How did you get into yoga? What aspect of yoga got you on the mat in the beginning?
A yearning for connection and community brought yoga into my life when I moved out to the northern suburbs with young kids, very few friends, and not a big support network about 16 years ago.
I started taking yoga classes at North Shore Yoga and Healing Power Yoga any time I could sneak away from my busy household. Right away, I loved everything about yoga: the way I felt at the end of class, the music, the fellow students and the beautiful eastern life-affirming teachings woven throughout the practice. I actually remember choosing a certain program for my preschoolers so that I could get to Lindsey Levine Labkon’s class at 10:00 am on Monday mornings in Highland Park!
What kept me coming to class and expanding my practice to include videos and DVDs (Shiva Rea’s Shakti Flow was my favorite), was the way my body felt from a regular practice. My consistent physical practice kept me strong, healthy and balanced through childbirth, illnesses and injuries. Yoga always provided me with the inner wisdom and the reserves to bounce back from any health challenge.
What brought me deeper into the study of yoga and pursue teacher trainings was the feeling of peacefulness I felt on my mat and also in real life. I was intrigued. Browsing in the newly discovered Yoga & Spirituality section of a bookstore one day, I saw a book called Yoga for Depression. Whaaaaat? Yoga can help with mood and emotional well-being? That day, I bought Light on Yoga and its introduction, which laid out the eight limbs of yoga, blew me away. I was hooked.
Hundreds of books and training hours later, I am still a dedicated student of asana, philosophy, anatomy, mindfulness and Jewish mysticsm, each day learning something new and realizing how much I don’t know.
What would you consider your yoga style and who were a few teachers that influenced you the most?
I teach in the Vinyasa Flow style with an emphasis on healthy alignment and breathing. My classes attract all levels of students that like to move to music and don’t mind pausing occasionally for super-long holds and life-changing epiphanies. My practice and teaching have been greatly influenced by the excellent teachers at Yogaview with whom I studied for my advanced training. (I feel myself channeling Tom, Geri, Quinn, Claire, Sara and Megan all the time)!
Among the many teachers who have shed light onto the practice, and onto my life, Aadil Palkhavala, Paul Weitz, Annie Carpenter are my go-tos.
My intention in each yoga class is to provide a welcoming and safe space where students can let go of tension in the body and mind, drop into their essence and come to understand themselves better. One of my teen students said it best: “Yoga is like a date with yourself.” Exactly! I see practice time as a beautiful opportunity to tune in with yourself, be free of distractions and judgment, and move, breath and pause in ways that make you feel whole and complete.
If you could change one aspect of the modern yoga world, what would that be?
I would like to see yoga accessible to more people, including special populations that may not always feel comfortable practicing at yoga studios or do not have access to them. (i.e., youth, elderly, religiously observant, patients in treatment). Now that the benefits of yoga are more well-known and often scientifically backed, I believe there will be more support of yoga programs in institutions that need it.
Why do you love teaching at yogaview?
The students, teachers and staff.
The students and community at Yogaview are the best! I may not know everyone’s last names, ages, occupations, beliefs or phone numbers, but we have certainly become “soul friends” practicing together. I look forward each week to gathering with such open, positive and interesting people and exploring this yoga journey together.
The teachers at Yogaview keep me inspired, motivated and humble. I definitely feel like I am a part of a community committed to higher learning and improving the world. Yogaview feels like a family. Midway through my level 2 teacher training at Yogaview in 2015, my mother, who was my rock, got very sick and needed me to be her caretaker. My cohort of teachers and the leaders of our program supported, understood and loved me like family does during the hardest year of my life. I will never forget that.
Within the 8 limbs of yoga, the experience of Samadhi is often described as the top rung of the ladder. It's considered by many to be indescribable, yet it is often described as such and more. Can you please describe your personal experience of this state or what the concept represents to you?
I have experienced little flashes of complete oneness where I feel still and suspended in pure vastness and get a momentary glimpse of truth. I am starting to understand experientially what the ancient yogis and mystics called Samadhi, Nirvana, or in Jewish mysticism Devekut (cleaving to the Creator).
As we deepen our practice, I believe we all start to feel those moments of complete union – and flirt with “pure bliss,” that state where things feel peaceful, balanced, in perfect alignment with the universe, beyond time and space. I call these moments when I feel in complete harmony with my truth “dancing with the divine.” Then, of course, the dance ends, I forget, and stray from center. Then I go back to my practice, realign, and move closer to my center. Go back to the practice.
Those mystical moments of utter bliss remind us to stay on the path.
What was one of the funniest or most humbling moments you've had while teaching a class?
Over the last 10 years, there have been classes when I was so “in-the-moment,” I have lost track of time, bumped into walls, danced between mats, and almost ended up in Lake Michigan.
When I am teaching yoga, I am at my most present. To enter into that state of complete centeredness without distraction, I close my eyes. (I know it can look a little strange. I have seen myself on video).
In the summer, I love to teach yoga on the beach. One misty July morning, while leading a community class on a huge pier (without guardrails), I entered into one of my closed-eyes totally present trances where I lost track of all space and depth and almost ended up in the water.
I still close my eyes a lot when I teach, but I am more mindful of my surroundings.
In less than 140 characters, like that of a tweet or much like a sutra, describe your inner experience going about daily life pre vs. post developing a regular yoga or meditation practice.
As I yogi, I walk the earth differently -- more grounded, purposeful, compassionate, connected and much better equipped to handle the inevitable ups and downs of life. The earth, in turn, responds to me differently.
If there was one spiritual teacher or guru that you would desire to study under (dead or alive) who would it be?
Gandhi. I have been obsessed lately with the movie Gandhi (with Ben Kingsley) and listening to the story of Gandhi in “Be the Change” by MC Yogi. Gandhi’s approach to revolution through non-violence is the way to peace, in my opinion. I would have loved to have walked with Gandhi and understand better how to remain so unafraid and peaceful in the face of such opposition.
What is your favorite non yoga activity?
Skiing, hiking and being in the mountains, especially the Rockies.
I learned to ski at 39, which I still regard as one of my biggest achievements. The strength, flexibility and mental steadfastness from my yoga enabled me to become a competent and enthusiastic skier to enjoy incredible family time and experience the mountains. My asana practice and meditation informs and improves my skiing. Each year I ski, I feel much stronger, more comfortable and more present!
What do you do when you are not teaching or practicing yoga?
I do my best to provide a loving home for my three teenagers and my supportive husband who was my first “regular.” To show up as my best self and truly live my yoga, I spend a lot of time studying sacred text and self-inquiry practices. Soul work. Through our conscious community, I have met several teachers who have shown me through various traditions that everything is sacred.
After many years of studying eastern texts, I started studying Torah and Jewish mysticism. My yoga reconnected me to my Jewish roots, and my Jewish spiritual practice enhances my yoga. Inspired, I teach workshops and classes weaving in Jewish themes and wisdom and create “embodied prayers” combining yoga sequences with some of the traditional Jewish prayers.
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