What draws you to yoga?
At this point, yoga and me are not separate. There is nothing to be drawn to, as it is already inside of me and a part of me. Yoga has become the way I choose to live my life, how I wake in the warming, what I choose to think when I get out of bed, the way I brush my teeth, hug my children, move through nature, and nurture myself. It is a way of being and it is the way I step into becoming. I am drawn to keep believing in Yoga and its simplest definition to yoke, connect, bind, mind, body, and spirit, as it has proven in my life to make all my relations (to myself, my family, friends, loved ones, all beings) more honorable and real. Yoga has become the means for me to wake up to a more conscious and connected way of existing on this planet.
I was first drawn to the physical practice of yoga when I was in my early 20s. I had grown up an athlete and was drawn to the Bikram practice because of the intensity – long holds, heat, and hard core attitude that was offered. Turns out, a couple years later, the same reasons that drew me in, repelled me temporarily from that specific practice. My life played out in the wild way that life does… at the young age of 24 I lost a role model, friend, and my one and only father. He was only 52. It was unexpected. This event shattered my hope, vision, and faith in and of the world.
I had grown up somewhat of an atheist, so the church wasn’t the right community or place for my healing. I turned to those I loved to support and hold me upright. In the quest to find out things that still made me smile and hold onto an ounce of faith and understanding for the cruel nature of the universe and its’ happenings, I again found the practice of yoga. This time, I was pulled in with the sweet philosophy and teachings from the Anusara practice. The integrity in alignment coupled with uplifting philosophies and themes of deep internal joy/bliss and love, that is found even in the darkest of times, began to soften my edges and deepen my understanding of this life and the waves that are offered to us all. Little did I know then that almost two decades later I would be deeply steeped into the physical and spiritual practice of yoga or “oga” as my two year old son would say.
How are you different from when you first starting teaching yoga?
Ha! Well, I am over a decade older and wiser! I have a deeper understanding of the “why” I am asking people to do certain postures. I can now really see my students, their bodies, their habits, and offer them ways to support a more nurturing experience for their bodies. I equate this to when I was first learning to surf and caught my first wave. I was so ecstatic that I was actually able to paddle into and catch a moving wave that I sort of blacked out! I knew I was standing on the surfboard, moving down the wave, but, pretty sure my eyes must have been closed because I do not remember seeing a thing! When I teach, I teach to what I see in the room. Who arrived, what energy folks are carrying with them, and how my cuing is being interpreted.
Though my teaching is now backed with years of self study and practice, in a lot of ways, I am just as curious now as I was then about what this “yoga” thing is all about and how it will continue to help my life and others’. I love staying fresh as a student and continue to get lit up with learning new ways of moving, understanding, and being.
What obstacles has yoga helped you overcome?
Yoga philosophy has helped me gain a bigger perspective as times when life feels separate, disconnected, and dismal. It helped me heal over the loss of my father. It allowed for me to not hold onto guilt for feeling deep love and joy only weeks after my dad’s passing, when I feel in love with my now husband.
It has helped me look at my thoughts as that, thoughts, and not identify myself to them or old patterns that feel so distant and disconnected from the person I want to be or become. It has helped me to become more patient with myself and others, for me overcoming a long time pattern of being impatient, short, and quick to anger. This willingness to look at my patterns has specifically helped and continues to help deepen my relationship with my husband and my mother.
It has helped me stay present at times when my normal go to, quick to react and respond reaction was to run.
It has helped me find more respect, love, and care for my body. After years of going hard, pushing myself to my limits, and moving fast, the practice has allowed for space and time to slow down and nurture.
What is your favorite pose and why?
Hands down, Urdhva Dhanurasana, full wheel backbend. In Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar describes this backbend where the heart is higher than the head as they way in which yogi’s prostrate to their God (if that is a loaded word, insert universe, mother nature, etc). Honoring this bigger sense of life with a big open heart. In most religions one would prostrate in a prone pose, heart down, bowing to the floor. I see this as the most amazing “yes” to life posture. The heart is fully open, vulnerable, and willing to be higher than the head and busy mind.
That coupled with the physical exhilaration and energy offered to me excites me and lights me up for hours after practice. I have found both my strength and flexibility in this posture and fallen in love with the dance of both. I feel open, alive, and well when I move into a full wheel.
Tell us about Lila.
Lila defined… Lila translates to mean “divine play.” I think of it as the ability wholeheartedly embrace all of life, the ups, the downs, and everything in between. Yogic philosophies suggest that this whole universe was created just for the delight of it. In order for Consciousness (capital “C”) to really get to know itself, it created this world. The world is a reflection of Consciousness playing itself out. As Consciousness is all encompassing, nothing is then left out of this life. The good, the exciting, the happy, the sad, the misery, the delight, all of it is part of the story.
