1. How would you describe yoga?
The second yoga sutra would generally describe yoga as the cessation of the modifications of the mind. In essence, what that means to me, is that when we stop, or cease, modifying what is happening in our mind, and just let it be, we are in a state of yoga. The thoughts don’t necessarily stop coming, but our desire to attach to them and run off with another story can. The physical practice we do now in the west is far from what its roots looked like, but it is one avenue to ceasing those modifications. For me, yoga is balancing that concept with a physical practice that supports my body and my general well being. I can no longer separate the two!
2. How did you find your way to yoga?
I started practicing in my high school library when the PTA brought in a yoga teacher for one night a week after school. I was completely enchanted by my teacher Lilly, and I practiced with her regularly through my sophomore year of high school. When I finished my junior year, she asked me if she could gift me a 200 hour yoga training privately, so that I could teach when I was in college. She and I studied together throughout my senior year and by the time I was 18 and headed off to school, I was certified. When I look back now, what she did was completely radical. Reading yogic texts at age 17 shaped the lens through which I view the world. It helped me love and honor my body. I continued to teach through college, started a yoga club on campus, and went on to receive a second 200 hour certification through Jennifer Yarro of Frog Lotus Yoga.
3. Who is your primary teacher right now?
Jennifer Yarro is my primary teacher. The Frog Lotus Yoga flagship studio in the Berkshires, MA was my teaching home for 8 years before I moved to Portland. I studied and trained with Jennifer regularly and also assisted her yoga teacher trainings. We continue to work together as dear friends and colleagues. She also trained me in Thai Yoga Massage and I regularly use that hands-on work in my teaching.
4. What inspires you to keep teaching?
SO many things! The practice is so layered, and as I uncover more, I continue to have more questions that I flesh out through my studies. We continue to find new research about the body and brain connection, new information about outdated practices and teachings that can be revamped and made safer, and more ways to make yoga completely inclusive for everyone, regardless of race, gender, ability or socioeconomic status. I am privileged to do this work, and not everyone has that opportunity. I’m working on ways to increase accessibility around yoga, to dig into the harder questions on why the practice is only accessible to those with certain means or privilege, and how to educate the broader population of the benefit of this practice.
5. What is your practice like off the mat? How would you say you live your yoga?
I often make the joke that I do the yoga of cleaning the litterbox, or the yoga of scrubbing my bathtub, or the yoga of not yelling at the guy in traffic who just cut me off. I live my yoga by being truthful, by studying myself and my patterns, and by being content with what is. Those three practices are part of the observances in the Ashtanga Yoga System, or the 8 Limbed Path. Satya: truth, Svadhyaya :self study and Santosha: contentment, are what I try to embody daily. Speaking truth is not only applicable when connecting with others, but with yourself as well. When I look at my patterns without judgement, I often find a gentle way to shift. Living in contentment with what is, has been my greatest struggle and my greatest teacher. It’s liberating to understand that fear is at the base of discontent; specifically the fear of being out of control. When I realized that nothing is in my control, I was pleased to find that I was much more content!
6. Do you have a routine or ritualistic way to starting each day? If so, please describe.
It actually starts the night before! I don’t plug my devices in, in my bedroom, so I have an old school alarm clock and wake up to that! I usually spend some time breathing and stretching, I make a pot of tea, anoint myself with an essential oil and pull a tarot card. (Unless I’m up at 5am to teach a 6am yoga class, in which case the only ritual is coffee and teeth brushing!)
7. What are some non-negotiables you have in your life right now to maintain balance and health in everyday living?
As I’ve just made the switch to working for myself, it’s really easy to feel like I need to schedule myself ALL THE TIME. Unsurprisingly, this is actually NOT helpful! It’s currently non-negotiable for me to work and teach every day. Sundays are usually my day of rest, or of learning instead of teaching. I usually also abide by the 80/20 rule. I am a purist of nothing, and I believe flexibility is the key. I often think about a teacher and friend of mine who said “Replace ambition with curiosity.” I’ve never forgotten it and I try to embody that concept daily.
8. What draws you to the Lila community?
When I got to Portland and was looking for a place to practice, Lila had the most inviting, welcoming and grounding energy. The aesthetic of the space drew my eye, and Genell stood out as a teacher’s teacher. I originally only wanted to practice at Lila, (because when you’re a teacher for a long time it’s often hard to find a studio where you can stay the student!) but what I found here at Lila is that I could be both the practitioner and the teacher. After substituting a few classes, I was sweetly taken aback by the positive feedback I received and fell very much in love with this community. The focus on all aspects of a yoga practice, from philosophy to mindful eating and self-care truly makes Lila a space for growth in an inclusive and supportive setting. As Lila translates into divine play, this studio strikes the perfect balance between that divinity within and its ability to manifest playfully! The knowledge of the staff is unparalleled thus far in my experience in Portland. I’m so thrilled to be welcomed here!
9. 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 have really enjoyed The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. It’s a book that you can read straight through, but each chapter stands on it’s own. The chapters on Fear and Death were particularly powerful for me, and inform a lot of my current teaching and writing.