It was serving as a volunteer at Omega in the Summer of 1991 that led me to my first yoga class. Having grown up in a small town with small town options I was hungry to experience something new – something that would break me open. The classes at Omega were soothing , intriguing, curious so when Atlanta became my new home at Summer’s end, I dug into Atlanta’s yoga offerings. As a newbie to the field I had no idea there were “types” of yoga, I just squeezed in at least one class a week to balance out a strong running/biking regimen. For the most part, yoga was just another form of exercise, sort of…
Eight-years later, seeking another life change, I moved to Kripalu to be a long term volunteer. By this point I was practicing 2-4 times a week but still categorizing it in my head as exercise despite spending the length of some classes in tears. Arriving post Thanksgiving 1999, I met five other folks who became my volunteer family. It was a week or so in that I agreed to meet up with one of my new ‘family’ members to do an after-hours practice in one of the empty program room. Silent, we lit candles, settled onto our mats, and slowly began flowing through various poses. The still room flickered alive in the dance of candle light. As I breathed, my mind softened and a rhythm overtook my body. The postures were the same I had been practicing for years, yet gliding from one into another was dramatically different; it felt like I was praying. The asanas were prayers moving through my body. Floating on air, each movement, each moment, felt timeless and sacred. This body that I had dominated through my teens and 20’s with exercise, expectations, and criticism was suddenly precious, alive, vital, stunningly serene, and graceful. In that marriage of breathe and movement came the realization, “This is huge–this yoga is huge. How does anyone teach this? One can’t teach spiritual practice.”
2017 has me entering my 16th year of teaching. Gratefully, I still feel the resonance of those words every time I sit to teach, ‘No one can teach spiritual practice’. It reminds me that the practice is bigger than what words can ever capture. It is bigger than anything anyone of us can hold separately. It is in our connections–to nature, to each other, to ourselves, to the moment–that greatness unfolds. Unioned, we become more than we thought possible.
I continue to practice today because yoga works. No matter how I step on my mat, when I step off, the world’s wattage is clearly increased. As my body softens and flows, remembrance kicks in and soon there is more: beauty, gratitude, patience, curiosity, clarity. It’s stunning. It’s the words of Mary Oliver’s poem “The Buddha’s Last Words”:
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire –
clearly I’m not needed,
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Teaching is a similar experience. The stories of life unravel in breath, movement, and in how each individual fills the shape of a pose. In these years of teaching I am thankful to have constant witness of how this simple practice sinks folks into confidence and creativity. The practice gives a new lens to life. It strengthens the seam that binds what is within us with what surrounds us. We are reminded that we grow through engagement. Yoga is looking for the we with everything. I am humbled – good humbled, gratitude for life humbled – by yoga. I am lured back to the mat to teach and to practice because I can’t describe what yoga is—all I know is that I am a better person for my investigation and devotion to it.
C-IAYT / MS in Yoga Therapy
Creator of Yoga:LiveIt – a lifestyle course for bringing the tools, philosophy, and practices of yoga into daily living
Co-writer/leader of Shri 200-hr YTT
Anusara influenced – 10 year of study
Volunteer resident of Kripalu from 1999-2001
Immense gratitude for studying with incredibly gifted teachers:
Michael Carroll (Yoganand), Deb Neubauer, John Friend, Desiree Raumbach, Jenny Otto, Doug Keller, Mitchel Bleir, Douglas Brooks, Sianna Sherman, Noah Maze, Darren Rhodes, Suzy Hurley, Cate Stillman, Marlysa Sullivan, Nature, Life.