Lila in my life… Lila has become a home away from home. It is a supportive community of friends, colleagues, and students that support me and my family in becoming better versions of ourselves. It is a business that holds me accountable to look at things from various lenses and angles, awaken to both my strengths and my weaknesses. It is a place of growth, learning, support, and reflection. The walls are graced and blessed with amazing energy, days upon days, and hours upon hours of people being willing to work hard, rest well, breathe, and share their voices together.
The root of Lila… During my first teacher training, one of my teacher’s at the time, Mitchel Bleier, asked me to teach my first class on the theme of Lila. When the opportunity came to open my own studio, this name was the one that rose to the top.
What is your yoga philosophy?
That life is about choosing to wake up. We could walk around sleeping in our world and remain disconnected from each other, ourselves, and our planet. Or, we can embrace this idea that life is about living, waking, feeling, breathing, and connectivity. We are all on this one very special planet together and have the capacity to wake up more vibrantly receive the gifts each of our own very precious lives have to offer. I am all about learning ways to continue to wake up and live more consciously in every moment. The more we step into waking up, the more we have to willingly let go of old habits, patterns, and beliefs. In this way, yoga then is a lifelong practice of waking and letting go.
What have you done in the past year to improve yourself, yoga or otherwise?
This past year I have more actively stepped into dinacharya, ayurvedic daily routines. Some of which include waking early, scraping my tongue, eliminating, meditating, moving, and being more mindful about what and when I eat. My days and habits have become much more intentional.
I also have been really pulled into hot and cold therapies. I have deepened my connection with the chilly waters of the Atlantic ocean with cold plunges (including in the winter – which I once balked at those silly polar plungers on New Years;). I try and plunge now around once a week in the winter and almost daily swims in the summer. The winter plunges are more doable knowing I can step into our new sauna, stepping into temps around 140+ degrees for a short period of time. I have been really digging the science behind these hot/cold experiences and have personally found benefits in my own sense of well being.
Bi-annual cleansing. I have been doing these now for a many years, but, the last few years have really committed sitting deep into the ritual and process of seasonal, bi-annual cleansing. I have felt it refine my teaching and my relations. Big fan of clearing out the old and welcoming the new!
How can you tell class is a success?
Lots of sweat, moans and groans;) No, only joking. Though if you know my teaching, you know I do often love a practice that challenges. On a more serious note, typically there is an exchange at the end of class that has a sweetness to it, one that shows students were able to take a deep breath, be in their bodies, and open up. It sometimes shows up in an eye to eye exchange and verbal thank you, or sometimes just me observing the way they more mindfully transition from their mat, move and relate amongst the other students, and back out onto the streets. They move and relate with more awareness and connection.
What is the most important skill a yoga teacher can have?
Authenticity. Speaking from a place of personal knowing and understanding and love. Someone who has been able to take in the lessons, digest them, then deliver the teaching in a refined and clear manner that is translatable to others. Love that!
Who is your greatest influence?
To narrow this down to one influence seems a bit unfair as so many people have and continue to touch my life. So, I will answer to “who are my greatest influences.”
My husband. For his patience, his ambition, his confidence, his humility, his humor, his unconditional love. He has provided me with a mirror as well as the platform to step into the woman, mother, friend, and leader I want to be. I am forever grateful for his patience, deep wisdom beyond his years, and love.
My two boys. For showing me the miracle of life, from creation to birth, from moments of delight and regret. These two little nuggets are teaching me about how to live with more presence, intention, patience, forgiveness, and love. I love them for their ability to forgive, share, love, laugh, play, question, create, recreate, move on, let go, and flow. They are yogis through and through and keep me on my toes.
My mother. For her unconditional love and belief in me. For her passion to be in and serve in the health field all my waking life. For the ways she challenges me. For the love and support she shares with my boys.
My father. For his patience. For his stability and responsibility. For teaching me to let go and embrace all of life.
My sister. For her big and courageous heart. She is a dear friend to me and so many others. She dreams big and gives out so much to her community and the planet.
My circle of friends for deep heartfelt conversations, wild fun explorations, and support.
Yoga influences: yogaglo for its ongoing, online streaming, in home entertainment to keep my practice creative and diverse. Cate Stillman for deepening my knowing of Ayurveda and yoga in my life. Christina Sell and Matt Giordano for yoga alignment and inquiry. And, really, any of the amazing visiting teachers who come to Lila! My meditation cushion for providing space and time to be.
Mother nature… for keeping us all in check, vibrant and alive.
What is life beyond yoga?
Is there life beyond yoga?! 😉 I see Yoga = life!