How did you get into yoga?
As a kinesiology/psychology student at University of Illinois, I did a project on the Alexander Technique. In one semester, I witnessed a 75 yr-old man transform from being severely hunched over to standing up straight with his head balancing on top of his spine. It was mind-blowing. And the technique was relatively simple. It was a combination of deep relaxation, breath awareness, and systematic movements focused on identifying in-effective habitual patterns and then re-educating the mind and body to discover new pathways towards innate movement. So basically, breathing, moving, and deeply observing. Yes, I said, simple —not so EASY! I became super intrigued with anything coined ‘holistic’ or ‘mind-body.’
After graduating in 1996 and moving to Chicago, I worked for Dr. Connie Catellani at the Miro Center for Integrative Medicine in Evanston and had the privilege of being introduced to the whole world of holistic medicine from energy work to Chinese medicine to rolfing. It was then and there that I discovered yoga and completely fell in love! I rode my bike to Miguel Latronica’s 7am class at NU Yoga every Tuesday and Thursday morning. It hit me hard. I was obsessed. The only way I can describe it is that if felt like coming home.
What would you consider your yoga style and who were a few teachers that influenced you the most?
I began studying the Ashtanga system with Miguel Latronica who will always hold a beloved place in my heart. He is absolutely the reason I decided to become a teacher myself. His intelligent and thoughtful approach felt most in-line with the sense of curiosity and discovery that I experienced with the Alexander Technique. Then in about 2002, I met Gabriel Halpern who introduced me to the Iyengar system and WOW was I blown away! I had no idea what he was talking about half of the time and it just made me want to dig deeper and deeper. I started to understand the magnitude to the practice and just how powerful it truly was. I became a devotee of Gabriel and apprenticed with him for about 10 years.
During that time, I began getting more curious about the energetics of the practice and a friend turned me on to Rod Stryker. Through Gabriel, I learned to develop an asana practice, a pranayama practice, and a meditation practice. When studying with Rod, we wove it all together! The strong foundation I built through studying with Gabriel was the perfect platform for me to receive and integrate the Para yoga teachings with Rod. A match made in heaven! I continue to study with both Gabriel and Rod and consider them to be my most influential teachers.
Other teachers that I love studying with remotely and have been an influence on my practice and teaching are: Tias Little, Elena Brower, Richard Freeman, and Aadil Palkhivala.
Honestly, I never really know what ‘style’ to call my teaching. I cant say that I am an Iyengar Teacher…I am definitely not a vinyasa teacher…I guess I am a mutt…my teaching is my interpretation of all that I have studied.
Hatha yoga is any style that teaches physical postures, breath control, and meditation…so I’ll say I teach Hatha Yoga
If you could change one aspect of the modern yoga world, what would that be?
Easy. I would like to see less focus on physical accomplishments. In my experience, so many people miss the boat and check out of yoga before it even starts getting good —often because they get frustrated with the physical demands and pace, or unfortunately due to injury. Or, on the flip side, people can get stuck, like I did, on striving for the perfect pose and thinking that being an advanced yogi means you need to turn your body into a human pretzel.
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 is often described as such and more. Can you please describe your personal experience of this state or what the concept represents to you?:
To me, moments of samadhi are when the veil has been lifted. Moments when we identify with reality as the spiritual realm rather than the physical realm. These moments are free of grasping and resisting. They are free of all judgment — we surrender to our pain and suffering vs. fighting it, becoming victim to it, or projecting it onto others. A union of all opposites…love/fear, light/darkness, feminine/masculine, joy/sorrow, physical/spiritual…all counterparts — each containing a piece of the other. Oneness. All life forms are one and each moment contains equal potential for transformation.
Traditional Yoga teaches that samadhi is the 8th and final attainment of being. It is translated as ‘integration’ or ‘absorption.’ In can be interpreted as the final step of years of spiritual practice/study and hours of seated undistracted meditation per day. But in my experience, we all have these moments. They can happen at any time with or without dedicated spiritual practice. It’s just a matter of being awake. It’s a matter of actually noticing these moments. Practice helps us shed our resistance so we CAN actually notice. When paying attention, it’s like having a view from the heart of collective consciousness or a state of pure, unconditional love…when distracted and self-absorbed, it’s like having a view from our own neurosis.
What was the most humbling moments you’ve had while teaching yoga?
I was completely humbled the first time I studied with Gabriel Halpern. I had been teaching for about 2 years at the time. One, it was the first time I completely balled my eyes out in a yoga class. And two, I could barely do anything he was asking us to do, even though he was only teaching basic, level 1 postures. I realized I was living in a fantasy world of denial and he was asking me to drop into reality. And as frustrating as that was to do, somewhere inside of me, it felt so right. I had been easily and successfully teaching the shape of postures, but could I teach YOGA? Hmmmmm…I decided it was time to be totally honest with myself, and oh boy, is that so very humbling.
Describe your inner experience going about daily life pre vs. post developing a regular or meditation practice.
Like I said, I was ‘doing’ yoga for years before I actually understood and experienced the YOGA. I spend a number of years feeling validated by the advancements I was making in my asana practice and the praise I would get from my teachers. Unknowingly, I was using my yoga practice as a hiding place. It made me feel good and sometimes better than thou, and gave me a false sense of self, instead of inviting me to welcome my pain and insecurities to actually HEAL, and love myself no matter what.
But once I opened my mind and heart to the YOGA and became truly willing to step aboard the never-ending journey of self-discovery and awareness, I became available to listen, notice, and be my own witness. Of everything- not just the pretty stuff! I started to notice all the ways in which I was being judgmental and overly critical of myself and others. I started to actually feel the harm I was inflicting in doing so. In this process, I started to heal. I learned that with the help of my yoga practice, I could actually change how I was viewing and experiencing the world. I credit yoga for gifting me with a more expansive compassionate perspective. Every day, my yoga practice helps me choose love.
If there was one spiritual teacher or guru that you would desire to study with (dead or alive) who would it be?
Pema Chodron. She is so relatable. Everything she shares through her writing touches me.
What is your favorite non-yoga activity?
I love playing with my twin 3-yr old daughters. They are my true teachers right now. They make me cry out of frustration and laugh out of pure joy at the same time! Also, my family is serious about food. Preparing meals to share with friends and family makes me so happy! It’s nourishment for the body, heart, and soul
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