What brought you to yoga practice and what keeps you going?
I was first introduced to yoga practice as an accompaniment to my dance training in college. When I was no longer taking dance classes, I found a yoga studio to continue my practice and fill that love of movement within the body. It was a studio in Kansas City where I found the Ashtanga practice, and I knew I found my home. I'll always love myriad styles of classes, but the Ashtanga practice always feels like I'm home within my body, on my mat, regardless of where I am in the world. This feeling of home, self-care, and exploration of the inner landscape keeps me returning the mat.
What's one thing you think people misunderstand about Ashtanga?
There's an exclusivity misperception of the Ashtanga practice, meaning that it can often be viewed as only for the young, athletic, already proficient in yoga, or otherwise flexible individuals. It can be a challenging practice, to be sure, but with proper guidance and a knowledgeable teacher, I believe the sequence itself can be adapted to any individual and their needs. I've personally seen the Primary series adapted to an individual who walked with a cane and took the entire standing series in a chair until he developed the strength & health to do it standing. I've worked with veterans, incarcerated men, at-risk youth, retired & current professional athletes, teenagers, 60+ seniors, and everything in between using the Ashtanga method. I've seen the vigor increased for students who needed more physical challenge, and reduced for a more gentle approach. The Ashtanga practice is not the sweat we build or the number of vinyasa's we take in a 90 minute period, it's the community we build through an established sequence of poses. It's the attention we give to how we connect the mala of these pre-set sequences. In the right teaching hands, an Ashtanga practice can truly be for anyone because the basis is research -- research & exploration into our own abilities through an established sequence.
What about Hyde has made us part of your yoga wardrobe for all these years?
When I first tried Hyde, I instantly fell in love with the feel of the cotton on my skin. The breathability of the cotton during my practice made for (and continues to provide) a more pleasant experience. My favorite practice shorts are still the Chrystie short - the fit, the feel, the durability. Additionally, I appreciate the business practices of the Hyde company, and I love supporting a company with solid ethics and heart.
What are your goals as a teacher?
I aim to meet the student where they are each day, not getting caught up in terms such as 'beginner' or 'advanced' because it's all relative and mutable day to day. Our practice - physical or otherwise - should serve us where we are any given day. My favorite method of teaching is Mysore-style, where I can offer each unique individual a personal approach to the practice. Sure, they all start out with the base recipe of Ashtanga Primary Series, but just like taking a basic donut recipe and varying the toppings as one gains donut-eating discernment, I strive to offer my students the alternatives that serve their changing needs. Initially they may need classic vanilla glaze, and as life happens they may require the addition of cinnamon sugar or the variance of almond pistachio. I allow their injuries and anatomical histories to inform to me on how to teach them, working within the traditional recipe passed down through the years, plus research potential in order to serve their needs.
Who/what inspired you to teach yoga?
Two of my teachers, Patricia Gray & Patti Fuhrman, of the Yoga Gallery in Kansas City independently planted the seed to begin teaching. It didn't take much, only the small phrase, "You should teach." Something deep inside me must've wanted it without even knowing, because it felt right and true. I had taught friends and small groups, but never considered teaching professionally until that seemingly insignificant nudge. I've always enjoyed teaching, regardless of subject. I taught freshman biology laboratory and a few dance classes at university, and teaching yoga became a natural extension of not only my previous subject matter, but of my love for teaching in general.
What advice would you give someone just beginning yoga?
Whatever reason gets you in the door and on the mat, it's a valid reason. Don't let anyone (including yourself) tell you that because you can't touch your toes or stand on your head that you can't practice yoga. Yoga is more than the shapes we make. It is something unseen by outside observers. We practice these shapes and specific types of breathing as a means to explore the inner landscape. There are some wonderful physical byproducts (strength and flexibility, improved blood flow and thereby improved organ function, calmer mind, etc.), but the practice is so much more than any of that because of how it enhances our relationships with ourselves and with those we love, off the mat. Also, try more than one class, more than one teacher before you decide if yoga is for you...because every class and every teacher is different. You never know which teacher or what style you'll mesh with until you've sampled a few.
What keeps you practicing?
Two major aspects of my life bring me to the mat, and I'm honestly not sure which ranks higher in the hierarchy. As a teacher, my continued practice provides a wellspring from which to teach. As a student, I need it as medicine for both body and mind. I have scoliosis in my upper thoracic, and if I go a few days without activity, my body lets me know. Emotionally & mentally, what keeps me returning to the mat is the knowledge that no matter how exhausted I am — physically or emotionally — I have the opportunity to refresh. My practice may look different day to day, but it's the consistency that teaches me I can take anything I’m carrying onto the mat and, perhaps, leave some of the burdens behind.
Besides yoga, what do you do to keep a healthy lifestyle?
I work to nourish all aspects of this life in order to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle - physical, emotional, and mental. I live an ethically vegan lifestyle (I specify ethical, because I love me some tacos and donuts). I love to get my hands in the dirt daily, even if it's just pulling a few weeds while I let the cat out. I take classical ballet classes & cardio/strength train at the gym. I read myriad genres every day -- science, business, fiction, historical non-fiction, comic books, yoga, etc. And perhaps the most important aspects of keeping myself mentally healthy, I take a regular 3pm teatime and not a day goes by that I don't talk to (or message) my best friend.
Tell us something most people do not know about you.
I love my feet. I don’t love it when teachers offer excessive praise. I love savasana as much as everyone else. I read my horoscope almost every day. I don’t let it rule my world, but I think it’s fun.
If you weren't a yoga teacher, what would you be?
I'd open a little tea shop & vegan bakery, and return to simply being a student of yoga.