People come to yoga asana, pranayama and meditation practices for a variety of reasons, all of them valid. As a teacher, I seek to share the wealth of knowledge and passion for the practice that has been shared with me by my own teachers along the way in a dynamic sense, as the practice is always changing and growing, as am I. My continued studentship is the source of inspiration that I draw from, and the cultivation of deep listening, discipline, softening of the heart, and desire to serve are the qualities I try to honor and grow.
Public Asana Classes
In class, we will each enter the flow of conversation individually about what the practice means to us, in a fluid and progressive way on the mat. We all love the practice for different reasons, and I try to be sure that those interests and aspirations are honored. We chant, meditate, practice pranayama, and work with asana in each class. A variety of things influence what happens in each class; the seasons and principles of Ayurveda and health are always considered, as many people come to yoga seeking health and balance. Time of day, class level, the varying amounts of discipline or softness needed in each student each day, my enthusiasm and clarity about whatever I am currently studying, yoga’s philosophical considerations, therapeutic applications of asana in a safe container for exploration… all of them factor into and are needed to make any class the potent and dynamic expression of grace and balance that so many of us are seeking.
On a very personal note, what kind of teacher am I? Overall, I am a progressive, creative, positive, pragmatic, and completely practical asana teacher. I do sometimes like to work with what you might call “advanced” postures (though I prefer the description "bold" or “continuing”), or with what is possible in any one direction on a given day. I don’t generally make things up, or promise you any fancy unknown psychic side effects. If I am doing my job well, my classes will neither inflate your ego nor perpetuate your negative ideas of yourself. I hope to help you find some semblance of order, integrity and balance in your own inner body and mind that you can take into your life and actualize through our physical practice together. I really thrive on the engineering aspect of asana, to deconstruct and learn something each time I practice. I've been teaching for more than 20+ years, and continue to seek an answer to the longing for clarity, community and connection that many of us feel, as well as find a means of maintaining integrity and inclusivness in the rapidly shifting culture of yoga, wherein some of the traditional teachings are being swallowed up by fad and fashion. I am deeply committed to substance over theater, to practice over performance, and to bringing to light the ways that classical paths of practice are still relevant, if not essential, to modern lives in a lively, practical way every day. I question cultural appropriation in this realm almost daily, and hope to offer a perspective that challenges the commodification and commercialization of modern yoga culture, all the while existing as a yoga center and training program run on yogic principles. I share the practices of asana through modern and informed mechanical wisdom and skillful, time-tested Teaching Methodology gleaned from decades of experience and my own amazing teachers, as well as deeply grounded philosophical teachings from the source traditions of Bhakti Yoga from a place of practical and reverential experience. I have a commitment to ongoing, systematic training in Equity and Racial Inclusion and am deeply committed to the study of un-learning patriarchial and supremacist models of communication. This informs every fold of my teaching, this program, and this yoga center.
I am lately finding myself interested in more refined, inner-body felt sense work in my own practice, and in a deeper understanding of asana and pranayama as a whole. I have had my Vinyasa dance-party phase, and also, a deepening sophistication and investigation for me mostly involves moving more slowly and intentionally, in a quieter environment, with some very deep inquiry into what is actually occurring in my body, my felt-sense and my heart. In this fashion, I will try to push you gently to ask deeper questions of yourself on the mat, while respecting your boundaries. My hope is that you will encounter yourself and your sweet, generous nature while you are being challenged to call forth what is best in you, meet it whole-heartedly, and move from that knowing into the rest of your life. I am old enough to value my health and the ability to move my body without pain, and I really want to make sure that yoga feels healthy and balanced in all ways, equally, to everyone that seeks that medicine.
Yoga As Therapy
I have loved, practiced and taught yoga for more than half my life, and for over 25 years have been struggling in my own body to understand how to apply this thing that I love, yoga asana, to my own particulars. I am grateful for nearly 20 years of study and practice in Acupuncture Physical Medicine, Athletic Injury Medicine, Movement Theory, Pain Science, Biomechanics and Therapeutic Yoga; these studies have given me unique insight into both the myofascial holding patterns in the physical body as well as the energetic holding patterns in the emotional body. Plus, insight into the nature of athletes and dancers and yoga people, for whom movement is their medicine.
I teach group asana practices, and sometimes these can be somewhat large classes. It is a challenge to fit into these classes the therapeutic principles that I know help hold the body in integrity and clarity, especially when we have injuries, proportion differences and body aches that cannot be addressed in groups of such size. But I do aspire to do this part well, or at least as well as I can in a public 90-minute class with little time to spare for each individual.
