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 sane 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 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 model of a business owner that does run a yoga center and training program 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 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 don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good flow class and some good loud pop music in class sometimes, but 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 in 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 17+ 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.
“I'm indebted to the wisdom of all the teachers that came before me and shared their knowledge, and credit them all with absolutely anything interesting, cool, or smart that I ever say or do in the classroom."
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 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 activist for women's rights and the environment, cooked in the fires of the early 1990's NYC activist scene, and I carry that activist streak with me deep in my bones to this day. I traversed the yoga basements, community centers and yoga 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, I would realize both were in fact true.
The beginning seeds of the vine of bhakti yoga were planted in my life my 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 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 that deeper connection with them, and studying.
I opened The Bhaktishop in 2007 in order to make a home for other people that are also longing for similar conversations; 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 traditions of yoga and beyond.
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. Next came Beryl Bender Birch in my short mid-90's Ashtanga stint, which was radically shortened by injury, and 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 that stern and disciplined approach to yoga, and for the injuries that I sustained to learn so much from. The deep roots of Iyengar Yoga have a strong, clear home in my heart, and I would have 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 detailed, therapeutic practices healed my shredded body, and gave me the pause, education, and structure that I needed to move forward in yoga. Dana Flynn of NYC's Laughing Lotus showed up for me sometime around 1999, and she literally turned me inside-out. I had never practiced with the freedom, ecstatic grace, and deep soulful connection before I met her, and she blew my mind with the idea of "moving like yourself." Early on both as a student and a new business owner in 2006, my friendship with her and with San Francisco's Laughing Lotus founder Jasmine Tarkeshi helped me enormously as a business owner trying to learn how to operate a yoga center on yogic principles. I have since also moved on in form and style from both of these teachers, but credit them with much of my early training and understanding.
Since I opened The Bhaktishop in 2007, 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 in the path of hatha yoga teaching. I also finally completed my Level 1 Iyengar Teacher Training with Julie Lawrence in Portland in 2014. For the past couple of years I have spent a lot of my study time in the stellar company of Portland's own Todd Jackson, learning to soften into my inner body's felt sense and grow my internal awareness in new and surprising ways. I am also a Certified Yoga Therapist through the IAYT.org. My studentship is the driving force of my life, and I am grateful every day for the unbroken chain of practice and lineage that I stumbled into. I'm indebted to the wisdom of all those teachers that came before me on this long and winding road, and credit them all with absolutely anything interesting, cool, 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 it is controversial to have a guru, but I have one and it totally works for me.
I have been teaching yoga in some form since 1995, and 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. Guided firmly by inner-body intelligence and more than 25 years of experience in bio-mechanics, anatomy, acupuncture 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 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 honored and blessed to share my vision of a more balanced, healthy, 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.