My journey to becoming a yoga therapist began during my years of yoga practice prior to becoming a teacher. It is through my practice that I initially became aware of the healing aspects of yoga (and its potentially injurious ones), and how yoga can connect you more deeply with yourself and others.
Years ago, yoga helped me to manage anxiety, be present in my body, and change unhealthy thought patterns, thereby helping me to cultivate a different relationship to myself and heal a long-time eating disorder. Over subsequent years, if I ever found myself having that unique and distinct disordered thinking, it became a cue for me to slow down and deal with my anxiety and what was coming up for me. Yoga was one of my biggest tools.
Yoga also helped me rewire other thought patterns that kept me from having aspects of the life I wanted to have. Your mat is a little microcosm of your life, and you learn so much about yourself if you choose to delve beyond the surface. When we go through challenging times, it is normal to have times where we “slip”, and life has ups and downs, and so does our yoga practice. I feel this awareness is a fundamental part of yoga, and a lifelong process as we move through the various stages of life.
I have slight scoliosis (sideways spinal curvature) that affects my hips, spine and shoulders, and my personal practice and therapeutic study about this has given me an immense amount of information to help myself and students.
As a teacher, I healed a painful, long-time rotator cuff injury that I sustained years and years ago during a power yoga class. It occurred while jumping back to chatturanga before I had the strength to do so—IF I ever should have been doing so. As someone with challenged shoulder positioning due to scoliosis, jumping back to chatturanga doesn't really benefit me or cause me to grow, and it is an action I probably never should have been doing and is happily retired from my practice. I had to drastically change my practice for a while in order for my practice to be healing and not hurting, the biggest change being not weight-bearing in my shoulder (like, no Down Dogs…yeah, not easy), while slowly rebuilding strength in ranges of motion that were weak. Now that I've healed I once again can bear weight in my shoulder, and I occasionally enjoy periods of a nice, rhythmic flow to my personal yoga practice, but I don’t see it as an athletic competition and regularly put my knees down in vinyasas or skip them entirely. I focus on the subtleties of the moves and make the practice fit me. I am not competitive in my yoga practice, and it took years of practice to get to that place.
Yoga helped me stay present through the grief of numerous pregnancy losses over the course of many years, and find moments of joy in my life as we dealt with the stresses of an intense amount of grey-area decision-making, fear and pain that arose during fertility treatments.
My twin pregnancy let me experience firsthand what it feels like to carry around more weight than my skeleton usually carries, how challenging it is to experience chronic pain, and how it feels to build core strength from a weakened state. I also carried twins to term, 38 1/2 weeks. My doctor and I both credit my years of practice, and my intuition to mostly REST during my pregnancy, to listen to my body and honor the phase, as part of that.
As a parent, yoga has helped me deal with the stresses, fears and anxieties of parenthood. It helps me to enjoy and be truly present with each phase of my kids' development and not pine for the loss of stages I'll never get to experience with them again. (I wish I could have little clones from each developmental stage to go visit, though!) At 6 years-old I now live with little people, who seem to be part tween and part baby. Each stage has had it’s challenges and beauty. Yoga has helped me to be kinder to myself when my parenting doesn't meet my high expectations, and also to get centered and be creative and intuitive in my parenting. It’s also helped me carve out space for self-care.
Years of yoga training helped me manage the unknowns of why I had a single unexplained seizure a couple years ago. And then another series of small ones. And then another big one, when I was diagnosed with epilepsy. (Who knew you could get that as an adult??? It’s catamenial epilepsy, and it’s related to the start of perimenopause, and it’s super fascinating.) It was pretty shocking to wake up in an ambulance to be told I had a seizure and later have the word “epilepsy” come into my consciousness and possibly refer to me. As I said to others around this time: this is when the REAL yoga kicks in. It was a pretty intense journey for a year, and yoga helped me keep balance in my life. Click here for a blog I wrote about the experience, which made me so grateful the support of my yoga practice and the opportunity to practice the deeper dimensions of yoga.
My path was nourished by many teachers I met on the way to teaching. Teachers like yoga therapist Jasmine Lieb, Erich Schiffmann, Donna Farhi (whom I never practiced with, but one of her books was really influential to me), Paul Cabanis (an Iyengar teacher who strongly influenced the trajectory of my practice for a time) and Jill Miller of Yoga Tune Up®.
During my first yoga teacher training, TKV Desikachar’s book The Heart of Yoga struck my heart for many reasons, including the firm belief that yoga should be adapted to the individual. That seed was planted in me, and it it’s only grown from there.
I am passionate about the therapeutic aspects of yoga for these reasons, and for everything I’ve continued to learn while teaching.
Yoga Sutra 1:2 ~ yogas citta vrtti nirodhah ~ Yoga is the restriction of the fluctuations of the mind
Yoga Sutra 2:46 ~ shtira sukham asanam ~ Practice with steadiness and ease
Yoga Sutra 2:47 ~ prayatna saithilyanta samapattibhyam ~ Release tension and effort while doing asana