that impacts their spot in the world. The way I sequence my classes is intentional and often allows students to do things they otherwise didn’t think were possible. Much of my professional life has been a natural progression. I didn’t intend to be a yoga and fitness professional. I hold a marketing degree and while I did hold professional roles at different times in my life that were in line with my education, I think I would have had a lot more challenges on the advertising/PR path I initially thought I was going to take. When I knew that wellness was my purpose, it was because it just felt right partially because the resistance just wasn’t there. I was fortunate that some great doors opened up when they did, but I believe my skill set had me poised to walk through. I may not be an Instagram influencer or YouTube sensation with millions of followers, but I have an amazing community of students and I know I’m on the right path. I’m writing this while we are going through this unprecedented COVID pandemic. The first week we were put into shelter-in-place, I broadcast my first Zoom class, mostly because it just felt right. Everyone was scared, they didn’t know what to do at home, they needed a way to be together and to feel better. I haven’t stopped since. I teach 6 DONATION classes a week and I post my classes on YouTube providing a way for my community to stay connected to me and to meet new people along the way. With so many out of work or struggling, I want to make yoga and fitness accessible to all. I love opening up Zoom and seeing a name I don’t know; someone referred by a friend to join in our sessions.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
When I have visitors in LA, there are a few must-eats. For healthy, absolutely delicious food, I adore Blueys in Santa Monica and Malibu Farm on the pier. I also love FOOD in West LA. The best pancakes ever. LA sushi is bomb, Nobu Malibu is the perfect scene to get a taste of the LA life with delicious food and drinks, Sugarfish a little more low-key, Trust Me. I’m not sure how such a health conscious city has so many good donut spots, I’m both thrilled and furious over it, but you have to try DK’s, Sidecar and my favorite: Randy’s. Other side of the coin, and I can’t believe I’m going to recommend a grocery store, but I am addicted to the acai bowls from Whole Foods. I love love love LA hotels. Since I live here, I rarely get to stay in them, but I love going to the restaurants, lounges, etc. The Ritz Carlton (Marina Del Rey) lounge with it’s big fireplace is a Christmas-time stop, the roofdeck at the Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills is great people watching and views of the houses below, and one of the best views is sunset over the ocean from the Penthouse restaurant in the Huntley hotel in Santa Monica while having drinks and nibbles. Speaking of which, Los Angeles beaches are breathtaking and I live to see dolphins! I am partial to Playa Del Rey, but parking can be tough, Santa Monica is easier so we often hit up the Ocean Park lot. Heading the other way, you have to hike the mountains. I’m not a huge fan of Runyon Canyon, it’s a little too Nobu if you know what I mean. I prefer the lesser scene off of Sunset/Temescal or even Will Rogers park and visit the horses. One of my favorite things to do is to “shop and drink/eat” and Abbott Kinney is fantastic for this. Some of the best restaurants in the city are tucked in here, some key brand stores and some other private boutiques plus you almost always get a celebrity sighting if you pay attention. If you don’t, you can console yourself with Salt & Straw ice cream. Down the street, Venice Beach for watching the roller skaters, surfers and skateboarders. From grunge to glam, stroll Beverly Hills. Lest I sound like I don’t appreciate the arts scene in LA, either one of the Getty Museums both for the exhibits and the views. Finally, some of the world’s best fitness and yoga instructors can be found in LA and going on class dates with friends is one of my absolute favorite things to do. Near perfect day: mid-morning yoga, dance class or hike followed by healthy brunch with optional cocktails, stroll Abbott Kinney, Gjulina to-go pizza to? Sure! Pop in and out of the stores, glass of wine, coffee and donut before getting ready for our sunset sushi dinner at the ocean as the dolphins frolic by. I love this city!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
When I was 19 and home over the winter break from college, I was taking “aerobics” classes in my CT hometown. Cheryl was my favorite teacher and one day after class, she pulled me aside and asked me if I’d ever considered becoming an instructor myself. I hadn’t, but in that moment, I was. I got certified to teach 6 months later. That fall, when I was in an unplanned gap year of college and my hometown gym was shut down, I walked into the gym a few towns over (kicking stones all the way) and when I was about to sign the paperwork to join, I thought to ask if they were hiring instructors. I didn’t know, but I was talking to the owner and he said they were always hiring and he’d have the manager Cheryl call me. Well, of course, it was the same Cheryl who encouraged me to become an instructor, and alas, she was the first one to give me a job as an instructor and my first class, nine months after we spoke. I moved to Boston a year later to finish college and years later I would have loved to have had the opportunity to tell her that I made this my career, not just a side gig. Her encouragement and support was instrumental in my path and to where I am now. I was lucky enough to be in a position later in my career to give others their first shot as a teacher and often hoped that for at least some of them, it would have the long term effect that she had on me. I may have found my way to becoming a teacher without that fortuitous conversation, but I also might not have.