I’m happy to say that I no longer work Wednesday evenings so I can go to Melissa’s hatha class at 6pm. By the way that’s tonight! Having Melissa at the studio has been such a fortunate thing for me as a student. As with any student teacher setting, it means so much more when the person up at the head of the class is truly connected to what they are teaching. Thanks for the reply Melissa!
When did you first start practicing yoga and how has your view of yoga changed since then?
I first began practicing yoga in 1993. It was at a time in my life where I began searching for ways out of the cycle of suffering and to be more at peace in my mind as well as with my body. I am very grateful I found an incredible Hatha Yoga teacher that taught all aspects of yoga from a place of deep love and compassion for the human spirit. The very first class changed my life, and I have been devoted to the path of yoga ever since.
The only way yoga has changed within me, is from the influence particular teachers have had on helping me to develop and deepen my practice on a spiritual level. The essence of love I felt in my first yoga class, the mystery of these asanas unfolding within my body, has never changed. Yoga is rooted deeply in my heart – and that doesn’t change.
*I see that you have completed multiple teacher certifications and have studied under such inspiring teachers as Angela Farmer, Victor Van Kooten, Rama Jyoti Vernon, Shiva Rea, Kali Ray and the students of Desikachar. Can you speak about how these affect your teaching style?
My teaching style is eclectic, integrating teachings from several paths I have found to be helpful and transformative. Every teacher I have chosen to study with for any period of time has taught yoga as an embodied union that occurs as prana, or energy, inspired by the breath. This exploration of the breath, or prana, moving in the body and how the breath creates the asana is the foundation of my teaching. This has always been my experience of the practice. Most of my teachers have also been women that teach on the embodiment of the feminine principal, prakriti – so there is more fluid motion, creativity and reflections on the natural world woven throughout the practice.
*What gives you the most satisfaction as a teacher?
When I see a student open to something new within themselves – something they have not experienced before. When they have an experience of understanding, compassion and deep love for themselves that unfolds through the practice. When their heart opens … when they FEEL their true essence fully embodied.
*You have had the fortunate experience to teach yoga in many locations for the past 13 years in diverse populations in both the U.S. and South East Asia. Has this influenced how you teach to your students today?
There are many characteristics that seem to be universal to all places I have lived and taught – that has been a great gift to see in human bodies around the world – the universal similarities.
Spending three years teaching yoga in Bali, and training Balinese yoga teachers there has created the greatest impact on my teaching and understanding of yoga. Teaching yoga to the Balinese is a very different experience than teaching to westerners. A life in Bali is a very spiritual one, lived close to the earth and in harmony with her rhythms. Many of my students had been meditating since they were 2 or 3 years old, I think this, and the fact that the student – guru lineage is still alive there, allowed them to be more open to simply receive what is offered, and learn without judgment.
When I teach in the US, I focus more on simple embodiment, and inviting people to feel into themselves again, as well as ways to begin to soften the mind so that the harder edges of criticism and perfection start to dissipate. They can then allow themselves to feel the body again, and allow the asana to express itself from that personal place, rather then approaching the practice from an external, linear and analytical place.
*What should I expect when walking into your class?
Every class can be slightly different, depending on who is there and what is felt in the room that is needed for that particular day. I begin by bringing awareness to the breath, our prana, which leads into a meditation, spiritual reading or chanting. This will often set the tone for the asanas, which are flowing, or in stillness but always in synchronicity with the breath. Krishnamacharya said that all asana practice is in service of the breath, of prana … this is what I also emphasize in an organic and fluid way, rather than a strict or rigid one. One can expect to be challenged to meet the edges of their strength both in body and mind, as well as deeper explorations of what spaciousness feels like as the breath and the body create the asana together.
*If you could pick one characteristic to shield and serve you through life, what would it be?
Love, Always Love …. When I am living in love, there is no need to shield … simply serve.
*What do you like about East Side Yoga?
It is a community based yoga studio that truly honors the gift that it is to serve a population. Steven and Elsa really guide the studio from their heart’s wisdom which is a beautiful reflection of their integrity. I like the feeling of the studio – real, authentic yoga with no pretense. I am very happy and honored to be there.