When I was 22 I tandem-jumped out of an airplane from 15,000 ft.
Little did I realize it at the time, but this was my first yoga practice.
Come again? You see, when you jump out of a perfectly good plane, your brain can't process it so you experience something coined "information overload," and for me this meant my mind went completely blank. The first thing I recall as I was free-falling towards the earth was a small voice from deep within my body reminding me to breathe. "Breathe In. Breathe Out." As I became more aware of my breath, the experience became more exhilarating and real. While it was over half a lifetime ago that I jumped out of that plane, the older I get the more I value the simple magic of taking a deep breath to calm my mind, clear my thoughts and pull me into the miracle of the moment. This is the gift of yoga and its why I keep coming back to me mat.
I officially discovered the practice of yoga "on my mat" when my 4 children were between the ages of 8 and 3. I came looking for a way to change my body, but I stayed because ultimately it changed my mind. Back then I would drop my youngest son at preschool and then had enough time to take a 9:15am hot powerful flow (and maybe run to the grocery store) before having to pick him up. I was so frazzled getting to my first class that I'm fairly certain my yoga pants were on inside out. I walked in to a Lanie McManus class. She holds such a safe space for students to do their work, her words so soothing and sure, I found myself moving and breathing in ways I had never felt before. I left that first class transformed and have been practicing at least 2 days a week ever since. That was 7 years ago.
What is the best part about being a yoga teacher?
I love hearing students take their first deep breath of a class. I recognize that this might be the first deep breath they have taken all day, all week, all month, all year...ever. I approach each class as if it were a conversation. Its a conversation between myself and the students, and its a conversation between the students and their bodies, their hearts and their minds. The breath is the vehicle for that discourse.
Yoga is not just a platform for internal change, but it is a platform for external change as well. Just look at the success of Believe in CLE! As a teacher, I'm inspired by Tammy Lyons and love connecting with students on and off the mat. I really enjoy creating offerings that build our community.
Around the winter holidays and again in the Spring I collaborate with a local physician and offer a Functional Flow Series of classes that explain the "how" the practice works in an intelligently themed and designed series of 4 classes. Another love of mine is music and I've had the honor of bringing live music to the studios. I have offered classes with musicians like Kevin Paris, 5j Barrow, and local amateur classical musicians Kaitlyn Cassidy and Hannah Samoson.
As a sometimes runner I recognize how helpful yoga is to keep my body fluid and resilient. Capitalizing on how well yoga compliments running, fellow teacher Kim Rush and I started a run club downtown. It was such a fun way to build energy around the city and the new studio. From live music classes, to gathering with local artisans, teachers, and students, I am always looking for meaningful ways to positively impact our community.
What is the hardest part of being a yoga teacher?
I see yoga in everything. I see yoga more off my mat then on it. I'll have an experience, like seeing an elderly man pick an injured bird off the street, and then, to process what I saw, I share the story with my kids. They listen(ish), then they roll their eyes and say, "Your going to use that in a yoga class, aren't you?"
What is the one thing you would like your students to know about practicing yoga?
It's all good. However, whenever, wherever you show up, it's All. So. Good. You just need to breathe. Thankfully, our body does that on its own. And just like when I jumped out of that airplane, I learned that some big leaps are better taken with someone else to be the guide. So, come as you are, we got you.
I am proud to contribute to our work with the Indians organization. For the past three seasons you could find me teaching to the Indians AA affiliate, the Akron RubberDucks. I also work with corporate clients through our BlissWorks program. In the studios you can find me teaching everything from Basics to Hot Powerful Flow and I travel between our Rocky River and Downtown Studios.