The downside to these large classes is that there are few chances for one-on-one time in these classes for students with injuries, physical quirks, and old holding patterns from accidents, repetitive strains, or athletics. This is why I love therapeutic private sessions. The thrill of the chase, the detective work in examining posture and pattern and working together with the student to unwind these old patters; its positively thrilling to put someone back on the mat after an injury, back into their chosen profession or sport with clarity and ease in their body, and back into their life with heightened breathing skills, self-awareness and attention.
I also love to help students dissect, understand and troubleshoot particular postures or groups of postures with clarity, maybe something they have longed to understand or practice but have never had access to. Sometimes a good private class can get us over some perceived (or even real) hurdles to moving forward in posture on the mat. I love the process-oriented and progressive nature of the physical practice, and aspire to help you learn the dedication to that, too. Most of all, I aspire to serve in helping provide a way for you to make lasting change in your inner and outer life through yoga.
In 1990 I took my first hatha yoga class on the wrestling mat in the NYU gym in college and never looked back. I thought I had found the connection to God and truth that had been naggingly missing thus far in my life, since at the sophisticated, ripe age of 17 of course I thought I knew what God even meant. I wandered onto the mat, then off the mat, but I never wandered far from the practice. I was a noisy, big-mouthed budding activist for women's rights and the environment, cooked in the fires of the early 1990's NYC activist scene, and I carry that justice streak with me deep in my bones to this day. I traversed the yoga basements, community centers and studios of New York City and then many parts of Asia, searching for what would eventually become the practice that I love. Early on, in my Ashtanga days, I really thought that yoga was this strict, rigid thing that was just what you DID everyday, not something that you LOVED everyday. Later in my life, as the medicine became food, and the definition of practice shifted, I would realize both were in fact true.
The beginning seeds of the vine of bhakti yoga were planted in my life by some miracle, and I felt interest percolating for the first time in the yoga path of devotion and service and love, and it started to make sense of yoga as a larger whole to me. I learned about devotional music and chanting kirtan, about expressing my heart and playfulness on the mat, and about working directly with my own noisy mind, directing it toward service, softness and love of God. I didn't intend to have yoga change my life; little by little, often clawing and whining, I inserted myself into a steady stream of practice, surrounded myself with others that were doing the same and were further along on the path than I, and that is exactly what happened. I was 23 years old and ready to take the leap into committing my life to yoga. As it turned out, that was more complicated than I thought, and it was a bumpy road. I was still a selfish, ego-driven mess, and had a long, long road ahead of me. But I never stopped practicing— forming committed, lasting ties with my teachers that often yielded nothing more than deeper connection with them, and more studying.
I opened The Bhaktishop in 2007 in order to make a home for other people that are also longing for similar conversations and self-interrogation; a place for you to feel welcome and at ease in exploring the deeper questions of your inner life and heart, and to learn from skilled, devoted teachers about the ways in which the practical, illuminating wisdom of these practices can touch, soften and change your life, every single day. I am proud as hell of the staff and teachers here, and their fierce, ongoing commitment to excellence, compassion, inclusiveness, honesty and their own pursuit of the wisdom and source traditions of yoga and beyond. I opened a studio also because I wanted control of the money that yoga was earning, so that I could redirect those funds back to the source of yoga by way of supporting ashrams, yoga teachers and centers in India, teachers that are sharing yoga from its source, justice and equity work, and deep, systemic work toward change at home that sometimes only monetary resources can bring. I also wanted to connect the community to the practice of yoga as an agent for social change, and the service to something larger than oneself, so that we might return yoga back to something it was always intended to be—a practice of devotion, liberation and service.
I offer my gratitude to those that ignited a fire in me, busted my chops over and over, taught me the impossible task of discipline in my willful and selfish early-20’s and in general, saved my life.
