How did you get into yoga? What aspect of yoga got you on the mat in the beginning?
I studied exercise science at Ball State University and I took a semester in yoga that I absolutely hated. I thought it was so boring and could barely sit still for the class. The instructor, Dee Ann Birkel had us each pick out a video that we would do daily and report our progress. I found the Power Yoga Videos with Bryan Kest. I loved how physically and emotionally challenging they were. Bryan would say the funniest things just when I was ready to cry. His videos had a way of grounding me that I had never been able to achieve before. Years later I was living in Los Angeles still doing Bryan’s videos daily. As I was stretching through the end credits I saw that his studio was in Santa Monica which was about ten minutes from my apartment. I guess it was just meant to be. (Organically)
What would you consider your yoga style and who were a few teachers that influenced you the most?
I was a dancer my entire life so Vinyasa Flow truly resonated with me. I loved the fluid, creative and challenging movement. When I finally learned how to breathe with the movement it felt like my entire body was breathing. It was and still is amazing. I have been inspired by so many instructors over the years. Bryan Kest, David Swenson and of course my Yogaview family that continues to move me all of time. I haven’t taken from anyone at Yogaview that didn’t inspire me. Thank you Tom and Quinn for creating such a beautiful and nurturing community and letting me be apart of it.
If you could change one aspect of the modern yoga world, what would it be?
I would make it more accessible for everyone. When I started practicing yoga with Bryan Kest I was completely broke but his studio was donation based. I never would have been able to afford it otherwise and I am forever indebted to him. That being said, I really wish we could live in a world without Apple watches and phones.
Why do you love teaching at yogaview?
When I first started teaching at yogaview in 2003 it was one of the few studios in Chicago. I was so extremely nervous and honored to teach there and loved the nurturing and lighthearted community yogaview created. yogaview became my home away from home. You just walk in the door and feel your worries begin to melt away.
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 think the Beatles summed it up pretty clearly with their song ‘Within you without you’. I can’t make any better sense of it than that.
What was one of the funniest or most humbling moments you’ve had while teaching a class?
When I was on the verge of turning forty, I had a complete meltdown and ended up in rehabilitation fighting a horrible alcohol addiction. I found myself single with no husband, no children and no plan. Time after time, you hear people say how their life wasn’t worthwhile until they had children. I felt that I was supposed to have a family of my own at this age. I was depressed, lonely and drinking myself into oblivion. The night before I ended up in rehab, I broke down during a yoga class that I was teaching and just started crying. I told the class that I was very sorry, but I just couldn’t teach that night. Instead of leaving in anger or frustration, the students in the room sat down and just started talking to me. They offered their support and showered me with kindness and love. It was extremely humbling. When I returned from rehab, I was certain no one would ever come to my class again. Yet, the same students/friends were there when I got back offering me acceptance and forgiveness. I am forever grateful.
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?
Since I have been practicing for 21 years, which is half of my life, I don’t really remember what my inner experience was like before yoga. Although, I’m pretty sure I was a mess or more of a mess than I am now. I mean, who isn’t a bit of a mess? I just know that yoga helps me stay calm when I want to freak out. It helps me continue to evolve.
If there was one spiritual teacher or guru that you would desire to study under (dead or alive) who would it be?
John Lennon ‘Love is the answer’, ‘Imagine’, ‘Give peace a chance’, I could go on for days quoting him but I am pretty sure everyone has heard his lyrics before.
What is your favorite non yoga activity?
Growing up we had a jukebox that my sisters and I would dance to all of the time. I think that jukebox helped create my love of dance and music which inspires my yoga practice and teaching. Connecting to music is a form of spirituality for me. I don’t always feel that I can express how I am feeling with words, but I find that music can often do that for me. Music makes everything in life better.
Write a question of your own or write about an aspect of yoga you’d like to share!
I was feeling quite vulnerable about opening up about my past in question number six. I am very honest about my past, but to announce it so openly is a bit intimidating. I guess I would just like to say that people can change. You are not your past, you are not your thoughts, you are not your failures. This is a guiding principle I have learned from yoga. However, I am proud of my recent success in living a more balanced life. I will be two years alcohol-free this April, and I couldn’t have done it without my yoga practice and support from my friends, students, and colleagues in the yoga community. I’d like to leave you with this poem by Yung Pueblo that inspires me.
i am not fully healed
i am not fully wise
i am still on my way
what matters is that
i am moving forward