Written by Grace Ding
Unlike most students, freshman Alma Andino-Frydman commutes to San Francisco at least once, usually twice per week. The youngest certified instructor in the nation, Andino-Frydman teaches hot yoga and hot pilates.
At the age of ten, Andino-Frydman attended her first yoga class. Although she recalls her early experiences to be difficult, she had been concurrently training for the Death Ride, an intense 129-mile bike ride through the California Alps. Thus, she began doing yoga regularly at Avalon Yoga when she was 11. “I needed something to complement [my training] because I was working a lot of my lower body and I needed to build core, arm and back strength,” Andino-Frydman said.
She soon gained interest in the structures of classes themselves, as well as the teachers. “I’ve been fascinated for a while with how yoga instructors are such great leaders and make their words flow so eloquently,” she said.
While in eighth grade, Andino-Frydman decided to enroll in a six-month yoga teacher training at Avalon. After attending almost every class, four hours every Saturday and Sunday, and completing the necessary teaching experience, homeworks and readings, Andino-Frydman received the certification to become an instructor.
At first, her parents were a little surprised and taken aback by the level of commitment the program required. “It was a bit unusual for someone so young to take it, and it’s a big effort every week for six months,” Andino-Frydman’s mother Judith Frydman said. “But she went to every class and never wavered in her motivation.”
The program taught much more than simply how to lead a practice, which was part of the reason Andino-Frydman was drawn to it. “The training’s a graduate-level program and is very anatomy-based, so when I saw that there was a cadaver dissection, I was so impressed,” she said. “At first, I honestly didn’t think that I was gonna be a teacher, I just wanted to do the program to enrich my practice, learn about the history of yoga, and see how a class is structured.”
However, while teaching free classes at Avalon as part of the program, Andino-Frydman fell in love with it. “Once I actually started teaching, I realized the rush and adrenaline it gives you just from being up there and leading people through a practice,” she said.
As for pilates, Andino-Frydman was introduced to it much later at the age of 13. “I’ve been practicing it just because it’s such a good workout, and I love targeting specific muscles in the body and working those,” she said. Andino-Frydman received her certification in February after completing an intense 3-day program at Yoga Source in Los Gatos. There, she met Juicy Sanchez, the co-owner of Mission Yoga, where Andino-Frydman is now an instructor. “I’ll admit I was a bit stunned to learn she was so young, and I immediately had a great admiration for her accomplishments and maturity,” Sanchez said.
Andino-Frydman now regularly teaches inferno hot pilates, a high intensity interval training with pilates fundamentals done in a heated room, at Mission Yoga. She also teaches hot power yoga, which is flow yoga done in high temperatures.
Throughout all her experiences, Andino-Frydman has learned a lot about real life, especially when facing challenges brought by adults based on her age. “A lot of the times, even if I was the more qualified candidate, they went with the other [candidate] because they think they’re more experienced, even when they’re not,” she said.
Having to commute to San Francisco and get around the city has also taught Andino-Frydman to become more independent. Even more importantly, she has gained exposure and experience in business and professionalism, whether in growing her brand or negotiating her rate.
In addition to teaching twice or more per week, Andino-Frydman also takes five to six yoga classes and one to two pilates classes, usually at Yoga Source or Avalon Yoga. Although Frydman was originally concerned about her daughter’s commitment taking time away from school, Andino-Frydman has proved her wrong and found many more benefits from her practice. “In such a stressful environment [at Gunn], a lot of people don’t understand that the most important thing right now, especially since we’re still developing, is your body and mind,” Andino-Frydman said.
Frydman agrees, and is very proud of the positivity her daughter has found through her passion. “I’m very happy that she found something like this in her life, which has really helped her cope with the stress of life and the stress of starting high school,” Frydman said. “I hope that this ability to be passionate about something and really put the effort into it is something she keeps for her whole life.”
Frydman has also been continually impressed with Andino-Frydman’s determination and willingness to do so many things herself. “[Her father and I] support her, but she’s the one that’s putting in all the effort,” Frydman said. “It’s remarkable that she organizes everything, getting a job and finding a way to teach all by herself.”
In addition to gaining some valuable life lessons and skills, Andino-Frydman feels that she has also earned more respect, whether from herself or from others. “It’s really empowering to know that I led someone’s workout, mental workout, self-reflection and maybe made an impact on their day, their week, or their month,” she said. “Something I feel is really cool is that even if it’s just for an hour, I’m teaching people who are normally in such a higher power position to me.”
Sanchez also speaks highly of Andino-Frydman, as both a person and an instructor. “Alma really doesn’t ask for my help or support. What I offer her is an opportunity to teach and to train and develop herself inside of her teaching,” Sanchez said. “Alma has wonderful presence as a teacher—despite her young age, her demeanor allows for everyone to respect her, and that comes from her own respect for herself and others. I learn from Alma every time we interact, in and out of the yoga room.”
Although Andino-Frydman does not plan to become a professional instructor as of now, one of her biggest goals is to share her practice with others and to inspire them. “There are some instructors that have completely changed my perspective of my body, my mind, my soul,” she said. “That’s something I want to accomplish. I want someone to come up to me and be like, ‘You really impacted me.’”
Her other big goal is to introduce more students to yoga. According to Andino-Frydman, the physical aspect of yoga can significantly benefit athletes. “Yoga engages muscles you don’t even know that you had, and it just builds so much strength.” In addition, yoga allows the mind and the body to work together and for individuals to be more in touch with themselves. “Yoga is such a good way to get away from school, from electronics, and just be there on the mat, be yourself in your own mind and really think into your emotions,” Andino-Frydman said. “It needs to be brought into this school and into the school system and education in general, because it’s so much more important and impactful than [something like] dodgeball.”
Sanchez sees that yoga has allowed Andino-Frydman to discover the extent of her own abilities and recommends the practice for other high school students as well. “The yoga room is a training ground to learn that you can do anything you set your mind to.”