Many thanks to my first real yoga teachers, Sharon Gannon and David Life, for bringing out the best and the worst of me upstairs at the old purple Jivamukti Yoga Center on 2nd Avenue in New York for six years in the early 1990’s. I would have given up long ago without dousing my body in the fire they started to awaken in me. I have since broken with that tradition and those teachers, but still hold gratitude for the doors they opened for me. I followed that training into study with Beryl Bender Birch in a short mid-90's Ashtanga stint, which was radically shortened by injury due to repetition and then ultimately, sexual violence scandals, and that practice really brought me face to face with myself time and again, forcing me into more and more honesty in my practice. I am forever grateful for her stern and disciplined approach to yoga. The deep roots of Iyengar Yoga made a strong, clear home in my heart, and I would have understood nothing resembling alignment (in both my inner and outer form) or real discipline without the Iyengar Yoga Center of New York and the fine teachers there who put up with me and my whining, excuses, and petulance. Those women teaching those detailed, therapeutic practices healed my shredded body, and gave me the pause, education, and structure that I needed to move forward in yoga. I met Dana Flynn of NYC's Laughing Lotus sometime around 1999, and she literally turned me inside-out. I had never practiced with such freedom, ecstatic grace, and deep soulful connection before I met her, and she really altered my perceptions of yoga asana with the idea of "moving like yourself." Early on both as a student and a blossoming yoga center in 2006, my friendship with her and with San Francisco's Laughing Lotus founder Jasmine Tarkeshi helped me enormously as a fledgling leader, trying to learn how to operate a yoga center on true yogic principles. I have since also moved away from teaching or practicing that particular form and style, but credit them with much of my early growth and the blessing/support to start The Bhaktishop with deep ethics.
Since I opened The Bhaktishop in 2006, I have been in committed study with Doug Keller in Yoga as Therapy, as well as spending as much time as possible in company and conversation with Christina Sell in the lifelong hang-around-together study track. Both of these humble and wise friends and mentors inspire me deeply, open my mind, and help me speak clearly and honestly on the path of hatha yoga teaching. I also finally completed Iyengar Teacher Training with Julie Lawrence in Portland in 2014. While I am not an Iyengar teacher, and I did not ever mistake the asana teachers from the Krishnamacharya line as realized beings or gurus, I also do not support the paternalistic, abusive history of the way these particular forms were often taught, particularly by Mr. Iyengar and Mr. Jois themselves. I’m grateful to have spent time in study with Carrie Owerko, who shifted the Iyengar legacy into one of self-directed, exploratory awareness for me. For the past couple of years I have spent a lot of my study time in the good company of Portland's Todd Jackson, learning to soften into my inner body's felt sense and grow my somatic and internal awareness in new and surprising ways. I am also a Certified Yoga Therapist through the IAYT.org. and utilize those tools of therapeutic wisdom in private sessions as well as public classes. My studentship and abiding, dharmic respect for the roots of the source traditions are the driving forces of my life, and I am grateful every day for the practice and teachers that I have stumbled into. I'm indebted to the wisdom of all those unnamed, unknown indigenous Indian teachers (and in the diaspora) that came before me on this long and winding and deeply colonized road, and credit them all with absolutely anything interesting, connected, or smart that I ever say or do in the classroom.
More personally, in my spiritual life, around 2005 and by my great good fortune I read one of Swami B.V. Tripurari’s translations of The Bhagavad Gita, and was transformed. His wisdom, guidance, and living realization of Bhakti yoga have been illuminating the path for me ever since, guiding me to share the beauty and wisdom of bhakti in my small way. I seek to serve the grace of all the teachers that have offered their generous help by extending their hand to me, most especially my beloved guru. I know in these troubled times where many are questioning hegemonic systems (and rightly so) it is, for some people, somewhat controversial to have a guru, but I have one, unapologetically, and it totally works for me. Swami himself gave me the blessing and the encouragement to chant and to teach by sharing the wisdom of the source tradition of Bhakti Vedanta philosophy as he shared it with me by way of Gaudiya Vedanta, and I humbly mess this up daily but ask for blessings, forgiveness and guidance as I stumble, that I might share something useful on the path to transcendence.
I have been teaching yoga in some form since 1995, and I moved from NYC to Portland in 2002. I believe in our own innate wisdom, but I also believe deeply in good guidance and help on this wild and winding path. We all need to learn to listen better, and that is a vital guiding principle of yoga. Guided firmly by inner-body intelligence and more than 25 years of experience in bio-mechanics, anatomy, acupuncture, chanting, meditation and yoga asana, and aided by a sense of adventure, I seek physical honesty and cognitive clarity in yoga, wherein it is allowed to come alive as a living, dynamic practice. Sharing this life-affirming practice is what I was born to do, and every day that I get to wake up and do this work and my life, I am infinitely grateful. I have a personal and business commitment to ongoing, systematic training in equity, racial and other forms of inclusion, and decolonization and am deeply committed to the study of un-learning patriarchial and supremacist models of communication and of relationship. This informs every fold of my teaching, this program, and this yoga center. I am honored and grateful to share my vision of a more balanced, intentional, spirit-oriented life of service and love with you at The Bhaktishop. Thank you all for making it a reality, as well as a daily pleasure.