Sheila Sullivan

How would you describe yoga?

Yoga is a portal for embodiment. Through playing in these amazing bodies, we learn to listen, notice, feel and choose how we engage. This growing awareness follows us off the mat and into every aspect of our lives.

Yoga gives us the space to both take care of ourselves, and to notice habits that may not be serving us. Many years into practicing yoga, I was surprised to find what a big role my ego was playing in my practice. Since then, I am more aware of when my ego gets fired up both on and off the mat.

The benefits of the physical practice of yoga– getting a workout, toning the body– are often what bring people to their first yoga class. Over time, the mental and emotional benefits of the practice are what keep them coming back!

How did you find your way to yoga?

I first started practicing yoga with a Rodney Yee video while living in Bangkok, Thailand. Big city life in a foreign country made it very difficult to get regular exercise, so this video was a lifeline. Rodney felt like a good friend by the end of that year! My friends and I eventually found our way to an Iyengar Yoga class, which was in an old house. Students set up their mats in any of the empty rooms on the first floor, and worked through the routine at their own pace. The teacher roamed the rooms, giving individual instruction as needed in a mix of Thai & English. When I returned to Maine, I started going to a class led by my good friend, Jen Queally, where it was much easier to understand the instructions!

Who is your primary teacher right now?

I had the opportunity to practice with Julie Gray at WholeHeart Yoga here in Portland for about 15 years.  Julie retired recently, but her teachings around mindful movement and embodiment are deeply ingrained in my practice. Julie would spend time at the start of each class teaching about complex anatomy, meditation, or yoga concepts; the rest of the class was spent exploring these concepts through a flow of postures. Her students were encouraged to play with the concepts between classes, and there was opportunity for reflection and sharing at the next class. I feel very blessed to have studied with Julie for so many years, and her teachings are the core of who I am as a yogi!

What inspires you to keep teaching?

While there are plenty of classes out there where you can get a great physical workout, it’s harder to find classes with a focus on mindful movement, where the flow of postures and pauses in between combine to create a sweet, meditative quality. I hope my classes create space for this type of exploration.

I’m inspired to keep practicing yoga because it provides lasting self-care– emotional stability, healthy body, arthritis support– and helps me be a more centered parent of two teenagers!

What is your practice like off the mat? How would you say you live your yoga?

Pause. Listen. Investigate. Engage w/Awareness. Let go.

We talk about each of these concepts in while practicing yoga, but they can help create big shifts in our lives when we take them off the mat. As a mom of 2 teens, I have lots of opportunity to practice! Emotions often run high in our house– we get defensive and stop listening to each other. I’m a much happier person when I remember to pause, listen to how I’m feeling, investigate where I’m stuck, re-engage from a more centered place, and keep letting go of the desire for things to go a certain way. On the mat, we learn to let go between postures and start again in THIS moment. This wisdom is too rich not to bring out into the world!

Do you have a routine or ritualistic way to start each day?  If so, please describe it. 

Wake early. Tongue scraping (thank you, Genell!). Warm lemon water. Music. Practice: any mix of movement, meditation, writing, dharma talk podcast. This routine has shifted from a chore to something I look forward to!

What are some non-negotiables you have in your life right now to maintain balance and health in everyday living? 

Family time. Fresh air. Yoga & meditation. Sleep. Keeping to a gluten-free diet has helped reduce inflammation in my joints. I’m also working on the Ayurvedic practices of not snacking between meals and eating an earlier & lighter dinner.

What draws you to the Lila community?

The great variety of warm and skilled teachers. The simple invitation to say hello to each other at the start of class helps create community and draws us out of our solitary world. I also love the diversity of ages and abilities of the folks who come to Lila classes!

If you would suggest one book to the community to read as an opportunity to deepen their learning on life, yoga, and all things, what would it be?

I absolutely love Danna Faulds’s book of poetry, Go In & In. This is Yoga poetry! She captures so much about the subtle experience of Yoga in her words. I would also recommend Tara Brach’s weekly dharma talk podcast. Tara is a Buddhist psychologist, and is able to translate the tenants of Buddhism into practical practices for everyday life. She also offers short guided meditations, which are very helpful at any stage of your meditation practice!

2020-03-03T17:49:48+00:00 March 3rd, 2020|Teacher Feature|0 Comments

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